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By claudiadev

So. My last blog post I’ve taken a little time to get this up – it’s been a whirlwind week since I left DC on Monday and headed to NYC. I’m with my family now. It’s definitely a change after 5 months living on campus!Image

From NYC I’ll be heading solo to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego before flying home. I’m getting my travel all done now, after the semester is over, my marks are back and the stress is long-gone. It’s amazing how easily you forget how stressful finals can be. Every six months I get the surprise of my life trying to cope with the anxiety about final papers and exams. But enough about the easily forgotten finals!

To say goodbye to DC, GW and my exchange experience I thought I’d list the things I’ll miss:

My Roommates and neighbor – were awesome. There’s no other word for it. They know how much I’ve appreciated their support and friendship, and  hope I’ve been able to as best I can return that support and friendship. We won’t be living together any longer, and they’ve all just graduated this weekend to move into a new chapter of their lives – but I won’t be giving up on these friendships any time soon!

My exchange friends – I can’t remember who said it, but ‘no man is an island’ (John Donne maybe?). Friends are the people that make life what it is. Creating new bonds with people (who, unlike family, aren’t obligated by blood and marriage to love you and put up with your quirks!) is a pretty darn wonderful thing! A week after leaving I still can’t quite grasp the fact that I won’t be able to just randomly bump into these new friends walking to class every morning and text a friends for an impulsive late night coffee or snack run. My friends and I at home all live much further from each other, and our university, work and life schedules are much harder to coordinate. Which brings me to…

Living on Campus – is something I didn’t realized I’d love so much. Convenience is one of my favorite things. When the library, food, coffee and company are all within a 5 minute walk it’s a pretty darn wonderful thing. Especially given the campus itself is in such a great location and a 15-minute walk takes me to Georgetown or Dupont or the Tidal Basin.

DC – Never again will I live so close to the monuments. If I was ever feeling a little stressed I could just wander down to the mall and instantly feel better. The fresh air and people watching potential will be sorely missed! Because no building can be higher than the statue above the Capitol, Washington never feels impossibly tall or overwhelming. The American accents you hear on the streets are from all over the country and there’s something about DC, about it being the capital, so full of energy, power and super-important-decisions-I-don’t-even-want-to-know-about, which I just love.

Goodbye George Washington University! Goodbye DC!

With many thanks to Jacki and Shawna and the whole Study abroad office for their help and support.


By claudiadev

It’s pouring rain today, and the campus is filled with students going to and fro between finals, the library, places that serve coffee and food, and their dorm rooms. Amidst the stress and trying very hard not to focus too much on the semester coming to the end I went and got lunch with Hanna (from Egypt) and Marie (from the Czech Republic). In our orientation week we won a quiz, and had been planning to all three of us have a celebratory lunch. Which ended up only happening today (whoops!).

We sat over big plates of Pad Thai and had a good hour long chat about life. About friends, family, university, the future, GW, our exchange experience overall. Sure, we’ve had chats about all these things before – but now we’ve nearly come to the end there’s a certain tone or mood to them. Every conversation I have with a fellow exchange student is shaded by discussions about where everyone’s is traveling, when their flight home is, whether people have internships. It’s the realization that this semester is coming to and end, and we have to actually think about what we’re all doing next. Some of us have a few more semesters of university to go home to, and some of us are truly finished with our undergrad forever. We’re all looking towards post-student life, and whatever that many entail. It’s pretty darn daunting to be honest!

As we finished walking back to our dorms, I was about to say goodbye. But when I started to I realized this wasn’t a ‘bye, see you in a day or two!’, It might end up being a proper goodbye. So we decided it wasn’t going to be. Instead it was a ‘goodbye, I’ll see you later this week, and we’ll say goodbye properly then!’. But I don’t really want to do that either.

The marvelous thing about friendships and technology is that the latter helps you maintain the former. Thanks to email, Facebook and Skype the friendships I made here won’t just be maintained in the occasional letter. We have instant connections to people all over the world. It’s something I’m very glad for.

At the start of semester in Orientation we wrote goals down for our semester. One of mine was to work on having a ‘global network’ of friends. A pretty silly name for it really. But thanks to GW Exchange, I’m going home knowing that’s what I actually have. We come from all over the place, and leave with a variety of friends, acquaintances, and contacts and memories we’ll have for an awfully long time.

By claudiadev

As we near the conclusion of our semester abroad there is one thing that remains the same about my educational experience at home and here are GW - I’m still stressed about work.  Being somewhere new and exciting doesn’t mean I don’t still worry as deadlines near. Taking a heavier course load than I do at home (5 rather than 4), adds to the stress, as does the increased number of assessments. I’ve mentioned before that in Australia it is customary to have two assessments for each class over the semester. Here I’ve had upwards of 5 in 4 of my classes, and the one class that didn’t have that many assessments made up for it with a lot of reading.

This means that the final two weeks, of study, review sessions, essay writing and exams, will be filled with exactly those things – Study, review, essays and exams. I’ll have a little time to say goodbye to DC, and to the friends I’ve made here, but enjoying those experiences and the good weather will be balanced out with a whole lot of hard work.

"It’s worth reminding ourselves, when we’re studying abroad – that we’re doing exactly that, studying. This semester is primarily meant to enhance my educational experience and broaden my academic abilities. The travel and adventures and friendships are incredibly wonderful side affects of the experience."

Of course, years from now it’s more likely I’ll remember the friendships I’ve made, and laughs we’ve shared, than a small detail regarding a philosopher’s view regarding whether we have minds, or the exact date Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater in Philadelphia. But those academic experiences as a whole are ones I’m sure to remember – because they’ve been excellent, and have really enhanced my experience at university.

I may not know whether I have the ability to remember all the cases I need to for my health law exam, or whether the essay I’m writing on Urban Planning for Modern Architecture even make’s sense. I don’t know for sure which new friends I’ll still know 10 years down the line, or where we’ll all end up in life. But one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll forever remember my semester in DC.

By claudiadev

There’s something about living on Campus that can make you a little complacent. It’s easy to spend the entire weekend in Foggy Bottom, and then come Monday morning realise you’ve half wasted the weekend away. So here are my tips for little outings in and around DC:

1)    The National Gallery of Art & Smithsonian Museums

If it’s raining, catch the Metro to the Smithsonian metro stop and pick one of the museums. They’re all free, and there’s something to interest everyone. I have so many more I’d love to visit before I go! It’s worth checking their websites also, because often there are free guided tours and public talks and lectures on the weekends.

2)    Georgetown

If you want to go shopping (or window shopping) Georgetown is the place to go. There are also a lot of cupcake stores (always a good thing!). Today a friend and I wandered down to our favourite, Baked and Wired, grabbed our cupcakes and went and ate them on the Georgetown waterfront. It was a perfect afternoon wander.

3)    Old Town Alexandria

Catching the Metro to Old Town Alexandria is easy as pie. I’ve blogged about it before but it really is a nice place to wander and has a lot of good cafes and restaurants.

4)    Capital Bikeshare cycle to the Tidal Basin

I’d prefer to walk rather than riding a bike, as I get a little anxious riding. But if you like cycling I’ve heard greats stories from other exchange students of the ease of hiring a bike from the Capital Bikeshare locations (there are a few on campus) and cycling down to the tidal basin and mall. Especially on sunny days – though these are the days the tourists are out in force, so you may need to dodge a few of them!

5)    DC Challenge Scavenger Hunt

This was something two of my roommates, my neighbor and I did just this weekend. It’s organized by a company called Challenge Nation. We got a Groupon deal, so paid half the entrance price and for that got t-shirts, and a fun scavenger hunt through DC with pretty difficult clues that were great fun to figure out. We had no hope of winning but it was great fun anyway. There were big groups of friends and colleagues, and also families playing and many people in costumes (we’d definitely recommend costumes, we didn’t do them and regretted it. Especially after seeing a group of women wearing shark hats and t shirts that read ‘Every week is Shark Week’ on the back, and a day of the week on the front.)

If I could go back in time to January and give myself one piece of advice it would be to find time on weekends to have a little explore and get out of Foggy Bottom and adventure in DC.

By claudiadev

If there's one thing I've learned while being at university both at home and here in DC is that there will always be something going on. Just this evening I had planned to grab dinner at SweetGreen, a great place to get yummy salads, and gave up when I saw the line out on the sidewalk. Turns out there was a Sorority/Fraternity philanthropic event going on. It worked out okay, and I grabbed dinner next door at Roti.

But I digress. On campus, there will always be something going on. For instance, each semester GW's Program Board puts on a big concert in University Yard. For Spring Fling on Sunday afternoon we got Walk the Moon as the support act and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It. Was. Brilliant!

The yard was full of college students, the weather was warm and the sun was out. There was free food and soft drinks, and free t-shirts if you braved the rush for them. Most importantly, Macklemore put on a great show, entertained the crowd and took a selfie with us all when some (crazy!) girl threw her phone on stage (the photo ended up on Reddit, which gives GW a bit of internet cred!)

Standing in the crowd, jumping up and down and trying to avoid being crushed was just so fun. The music was pumping and my throat got hoarse from singing along. As I walked home with the sun setting I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be there. I just went to a free concert of an artist I really like, in a city I've can't help but feel affection for, on a campus that almost feels like home with a bunch of friends and strangers – there really is nothing better than that!

If I was to give one piece of advice I have for any exchange student coming to GW it would be to keep an eye out - on Facebook, on posters etc - for events that interest you. Even if no-one you know will be there, it's worth taking the risk and just investigating. There really is something to suit every individual here - cross-country running groups, Ballroom dancing clubs, theater performances, acapella groups, intramural floor hockey - the list goes on!

Even better than that, there are events like Spring Fling, that bring more than half the campus together for an afternoon of fun.

By claudiadev

I’ve only this week started to feel any pangs of homesickness. My little sister turned 16, and it’s hard not to want to be at home, celebrating her day with family. Thankfully, we have so many ways of staying in contact with home these days, and so I could contact home and still feel a part of the birthday celebrations.

T-Mobile Phone Plan

I have a pay by the month plan with T-Mobile for my iPhone, and for $10 extra a month I get free texts messages to international mobiles and free calls to landlines. There is a limit for how many, but for the occasional text or short call back to Australia it has been working really well. I have a feeling AT&T has a similar plan available, and it’s definitely worth asking about.


Viber is a phone app, available on nearly every phone platform that allows you to send free texts and call via wifi. Unlike iMessage, which requires other users to also be using an iPhone, it doesn’t matter what you have - the message will be free. You can also send pictures. If you don’t have wifi I believe the calls are made through your 3G/4G network, so you will be charged a little, but it’s still a great nearly free option for staying in contact with friends and family wherever they are.


Whatsapp is similar to Viber, except you can’t make calls. Again, it’s available on a variety of platforms. I don’t use it much, but you can send videos with it, and also group text – great if you have a group of people to stay in contact with (even if it’s just your parents and siblings).


Ahhh, Skype. As well as being perfect for making video calls between computers (regardless of which platform you use), you can also Skype call with your phone. Be careful if you’re not on a wifi network though, because the video can suck your data allowance. Skype also allowed you to charge money to your account, and then make calls to international landlines for far cheaper than from a real phone. There’s something wonderful about seeing people’s faces too, as well as the environs of home. My sister’s toured her clean bedroom with me, and dragged the cats meowing onto screen to say hello.


Facetime is an app on iPhones, but you can also install it on iPads and Apple computers. So, theoretically, you could be walking back from class and get a Facetime call on your phone from home, and say hi then and there with video in the street. I don’t use it an awful lot, as I’m pretty good with Skype, but an exchange friend of mine loves it, as her mother always has her iPad around, and it’s a very easy app to use.

Finally, a website great for checking time differences and coordinating all these phone and video calls:

Though the world is incredibly large, and the distance between home and DC may seem intimidating, technology does help make you feel just that little bit closer.

By claudiadev

I come from a city that prides itself on the quality of coffee. Melbourne had an influx of Italian immigrants during the 20th century, and along with their food they brought their coffee machines. In a city with generally glorious weather, outdoor cafes, and laneways a culture of coffee and coffee snobbery has developed. As a result I was a little concerned about the quality of my daily (or twice, sometimes thrice) coffee here in DC.

So here are my recommendations for coffee at GW and nearby. As an aside, I only ever order espresso machine coffee, so I have nothing whatsoever to recommend in terms of filter or percolated coffee.

Baked and Wired, Georgetown (1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW)

I love walking down to Watergate and then along the river and up the street to Baked and Wired. This cupcakery is near the Georgetown Canal, it has really comfortable couches (if you can get a seat) and on weekends sometimes has a line out the door. The cupcakes are the main attraction, and they are absolutely to die for – my favorite in Georgetown (a place over-run with cupcakes) – I recommend the Vegan Chocolate with Peanut Butter frosting or the Carrot Cake cupcake. But another excellent feature of Baked and Wired is their tea and coffee. They do excellent lattes; as good as I get at home, and a really great dirty chai, a cross between a latte and a chai tea. I love how they size their drinks too – you have a choice between big and small, no silly faux-Italian names here.

Filter Coffeehouse, Foggy Bottom (1916 I Street, NW) & Dupont Circle (1726 20th St NW)

My roommate took me here. She had been on exchange at the University of Melbourne, and knew this place made Flat Whites, a variety of coffee you struggle to find outside of Australia, and my favorite. Hands down, Filter is the coffee place most like home. Walking in is like walking into any hipster coffee place at home – a little pretentious, but so very worth it when that delicious cup of coffee gets put in your hand. A flat white is a little like a latte, but with no foam and half steamed milk, half espresso. Their original location is in Dupont, but there is one much closer to campus too. Neither location has wifi.

Bourbon Coffee, Foggy Bottom (2101 L St NW)

Bourbon coffee is a firm favorite of mine. They have wifi, comfortable seating, and a whole selection of milk options. I avoid dairy, and go for Almond milk over the soy, but there’s also the rice milk option. They do a good iced coffee and a really great latte. Bourbon also has some really interesting flavored coffees, including one called Pralines and Cream, which I really must try before the semester ends.

Starbucks (at Gelman Library)

If all else fails, and you want to grab a coffee before class, head to Starbucks. I order soy lattes, because the slight sweetness of soy offsets the burnt coffee taste. They also do decent iced lattes. The real risk with Starbucks is all the flavored coffees – the sugary syrups give me a sugar high on top of the caffeine hit! The Gelman location is always, without fail busy, but it does have wifi and is conveniently open 24 hours a day during peak midterm and final exam time. If you ever find the line is nearly out the door, go to the Starbucks inside the GW Hospital and if you’re down near the Elliot School, try the Starbucks there.

There’s also Dunkin Donuts, in the basement of Ivory Tower, which I go to because I live in the same building. But I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re feeling particularly lazy and I only ever get the iced lattes (and bagels…)

My name is Claudia, and I love coffee.

By claudiadev


For spring break my roommates and I decided to book a trip for 4 days to Las Vegas. I turned 21 a few days before the break, and we all wanted to experience something a little bit different from Washington. We definitely had a lot of fun, even on budgets that didn’t allow for shows and super fancy restaurants and bars every evening. Vegas is a strange place, a (simultaneously) glamorous and tacky strip of flashing lights and casinos surrounded by beautiful desert and mountains. At one slot machine a man is losing hundreds and at another a woman is making a thousand or more. The hotels are reasonably affordable while the experiences, food, alcohol, and gambling are expensive. It was a place I enjoyed, but don't see myself returning too.

The real highlight of the trip was on Tuesday, when we hired a car and went on a mini-adventure. We’d researched  into the State and National Parks near Vegas, planning to go hiking and just be in an environment wildly different from the East Coast, and settled upon Valley of Fire State Park.

Near Lake Mead and the Nevada border with Arizona, Valley of Fire is the oldest State Park in the state. About an hour and a half drive out of Vegas, we paid a $10 entrance fee and were given directions to the visitors information center. Here we came across a lovely Ranger who asked us how far we were planning on walking and told us about the great walks, two about an hour long and the third maybe 30 minutes. Each had different scenery, and a different character, and each was incredibly beautiful. In many ways the scenery and weather (it was a lovely 26 degrees Celsius, 80 Fahrenheit with not a cloud in the sky) were comforting reminders of home. Central Australia is filled with similar warm reds, oranges and golds and desert hardy plants used to the extremes a desert experiences. But it was also a different kind of scenery –the rocks have been built up over time, the remnants of ancient oceans millions of years ago, where sediments build up layer by layer creating the landscape we see today. It’s a truly mountainous area in a way the flat landscape of Central Australia just isn’t.

I guess I can probably best explain the beauty of the park with pictures rather than words.


One of the more shallow highlights of the adventure for me was that I didn’t get a sunburn! No way would that be the case hiking in the desert in Australia. On our drive home we stopped by to see the Hoover Dam, a great monument to man-made engineering and manipulation of the natural landscape and from what we gather, a dam that has been contentious ever since it open in 1945.Image

The whole day was a really lovely escape from our Spring Break escape.

By claudiadev

I cannot believe it has been nearly two months since Exchange Orientation started. That said, it’s the middle of Midterms, and I have barely any time to ponder the time that has passed amidst the revision,essays, research, and coffee breaks.

One of the subjects I’m revising this weekend in preparation for the midterm is Modern Architecture: 1750 – 2000. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty wide gap of time, and even though we’re only halfway through the course come Tuesday I will need to recall and know information on around 40 different buildings – including the architect, the inspiration, related buildings etc. It’s a daunting prospect! But I’ve really been enjoying the class.

I spent my Gap year in England, and traveled a lot through Europe while I was there, and it’s great seeing buildings come up during lectures that I’d seen in the flesh a few years ago. At the time I only knew whether I like the architectural style or not. Now, I can see the references to Renaissance buildings; understand the architect’s use of proportion or re-purposing of classical design styles to suit a new function.

I’m a pretty dedicated note taker, and have definitely been paying attention, but I didn’t realize how much information I was absorbing until an outing a few weeks ago with two friends of mine. We were driving through Old Town Alexandria, and I remarked casually ‘Oh! That’s a Palladian arch!’ I then realized they were both looking at me puzzled, and I hurriedly explained that Palladian arched windows are an element of Neoclassical architecture, and derived from the designs of the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio specialized in grand villas, palazzos, and churches and also wrote ‘Four Books on Architecture’ which was translated into English at the beginning of the 1700s, and was a heavy influence on neoclassical design in England and subsequently America.

I think I’ve also finally got my head around the different orders of columns (i.e the names for the different shapes you see in classical and neoclassical building's columns). This has taken me a while to figure out, and I have a feeling I’ll never truly have them clear in my head. A bit of a fail really, considering there are only 4! I didn’t capture a photograph of that Palladian Arch, but I did get a nice one of Ionic Columns, framing either side of this front door. You can tell they’re Ionic because of the curled elements at the top of the column. I think. Not 100% certain.Image

Hopefully I’m certain come Tuesday Morning!

By claudiadev

One aspect of America that has always been clear to me, but emphasized since I’ve been in DC, is the pride it has in it’s past. No more so than the pride it has in it’s Founding Fathers and the documents they wrote that set the course for the country the United States has become.

On Friday it was George Washington’s 281st Birthday, and to celebrate the day GWU had organized a free trip to his Mt. Vernon estate and gardens on the Potomac River, around 40 minutes from campus. 40 or so years after General Washington passed away, the Washington family went to Congress, asking them to buy the property, as the family could not maintain it. Congress refused, but the Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association was formed by a group of women who saw the need to preserve General Washington’s home and to this day they own and manage the Estate. Over 80 million people have visited the Estate since 1860, when it was first opened to the public.

Washington's homestead

Mt. Vernon sits on a beautiful part of the Potomac, with the Mansion itself looking across the river to a National Park in Maryland. The Estate, including formal and informal gardens, Mansion, outbuildings, woods and farmland is kept as it would have been during Washington’s lifetime.  There was even a man in character as a gardener in the Conservatory when we were wandering the gardens! I gather in the summer there are may more people in character  around the property. Their attention to historical accuracy is so detailed that currently they are restoring the formal dining room in the mansion because they have discovered there was a slight error with the wallpaper borders they had previously. Gardens at Mount Vernon

Though the weather was a little gloomy and grey, it was lovely to wander the grounds and see a place where history was made. A guide in the Mansion told us they planned the Battle of Yorktown in the dining room currently being restored, and the banister we held as we walked up the stairs has been touched not just by Washington himself, but by other founding fathers like Jefferson and Adams.

The central activity of the afternoon at Mt. Vernon was at his Tomb, adjacent to the unmarked graves of the slaves who worked there, and the more recent plaque acknowledging those graves, in the middle of some of the woodland. GW students were able to participate in a special "wreath laying ceremony," in commemoration of General Washington’s birth, life, and death. As well as an introduction by an Assistant Curator there (a GW alumni too), we had students read the pledge of allegiance, and General Washington’s prayer and a member of the GW faculty lay the wreath within the Tomb.

It was a peaceful moment, along the banks of the Potomac River, remembering a man who died so long ago, whose legacy lives on not just in the story of GWU, or of DC, but in the story of America more generally.

After the bus trip home, I made a quick visit to the Bonfire at U-Yard in commemoration of George Washington and had my first S’more, which was a delicious end to a lovely day.


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