Four and a half months ago I sat down at my computer to write an application piece for this blog. We were asked to write a bit about ourselves and our expectations of the adventure ahead – a tall order considering we were given just 500 words to express it in. Nonetheless, I felt that signing up for this blog would be a great way for me to encourage myself to document my experiences at GW and of life in DC and now, as it gradually approaches the end, I am absolutely thrilled that I did! Through my weekly posts over the last few months I have documented parts of one of the most incredible experiences of my life thus far and I hope that you have enjoyed sharing it with me as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.
Although there are still a couple weeks before we actually leave DC, this is my last academic week here and with the handing in of my last paper on Wednesday this week, my time at GW will have come to an end. Where did the last few months go?! Honestly this semester has flown by and every time I think about the approaching deadline I can’t help but get teary eyed – accordingly, I totally anticipate tears to flow before this blog is complete (lucky you can’t see me writing!).
Looking back at my first blog and reading through my list of expectations I would say I had it pretty right, with a few minor errors. I expected to make new friends, learn a lot, see new parts of America, indulge in the theatre scene in DC, get involved on campus, be challenged, get a little lost, meet like minded individuals, etc. All of these, I would say now on the flipside, were totally on point. I not only met new people, I made incredible new friends who it is going to be near impossible to say goodbye to and who I cannot wait to continue my friendship with for many many years! I travelled – I saw so many parts of the country I hadn’t before visited, I learnt so much from fantastic professors, I saw as much DC theatre as I could cram in – including some of the student theatre on campus which was nice to see, I got a little lost on campus at first but quickly found my way – its not a difficult school to navigate by any means, I met like minded individuals and got to partake in some awesome theatre nerd conversations, etc. All in all, GW met all my expectations and then surpassed them by a mile. I expected/hoped/kept my fingers crossed that this experience would be amazing and that I would love it…and boy did I ever! It was everything I hoped for and more!
Where were my expectations wrong…well, I thought I was going to struggle sharing a room with someone else but actually that was a much better experience than I anticipated. Having never shared a room before I was unsure of what to expect and to be honest I totally underestimated how fun it could potentially be. Granted, I got lucky and I know that not everyone has as great of an experience with their roommates as I have, but I really enjoyed it and because of the close living conditions, I feel that I became that much closer with these amazing girls in a much faster amount of time. Whilst having my own room will be nice again when I get back to Sydney, I’m going to miss my four roommates so much (I’m already planning a trip back to visit them though before their graduation because I don’t believe in goodbyes - haha).
So to those of you coming to GW next semester – what would be the best things to tell you…
- This experience is completely what you make it – it can be, like it has for my friends and I, some of the four best months you will have ever had. Step outside your comfort zone, take part in anything and everything you can, meet as many new people as you can, etc, and you will have the best time!
- Take advantage of the great classes and professors that GW has – okay, not all the classes or teachers are fantastic but there are some incredible ones that I was lucky to take part in this semester, taught by really inspiring people. For many exchange students the semester is pass/fail but don’t let that deter you from really taking advantage of the great opportunities you have at this school.
- At the same time, don’t let your studies keep you from enjoying yourself. With good time management there is enough time to get your work done to a high standard without compromising your time for socializing, going out with friends, exploring DC, travelling, etc.
- Be organized if you want to travel – I was able to travel a lot because I planned from early on and so found good flight prices, etc and also had time to work my school schedule around it. On that note, take advantage of your amazing position in America and go and explore. Yes, DC has an abundance to see – more than any one person will get through in a lifetime – but, I absolutely loved getting to explore other cities and states I had not before seen and I would highly recommend this decision to travel to anyone!
- Although you should travel when you can, don’t forget to leave yourself ample time to explore the amazing city that is DC. It is an absolutely beautiful city filled with fantastic things to see! It also changes dramatically with the weather so make sure to really enjoy your amazing city whilst at GW.
- Financially…I would say it costs more than you think it will – or at least that has been the experience of most of the exchange students I have spoken to. To get by on the amount of money that is often recommended is doable but won’t leave much for traveling, eating out, exploring DC, going out with friends, etc. I would suggest bringing – within reason – whatever you can – DC is not a particularly cheap city. As I said, it is totally manageable on the recommended amount but you have to budget well. [Side note – don’t forget to budget for move in/set up costs – I know that a lot of exchange students didn’t do that and it definitely costs a little to set up – so just make sure to factor that expense in].
- Be friendly – I know this sounds ridiculous but it’s true. As an example, when I got the email addresses of my roommates before I left home, I sent them each an email introducing myself just to open up a dialogue. Not all of your roommates will necessarily know each other either so they may appreciate this – also, they may be nervous about you and what you are like in the same way that you may be nervous about them – so send a hello, introduce yourself – you are going to be sharing a small space with them for some time!
- More than anything, have fun! Enjoy every minute of the experience because it totally flies by! If there is something that isn’t working for you, go about doing what needs to be done to rectify it so that you may enjoy the experience! It’s an absolutely phenomenal experience if you make it that way!
So what is the hardest part of this experience? That’s an easy one – the end. I have spent the last four months feeling like a DC local, enjoying being a student at GW and getting to know my way around/working out grading systems/making friends in classes, travelling around to other cities on the weekends, etc, all of which will be hard to give up. But even harder will be the goodbyes – especially to my exchange group of friends and my roommates! I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of tearing up now, so I better start to wrap it up.
Thank you Hilary, Shawna and the study abroad office for this amazing opportunity! Thank you to my professors and friends in classes who made the academic side of my time here so enjoyable! Thank you to my amazing group of friends who I have made here for absolutely making my exchange experience! And thank you to the people who read my blogs – I have really enjoyed detailing my time abroad and am so happy to have these logs as a memory of my time here!
So I guess this is my first in a fortnight that will be undoubtedly full of goodbyes. Goodbye blog, it’s been great!