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By: Muzna Hatmi

Some of you may have seen my insta-takeover in New York City a couple of weeks ago {lucky for you because I happened to have saved everything in the highlights section (along with every other cool thing ever), so if you’re as obsessed with NYC as me, you know where to go!}. I’m just here to say that I’m still not over it.

So, one of the many times I thanked being in DC also happened to be on the bus to New York City, as soon as my eyes witnessed the glorious skyline, I knew dreams were coming true. I have been wanting to visit NYC for as long as I can remember, and even though I’ve been to the US a few times before, I never had the chance to visit the big apple (and here I can tell you I’ve been to the Niagara Falls, so please go call my parents and ask them what they were thinking). Anyway, what matters now is that I can finally say I have been to NYC, and that too on my semester abroad (because that also just sounds cooler).

I remember googling and searching through the entire internet for the top things to do in the city for a weekend, which I will break down here so that if you happen to study abroad at GW and want to visit New York, this blog post can be your go to.

If you’re a train kinda gal/guy, way to go, but I preferred taking a bus because it was cheaper/fit the student budget and more convenient. There are quite a few options for the bus, if you’re European you’re probably familiar with the good old Flixbus, but I wanted to experience being in America (just kidding), so I booked Vamoos – pretty much Flixbus with a new name. so, no difference there.

Bus departed around 10AM from Rosslyn, and I was officially a tourist in NYC by 2PM, and I say that because I was lost in the metro station.

We booked Moxy Hotels in downtown, which is the student version of Marriot hotels, but I also know other people who booked months in advance to get cheaper Airbnb’s.

Now that the essentials are out of the way, I will list the top student-budget-friendly things to do in NYC in a short period of time (unless well you know, you move there, and all your dreams come true. In that case, don’t forget me).

 

BROADWAY!!

Yes. I. watched. Broadway. In. New. York. City. And. I. Am. Screaming. #Goals. So, the trick to be able to afford Broadway tickets on a student budget is to not purchase them on the official website. Instead, get them last minute. The only downside is that you can’t really choose the seating location, but in my opinion all seating options are great and worth the discount. I watched Aladdin and I can tell you I cried.  It was magical.

 

Bryant Park Holiday Market

The Bryant Park holiday market was a cute little Christmas market with an ice ring and free ice skating (as long as you brought your own skates)! So, if you’re going around winter time, don’t miss the festive vibes with many food stalls and local shops. The good thing is that Bryant Park is also close to Times Square, so it’s a perfect opportunity to take a little break from all crowd. A perfect place to enjoy the city without spending too much.

 

MOMA

The Museum of Modern Art was recently reopened after a $450 million renovation! I was lucky enough to catch the Uniqlo Friday Night, which is a free entry into MOMA. All you have to do is get in line around 6PM on a Friday night, and your ticket is sponsored by Uniqlo! The lines can be really long, but they keep moving fast. Bonus: You may even get a small Uniqlo voucher to shop at the gigantic Uniqlo store just across the street. The only downside is that the museum can get really crowded, even after all the expansion. And I can tell you, the new MOMA looks great!

 

Brooklyn Bridge

A journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan on foot! Yes, walk down the picturesque bridge and catch some stunning views of the city (along with stunning insta-photos, obviously). I recommend walking towards the Manhattan direction to really take in the breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. The Brooklyn side just doesn’t do the bridge enough justice in my opinion.

 

Chinatown

Two words: cheap food.

And oh, SO Good!

 

 

By: Muzna Hatmi

Brace yourselves, because this post is about to get a little emotional (as I can’t think of happy times without filling myself up with a whole lot of nostalgia, duh). Ok so, here I take a deep breath. I don’t know where to begin.

It only feels like yesterday that I got here, after what seemed like forever (yes, months of planning, working, applying, accepting, and not to forget the 24 hours of travelling). After all that, it’s almost uncomfortable to think that there is only less than a month left of my time at GW. And I’m probably not ready for this to end so soon.

I don’t know when blazing hot summers days turned into winter cold evenings, and when Peet’s iced latte’s turned into peppermint hot mochas (extra hot, please). It’s funny to think that American students I have met here dream of going to Europe for their semester abroad, whereas I, a European student, dreamt all this time to come to the US – to Washington DC. And I’m so lucky to have had that experience. I have to say, I worked hard for it, which is why I wanted to make sure to enjoy each moment.

As I have said before, I’m originally a Pakistani citizen studying in the Netherlands, and so obviously, Urdu and English being my first and second languages, Dutch posed to be an automatic barrier when I first moved abroad for university. And it’s safe to say that some of that still exists. So, when I came here, I felt thrilled that everyone around me spoke English and every website ever didn’t require me to fight my computer for the translation widget to literally do its job (study abroad 101). I’ll probably miss everyone understanding everything I ever said without asking me to wait while they got someone else who knew the word “drain opener,” only that they didn’t know and handed me dishwashing soap instead (student sharing problems 101). Trader Joe’s didn’t play me like that. Also, while we’re speaking of the best grocery store in the world, let’s take a moment to appreciate Trader Joe’s dried mangoes. And also thank America for flaming hot Cheetos; which I have totally not stocked up on to take back home (I should probably do a post on my favorite American junk food because that list is worthwhile, trust me).

Oh America, how I love you. As I’m writing this on a road trip to Chicago, passing by Pennsylvania, glaring at fall trees around me; red, yellow, orange, I’m thinking of the opportunities this place has given me. Studying and courses have been somewhat of a challenge because of differences in education systems, but I have truly learnt from a diversity of professors, students, and teaching styles. DC as a city and GW prides itself for its diverseness, which I admire so much as an international student. From offering prayer rooms on the 4thfloor in Marvin Centre, to hosting thanksgiving dinners in dorms of our orientation-week leaders, I have always felt incredibly welcomed and right at home. Not to forget the incredible shopping and black Friday sales for my shopaholic soul, also the perfect time to buy presents for friends, family and let’s not forget yourself – so that you can tell them you got something for them from the greatest cities in the world, Washington DC.

 

To be continued…

By: Muzna Hatmi

While this blog post is titled a good old ‘A Day at the Museum,’ (for the catchy Night at the Museum vibe, which by the way, was also filmed in DC), it can also be read as ‘a day (or days) at the most underrated museums in DC.’

I’m saying this now, I’m a great big art lover. I studied history of art in high school, and I can spend entire days at art exhibitions, yes, even the boring ones. So, disclaimer: this post is mainly about where to see underrated art in Washington DC.  However, if you're an insta-freak like me, stay tuned, I got you.

To get the most important information out of the way, all Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are absolutely free! And that is just one of the many things I love about living here and probably the only reason why I leave my warm bed on weekends.

Freer and Sackler Gallery – Where Asia Meets America

Or should I say, where America meets Asia? Because that is technically the case, Freer Sackler.

Anyway, while Freer and Sackler is not exactly a museum, it is still somewhere in that category for its wonderful collection from the beautiful and diverse region of… you guessed it! Asia!

The first time that I visited the gallery was with my South Asian Art class from GWU. Fun fact (and to be more specific): I had always been interested in western European art, so automatically, I never even considered learning about art from my own region (reminder: I’m Pakistani) because I think I did not value it enough until I enrolled in this class and really understood the meaning behind some of its symbols and all that (not getting too technical, y’alls).

My favorite area in Freer and Sackler Gallery is The Peacock Room, and also the nature-filled courtyard to just sit and chill, and take it all in. If you go, a must see is the current exhibition called]My Iran: Six Women Photographers. Not giving much away, but the exhibition deals with a picture beyond what we know about the beautiful country of Iran – both moving and powerful!

National Portrait Gallery

The name says it. This was one of the first I visited in DC and I was in awe! Another fun fact: I’m a portrait photographer, and so I was obviously and extremely excited to see all the great works of art on display here. The museum offers a wide range of collections in sculpture form, photography, and painting. It also hosts portraits of some of the most iconic figures of all times like Charlie Chaplin, George Washington (because that's important for obvious reasons) and even Bill Gates. Speaking of which, the must see and my favorite part of the gallery is the Hall of President’s which contains portraits of nearly all-American presidents, the largest collection after the White House itself. The museum has other cool stuff as well, like portraits of Barbie. Yes, Barbie.

29Rooms

You can still catch 29Rooms in New York, LA, or even Tokyo. Perhaps again in DC? Because it is literally the Instagram museums of your dreams! Not free unlike the other two, 29Rooms is the brainchild of Refinery 29 which features 29 different art exhibits, visually appealing and creative rooms, like a ‘teenager bedroom,’ and interactive spaces so you can dance, paint, sing, selfie. I covered the event a few days ago on Instagram, so if you’re looking to see what I mean when I say it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, check it out!

 

By: Muzna Hatmi

When you miss mom’s food and let’s face it, need to move on from dorm food for once.

Union Market is the place to go. You can find just about any kind of cuisine, from South Indian Dosa’s to Italian pasta, fresh bread, dumplings, a million kinds of teas, ice-cream like you’ve never tried before, Ethiopian food, sea food, good food, great food, and I can go forever but I’m out of breath – you name it, And it’s there. All cravings sorted. Open seven days a week, Union Market is a super cool and creative culinary experience. The food hall is located in a very hip little area with lots of graffiti and wall-art for your Instagram feeds.  The outer wall on east side is permanent home to a huge mural by Yoko Ono.

When you need to be a tourist because who doesn’t?

Hop on the metro, get off at the Smithsonian station and walk your way to the Washington Monument. What?! The Washington Monument?? Yes, pretty basic, I know. But, the doors to the Egyptian obelisk have been re-opened to public after three whole years! This means that you can now get to the top and reminisce over some pretty stunning panoramic views of Washington DC. Spoiler: The White House is not THAT big…

The Lincoln Memorial is a few minutes’ walk from the monument and can be easily checked off from the list if you haven’t seen the big guy already (read: sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, duh).

When you’ve procrastinating all this time and it hits you, (you need coffee)

At this point, being far away from distractions would be a good idea, which probably means being off campus for most of you. I like to hit the books at cafes because the vibe relaxes me, I think it has something to do with the coffee-aroma because trust me, I’m an addict by now. Kidding. Not. Anyway, Ballston is the place to be. I usually study at DIRT, a new health food eatery in Arlington that serves some good fuel to get work done. Vegan options available!

When you’re feeling adventurous, or in other words, when you just want to get on a roller-coaster

Go to King’s Dominion! A theme park close to Richmond, Virginia (almost 2 hours from DC, but definitely worth that time), King’s Dominion has plenty of rides to choose from – thrillers and family rides alike (suitable for adults who are scaredy-cats). Lucky for exchange students this semester, the park is going to be hosting Halloween related activities like haunted mazes, scare zones and fright shows for most of October and early November. A perfect weekend trip with your friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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