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By audrey

I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper's Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour's drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park's map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you're an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather - I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn't do it justice. Here are some pictures from the day trip:

[Insert pictures]

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

By minhsuanchen

    Time really flies! I could not believe that my semester here is about to end and I did not notice that I have already uploaded so many blog posts during my time in GWU. Although I felt terribly anxious and indecisive before coming here, I felt glad that I made the right choice to apply for the exchange student program and brave myself by getting out of my comfort zone. During this journey, I learned a lot of things, met new friends, and went traveling to different places in the United States. Comparing to all those great experience and memories I got here, the efforts and hard works that I have made to come here were nothing at all.

    In the first few weeks, I could not get used to many things like people’s accents, academic environment, cultural differences, and so on. However, with time passing, I have made a great progress. As an English major, I feel satisfied that I have the opportunity to come here because my English does improve a lot while I am immersed in the whole English environment. Also, D.C is a great place for me to acquire more knowledge about American culture and history because there are a wide array of museums and galleries which allow me to visit in my free time. The convenient public transportation including the metro and bus is one of the things that I appreciate the most, for they allow me to get to any place in a short time easily.

      There are still so many things that I can share, but I guess I could only put them in my heart and do my best to share my stories with others in my home university and recommend GWU to those who want to apply for the exchange student program in the future. I am grateful that GWU provides me such a precious chance to study for a semester here and I really love D.C. I believe this short journey has already become one of the most unique experience in my life that I will never forget. I hope I can come back soon!

By audrey

Going to a college in the United States meant exposure to a wide range of co-curricular activities, such as playing sports or representing the school in the performing arts. What is unique about the American system is the existence of greek life - it comprises of fraternities for guys and sororities for the ladies. Generally, membership in a fraternity or sorority is obtained while an undergraduate student but continues, thereafter, for life. Some of these organizations can accept graduate students as well as undergraduates, per constitutional provisions. My first exposure to greek life came at the beginning of the semester, during the spring club fairs which were seeking new members. Among them, there were several greek organizations that were tabling in the hall.

 

I soon learnt there were several stages that one must undergo in order to gain full membership ie. become a brother or a sister.

  1. Rushing
    “Rushing” is when students become acquainted with the different fraternities or sororities on campus, and the process can range from very formal and structured to informal and casual. Rushing for sororities tend to be more formal, with different themes and requirements for each day. Rush events can include casual informational sessions, where potential recruits have their first interactions with those who are already members and to get a feel of what that particular greek organisation is like. Immediately following rush, members will extend a bid to successful rush-ees.
  2. Pledging
    Once a new member accepts the bid, he or she then becomes a pledge and enters the pledging process. It usually involves learning about the history of the organization, the history of the chapter, the current members, and team building/bonding among the class of new pledges through social and fundraising events. While the length of time differs for every organization, pledging usually lasts for 5 to 8 weeks in the semester before pledges are officially initiated as brothers or sisters.

Why rush a greek organisation? People do it for different reasons - networking forms a huge part of why people rush. Joining a greek organisation is a great way to widen your social network and this could help you in the future. Also, when you join a fraternity, there are many leadership opportunities within the organization to be filled - this is great if you're looking for a leadership position.

I definitely encourage those who go to school outside of the States to attend the rush events - even if you have no intention of joining. It's a great way to meet like-minded people and expand your network on campus. As an incoming exchange student, your chances of getting a bid might be lower, but it never hurts to try!

By sarajebbar

They said that life can always hide you surprises for the future. And this weekend, I got to meet my American friend that I never thought I’ll meet again. We were roommates in Morocco when she was doing her summer abroad in my university two years ago. But this weekend, we finally had the chance to meet in the US after such a long time. I went to Atlanta to visit her and her family and to get to see a different part of America which is the south.

The Atlanta airport is one of the biggest ones in the US so the flight was affordable from Washington DC. I really loved my trip there. First, I got to see my friend and spend some quality time with her family. And since she had Indian origins, I had some really great homemade Indian food. It was really great to share some moments with a family in the US and it just reminded me of home and how it’s like to be with your family.

The city was also really nice. The best part of it was Georgia Aquarium. It’s one of the largest aquariums in the world and the largest one in the US. It was really fascinating to see all these types of sea creatures that I’ve never seen before. And the dolphins and sea lions shows were really amusing and worth the whole aquarium entry ticket. Atlanta is also home of the headquarters of Coca Cola, CNN, Delta. So, it was one of the touristy attractions to go and take picture with all the logos and signs of this big multinational companies.

Since Atlanta is located in the south of America, I noticed how different is the south from the north like New York or Washington DC. People there were more open and engage into conversations more in the streets and public places. I also realized that they are slower in their relations and transactions. It just reminded me of my country Morocco. I was always used to a slow pace of life where everyone tend to smile more and talk more. It was really amazing to see how the US as a country in itself is different from a state to another and that’s why I really enjoy travelling because it opens my eyes to many new things and make me discover the different aspects of this country.

By anthonyscheergwu

In the midst of farewells, finals, and due dates approaching, I surprisingly found some extra time to visit some of the great museums in DC. Before I get into my observations and experiences I had in these museums, I have to say that Americans perfected the art of making museums fun. As a kid my parents brought me to beautiful museums around the world like the hermitage in Russia or the Louvres in France, but I was 11 and I wanted to go go-karting at that time. Going around the museums in DC, I was surprised at how engaged the kids were. Especially at the air and space museum, the activities made the kids have fun while they were learning and I thought that was great. I definitely think Europe could learn a lot about museums in America because I would have loved these museums as a kid.

So my museum tour of DC consisted (so far) of the Renwick, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian Air & Space and Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (I do plan on visiting some more during my free days in DC after my finals).

I’ve been to the Renwick a couple of times to see their new exhibitions and I really liked this museum, it’s not too big and shouldn’t take more than an hour to get through everything. It’s a great place to go to after getting a coffee and walking around the White House.

The Holocaust Memorial museum carried a very gloomy atmosphere and left me quite shocked throughout the rest of the day. This museum is able to transmit the horrors of the Holocaust very effectively. The museum appeals to most of the senses which makes the experience that much more emotional. In particular, there’s a room where you can hear the actual voices of the victims explaining the horrors they went through during the war and you can clearly feel the terrors they carry in their voices. The part that probably shocked me the most was the model of the Auschwitz concentration camp which clearly displayed how the victims were transported into the gas chambers and the inhuman conditions which they faced.

The Smithsonian Air & Space museum was great because it shows the progress mankind has made from 1903 to today. It was amazing to see how in 116 years we went from a 4 second flight to reaching Mars. I loved how the museum had life-size models of the first planes to ever exist, because till then I had only read about the Wright brothers and watched their accomplishments on a screen. Seeing what they built and the chain of events that followed was super interesting and this museum exhibited this very well. As I was walking around the museum I felt this feeling of motivation and I loved how it showed that as humans can do great things if we put our hearts into it.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was also very impressive. Walking around the large hallways with life-size model of animals all around made me feel as though I was in a zoo in some instances. The museum displayed such life-like replicas of many different animals and I thought it was great, because for some of these animals I wouldn’t be able to see them this close, like the whale and the mammoth and it was an interesting experience. I loved this museum because it displayed the wonders of our planet and it gave me a newfound appreciation of everything that we take for granted in nature.

This weekend I’ll be going to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Portrait Gallery, and the National Geographic Museum. I’ve heard great things about these ones and I’m super excited!

By recueroraquel.

During the fall semester I spent most of the time around my fellow exchange friends. We all lived in 1959 E St and that created such a great community that was like a bubble. I had dinner every single night at my apartment in the 7th floor or in the 5th where most of my friends lived, and each of us cooked one night. We went out together and we visited the city, traveled the country and even did our groceries together. It was a really nice time in which I felt like I had my own family here. However, when I came back from the winter break and most of them were gone I tried to force me to step out of my comfort zone and make more American friends. Now that my time here is so limited I’m trying to spend as much time as I can.

As every Friday or Sunday evening, we went to do our two-weeks groceries to Walmart
The guys of the 5th (Javier, Amine and Angus) being especially social
Still jet lagged, my ex-roommates and I went to Ikea and bought pretty much everything (believe it or no, that plant is still alive and looks wonderful)

On Friday I had dinner with some friends. Miren cooked Spanish croquetas and I made Spanish salmorejo. It was so good! I had to work 8am to 6pm on Saturday so I went straight to bed.

On Saturday night I went out with Steven, a friend from California I met in my last semester’s Human Trafficking class. Some of his friends where hosting a party in an apartment close to the campus. We went there and since the weather was so good we chatted and had some drinks in the yard. Later, we went to Shenanigan’s, an Irish pub in Adams Morgan which was so much fun.

Carmen, Steven, and me!

Then we went to the classic Johnny Pistolas, however we were a majority of Latinos and the music was not our favorite, so we decided to walk all the way to El Centro D.F. in 14th St. On the way some of my friends grabbed a jumbo slice, so the whole walk to the club including the pizza stop took sooooooo long. Finally, when we arrived we danced salsa and reggaeton until 3 AM, when the lights were turned on and we basically closed the place.

There are no words to describe what is like to walk 1.5 km like this

On Sunday, I went to the Georgetown campus with my friend Luca, because even though I’ve been in Georgetown many times, I never went to see the university (Georgetown recommendations). We walked around the streets of the neighborhood that were SO BEAUTIFUL with all the tulips and the petals everywhere. Finally, we went to a library that is at the beginning of the neighborhood (straight after the bridge and the Four Seasons hotel) that has the coolest books. We stayed for like an hour?!

I want to live here so bad

In the afternoon I went to see this soccer match in which some friends were playing. They scored 10 goals while the others scored just 2. Oops.

In the evening we played some music, cooked some couscous and had dinner while watching GAME OF THRONES (!!!!!) and making sure we were safe of any possible tornadoes. I was so scared I took a 4RIDE back home (hey, I’m sorry, there’s no tornado alerts where I’m from!)

https://media.giphy.com/media/iYIWuO2uybnWg/giphy.gif

By anthonyscheergwu

My weeks are getting busier and busier because of a few factors. First, the end of the semester is near, therefore all my presentations, finals and papers are quickly approaching their due date and I have to keep up with all of them. Second, summer is coming and I since I got my flight back to Paris on the last day of my 30-day grace period, I have to plan my 30 day summer in the US. Unfortunately, prices of flights only get more expensive, therefore I have to book them as soon as possible but as I’m meeting up with a couple of friends, plans aren’t made easily and therefore it takes time planning. I wish I could do this after my exams but I can’t because I’m not a billionaire. Third, I’ve met great people during my exchange here and all the farewells are coming up and I want to go to all of them to see these people as much as possible. Fourth, I still have to eat, clean and work out (hoping to have my summer body ready by mid-may because I’m going to Miami). Fifth, DC is awesome and I’ve been visiting various places and the more I see the more I want to see, and therefore when I can I go tourist mode and visit the things I still haven’t seen in this amazing city. All those together have made me go crazy. So for this blog post I will talk about how a typical week used to be (I won’t talk about how they are currently because they mostly involved me working at Gelman and hearing the announcement that non GWU students must leave the library at 12:00).

Monday: Wake up at 11, clean my room till 11:30 to start off the week well organized. I eat a bowl of cereal and get ready for class. Go to class from 12:45 to 2:00. Walk from Elliot to Duques, and work on whatever homework needs my attention till 3:30. From 3:30 to 6:00 I have another class. After my class I stay an extra hour to work some more, and then go home. By 7:10 I’m home. I get changed into my gym clothes, I turn on the oven and put frozen chicken in it. From that moment, I have 1 hour and 15 minutes till my chicken is ready. I run to the gym, work out for an hour, and run back. I get back home and add vegetables on top of my chicken. I shower for 5 minutes and when I get out, my food is ready. By now its 8:45, I eat my food and chill with my roommates. I then cook my meal for lunch the next day, and go to bed by 10:30. I can’t sleep, and therefore this is usually when I complete non-school related task that need my attention (applying to jobs, speaking with friends and family). By 12 I’m asleep.

Tuesday: Wake up at 9:00, get ready for class. My class lasts from 9:35 to 11. I get back home at 11:10, eat cereal, and take a quick 30 minute nap. I wake up, go to the gym, get back home, and eat the lunch that I got ready the night before. By 2:00 I’m at Gelman, I work on whatever needs my attention till 6:00 pm. I go to my last class of the day from 6:10 to 8:40. I get out of class and go eat dinner. By 9:30 I’m back at the library and I work till 1:00 am. I get back home by 1:30 and I’m asleep by 2:00.

Wednesday: I wake up at 10, eat, work or complete chores that need my attention. I go to class from 12:30 to 2. After class I got to the library. Work till dinner, go eat at home, by 8:00pm I’m done with dinner. I take 30 minutes to rest and then I go to the gym. By 10:00pm I’m done with my work out and I’m in the shower. I try to get to bed by 12:00pm.

Thursday: Go to my 9:30 class and right after I go home, pack my bags and go on a trip, or relax and enjoy the start of the weekend in DC.

Thursday to Sunday: Enjoy my trip or hang around DC. Usually I didn’t have too much work because I completed most of it during the week, but if I did I would manage to make time during the weekend to work on what was needed.

Of course, all my weeks did not look exactly like that. I did stay in DC some weekends and enjoyed the great things this city has to offer. Some weeks, especially the few weeks after my mid-terms were very chill and I spent less time at the library. However, some weeks were so busy and I didn’t have time for anything else but work, and during those weeks the library would become my home (I don’t have a desk in my room so I always completed my work at the library). This was a very simplified version of what my typically week looked like, but the truth is they were never exactly like that because the various activities that happen around DC and at GWU kept me on my feet throughout the semester.

Although my exchange semester isn’t done, I would like to mention that I love it here and I really appreciate the energy people at GWU have because since January, I don’t think I’ve spent more than an hour being bored with nothing to do!

Now, for the next 20 days, if you would like to support me through my preparation for my finals and final assignments, a cupcake is always appreciated (I will be on the third floor of Gelman most of the time).

By anthonyscheergwu

Everyone has different reasons for traveling, for me, I usually travel for food. This is why I'm going to dedicate this post to American cuisine.

But before I would like to talk about this little promise I made to myself when I was about 10. Myanmar at that time had no internationally recognized fast food chains in the country and therefore, to eat McDonald's I would have to leave the country; and as a 10 year old, persuading your parents to leave the country for a burger usually had the same outcome as talking to a wall. Therefore at that age I promised myself that the minute I arrive in the US I would try as many American fast food chains as possible.

And so here it is my critic of the great American cuisine.

McDonalds:

Rating: 2.5/5

In France Mcdonald is simply delicious. You can see families going there to enjoy the good food and atmosphere. In America, Mcdonalds is not the same. It's super cheap compared to France but I realized why. The beef patties area super flat and dry, the bread seems stale and overall, even though America is the birthplace of the Big Mac, it’s probably the country that makes the worst one. I wouldn’t recommend Mcdonald's here unless it's 3 in the morning and you want to eat a 1 dollar McChicken which actually isn't so bad.

Chik-Fil-A:

Rating: 4.5/5

For years now, I’ve seen post about the chik-fil-a signature burger with just bread, pickles, chicken and sauce, and for years I kept thinking that a burger that simple can’t be that good. And well, I was right. Their signature burger is not special it has no remarkable flavor and I was disappointed and ready to give this chain a bad rating. But I give it another chance and ordered some different types of burgers and I must say those are delicious (royal spicy sandwich). Also, the fries dipped in the chik-fil-a sauce is probably the flavor I will miss the most when I leave the US, so yeah go to chik-fil-a, get fries and anything but their signature burger, and you won’t regret it.

Shake Shack

Rating: 4.5/5

Shake Shack has the best burger in terms of taste. The burger is a great mix of juicy and crispy, the cheese is completely melted and it just makes a super savory burger. The first couple of bites are delicious, but the burger is so packed and oily that by the end it’s too much and I never enjoy the last bites. All in all, it is definitely the best beef burger you can find compared to all the other fast food chains I’ve tasted.

Burger King:

Rating: 3.5/5

Good burger and fries, but nothing exceptionally different. Worth noting that you can get 10 chicken nuggets for 1 dollar.

Five Guys:

Rating: 4/5

Go-to fast food chain when I’m super hungry. The food is great and doesn’t feel too oily. I love that they let you personalize the burger to your liking with the extensive choice of toppings they offer.

In-n-out

Rating: 4/5

In-n-out just felt like a better and more old school version of McDonald's. I was expecting so much from this chain, and flew to the West coast to try it, but I was relatively disappointed. The whole meal was very basic, and because I was expecting something exceptional I was disappointed by my over-expectations. However I liked the short menu (it felt like the old school American experience) and taking prices into account, In-n-out definitely has the best price to quality ratio.

Dominos

Rating: 3/5

The type of pizza you eat with ketchup.

Other worthy mentions:

KFC: 3/5

Arby’s: 3.5/5

Jack in the box: 3.5/5

Taco Bell: 2/5

I wanted to keep going and trying more of these chains, but I’m officially not a fan of fast food anymore. I find myself craving food from Roti more than any of the chains mention above nowadays, so I’m happy that I did this experiment because I am now sick of fast food.

*I know there is more to American food than Fast Food, but for this post I wanted to focus on these chains because America is where they were all created.

By recueroraquel.

Last Wednesday I went to New Orleans with my friend Miren. It took me just a few hours to realize NEW ORLEANS IS MY FAVORITE CITY IN THE US SO FAR! I’m so glad I had the chance to visit it before leaving in May.

So we took the MARC Train to Baltimore around 2 pm, getting to the airport at 3. Our flight departed at 4:30, and we landed in New Orleans around 6:30 pm. We got into our hostel at 8, straight after taking the StreetCar, a really old but cozy tram.

First impressions

We were staying in a hostel, called India House that was supposed to be 10 minutes far from the French Quarter (the old city downtown). However, 10 minutes were more like 25. The place was pretty weird, and the nicest guest was probably this obese cat.

The first thing we did was getting some seafood, poboys and walk around the famous Bourbon Street. I had so many oysters (Miren feels pretty disgusted by them, so even more for me!) and seafood and crab poboys, that are basically sandwiches with real bread. It was so good I wish I wasn’t so full to keep trying everything.

Happiness at its finest

Then, we went out and we were surprised about all the people drinking in the street. Apparently, New Orleans is the only city in the United States were public consumption of alcohol is allowed, to the point you can even order a drink and bring it to another bar. Also, it’s so warm and humid that most bars are completely open while there’s live music being played inside, so many people just walks around Bourbon street drinking, to the point that there is more people in street that inside of the bars. We had a grenade, one of the typical NOLA drinks, while many people in the balconies threw the classic Mardi Gras necklaces to the pedestrians.

So touristy

The morning after we were planning to take a free walking tour around the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. However, we woke up at 7am because of the noise of a thunderstorm. It was raining as I never saw before and we kept hearing the sirens of the firefighters driving back and forth. Of course, the tour was cancelled, but we were encouraged to sign in for the one at 2:45 pm, and so we did, being hopeful. We went downtown to have breakfast Cafe du Monde, probably the oldest cafe in New Orleans, famous for its cafe au lait (people started having it because of war rationing) and beignets (like doughnuts, but way better). During breakfast the tour was again cancelled because of the storm, so we decided to go to the National WWII Museum, the 3rd most visited museum in the US!

One of the buildings was a recreation of the route of the Ally troops freed Paris and then Berlin

During the evening we went to have some more amazing food and listen to live jazz. We explored some Voodoo shops, where we found information about the religious tradition and its origin and we finally went home hoping the weather would get better the day after.

The weather didn’t really improve, but the show must go on! So we went on the walking tour (after 20 minutes Miren’s shoes were already flooded) and when we got to the Mississippi river I was so amazed by it! Then we went to a “Hot sauce shop” were we tried even one we had to sign a waiver for, and of course we ended crying and spitting all over the place. Disgusting. We also visited the Garden District, famous for its colonial architecture, and we finished our night taking a really funny tour about ghosts and vampires in New Orleans in which even the tour guide was having a drink! We had dinner and Frenchman Street, where the locals go out. The weather was finally good, so we were able to put our raincoats and umbrella in our bags and party like we didn’t have to catch a flight the morning after!

By anthonyscheergwu

March and February were very busy months; with all the traveling in addition to classes and homework, I realized that so far I had visited more of the US outside DC than DC (I’ve visited more things in LA then I did in DC). In DC I have become very familiar with GWU’s Gelman Library and the rooms on the ground floor of Marvin that offer the most undisturbed and quiet study sessions ever. But outside of that I hadn’t seen much of DC.

Therefore I decided to spend the whole month of April in DC and visit this beautiful city — and what better time to start than at the beginning of the cherry blossom festival?

I started my discovery of DC by doing something people here talk about every day — “brunch.” In my 2 years in Paris, I don’t think I’ve been to a single brunch. I did hear people talk about it, but it wasn’t as big. In DC it's probably the thing people talk about the most after politics.

I heard great things about Agora so I went there with my cousin who was in town. We were quite hungry and decided to go for the unlimited option of the brunch. The food was great, the restaurant was full and lively and yet the service was efficient and fast. I won’t talk about it too much, but I did take pictures of everything him and I were able to eat and so I’ll let those do the talking:

*As I said we were quite hungry!

We then went to the Washington Monument for the kite festival. The weather was great, and therefore everyone looked much more happy. There were tons of kites and people running around in attempt to untangle their kites. The atmosphere was great and it was truly appealing to see the sky full of colorful kites flying around.

At the end of the festival I decided to walk around the Tidal Basin to see in real life all the picture I have been seeing online of the cherry blossoms covering the shores of the water. The blend of pink, white and blue with the Jefferson on the other side was a great view. Taking a picture was a bit complicated because the path around the basin was stacked with people but I did manage to get a few pictures of the landscape and myself.

During this walk, I saw the Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Both of these places were impressive and rich in history. I eventually found myself following a Park Ranger who was talking about the history of DC, which helped me learn a lot about the history of this place.

On Sunday, I went to Union Market where throughout my time there, I kept asking myself why I hadn’t come before. The variety of food there was amazing (there was even a Burmese inspired restaurant). I ate oysters, a few Burmese dishes, and got ice-cream. I got full pretty fast that day which annoyed me cause I wanted to keep eating, but that just means I will go back there soon. Definitely recommend going here if you're ever in DC and hungry.

To continue my exploration of DC, throughout the coming week I will be going to different museums I’ve heard great things about!

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