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By: Patrick Horstmeier

Day 124

My first semester in the United States is coming to an end. There wasn't a weekend where I got bored, not an evening where I didn't know what to do with my time. I have fuelled my mind with cultural and artistic excursions since I arrived here. And yet I still have so many streets to discover, museums to visit and events to attend. DC is still far from having told me all its secrets...


Day 126

Here is the last day of school of the semester. I will only see the faces with whom I shared these 4 months of classes occasionally now. In addition to a new culture and new academic knowledge I discovered new friends during this semester. I still have one more left in Washington, but some students will no longer be in DC in a few weeks. I look forward to being on vacation to enjoy these last few days with these new friends!


Day 127

The first snowflakes fell today. I look forward to seeing the city of DC dressed in its white dress... I can' t wait to wrap myself in a scarf and walk the national mall in winter boots while the rest of the DC residents lock themselves in their warm homes. I'll send you pictures of the city in white shades...


Day 130

I couldn't have imagined more fulfilling end-of-semester exams: last night, the university invited us to the "Midnight breakfast". We all gathered to relax over a nightly breakfast on campus between two papers and exams. This semester, all my courses are assessed by papers rather than on-campus exams. I am therefore spending this week writing speeches, government reports, recaps of socio-political experiences and philosophical essays. The rain knocks at my window, the smell of my black coffee perfumes the room and my neurons ignite around these subjects that fascinate me... This is also what the end-of-semester exams are about: reviewing what I have learned during this semester.


Day 133

Now that the semester is coming to an end, I think of the next one with enthusiasm. The various GWU buildings are now part of my daily life. The monumental Eliott School, the countless corridors of the Gelman Library, the intimate philosophy department, the geeky Tompkins Hall: I find each of these departments charming in their own way. Although I have got to know the campus, I still don't blend in: My accent doesn't go unnoticed. I smiled today when a bus driver replied "Hello" to my "Good morneenguh". Now it is time to take advantage of the Christmas holidays to continue exploring, reading and celebrating the Christmas and New Year festivities. One thing is for sure: I still have a lot to discover and I will spend long evenings telling you about the surprises and discoveries of my time here when I return this summer. I'm thinking of you on the other side of the Atlantic. As you read these lines, I will continue to "Raise High"....

By: Patrick Horstmeier

When psychologists mix cultural differences and fruits

When you tell your family and friends that you will leave the old continent to visit the United States for a year, you are covered with more or less fruitful advice. Some seem coherent, others demonstrate more goodwill than real help. Still others surprise us in their originality...

A friend who had undertaken the opposite journey: from the West Atlantic to the East Atlantic, shared with me a metaphor that a trainer had suggested to her during a preparatory class for her departure. This metaphor compared Americans to mangoes, and Europeans to coconuts. Surprised?

No European visiting the United States can remain indifferent to the friendliness of the Americans. From the very first exchanges everyone is enthusiastic, everyone is adorable. Those who are not used to it will feel like they are best friends with the person they just met after only a few minutes.

This is where mangoes come into play: meeting someone in the United States is like eating a mango. Let me explain. Eat a mango and you will have immediate access to the best side of the fruit. However, you will quickly come across a very hard core. Few people continue to explore this fruit further than this core. Conversely, enjoy a coconut and you will come across an undesirable, dry and hard exterior. Drilling this first layer will not be easy, but once you have passed it, then the whole fruit will offer itself to you.

While as a European I have been used all my life to confronting people who were very hard at first, but whose confidence is quickly earned, the challenge has been reversed here. In comparison, people are much more accessible, but it is perfectly possible to stay in a cordial relationship under a friendly appearance for a long time. During my first few weeks, that surprised me: You may feel like you're dealing with dishonest relationships. However, the more time goes by, the more I think it may be the right way to proceed: Let's be nice to everyone, but let's only trust those who really deserve it.

Be warned American reader! If you were to travel to Europe, don't be surprised to suddenly be confronted with coconuts rather than mangoes...



That's how my first semester in the United States is slowly coming to an end. I will have already spent half of my time on the other side of the Atlantic. The previous story is no exception: I get used to - and enjoy - American culture. It's true: in my country of origin I could probably be accused of cultural violation for eating bacon and eggs for breakfast!

The icing on the cake of the American cultural experience? Thanksgiving. One more celebration I've never experienced combined with a long weekend? What more could you ask for...

I wish you all a great Thanksgiving break!


By: Patrick Horstmeier

The discovery of a new country implies the discovery of cultural differences. As a Frenchman, this starts as soon as I want to say "hello" to someone...

France, like any country, has its own cultural specificities. However, France being "the land of love" (from what I've heard here), the French have a very special way of greeting each other. While in the United States a simple "Hey" is enough when joining a group, it is considered rude not to say hello individually to all the people in France. The situation becomes more complex when it comes to…

la bise!

French President Macron doing "La bise"

France is world famous for the French kiss, but most of the time, French people kiss in a more friendly way. In France, to greet someone, you quickly kiss both of his or her cheeks. But even French people do not agree on how to do la bise… As Youtube-star Paul Taylor likes to say it: “What the f*** France?!”

Here is a quick guide on how to greet French people without upsetting everyone:

1/ Make sure you are not in a formal meeting. If you are, just shake hands like you would in the US.
2/ If you are a girl: you greet everyone by having la bise.
3/ If you are a guy: you greet only girls by having la bise.
3.1/ Exceptions to this rule are:
- You greet good friend -even boys- by having la bise.
- If you are in the south of France, you do la bise with everyone.

4/ In most parts of the France (including Paris, because let’s be honest, if you visit France, you are most likely to start with Paris), you do two kisses when having la bise. One on each cheek (starting on the left one). But depending on where you are in France, the number of required kisses can be somewhere between one and four. Locals will have great fun correcting you… Alternatively, If you don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of the locals, some French geniuses have developed a site that will allow you to determine how many kisses you will need to make depending on where you are in France (no joke). To give you an overview, these data are summarized in the following map:

4.1/ With some good friends, especially if you are a boy and your friend is a boy too, you can do more kisses to express your affection.
5/ If you leave, remember to say goodbye to everyone by following the same rules.

Now you know the basics. Kind off.

Obviously, some American friends warned me that I should not attempt, IN ANY CASE, to kiss a stranger here. And obviously, I forgot.

Before you file a complaint against me, let me tell you the details of the story. I obviously didn't forget that I shouldn't kiss Americans on my first day. It was only when the atmosphere became more friendly that my habits resurfaced. I didn't kiss a stranger either, I just looked stupid by tilting my head towards someone who did not know the 5 rules of la bise (you would have known!). We had a good laugh and now, thanks to this incident, some of the students on campus know the five rules of la bise…

By: Patrick Horstmeier

Day 0

It's 21:43 in my hometown Lyon, 15:43 in Washington and 16:43 on the plane. The shadow of the night has already cast itself on my hometown but will not catch up with me for a little over 6 hours. For the next 365 days, I will be far from home, but getting closer to my future. I'm excited. I'm smiling.

Day 1

Everything is bigger here in the US. The campus is huge, way bigger than my SciencesPo Paris campus. The streets are broader, the cars are louder, and the meals are bigger. Welcome to the land of superlatives. My first day at GWU starts tomorrow. I can’t wait to meet some locals and to get to know the city. As I often said: Our differences will be our common point. I can’t wait to discover the culture, the museums; I can’t wait to run around the National Mall (and to run up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial while listening to the theme of Rocky the boxer); I can’t wait to embrace the opportunities that the university will offer me: to meet outstanding professors, to look for an internship, to be in the heart of Washington. I can’t wait to – as they would say – raise high!

Day 6

Remember how we made fun about how I will miss French wine and French bread when I would be in the US? Well it’s the case now! Where are my croissants? I wish they were here (at least as much as I wish you were here!)…

Day 10

Classes have begun. Some teachers already captivated my attention. I’m gonna have a great time studying philosophy, international relations, political sciences and way more… The only “negative” point here is that I must sometimes walk 15 minutes between two classrooms. As I said: everything is HUGE!

I already had the opportunity to visit the Capitol, the Smithsonian’s, Georgetown, the Waterfront and more. I am surprised by everything Washington has to offer. You remember my phones wallpaper? Yes, Pollock. Well I have seen one of his drawings in real for the first time at the Hirshhorn museum. You know how I love Jazz? Well I have seen a life show in a small Jazz club. I’m sure that I still have lots of places to discover. I can't wait to show you around! I hope you are doing well in France, can’t wait to see you here!

Day 18

“My names in Bond, James Bond”. Every morning I drive along the Pentagon (Yes, THE Pentagon), the National Mall and the White House. I don’t get used to it: isn’t that a secret-agent itinerary to work…? Well here it’s my way to GWU!

Day 21

Do you remember the riverside in our hometown Lyon in France where I used to take pictures when I was young? Wasn’t it lovely? I have found a gorgeous spot down by the water here in DC too. I would love to take you there to enjoy the golden light of the sun going to sleep behind Rosslyn, the ducks and the swans. Here I am, writing this letter. Behind me a street artist plays Jazz and some kids dance, in front of me boats ride up and down the Potomac. Looking over to the other river I am once again wondering: the river is huge!

Day 35

You are going to be proud of me today… I applied as a volunteer at the IMF. It’s just around the corner of the classrooms. That’s why I’m here: the opportunities here in Foggy Bottom are endless. And I have so much time left to seize them! One thing is for sure: I will have a lot to tell you when I get home!


To be continued...

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