After over ten hours of flight, I finally arrived at D.C. safe and sound. In the first few days, I spent most of my time exploring the campus to make myself get accustomed to the whole new environment and I found a lot of interesting things so different from my hometown, Taiwan, which I would like to share with you.
First of all, it took me an extremely long time to find my dorm and the places I needed to go for check-in on the first day because the road naming system differs from that in Taiwan. In Taiwan, the names of most streets or roads are a combination of proper nouns and numbers, such as Nanping First Street; however, here in GW, a lot of streets are merely named either with an English letter like E Street, or a number like 23rd Street. Therefore, it was really hard for me to tell the differences between different streets and I got lost easily. Thankfully, I still have my google map to rely on!
Also, learning the currency system in U.S. is another new class for me. When I was going to pay for my first meal at GW, I was totally confused about the value of the coins because it was so complicated. In Taiwan, in terms of coins, there are only fifty, ten, five, and one. The size of fifty is bigger than ten, ten bigger than five, and so on. However, in U.S., there are pennies, dimes, nickels, quarters, and their sizes do not correspond to their values. As a foreigner, it is really a challenge to grab the right amount of coins at the counter, so sometimes I just took out all my coins and asked the clerk to kindly do me a favor, or I would probably block the line when I was slowly counting the money.
In addition to road and currency system, I am also still trying to get used to the tax and tipping culture. The prices of commodities in my country always include tax, so we can pay for the exact amount of money shown on the products’ price tags, but in U.S., the situation is different, for the tax is shown separately here. Sometimes I felt nervous when I could not prepare for the right amount of money in advance under these circumstances. Giving tips is still another unfamiliar culture to me because we do not give tips almost on every occasion.
Although there are still so many things I need to learn, I feel excited to conquer all the challenges. My first few days in GW were awesome, especially under the guide of those brilliant ExO leaders. I believe I can explore more interesting things in the following few months.
When your university life is packed with full-time class, part-time work, extra-curricular activities and much more, it means that there is little time for sports. This dictated most of my university life in Australia. However, I was certain that this had to change during my semester abroad. So at the sports fair, I signed up to the Women's Ultimate Frisbee team at GW and boy am I glad I did.
What is ultimate frisbee you may ask? Imagine rugby but replace the football with a frisbee and remove the running with the ball part of the game with throwing a disc and you have yourself a game of ultimate frisbee! I played this sport casually during my high school years and it was pretty fun. The club has practices on Tuesdays, Thursdays 4-6pm and Sundays from 10-1pm and welcomes members with no skills which is great.
The social aspect of the club is pretty awesome too. They host events which are free for rookies to attend which consists of rooftop gatherings, amazing race challenges, and many themed parties. It is a great atmosphere to meet many local students and the clubs has a very diverse group of people as well.
This past weekend, the women's team headed to Axton in South Virginia (approximately 5 hrs drive from D.C.) for the Virginia Fusion Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. We stayed at a motel with 4 people per room. Games started on Saturday and we played three games on Saturday and three games on Sunday against schools such as North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State and many more. The great sportsmanship and spirit of the game was what stood out the most. Winning or losing I felt the team was always on high spirits and supported one another. It was so wonderful to see many of us improve as we progressed through the games and slowly grasping the many aspects of the game. Unfortunately, I had a small hiccup on Saturday after grabbing the disc with my left hand and my cut started bleeding again. We headed to an Urgent Care nearby and got it cleaned up, patched and ready to go for the next day.
All in all, joining the Ultimate Team at GW will probably stand as one of my highlights for my study abroad. I constantly look forward to practices with my team and I feel like I am finally getting my share of sports back after being dormant for many years. Go G-Dub!
I would like to describe my feelings with a brief explanation when I write my blog.
Yes! It is amazing to be DC and experience all the things organized by our EXO leaders who are cherry-picked and prepared accordingly. To be honest, every single activity can be a topic for this blog but I choose the topics that I wonder the most.The first is WHITE HOSE TOUR !
And Yes, we had a tour at White House which most of the Americans haven't been able to see yet. Even though, I had seen White House at my last trip to DC, I was really sad when I learned that visitors into the White House need a detailed and strict background check. (I am glad that I passed it !!) I believe that White House testify the modern history and every single brick would tell different story if it were able to. That's why, being able to feel modern history is nothing but amazing.
When you first get into the House, Obama family is welcoming you from a TV screen, talking about how the House testifying the history and, especially, being proud of how they let visitors take pictures. ( Thanks!!) When you keep walking, you would see the pictures from important moments such as those from WWI. The funny thing is that Obama's families pictures is located in the middle at every frame. For example, while seeing the diplomatic relations between UK and USA in 20th century, Obama family is smiling to you under this pictures, which ,I think, shows Obama's funny and colorful personality. After frames, you start seeing the rooms ( China, East Garden, Red, Blue, Green etc.). These rooms were used for receptions, and built in early-19th century, which made it even more amazing.Unfortunately, I couldn't experience Obama's fun personality face to face but I saw it from the things he changed at White House.
The second trip I would like to discuss is free-classical music concert at J.F. Kennedy Center for Performing Hall which is located so close to school that we didn't use to transportation, which is, I think, shows that GWU is so close to everywhere including art activities! The Hall consists of two halls, first of which has states flags getting hanged from ceilings, I haven't seen those flags before! At the second hall, you can see the countries flags that have relationships with USA. I think that this hall represents its name very well in terms of its architecture as well.
Kennedy Center organizes free concerts every day, ranging from rap singers to classical music concerts. Let me say this again, THESE ARE FREE CONCERT! I had chance to listen Nessum Dorma, the funerary march of Wagner and the death of tybalt from Romeo and Juliet. This was such an experience that ,I think, I will remember for the rest of my life.
You realised the struggle is real when you had to push 2 large pieces of luggage and a backpack from Baltimore Airport to somewhere off-campus in D.C. You ignored the hustlers at the airport and boarded a train followed by the metro and finally arrived before dark at Courtland Towers. What you didn't realise was that it will get a lot better next week; when you meet people from all over the world, tick off many items on your bucket list, and explore one of the greatest cities in America.
Orientation week at GW was probably one of the best orientation weeks I've had. It was also very different to how they do things at UNSW (University of New South Wales) which has a more plan-it-yourself vibe to it. We do have awesome parties, band night, movie night, comedy events along with freebies from sponsors and student organisations but the GW orientation was at another level (I mean we got a tour INSIDE The White House). Seeing the degree of hard work and effort put in by the GW Exchange staff and leaders over the planning and execution of all the events throughout the 5.5-day orientation week, it truly reaffirmed my choice of coming to GW. I would like to thank the staff and leaders for making us feel welcomed and comfortable from being away from home.
This week was jam-packed with both informational and exciting events ever day from around 9am to 10-11pm. I still feel like I'm jetlagged from the lack of sleep but it was so worth it. My top three four highlights of this week include:
The White House tour
Baseball game (Nats v Orioles, GO NATS!)
Potomac cruise + Mount Vernon
Aside from karaoke night, which took place in a sketchy area in D.C. (yes Chinatown, I'm looking at you), the other 3 were undeniably the most 'Murican things I've done. The White House tour was unbelievable because it's extremely difficult to get into, even for Americans. And on top of that, we were told that Obama was in one of the helicopters that flew in (highly likely that he also waved at us too)! We got into the spirit of American sports in a Nats v Orioles game with a full stadium crowd of red and orange as the sun set right in front of our eyes. We also visited Geroge Washington's homestead, Mount Vernon, and walked through the mansion he had inherited from his half-brother and expanded as his own. It was also interesting to learn that as the first president of United States, Geroge Washington held people in slavery for most of his life, and was one of the only founding fathers to free his slaves which occurred after the death of his wife Martha Washington.
On Tuesday classes start and I'm both excited and scared about having taken a few too many Lifestyle and Sports courses after discovering that they exist. Maybe I'll learn a new sport or two or three (does hiking count as a sport?). And probably join an exaggerated amount of student organisations, to say the least.
When I accessed my gmail after an all-nighter for my finals, I was so exhausted to the extent that I typed my gmail password, which I've been using for 10 years of my internet life, wrong. Not even once, twice. However, as soon as I opened my inbox (with considerable effort), my half-closed eyes got huge and my mouth opened agape, not believing what I was looking at. It was an email from GWU, saying that I was chosen as a recipient of Blogging Scholarship for exchange students! YEAY.
So here I am at George Washington University - more specifically at the second floor of Gelman Library, on the first day of class, ready to write about myself and my upcoming GWU life. I would like to start out my blog post with an appreciation towards OSA staffs who have bestowed me such a great opportunity.
“What is your hometown?” This question is the hardest question for a Third Culture Kid, which is the simplest way to define my identity, to answer. I am a Korean by blood, but I spent most of my lifetime in Japan because of my father’s job. In addition to that, I have a high school diploma neither from Korean nor Japanese school, but from an American educational institution. Never have I ever appreciated the odd situation I was placed in. It made myself look like a miserable bubble who couldn’t belong in any particular community. I strived to escape out of this bubble, and the final destination I chose was Korea.
I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science and International Studies in Yonsei University, the best private university in Korea. Yonsei University has a reputation as the most westernized college in Korea, as the founder of Yonsei is a British-American pastor Horace G. Underwood. It also has the highest percentage of international students and is definitely the most popular Korean university amongst foreign exchange students.
Yonsei University helped me rediscover my passion for international relations, and I realized my unique background would help me achieve my dream in that my environment provided me with an objective way to view world issues. My enthusiasm lies on resolving conflicts amongst East Asia. Japan was major axis power during the World War II along with Germany. However, from what I observed, Japan doesn’t take as much effort as Germany in engaging with the victimized countries, especially Korea. As a Korean living in Japan, I’ve always felt terrible to see the tensions that never relieved between these two countries.
I believe my education in GWU would provide me with capability to deliberate on this problem. I am convinced that GWU’s International Affairs program would further broaden my perspective because it takes a multi-disciplinary method to analyze international event. Not only did GWU’s location in world’s political hub captivate me, the excellent professors who are actually are active participants of the international stage also made me apply to GWU as my first and only choice. I was so amazed to know that I could learn from professors that I could only get in touch with through theses and articles.
After my experience in GWU, I hope I would be able to come up with a practical solution for both Japan and Korea, for Japan not just to give an official apology, but to demonstrate its humane aspect that actually shows that Japan “cares” for the victimized country, and for Korea to have an accepting attitude similar to that of France and Poland to move on with the past.
Also, I would like to travel the city and get to know it. I've always been captivated by Washington D.C., the city that is in charge of operating and changing the world. My first time visit here was during summer 2014, but my family and I were only able to take a brief look at the city during that trip. During this semester however, I plan on visiting every single landmarks of D.C., taking time to observe it carefully and enjoying it as much as I can. From Washington, Baltimore and Pennsylvania are easy to access, and Florida and New York are not that far away. My day off on Friday would help me travel around different places as well.
United States Capitol– Thinking of DC, the Capitol is the main landmark, which I associate with the City. It's a distinctive landmark of the US. It’s not only the political importance of the Capitol providing the meeting place for the US Congress, which makes it so important in my opinion, but also its pop-cultural significance. As a passionate ‘House of Cards’ viewer seeing the Capitol in real life is the same as wandering around New York City in the case of an excited ‘Gossip Girl’ fan. But there is one thing that slightly ruined my excitement (besides the fact that Frank Underwood wasn’t actually waiting at the stairs of the Capitol to give me a personal tour): The dome of the Capitol is under construction. It’s my first time in DC, I love ‘House of Cards’ and I was super excited to see the Capitol in all its beauty.
Big shout out to the person deciding to renovate the Capitol’s dome during my stay in DC. Perfect timing…
But not only the dome is under construction currently. Also the apartment, which I’m staying at, is literally under construction. Changing the window frames, taking out the carpet and replacing it with a new one as well as updating the furniture; all of this is done while I’m trying to live there. So again:
Big shout out to my landlord, who decided to do all of that now. Perfect timing …
The reoccurring ‘Under Construction’ theme does not just apply to my surrounding physical things. It also mirrors my inner state at the moment. Orientation was fun, but also exhausting. I love socializing with people, but during this week I was very much reminded of my first day at University back in Maastricht. The first semester I talked to basically everyone. I was ‘friends’ with everyone I met. However, throughout my second semester my current group of friends emerged. You cannot build long-lasting friendships with everyone. And you shouldn’t force it. I didn’t come to GW to find my new best friends. I just want to hang out with people that I enjoy and have fun with. 4 months are a very short time. And it’s always better to be relaxed and see what the future has to offer. My goal for the semester included finding inspiration here. People are a major source of inspiration and I already feel a little bit infected by some conservations, which I had throughout the week.
And now the serious bit: Do I feel homesick?
I’m not sure.
I wouldn’t say that I feel homesick. I have experienced living apart from my family and friends. Beside my exchange year in the US during my junior year, I have lived in the Netherlands the past two years. Okay, to be fair: Maastricht is only an hour away from Cologne. But still, I’m used to not seeing my friends and family for long periods of time. However, I do not feel totally comfortable at the moment. Maybe it is because I miss hanging around with my friends from Uni. I had a great time in Maastricht the last two years and met the most amazing people. Maybe it is because I miss my friends from back home in Germany. We had a great summer. Maybe it is because I love spending time with my parents. I had not seen them for more than 6 months before I got home to Cologne for my summer break. The conversations, trips and my Mom’s food – 2 months was not enough to take all of that in. Maybe it is because I rarely see my family members, so when I have the opportunity to be with them I just want to hold on to the moment. And, lastly, maybe it is because I met a certain person shortly before I took of to the States.
But all of these emotions do not mean that I’m homesick. I often feel like that when I’m on the go. And I’m literally always on the go. All these emotions just remind me of how lucky and happy I actually am. And I’m sure that when the time comes to leave DC, I will feel the same when I’m back in Europe. I always take something with me– be it part of the city or a person– and leave a part of my heart behind.
The best way to describe my current inner state is to label it as being ‘under construction’. I need to get used to my environment, get to know the City and find my people. I’m ready for that. I’m ready for DC.
This past week marks my introduction to Washington, D.C. through GW's Exchange Orientation. The hot, flat grid of DC streets are little like the drizzly, winding roads of Edinburgh and I feel slightly like I'm on holiday. The obvious differences that hit me 7 years ago are still there - everything tastes so much sweeter, the cars and roads are bigger, my accent attracts interest and excitement - but that doesn't mean I'm not enjoying being immersed in American culture again, particularly due to the packed programme of events organised for the exchange students.
One thing that immediately strikes you in DC is the food. I thought Edinburgh took this seriously - 'why are are there so many places to eat?' my friend once asked me while visiting - but DC takes dining to a whole other level. This week I have tried not only the stereotypical 'American' foods of burgers and fries such as at Bobby's Burger Palace and at the Shake Shack stand at the Nationals Park baseball stadium, but Ethiopian food at Das Ethiopian in Georgetown and Indian from the vast range of food trucks at Farragut Square. My English notions of what constitutes are barbeque (a few hamburgers, slightly soggy from the rain) were also turned on their head by the welcome laid on for us by the Office for Study Abroad, where we enjoyed pulled pork and collard greens from a caterer who has served the White House.
Exchange Orientation went by in a whirlwind and was a flood of information but also a lot of fun. The week has been an amazing mix and interaction of different cultures, from being able to introduce French friends to the masala dosa, a dish from the south of India where my mother is from, to discussing the British Labour party leadership election with an Argentinian friend who was as knowledgeable, if not more so, than me. Thanks to the exchange coordinators and ExO student leaders for in a week introducing a 70-strong group of students to the city and university, as well as giving us the support system of each other for the months ahead.
The week has also given me a lot to think about as I have been able to see 'America' up close and in more detail, and have seen some more unsettling images that are absent from its Hollywood depiction. Being part of the crowds streaming out of a highly commercial major league baseball game where bottled water costs almost $5 and then passing disabled beggars on the way to the metro station impressed on me the inequality present in the country, and race issues were also highlighted when my French friend pointed out that the stadium played reggae and Latin American music only when introducing players of colour. These problems are by no means unique to the US but they are there I hope that my exchange will make me more aware of them, as well as of any solutions.
On Monday classes start and I am looking forward to seeing how my American college experience will be different from my memories of middle school. I'm also excited about the student organisations fair and trying out some of the 400+ societies GW has to offer!
One week, 393 pictures, 57 exchange students, 13 leaders, Shawna and Hilary. What else do I have to say? If anyone had ask me about my expectations for my first week at GWU, I would have mentioned all the places, people, moments and experiences I just lived.
As an exchange student, fear is the first feeling you have when you arrive at your new home. Am I going to like my roommates? Am I going to make new friends? Am I going to like my classes? What am I doing here?!? That feeling automatically disappeared when 10 strangers in blue received me at the Marvin Center giving me the kindest welcome ever. Instantaneously my smile appeared. After months of planning this trip, I was finally here. The place I’ve been dreaming for so long was better than I expected. Not only because of the spectacular view I have from my window (the amazing Washington monument, or the American Obelisk) but also for the terrific freezing weather..
On my first night on Washington, standing in the Lincoln Memorial under a full moon reading Lincoln’s speech inscribed on the wall I knew I had arrived. I had arrived not so much to a place, not even a dream but to a collection of adventures yet to come. But most adventures need someone to be shared with. And what is better than people from the five continents to share those with? When I met the Australians (everyone is from Australia), the Asians, the South Americans, the French, the London, the Italians and of course, the Americans, I was reminded that I was not alone here in DC, at GWU. They reminded me why I participated in the exchange program in the first place: to explore the diversities the world has to offer and to be exposed and part of such diversity was a delight, as it is always interesting to find out more about other countries.
The first week of orientation has been the world. The museums, the Capitol, the traditional Ben’s Chili Bowl, the metro, the bars and nightclubs, the fantastic buildings and gym that belong to GWU (almost every building of the city) and the famous scavenger hunt game, made me think that my decision to come to Washington DC was the best choice I could have made.
But orientation week wouldn’t have been the same without our amazing Leaders. They did a fantastic job showing us around, giving us helpful tips, advice and guiding us. They brought us all together in an atmosphere of laughter and joy that allowed us to become friends.
Those laughs and adventures already lived and the many more to come have been blessed by those people who brought me directly and indirectly here.The group we’ve become, the peace and rhythm of Washington, DC, and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Like if they had known me forever, always so cheerful and friendly, I can not wait for the Spring semester to start.
The week that has just past has been an incredible, albeit an insanely busy, week filled with orientation activities, moving into our dorms, numerous trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and the opportunity to meet a whole new group of friends made up of people from all over the world, as well as some GW students. Consequently, this has been the first moment I have had to sit all week and so I thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on my first week here in DC, and then of course to share it with you!
Since arriving a week ago, I have definitely been trying my best to get the lay of the land – and to get used to some changes between DC and Sydney, namely the cold! Arriving for the second day of orientation activities in ankle deep snow was certainly something that I realized I would quickly need to adapt to. Then later being evacuated due to a fire alarm, also in said snow, was something that really was beyond my range of weather familiarity. However, after my absolutely necessary investment in snow boots, I feel I have tackled the snow adjustment as best as possible.
Another major change has been moving into a dorm shared with four other girls. In Sydney it is rather unusual to move out of home, especially for college, and therefore this is my first on-campus/dorm experience, and also the first time I have ever shared a room in my life…or lived in a house of five people for that matter. Whilst this could have required a major adjustment or felt really uncomfortable or strange, I have been so incredibly lucky and have absolutely lovely roommates who I cannot wait to get to know even better throughout the semester.
Apart from a lesson in how to deal with the cold and live with others, this week has definitely taught me a lot more about what to expect throughout the semester and how to make the most out of my time here – so thanks Study Abroad office!
I guess really the highlight of the week has been meeting so many new people and starting to really get comfortable with life here! My best friend from Sydney and I were actually both assigned together to GW so I walked in on Monday knowing someone but also knowing that we were both so keen to make new friends and share experiences with them too. The Australians seem to make up a relatively significant percentage of the exchange student cohort this semester and so we were immediately attracted to each other, keen to find out what schools and cities we had all come from.
As well as us Aussies, we have students here from almost every corner of the globe and I have really enjoyed getting to know people from countries all around the world and learning elements of their culture from them – some of these conversations have been really enlightening as I have yet to visit the countries from which they are from, and others have been really fun to share my experiences with natives from a country in which I was a ‘foreigner.’
Getting to know everyone throughout the week was really enjoyable – especially because we had the opportunity to both meet in a more formal or educational environment, as well as in a more social capacity. As well as that, this group provides us all with friends eager to partake in many of the same things we are during our time here – for example, touring DC and travelling on weekends. In fact, again courtesy of the Orientation week planned by the Study Abroad Office, we have already begun exploring the city and some of the monuments and museums it has to offer. One of the highlights of this week was definitely the group tour that we took around the Capitol – especially because we had an amazing tour guide whose knowledge and interest in the Capitol was immediately engaging.
Despite the construction currently underway on the dome and within Rotunda, the artwork and sculptures were beautiful and seeing the original home of government, even with some of the structural elements and artifacts from before the attack by the British, was definitely exciting – especially for the history-lover within me. Particularly interesting was the unquestionable yet gradual development in who could be featured within the Capitol building and seeing the bust of Martin Luther King Jnr and the statute of Rosa Parks certainly acted as a reminder of the progression that has occurred and a reminder of the changes that are still required. It certainly was inspiring hearing the stories of some of those featured within the Capitol however, even more so was the fact that it was immediately noticeable that, although in the past perhaps only the contribution of white men was considered significant enough to deserve recognition in the form of representation, the presence of women and those of other races was finally recognized equally. Unquestionably, for me, that tour was the stand-out activity of the week.
Meeting all the Exo leaders too was really fantastic! Having been in their position in Sydney before, it was definitely different to be on the receiving end, however, all of the leaders were fantastic and so easy to quickly befriend! As all of our first GW friends, they definitely made a good impression :).
On our final orientation day we were instructed to go and see an assigned place that perhaps we wouldn’t otherwise see during our time here. My group received the national postal museum which, although we were initially disappointed to get (sorry!), we actually had some fun at. There were definitely some stamps with interesting heritage and history and I found myself particularly interested in the pieces of mail that had survived atrocities such as the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake, and in particular, mail retrieved from the rubble at Ground Zero.
With some time to spare before meeting our group’s Exo leaders, we made the decision as a group (we were placed into small groups at the beginning of the week and so it was with that group that we were sent to our various locations) to visit Walmart, justifying it as an important American experience (and more than anything, an essential stop for those bits and pieces that we still needed to set up our dorms efficiently). Our official Orientation activities concluded with lunch, for my group at Busboys and Poets in Chinatown, with our Exo leaders, Chao and Erin. It has been really great getting to know this small group so well over the last week, and especially to get to know people from the group at large.
To finish off my first week here in DC, two of the other Australian girls and myself went to brunch on Sunday morning, followed by a Georgetown stroll and shopping expedition. DC is such a gorgeous city and although my leg muscles are undeniably feeling the pain of my desire to explore despite a lack of car (I’m so used to driving everywhere in Sydney!), I cannot wait to continue to see as much as possible.
It’s been a fantastic first week here and now, if you’ll excuse me, my roommates and I must continue to decorate our new home.
As I mentioned in my last blog, the most prominent feeling before arriving
was definitely excitement over a small amount of nervousness. From the moment we arrived on campus, we didn’t really have any time to let any of those emotions get the better of ourselves.
The study abroad office were absolutely fantastic in ensuring we had a back-to-back agenda with a mixture of very informative sessions coupled with equally informative - but somewhat more fun - trips or games to introduce everyone to our new city.
Not only did the induction week bond all the international students really well - it feels like I’ve known some of them for years, not days - it also bonded us to DC. From trips to the Smithsonian, races around campus, tour of congress and Mount Vernon - and even the group trip to Target, it forced everybody to jump head first into life here. The Nationals even gained some 80 new fans!
The opportunities here at GW appear to be limitless. With world-renowned experts as Professors, illustrious alumni, fantastic internship opportunities and of course being at the geographic center of the political universe, it feels like GW is a great place to be with something extraordinary always around the corner.
It's undoubtedly different to what we all know back at our home institutions. Where else would the President's motorcade be a legitimate reason for being late for class? #OnlyatGW
So as we move forward, everyone is ready to go and wants to jump headfirst into life here. So, that's what I'm off to today!
I'll be checking again this week with my cultural faux pàs' - there's been several.
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