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By angusmack101

Being reminded of an all-day hike at 2 a.m. is not a pleasant experience. I’d signed up to trek around Gettysburg with GW Trails a couple weeks prior and completely forgotten by the time I found myself at a dorm party on Friday night. It was an accident too; I overheard two Aussie friends of mine talking about how much they dreaded getting up for a full day of hiking the next day. That was enough to trigger a distant memory of paying for just such a trip, and we soon realized that all three of us were stuck with this decision. We weren’t going to let that $15 go to waste.

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My trusty jug: 98% water, 2% milk. Seen here with a side of 7/11 coffee and some post-party regret from Lou.

Don’t let it be said that Australians aren’t committed. Against our better judgement we all made it up before dawn the next morning to prepare an improvised lunch and find some water for the trip. In the absence of an actual bottle, I settled for pouring the dregs out of a gallon milk jug and refilling it with tap water. I was also able to scrounge some flaming hot pringles and an improvised pickle sandwich. Lou and Liv didn’t fare much better; they managed to secure some 7/11 trail mix before sprinting to the rendezvous at the Marvin Center.

The two-hour van ride to Gettysburg would be our only chance to rest before eight hours of walking. Naturally, we elected to stay awake the entire time arguing over the distinction between puddles, ponds, and lakes.

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That’s a fake answer and you know it. Poor form, Google.

After agreeing that YOU CAN’T SWIM IN A PUDDLE AND YOU CAN’T SAIL IN A POND, we arrived at Gettysburg and began trekking around behind our ever-enthusiastic trip leader Jared. Honestly I can’t fault the expedition. The weather was great and Jared was the exact kind of history fan you want to have leading trips like that. I was so distracted by the aesthetic of the place that I didn’t even mind the milky aftertaste in my water.

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Stay limber Jared.

Traffic on the way home was brutal and sleep wasn’t really an option in either of the overpacked minivans. This didn’t stop some of us trying—to varying degrees of success. In spite of all the things that should’ve spoiled it, the trip was honestly a great time. If I’d bothered to get a night’s sleep and pack some decent food beforehand I’m sure it would’ve been even better.

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It hurts just looking at it.

By angusmack101

Trying to get around and go about your life in 2018 without an active cell phone plan is a real pain. I’ve been without a carrier for about a week now and pretty much every day has presented a new way for this to inconvenience me. Everything requires mobile activation now. It’s insane. The worst part is that I had a working plan; I spent a month on a prepaid Simple Mobile sim that gave me a US number and enough data to sign myself up for an abundance of things I can no longer access.

My love-hate relationship with online retail wasn’t helped when the Mint Mobile sim I ordered to replace the expensive Simple one turned out to be a dud. I only discovered it was a dud when I had begun porting the number, which has had the painful effect of trapping the number in the no-man’s-land between carriers where it’s completely unusable by either of them—so I can’t even go back to square one.

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Gee, a sad fox. That sure makes me feel better about not having a working phone.

How did people do this for thousands of years? Expecting to be able to contact anyone at any time is one that’s proving extremely difficult to unlearn; I spent 20 minutes yesterday camped at the perimeter of the GW wifi so I could ask someone who lived 10 minutes off-campus to let me in their building. When they responded I had to bolt to their door and hope they didn’t assume I’d already left.

I can’t even contact Mint to get it fixed. Any call to them is met with a “get that button-pressing finger ready” series of extensions before finally being told to “try again in 24 hours”. Don’t get caught without a number people. Here ends my rant.

By angusmack101

“And the wrath of the lord will be rain’d unto thee with LCD steel and memes.”

- Mascot George

It’s been an eventful week. We’ve had a chance to witness the Fall of the Jumbotron— event that will surely go down in the history of the school. It really has been great to see the student community come together to produce such an abundance of memes. Honestly. Between the jumbotron and the hurricane everyone’s been having a field day. We got enough hurricane to ruthlessly joke about it, but not so much that we actually had to do anything. It’s the perfect weather event for our times: Extreme enough to get our attention but without expensive and possibly lethal follow-through. Memes for our impending doom, memes for the disappointment of avoiding a natural disaster. Perfect.

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Forecast for Squirtle

The clearer-than-expected weather made it possible for me to go to the Air and Space Museum with Yassine on Friday. You might know him as the other guy posting on this site each week for that sweet scholarship dollar—and for the love of GW and cultural learning, of course. Gotta say, much better than the American History Museum that I went to last week. One historic flag just doesn’t compare to an enormous hanger stacked with spaceship parts and airplanes. It’s also free, which is honestly a major part of the draw for me.

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Space stuff is cool I don’t care what anyone says. 10/10 would visit again.

Aside from that things have been pretty mellow. It’s week 4 now, we’re settling into a rhythm. I’m still enjoying my classes. I don’t even resent the five-hour class I have starting at 8 a.m. every Friday. That’s truly historic for me, at home I struggle not to skip anything pre-noon. This week is shaping up to be a good one too; hopefully less of the ever-overcast and humid days and bountiful activities.

 

By angusmack101

It’s been another entertaining week. Classes are in full-swing now; I get the impression that the professors are glad to be into some real content now as opposed to the multi-hour syllabus readings we got last week. Not that it’s too stressful yet. My roommates are all doing real degrees so they’ve been hard at work, but my mixed bag of SMPA and design classes hasn’t given me too much stress yet. The immediate benefit of learning short-form journalism is getting short-form readings—for which I am eternally grateful.

The easy transition was made even cruisier by the early arrival of the labor-day weekend. My small group of exchange student friends decided to capitalise on the spare time and take a day-trip to Baltimore in pursuit of some cultural learnings. We bought greyhound tickets on Saturday, knocked off most of our homework on Sunday, and on Labor day we hit the road.

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The bus was an hour-and-a-half late. So much for greyhounds being fast.

Baltimore’s reputation as a deeply-troubled city wasn’t helped by the quiet roads and empty stores we found there. Even near downtown we struggled to find much in the way of activity. It took us about an hour to join the dots and establish that it was probably just because of Labor day.

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Walking a lonely road

Foregoing the closed museums and the empty streets of downtown, we elected to sight-see around the harbor and relax for most of the day. We scored a cheap Cuban lunch and good weather, so nobody really minded the lack of activity after a few hours of walking in the sun.

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Taka taking it easy

It can’t have just been the day that made Baltimore such a bizarre city. I feel like a fair bit more time is required to figure it out—I’m sure there’s at least one course at GW that’s dedicated to the intricacies of socio-economics in the North East. Probably a ways past my grade.

The sightseeing was honestly remarkable. The enormous hill overlooking the harbor is sexy as hell, basking in the sights was enough to keep us entertained in spite of an overwhelming lack of indoor options. I get the impression that Baltimore has a lot more to offer than what we saw. At the very least it was an insight into what I presume DC had going for it pre-gentrification.

By angusmack101

The first week of classes is always a strange one, and ‘syllabus week’ at GW was more-or-less in line with what I’m used to in Australia. Hour-long syllabus readings are pointless at home and I can confidently say they’re equally dry here. Not that I dislike my subjects—I’d just like to get into learning about them. What’s been more interesting to me this week is the design of the classes themselves. In Melbourne it’s not uncommon to have lectures of 500 people with a single professor, so the relatively small classes at GW are quite a departure. We have tutorials, but the close relationship between students and faculty makes it a little less futile here.

The rest of the week has been a little more eventful. The Greek dance-off at the Marvin Center was hilarious. Probably funnier than Hasan Minhaj to be honest. I went to his show on Saturday night with high expectations—having a comic fill a stadium in Australia is almost unheard of, and props to him for doing it here, but I couldn't help feeling that we were getting less comedy and more lecture. Refugees are good, Donald is bad. Cue applause.

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Can’t raise the roof if you’re already on it

Probably my favorite talking point of this week has been the GW mascot. The university culture here is amazing, but I challenge anyone to look at George and not be haunted by that gaze. I’m honestly not sure whether to be inspired or threatened. At least we can take consolation in the fact that he doesn't talk. A 7-foot black-eyed founding father is scary enough without him barking the 'fight song'at us. Bring back the lovable hippo—that’s a mascot I can get behind. 

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Staring into your manifest destiny

By angusmack101

I've lived in Australia all my life. Even having moved around quite a lot, I'm used to things having a reliable price-range that I can work around and a stable ratio between one item and another. With the exception of seasonal fruits and cryptocurrencies, things generally retain a relative value.

Cue American pricing. High school econ taught me that consumers are supposed to actively choose, but the reality of it has been drastically different for me since I got here. That relative value I've been relying on just doesn't seem to apply here. I set myself up with a spare week in New York prior to orientation at GW, and was shocked to find that things just didn't line up at all—a food cart avocado can be $1, with the cheapest tortilla chips costing $4. I had no idea I was coming to a country where I can load up on guac but have to be stingy with the chips.

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I got this platter for $5 in New York―one block from where CVS charges $3 for a pint of milk

Australian supermarkets vary in price, but this is on another level. People will literally charge you double what the store down the road is charging like it’s nothing. If we had that, there'd be a city-wide run on one chain until the other had closed down or conceded to within ~10% of the competitors' price—and they'd have to beat them on something else to stay in business. It was this variance that led most of us to Walmart; a decision I’m still on the fence about.

Having been to big-box stores throughout Australia I thought I knew what to expect, but their designers’ ability to construct lanes a half-inch wider than their trolleys is a piece of cost-cutting design that still makes me shiver. It didn’t help that we went a few days before start of semester, so basically every essential homewares item was sold out—culminating in some questionable communal cutlery calls.

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Something needs to be done about the spoon-to-bowl ratio

Putting that aside, O week has been extremely positive. The ExO leaders and the exchange staff each had useful stuff to bring to the table, so I didn’t resent the daily meetings. Gotta say we probably didn’t need an hour-long summary of every food option on campus though, particularly when the conclusion was “people like different food”.

Presentations and orientation are a necessary evil, and I’m glad we had an organised group to run it. The painful parts weren’t the fault of GW; The guy serving me at BOA definitely had a sly grin as he signed me up. The best parts were also particularly notable. This is a spectacularly aesthetic city; it seems like any picture taken on the mall comes out great by default.

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O week presentations are the gift that keeps on giving

Here’s to Syllabus week...

By angusmack101

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My name is Angus Mackintosh, arriving in DC from Melbourne Australia. I’ve submitted my digital signature a dozen times, mastered the art of taking blank-faced headshots against a white background, and my last real obstacle is a 27-hour flight and a greyhound. This should be the easy part. The worst of the bureaucracy is behind me and I’m calling it a win.

I’ve only actually lived in Melbourne for a year-and-a-half. Perhaps it’s a little early to be abandoning ship for the states, but we live in historic times. Australia is fairly stagnant; our Prime Minister is neither good or bad enough to warrant much attention, and our biggest public crisis seems to be a handful of ball-tampering Cricket players—certainly not one for the history books. So long as Australian media is on autopilot echoing US news, I might as well be in the US.

Aus parliament 1The only royalty-free image of Australian parliament in session is from when Obama came to speak. Google it.

What better time to be a student in your nation’s capital? I saw one of the bloggers last semester got to sit-in on the Zuckerberg hearing; that’s the kind of historic stuff I’m looking for. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking to hope for too much, but one way or another I’ll make something memorable out of it.

In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson famously went in search of the American Dream—but that wasn’t really the point, was it? He didn’t really want or need to track the zeitgeist of the time. In fact, he spends most of the book describing the delusions of everyone around him; collectively failing to see it for what it was. Dozens of authors have written books on a similar premise—Everyone wants to know what America is, but none of them can agree. It's this ambiguity that's forced me to come and see for myself.

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My college at home: perpetually under construction. Maybe it’ll be done when I get back.

I’ve experienced Australian colleges & boarding schools and my degree hasn’t yet reached peak difficulty; this might be the best chance I get. Aussie dollars aren’t worth as much as they could be, but I’ve got a tasty interest-free government loan to mop up the excess. Let’s see how it goes.

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