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By sarajebbar

 

At this point, I think you can understand that one of the main things I enjoy doing in my 4 days long weekends is travelling. I just enjoy visiting new places, taking more pictures and discovering new cultures. And I would say that the on-campus part-time job I got this semester helped me a lot in doing that. This weekend destination was Havana, and it was the most exotic and different place I have been to. I’ve never thought that I would visit this country before, but I think Camila Cabello’s song “Havana” had a big influence on this decision. And it was such a perfect place to celebrate my roommate’s 21st birthday.

Havana was the best place to escape Washington’s cold weather because of its tropical warm weather. I stayed with my four friends in an Airbnb that was in the Old Habana, and once we got there we knew we’re in a totally different place from the US. Havana felt like an old movie from the 70’s and it was beautiful. The special thing about the city was the colorful retro classic cars. And what was really cool about this trip was taking open cars music for a city tour or just to get from a place to another as a normal taxi. Besides that, I also enjoyed taking the Coco taxi, which a yellow cute covered motorcycle, around the city. Not only the cars in Havana were colorful but also the buildings especially the ones around the capitol. What I enjoyed doing the most was wandering around the colorful narrow streets of the city and taking tons of pictures in front of the classic cars. What was also interesting was visiting the museum of the revolution. They portrayed the whole timeline of the Cuban revolution in the walls of the museum and it really helped me learning a lot about the history of this country. And of course what would be a vacation in the warm Havana without going to the beach. The beach was 30 minutes from the city but the road was really enjoyable since we took an open car to get there. From enjoying the clear water of the ocean to drinking coconut water, the beach day in Havana was perfect to forget about studies and GWU.

Even though Havana was a great place to visit and spend four days in, I don’t think I would be able to live there. It felt like the country was laid back in the 70’s. One of the most surprising thing during this trip was the limited internet not only for us tourists but also for citizens. To get internet in Cuba, we had to purchase an internet pass which was around 1$ per hour, search for a WiFi hotspot (Internet park) which weren’t many in the city, and then hope to get some really slow internet connectivity. It was really funny to see dozens of people around the WiFi router trying to connect to the world outside. When I asked locals about how they felt about it, they said it doesn’t really matter for them since they are used to socialize more. No wonder locals were always socializing in the streets or balconies or trying to make conversations with us.

Havana was great and having this trip with great company made it even better. Now, it’s time to stress about finals coming in a week and begin my late night journeys in Gelman library.

By sarajebbar

This week we had the thanksgiving break that we all were waiting for to get some rest from studies and classes. Since it was kind of a long break, I took the opportunity to travel to Canada. I know many of you will wonder why am I leaving the US in such a big American holiday, Thanksgiving. What’s great about the US is that they start their holidays days before the actual day so I got the chance to try some Thanksgiving food before my trip.Being in Washington DC made it really easy for me to travel to Canada unlike when I’m far in Morocco. I started my trip by Montréal. The city was in Québec, the French speaking province of Canada. Since my second language is French, I and my French friends enjoyed speaking French with the locals. We also enjoyed hearing the Quebec French accent because it was really different from the one in France, which I’m used to use in Morocco. Montréal reminded me a lot of Europe (The architecture, the language, the streets…) One of the coolest thing I did was to hike to the summit of Mont-Royal. The hike was pretty tiring and cold but the breathtaking view of the whole city from the top made me forget about all of that. We visited a lot of places like Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, the old port…  And I enjoyed walking through the old city of Montréal in the Christmas vibe. I also tried my first Poutine there which is a typical Canadian meal and I loved it.After 2 days in Montréal, we took the bus to Toronto. I really loved Toronto over Montréal. Because of the cold weather, the streets in Montréal become dead as soon as it gets dark. However, Toronto was such a lively city and it had a lot of places to visit. One of the main characteristics of Toronto’s skyline is the CN tower. So, we took a ferry to Ward’s island to see the beautiful skyline from front of the water. I also enjoyed taking pictures in the Graffiti Alley, trying to ice-skate in the Nathan Philips square with regular shoes on, walking through the Christmas market and trying the really good food in all the diverse restaurants of the city.One of the main reasons of my Canada was to take Niagara Falls off my bucket list. And the greatest thing was that I had the opportunity to visit them from both sides, the American and the Canadian one. The Niagara Falls were the most breathtaking natural wonder I’ve ever seen. They were just magnificent and powerful. I got the chance to see them from really close by taking the ferry to the heart of the Falls and you can feel their real power from there. We walked after that to cross the bridge that links between Canada and the US. It was really cool to cross between the countries in such an easy way. In the US side, I saw the Niagara Falls illuminations which were colorful lights projected on the Falls, and made them even more beautiful during the night. Seeing the Niagara Falls was one of the most impressive things I saw in the nature, and I’m grateful for that. And what a great unexpected way to end my Canada trip is by enjoying music, ice-skating show, Christmas tree lighting and fireworks in my last night in Toronto.

 

By sarajebbar

At the beginning of the week, I and another exchange student were invited to have a dinner with an American family to get to know more about the culture and try some homemade food. The event was organized by the exchange program advisors and it was a great opportunity to discover other sides of the Americans and their local life. Our host was working as an exchange advisor in GWU years ago. So, it was really nice to talk to her and her partner about her previous experiences with exchange students and to share with her our adventures in Washington DC. The food was really good and the two hours we spent there made me realize more about the American culture in some different states of the US.

For the weekend, as it says from the title, I went to MEXICO. I have always been dreaming of visiting this country but it was really difficult to do it from Morocco since the flights are really expensive from there. So being the US gave me the opportunity to discover Mexico. My flight was to Cancun but I stayed in Playa Del Carmen which is a city an hour from Cancun. I stayed there from Thursday to Monday. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. In the first day I went to an island called Cozumel where I had the chance to snorkel and swim with all types of fish, sea turtles and starfishes in the Caribbean sea. I also went to two parks: Xel-ha and Xcaret and they were insane. The first one was a water park with many snorkeling spots, slides, rope jumping… And the other one was exhibiting the Fauna and Flora of the region and at the end I stayed for a show that represented the specific music and dances of each region of Mexico. It was really beautiful to see how within one country there are different cultures, and that show was a summary of it all. Mexico is also known for its cenotes which are holes that lead to a pool of turquoise-colored water connected to secret underground caverns. I visited two of them: Dos Ojos and Ik-kil. Those cenotes were surreal and snorkeling there was simply fascinating because under the clear water you can clearly see all the reefs and the beautiful underwater life. And apart from the beautiful beaches and turquoise water, Mexico has a very rich history especially of the Mayans and Aztecs culture. So, it was a must to visit Chichen Itza which is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and one of the seven wonders of the world. It was really fascinating to see how the history of Mayans was carved in the rocks and how it’s still preserved until now. Tulum was also a great city to visit both Mayan ruins and the beach at the same time. What made this trip special is spending it with other Mexicans so I had the chance to get to know more about their culture from a local perspective.Mexico is one my favorites countries right now because it combined between the beautiful white-sand beaches, the tropical forests, the turquoise-colored cenotes, the rich history, the great food and the nice and outgoing people. And it was really nice to see with my eyes that it’s really far from its stereotypes shown in the media.

 

 

 

By evavilloslada

Halloween is a huge thing here and last weekend wasn't everything, not at all. On Monday the exchange leaders prepared an event in the rooftop of 1959 E Street with pumpkins, music, and candy. It had been a long time since all of us were together, now all of us have things to do and I only see some of the exchange students and leaders. So it was really great to meet with everyone again. We had a really good time carving pumpkins, it was my first time and I really had fun, now I have my little pumpkin as decoration in my room.

Tuesday was the real Halloween day, and of course we went to do trick or treat.  A group  from the university planned everything for us, and when we saw on Facebook it was going to be in the embassies we thought there was no better way to spend the day, and we did´t need costumes. So we met in Kogan Plaza and walked to Embassy Row where we started going from embassy to embassy. Some of them only gave  one candy per person because we were many people, but others gave us tons of candy. In most of them there were people disguised, and you could take photos with them. I wasn't  that exited about trick or treat at first, because in Spain only the kids do that, but it was a good time to get to know more about Washington DC. What most surprised me was all the university students that were doing trick or treat on their own, dressed up with costumes, as I said, in Spain this is not something a university student would do.

 

During the night there was another event in 1959 E Street, with free pizza, cotton candy, and cupcakes. I really love when they do things like this, because is the only way we have to meet people in the hall as we don't have a dinning room to meet with the rest. Another crazy thing about the United States is that they really have a thing with free food. There is always some type of event with free food in it. You won't see that happening any time soon in Spain. I think that is probably because we don't have clubs as they have here, so no one is up for preparing anything. After all, students are much more invested in university activities here.

The rest of the week was as any other, although we went to Georgetown on Thursday to buy clothes for winter as the weather is finally getting colder, the rest was all about writing all the papers I have for next week.

However, on Saturday we tried something different and went to a coffee shop to study. It is especially prepared for that, with books everywhere, and enough space for you to study. It is called Busboys and Poets, and you can also have lunch there. In the afternoon we went to Arlington National Cemetery. I had never been there before, and I have to say I was impressed. There were so many rows of tombs creating a beautiful picture, being autumn made everything even better with the beautiful colors of the trees. Visiting it is a must of the things you have to do in Washington DC.

On Sunday we went to have brunch. We went to a place called Ted's Bulletin, and I love this place. The food was amazing. But it was crowded, so maybe you need to make a reservation beforehand. Anyways, it was one of the best brunch I have ever tried.

Other exchange students had told me about running in the National Mall, and how awesome it is. So to finish my week I decided to go for a run instead of going to the gym. I'm not used to running, but I enjoyed it anyway. Of course I had to stop to take some photos because the monuments at night are breathtaking. I'm definitely doing it again.

By sarajebbar

 

I don’t know why they call it Midterms week because for me I’m having midterms for 3 weeks now. This week again I had two midterms and I still have one to go. I can’t wait to see the grades to finally know how I’m performing here in GWU. So, after a tough week of exams, I deserved some rest and fun during the weekend.

One of the experiences that I loved doing during this weekend is going to a corn maze in Lawyers farm in Maryland. As you know Halloween is coming, and there are a lot of activities happening in Washington DC around that. The event was organized by GW Campus Outreach and honestly, we had a LOT of fun. It was my first experience in a corn maze and I really enjoyed it. I have never thought that getting lost in a maze is a real thing. But it was fun being lost for an hour trying to find the exit in the dark while scaring each other. By the end, we had s'mores around the bonfire. It was really cool to get around the fire and talk for a while, especially in that freezing cold weather.

Since I love outdoor activities, after a night in the farm around the fire, I had a hike with GW Trails to Mary’s Rock summit in Shenandoah National Park. The Shenandoah park was two hours drive from GWU but the scenery in Virginia’s roads was so beautiful. The hike was relatively easy, one hour up and half an hour down. But I can’t describe how fascinating the nature was. The trees were colored from red to faded orange colors. It was so beautiful to see the autumn vibe at its best in the park. Golden leaves were covering the narrow itineraries and I totally loved it. The best thing was the view from the Mary’s Rock summit. You just can’t get enough it. I would say it was totally worth the 15$ and going to Shenandoah national Park should be in your bucket list here in DC.

On Sunday, the White House opened its doors for the public to visit. It was a tour in the Gardens and apparently it happens twice a year. You can imagine the massive amount of people in line to get their tickets to the White House at 8 am. After a long wait, we finally got them. It was nice to get a tour around the White House gardens and get that close from the presidential residence. But as the non-morning person I am, I think it wasn’t as impressive as I expected but at the end it was a must thing to-do when living in Washington DC.

And the greatest way to finish the week was to get Moroccan food for lunch. I didn’t think that I would miss it that much. It was SO good and I can ensure that by the approvals of all my other friends that tried it for the first time. At this point, I’m still not homesick yet but going to the Marrakech restaurant reminded me of how much I miss my country and its food.

By sarajebbar

After a four days vacation in Florida, it was hard for me to get back to studies and school routine. I had my first two midterms the day right after my trip. I didn’t do as good as I used to do in my home university. But it was expected since I didn’t study for them that much. It’s that moment of the semester where I feel guilty about all the times I wasted not studying and my moral conscience starts to speak out loud. Seriously, at a moment I totally forgot that I’m here for studying. But now I feel more motivated and ready to study for my three other midterms. In general, the midterms I had here were similar to the ones I usually have in my university: a mix of multiple choice, true or false and open questions and problems. I think this was because my home-university follows an American-based system. So, I believe that if I study more I would be fine in the next midterms.

Of course, I didn’t spend the whole week studying. In the weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer in the International Monetary Fund Annual meetings 2017. It was a great experience, especially for me, a Finance student. I was helping people with directions and I was answering the questions they had. We also had the right to attend one of the sessions presented during the event. There were many famous personalities in that event like Christine Lagarde… This event is an example of how great it is to study in GWU. Being in the heart of Washington DC gives GWU students the opportunity to attend and participate in international events or get internships in the international organizations. If you want to boost your academic and professional career in the heart of politics, George Washington University will be the best for you.

And in the journey of taking off places in Washington DC from my bucket list, I decided to go to the National Smithsonian Zoo before the winter. Well, it was a nice a place to walk through and discover. But to be honest, for a zoo it was kind of a disappointment. I only saw three or four animals. And each time I’m looking in the cages, I don’t see any animals. I’ve seen much better zoos in Morocco. I think it’s probably because I went in the afternoon and the cold season has already started. So, I assumed all the animals were sleeping. Anyways, if you are planning to visit it, try to go in the warm season (August, September...) and maybe during the morning to enjoy it better. Stay tuned for more adventures after my midterms.

IG: @Sarajebbar

By sarajebbar

 

Fall Break is coming! Whoaaa! As students, breaks are always the best thing that can happen in school. But before talking about Fall Break adventures, I would like to talk about my recent activities and discoveries in Washington DC. The highlight of my week here in DC is going to Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias' concert. In Morocco, we don’t usually have such big concerts with famous stars. So, I have always dreamt of going to a big concert like the ones in America. But having my two favorite male singers in one concert was the perfect realization of my dream. The tickets were expensive, but it was so worth it. The concert was insane and I’m so grateful for being here and having the chance to see them singing live.

 

As you may know, midterms are coming. And since I’m so lazy to start studying, I figured out that I need an extra motivation to do so. There was no better place than the Library of Congress. As GWU students, we can register easily and for free to get a library card and have access to the library facilities. Finally, it was a good decision to come here. The library is so beautiful from the inside and it has a very sophisticated style. It is true that the fascinating architecture distracted me from time to time, but it’s such a nice place to study in while keeping playing the tourist.

 

Even the 2 midterms that I have right after the Fall Break wouldn’t stop me to have a nice vacation. The destination for this break was Florida. I spent two days in Orlando and two days in Miami. If you go to Orlando, you’re probably going there for the amusement parks. The main ones are Walt Disney World and Universals Studios. We chose 2 parks in one day option in Universal since we wanted more thrill rides and to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d say that this day was the one in which I had the most fun in the US. It was a really unique experience that you can only get in Orlando. That was one item checked off from my world bucket list.

We ended our trip in Miami. I rented a bed in a hostel in front of the beach. The location was amazing for such a cheap price. I fell in love with that city. The weather is warm and nice and the beaches are beautiful. In general, the city has a chill and vacation vibe. It also has a vibrant nightlife. Once the sky starts to darken, you can hear music everywhere in the streets. Miami reminded me a lot of my hometown Agadir, which is actually located right across the ocean. And since I lived almost all my life in a coast city, going to the beach for Fall Break was the best way to relax and forget about studies. As an exchange student, I feel like studies are not the number one priority but after this, I believe it’s time for me to settle down for a while and start working for my midterms. Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

 

IG: @Sarajebbar

 

By sarajebbar

Do you want to know how last year I was choosing which university to go to during my exchange program? Well, each time I put the name of the university in Google maps, and checked how far it is from New York City since we didn’t have universities in New York offered. It has been always my dream to visit New York City. And I was always intrigued by this city from what I watched in American movies, Tv-shows, pictures… And I finally got the chance to visit it this weekend.

I booked my bus tickets from Wanderu website for 30$ roundtrip and it was 4 hours and a half trip. This weekend was hectic since we wanted to visit all the touristy attractions in such a short period. New York is actually super expensive so we booked our apartment in Brooklyn to save money on accommodation. New York went beyond my expectations.

The highlights of this trip are: Times Square, Wall street, Brooklyn Bridge, Ferry to the statue of Liberty, World trade  Chinatown, Central Park, Top of the Rock view, World trade center, 9/11 memorial…

Times Square was such a terrific place. Now I understand why thousands of people walk through it every day. The flashing neon lights, the street performers, the giant billboards and the tall buildings were simply fascinating. For me, Times Square is the place where you can spend hours without getting bored.

After that, we went to Wall Street. As a finance student, I’ve always wanted to visit Wall Street, the heart of investments and business. I’ve always studied in my finance classes how the financial crisis started in wall street and being able to visit this place along with all the financial attractions (New York Stock Exchange, the charging bull…) meant a lot to me. From there we visited the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.

One activity that I liked a lot was the Staten Island ferry. Basically, it’s a ferry that takes you around the Statue of Liberty and it’s FREE. I really recommend going during sunset. The silhouettes of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline in the golden sky were magical and fascinating. We ended the first day by a dinner in Chinatown and a long walk in the Brooklyn Bridge.

The other activity that I really loved was biking in Central Park. It was one a thing that I had in my US bucket list. For me, Central Park was where the nature meets the city and it was huge. So, riding a bike there was actually really convenient to visit all the popular spots in the park. We also went to the Rockefeller center to get a city view from the Top of the Rock. And again, sunset time was the perfect time to get to see the city during the day, the golden hour and the night. It was 34$ but the view from there was worth every dollar and more. Coming from a country where buildings are relatively short, New York city looked amazing like every postcard picture.

 

A blog post will never describe enough how magical New York was and all the places in there. I would definitely comeback again to visit this city. They were right when they said “In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”

IG:@SaraJebbar

By sarajebbar

If you know me, you’ll know how much I love hiking and outdoor adventures. It was always my favorite activity and my biggest achievement was climbing the highest peak in North Africa, Mt Toubkal 4167m. I knew I had to join GW trails which is a student association that organizes hikes and trails around DC. It has been a while that I wanted to go to their hikes and it finally happened this weekend. It was Billy Goat Trail in the Great Falls Park. I can’t describe how beautiful the scenery was. Unlike Moroccan hikes, that have more of an arid scenery, Great Falls Park had the best combination between green forest, the Potomac river, scrambled rocks and the narrow flows. The trail costed 15$ and it covered transportation. I think that the hike wasn’t challenging and was relatively easy. The fun part was climbing through the rocks like little goats. I was really amazed how such a beautiful exists just 30 minutes from dorm; which again makes Washington DC more than a historic and political city. This hike was a great way to forget about the city’s hustle and make new friends from the GWU community.  I would definitely sign up for more of GW trails trips.

The perks of having international friends is to get to try their food and restaurants. We decided that each one of us will take the group to his/her local restaurant in DC. Since I have many Koreans friends, we started with Korean food. The restaurant was called Yechon and it was located in the Korean town in DC. It is true that the meal was totally different from the one in Morocco but it was really good and spicy. We went after that to the cutest bakery ever called Breeze Bakery and Café and it had the best cakes, cupcakes, tiramisu… So, if you’re Korean or would like to try Korean food I’d recommend you to go to the Korean town. It also has an H-mart, Korean market, if you would like to buy a pack of noodles to survive the expensive food in Washington DC.

I also went to a hockey game this weekend. It was again a sport that I have never watched before. I’m still surprised how the popular sports in the US are totally different from Morocco or I would say the rest of the world (American Football). In Morocco, football (soccer) is the most popular sport but I’m taking the opportunity of being in the US to watch other ones. In comparison to Baseball, Hockey was way much more fun. The best part was when the players were fighting and all the audience screaming and cheering. I’ve never imagined that Hockey would be that tough but it was a fun game overall. Speaking of sports, the next thing I need to remove from my bucket list is a basketball match. Can’t wait to go to one. Stay tuned.

IG: @Sarajebbar

By sophieheard

   It has been such an eventful fours months that it seems crazy that it’s all over! It has been a week of last celebrations, reminiscing and goodbyes. As some people head home and others move on to their next
adventures, it’s hard to accept that you’re not going to be spending every day with the same bunch of people that you have come to know and love.

Luckily, it's not a final goodbye! People may live on opposite sides of the planet but its definitely not the last time you get to see each other. The experiences you share don't disappear and the bonds you make last a lifetime. That’s the thing about studying abroad - yes you study and yes you are abroad. But it is the people that you share it all with that really make the difference.

Looking back on the semester, it has been packed with protests, parties, food, travel, learning, sport and friends! I got the opportunity to cross so many things off my bucket list! From witnessing the inauguration to participating in the Women's March and Muslim Ban Protest. Spring Break in Miami to road tripping down South! Watching the Wizards, Tar Heels and Colonials win! Being in central park during a blizzard with no one else around. Pedal boating on the Potomac surrounded by the cherry blossoms. The countless nights spent down at the Lincoln Memorial. And not to forget the more mundane nights (which are also some of the best) of cooking all together in Shenkman Hall.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn new things (both in and especially out of the classroom), try new things, learn what you like and don't like, travel, meet people from all over the world! It is six months that you get to attempt anything and everything - fail at some and succeed at others.

It truly has been a great time at GWU, in DC and in the US. Foggy Bottom very quickly became our home that it feels genuinely weird to be leaving. To all those that made the past semester possible - a massive thank-you! And to all those who are about to arrive - enjoy!!!!

Goodbye America - it's been fun!

 

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