Skip to content

By sophieheard

Despite Easter not being a national holiday in America we still made the most of the weekend and celebrated with food, friends and family! A friend of mine was visiting from New York so it was the perfect opportunity to explore DC whilst making the most of the holiday.

 

Although we have been in DC for the good part of four months there are still so many things I have yet to see and do. When friends come to visit it gives you the perfect excuse to be a tourist in your own city. So many iconic and historical sights are situated around the Mall and one of the best ways to see the sights is by bike. City bikes are available all over the city and for $8 you get a 24-hour pass (although, make sure you check in every 30 mins else you will be charged an extra $2 every hour). We rented our bikes at the National Mall, checked out the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. We looped around the Tidal Basin, passed the FDR Memorial and ended up at the Jefferson Memorial.

Along with the bikes, we rented paddle boats and spent the afternoon chilling in the middle of the Tidal Basin, soaking up the sun. For only $20 you get an hour in one of the paddle boats (although, it is more if you want the electric swan!) It is definitely worth doing as it gives you stunning views of the Jefferson and the MLK Monument. Make sure you avoid weekends as you will be queuing for around an hour!

On Easter Sunday we were invited to a proper American Easter dinner. We headed up to Columbia, Maryland to a quiet suburban neighbourhood for a feast! It was our first time experiencing a true American home and it did not disappoint! After being away from home for awhile it was nice to spend some time in a familial setting. The food was delicious and dessert was absolutely to die for! It was my first time saying grace, playing catchphrase and having an American Easter

It was not a typical Easter, and yet it was nice to experience it from an American perspective. Although they do not recognise religious holidays on a national scale, they sure do know how to celebrate!

By audrey

DC's weather has been quite the mystery - hitting the high 80s this week after a sharp dip to the 40s the week before. While I'm glad for warmer weather and the freedom to walk around without having to put on a thick coat, it has been a sweltering week. Taking advantage of this week's weather, I decided to hit a few ice cream shops that were recommended to me by full-time students and professors even.

 

The Orange Cow

This place serves premium, homemade ice cream from a food truck. I know the irony is strong in this one, but the ice cream was phenomenal - totally worth the walk in this heat. I couldn't find the exact location of the food truck online, but it's orange in colour and was along E Street. The most popular ice cream flavour was Coffee Oreo - just the perk me up needed to walk from the truck to my apartment.

 

 

Thomas Sweet

I basically chanced upon this one evening while walking home from Georgetown - there was a long line outside this shop with huge green umbrellas and that was when we knew we had to get in line (being the tourists that we were). This ice cream place had literally one of the largest flavour selections I've ever seen and they allow you to sample it (which probably explains the long line). It's located deeper in, beyond the main shopping street of Georgetown on P Street, between Wisconsin Ave and N 32nd. I got the milk cone dipped in rainbow chips while my companion got the rum and raisin (real raisins!!). They were both incredibly satisfying and I think I may go here instead of Baked and Wired for sweet treats the next time I'm in the neighbourhood.

Momofuku Milk Bar

Definitely be prepared to wait in line for this one. Located in CityCentre DC, Momofuku milk bar is the dessert branch of the ramen bar of the same name (they're right next to each other, which makes ice cream and milk shakes the perfect dessert after downing your piping hot bowl of ramen). Besides ice cream and shakes, the small storefront also sells an assortment of pastries and I highly recommend the birthday cake pops. Its most famous outpost has got to be its cereal soft serve, which is simply phenomenal because it is both soft and creamy, yet firm and crunchy. However, the prices can be steep at this location, with a soft serve coming in at seven bucks with a cereal topping, and nine dollars for a milkshake.

I know it's an indulgence, but the weather provides the perfect background to have ice cream for dessert. Side note, my exchange semester is quickly coming to an end - there are approximately 3 more weeks to finals and the end of the semester. I'd better find more places to eat/drink/explore in DC before then.

By sophieheard

As the exchange program begins to enter its final phase and people start to make plans for the summer, it hits you that you are just not ready to leave. You have made a home for yourself in the dorms of Foggy Bottom - between your routine, your friends, and late night trips to the Lincoln. However, as one exchange group gets ready to leave another is getting ready to arrive. Here are just a few pieces of information I wish someone had told me before arriving!

Transport
As most people in the exchange program are from cities with extremely efficient subway systems, the DC metro does not exactly fair well in comparison. It’s great for getting yourself from A to B but it is not something you will use on daily basis.

Do not fear! Uber in DC is ridiculously cheap that it works out better catching a ride than waiting for a subway. If travelling in groups make sure you fair split it!

Money
American bank accounts are very straightforward to set up and if you head up to Bank of America they will give you your own personalised George Washington debit card. Although a lot of students didn’t set up accounts it makes like so much easier. Exchange rates can fluctuate so it's easier to be using American dollars. Also, with an American card you can use the app Venmo and save yourself the hassle of keeping tabs.

Food
Food in DC can be expensive. However, there are cheaper ways to go about it. It is worth doing a trip early on to either Safeway or Walmart to stock up on supplies that will last you a long time. Group cooking also makes like 100 times easier. Once we had settled into our group we decided that it would be one person's turn each day of the week to bulk cook dinner. That way you only have to buy and cook once and yet get a homecooked meal every night of the week (results may vary depending on whether or not you or your friends can cook!)

Packing
Depending on the time of year you are coming to DC do not buy a whole new wardrobe for weather that may never arrive. Luckily, winter never really arrived this year and I was spared having to spend hundreds of dollars making sure I didn’t die of hypothermia. I’m just glad I didn’t buy snow boots before I arrived!

Bring two suitcases! It may be a hassle to lug from airport to airport but trust me five months is long enough that you are better off bringing more than you need. I only brought one and there are so many things I wish I had with me.

Bring toiletries! I expected toiletries to be the same price as the UK. However, they are about three times the price here. Stock up on face wipes, dry shampoo and any kind of medication you may need over the course of your time here.

Tax and Tipping
Have fun with this one! I still haven’t fully grasped how it works and it normally just ends up with a bunch of confused foreigners around a dinner table trying to do math. It’s just something you have to accept. Tax is not included in the price of anything and is typically 10% for restaurants, bars etc. Tipping varies but around 15% and 20% is fine.

Travelling
Travel within the US is more expensive than Europe. However, check out skyscanner for cheap flights (search everywhere at any time for really good deals) and you can find some good flights.

Megabus will get you up to Baltimore, Philly and New York cheap enough. Don’t bother flying or taking the train as it is so much more expensive.

Phone
Phone contracts are notoriously expensive in the US. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you arrive. Check your home providers deals for overseas use as it might be cheaper. I currently pay $27.50 for 2GB with T-Mobile (although there are some better deals).

Most importantly - just go have fun!

By audrey

This week, I ticked an item off my bucket list - seeing John Mayer live. Growing up in Singapore, we were never really on any musicians' road map and being able to be in DC while he's on tour has made me really thankful for this exchange opportunity.

Having listened to his music since middle school, he's formed a huge part of my life since. The setlist last night was more than what I could ask for - 21 songs, including tracks from past albums and his latest release combined with the stellar seats at Verizon Center. It was indeed money well spent.

 

DC's weather has been increasingly fluctuating - from skipping outdoors in a T-shirt and jeans to running against winds that seem to keep me from standing my ground, it has been a weird couple of weeks. We officially welcomed Spring last week, but hints of winter remained.

When the weather doesn't go my way, I turn to food for solace and comfort. This week, I got together with the friends whom I spent spring break with and we had dinner at Bistro Bohem.

Located in a cozy corner on U Street, the store front had 'bistro' painted in large blue letters on the wall. The menu included classic eastern European fare, with several fusion dishes and it was actually pretty affordable, coming in the under $20 range. I had the beef goulash, which was served together with Czech dumplings. Czech dumplings are a funny thing - they're like this cross-breed between bread and rice. The schnitzel came highly recommended and came with 2 sides of choice. I also ordered a cup of mulled wine - I believe this is the first time I actually saw mulled wine in DC.

 

In an effort to save money, I started to cook again and fortunately, I found an Asian supermarket that carried the taste of home. I'm not sure if this is the nearest one to GW, but as I was in Virginia over the weekend, Arlington has one called Good Fortune Supermarket and it is huge - it had practically everything I could find back home. Since it was pretty far from Foggy Bottom, I found myself lugging home groceries enough to last me a week.

The semester is ending and the realization that I should start saving up to travel has now hit me real and hard so I foresee myself cooking for the whole of next month! Also having a sudden mindful moment that exchange is going to end soon, what with the invitations for farewell parties and transcript submissions.

That's all for now.

 

By audrey

I guess you could say this week really put the study in study abroad. I guess the professors are trying to tell us that spring break is all but a faint history and it's time to return to the daily grind.

That being said, I managed to take time out to explore last weekend. As April commences, we bid goodbye to winter and open our arms to spring. DC's annual cherry blossom festival had its opening ceremony this week and it was nothing short of amazing. Thereafter, we took a walk along the Tidal Basin, past several monuments and admired the pink and white blossoms.

The reason for DC's cherry blossoms dates back in history - Japan gifted DC with 3020 trees in 1912 after the first batch of 2000 sent in 1910 got infested with disease and pests. Since then, countless First Ladies have commemorated the start of the festival by planting their own cherry blossom tree. The one's that we are seeing now are of the Yoshino variety but in another two to three weeks, the Kwanzan variety will start to bloom, giving DC residents and visitors a second chance to admire the majestic flora.

I was actually surprised to see that many of the blossoms were white in color, as opposed to the pink ones I had seen in Japan . Nonetheless, the paler color gives the surroundings a pure aura and are great for taking pictures too! While at the Tidal Basin last weekend, I actually met many people visiting from out of state, proving how popular the festival is. While our visit was short, we managed to capture some great graphics!

This week, I also took a trip to Tysons Corner in Virginia and it's basically a huge mall where you can find practically everything. I went there for one very specific reason: Kung Fu Tea. Back home, whenever I craved it, I simply had to walk to the opposite street to get me some boba milk tea. In DC, it's a lot more difficult to get hold of a decent cup of bubble tea and thankfully Tysons' is an approximately 30 minute journey on the Metro, great for a quick getaway in between classes. The mall is also home to the only Uniqlo in the DC region, and I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for jackets or even basics that are of a great quality at an affordable price. I will stop talking about this now because this post is starting to sound like an advertisement.

Thereafter we headed to Dupont for tea and dinner. For now, it's back to the daily grind at Gelman Library.

By sophieheard

This weekend we rented a car, hit the open road and headed down south for the great American road trip. We stocked up on snacks, blasted some Johnny Cash and began the eight-hour drive to Bristol, Tennessee. We decided on our way to stop at every random roadside attraction - from the tacky to the spectacular. First stop was the Luray Caverns, followed by lunch at the Pink Cadillac Diner, we checked out the coffee pot house and got lost looking for foamhenge.

A small town of 30,000 Bristol isn’t your typical tourist destination. Known as the birthplace of country music we were in town visiting some friends of a friend. The South fulfilled every expectation and stereotype I had hoped for. Southern hospitality, fried chicken, more churches than I could keep track of - it was a world away from DC! On Sunday we did the one thing you have to do whilst in the South - go to a shooting range. Politics aside it was something on my bucket list whilst I’m in the US. For $50 we shot everything from a 22, revolver and a rifle.

We left Tennessee and headed to Asheville, North Carolina. We only had a night in the city and as Sunday isn’t the liveliest of times in the South we decided the best way to make the most of our time was to eat our way through the city. We had the best Spanish tapas at Cúrate and Jamaican food at Nine Mile. Everyone we had encountered in our travels had been exceptionally friendly (even by American standards) and North Carolina was no different. All the staff and strangers we met told us the best places to go and wanted to know what brought us to America.

Monday afternoon it was time to say ‘goodbye’ to the South and begin the 450-mile journey back to DC. Monday night also happened to be the final of NCAA March Madness where the Gonzaga Bulldogs faced off against the North Carolina Tar Heels. As we made our way up the I-40 we passed the exit for Chapel Hill and made the split decision that this was something we didn’t want to miss. Twenty minutes until game time, we pulled in and scoured the town for somewhere to park and watch the game. The whole town was out and people were spilling out of every bar and restaurant in town. We managed to find a spot in Imbibe and took a seat amongst hundreds of other Tar Heels fans.

It was a close game from start to finish and the emotion of the crowd alternated between elation and disappointment. Within the final 30 seconds, the Tar Heels gained a 5 point lead and secured their 6th NCAA championship. The whole crowd erupted into celebration and exploded into the streets. Tens of thousands of people began pouring into the main street in Chapel Hill. People climbed up into trees, traffic lights and lamp posts. Fireworks and flares lit up the sky as frat boys carried a couch into the center of the crowd and proceed to light it on fire. It was like something out of a revolution that just by coincidence we were fortunate enough to experience.

After joining in in the celebrations it was time to head back to DC. We were only halfway to DC and still had 270 miles to go. We pushed through and finally arrived back home at 6 am. If you get the chance I highly recommend visiting the South. It was so different from DC but it helped me understand just how diverse America (and its politics) is.

By sophieheard

Nothing screams Spring Break more than Miami. Sunshine, the beach and delicious food all rolled into one week of festivities. What was meant to be a week of relaxation turned into a week of adventure. We had managed to get ridiculously cheap flights from New York and so on Monday morning we hopped on the Megabus and headed up to the city ready for our flight on Tuesday. This wouldn’t have been an issue if it wasn’t for storm Stella. On Monday night New York was hit by a blizzard and we woke up to the city being covered in snow. Everywhere in the city was closed and all the flights for that day were cancelled.

The night before the storm we met up with my friend from New York and headed to Cantina in Harlem for the best tacos and burritos! Luckily another group from the exchange program was staying in the city for the week and so we stocked up on supplies and crashed at their Airbnb for a couple nights. Stranded in New York we decided to make the most of the snow and go exploring. For the city that never sleeps, it was a rare opportunity to experience New York without the hustle and bustle. As we were headed to Miami we weren’t exactly dressed for the weather. We bundled up in as many layers that we had brought with us and headed down to Central Park. Although it was not what I had in mind when I pictured Spring Break, the city in the snow was beautiful and was worth missing our flight.

We headed to the Newark Airport early the next morning hoping that there were some spare seats on the upcoming flights. Luckily, 15 minutes before takeoff we managed to get two free tickets and were on our way to Miami! A couple of hours later, we had said goodbye to the snow and were basking in the sun on South Beach.

There was a large group of us staying at an Airbnb in South Beach. The week was spent chilling at the beach, having BBQs out back and gorging on the best Cuban food I’ve ever had. We headed over to Wynwood Walls to explore the amazing street art and decided to stay in the area to enjoy the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. If there is one thing I’ve learnt is that Americans don’t know how to do anything low-key. They had everything from green coloured drinks, food trucks, vintage clothing stalls and live music.

After a week relaxing and having fun in the sun it was time to return to reality. As our flight was at 6 am the following day we decided to not book accommodation for our final night and go the full 24 hours. We checked out at 10 am and spent the rest of the day at the beach, before returning to one of our favourite places of the trip for dinner Ball and Chain and finishing the trip off at Story. At 3 am we grabbed an uber to the airport and made the long journey back to DC.

Spring Break was exactly the adventure I expected it to be. Miami was the perfect combination of fun and culture and completely lived up to the hype of Spring Break.

 

By audrey

Be warned: this is a post dedicated exclusively to food.

My ability to cook has been severely restricted; got a really bad cut on my finger after my very valiant attempt at multi-tasking - cutting potatoes and watching Youtube videos at the same time. Big mistake.

So, besides 2 assignments and 2 tests due, I had a pretty relaxing week that saw me on a desperate hunt for food after Thursday.

Food stop 1: Kung Fu Tea

It really wasn't easy finding bubble tea in DC - I had to take the metro to Virginia and finally found the object of my dreams: Kung Fu Tea. Being the glutton that I was and keeping in mind the huge distance, I bought 2. 1 was for drinking immediately, the other was for the fridge at home. (Tip: if it's to-go, separate the beverage and the boba, and ask for no ice).

unnamed-5

Food stop 2: DC Noodles

Huddled in a cozy corner on U Street, this place serves South Asian noodle dishes. I got the store special: Red Miso Ramen (despite what the menu says, it's really not spicy) while my friends ordered a mix of Pad Thai, Curry noodles and Beef bowls. They were all really good! The restaurant has a really unique decor and ambiance - oriental-influenced, but also a fusion of Mediterranean and American styles as well. There's also an in-house bar so be sure to visit during happy hour to get the best deals!

unnamed-6

Food stop 3: Eastern Market

After 2 days of cold spells in DC, the sun finally emerged on Saturday. I decided that was the day to visit the hyped Eastern Market. Situated in the scenic Capitol Hill neighborhood, everything in Eastern Market was exceptionally colorful and quaint, even during the walk there. Upon walking in, you'll be greeted by a variety of vendors selling very different crafts and fresh produce. Many of them even put out mini samples for visitors before committing to their purchase. Continue walking, and you'll see an old red-brick building - this is where they keep the food. You'll be able to buy fresh poultry, vegetables and a wide variety of cheeses all in one place. There is also a cafe in the building: The Market Lunch. Be sure to get the Blueberry Pancakes and the Crabcake Egg Benedict (Note: these are only available on the weekend).

A reminder though - many stalls in the market only accept cash, so you can make use of the ATMs located at the building entrance to withdraw some cash before going all out on your shopping spree.

To be really honest, we made a detour back to the market because the brunch spot where we were hoping to dine at had a wait time of an hour. This makes for an important lesson: if it's a weekend and it's a popular brunch spot, definitely be sure to make a reservation several days in advance to avoid waiting outside in the cold. Brunch hour in DC is serious business.

unnamed-7

Hang tight everyone...President Day weekend is near!

Ciao!

By itsmaggiegwu

Last weekend started out as an adventure. My housemate,  Makiyah and I, decided to pay a visit to the Good Fortune Supermarket down in East Falls Church in Virginia. We've been missing a lot of Chinese/Asian foods in our diet because it's always been Trader Joe's or Safeway for us. We hopped onto the 4B a few blocks from our apartment and was on our merry way.

Good Fortune resides in Eden, a complex that has a variety of Asian (Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, you name it!) restaurants, bakeries, and shops. We window shopped for food at nearly every shop before sitting down to have a good bowl of pho. We needed the energy before going into Good Fortune. It was an Asian supermarket but nothing I've ever seen before. It was big, which fits well with the "everything-is-big-in-America" theme. They had a great range of fruits (Asian pears, durian, longans) and vegetables (bok choi, turnips) at very decent prices. I ended up buying 3 lbs of bok choi for about $3 which probably would have been double the price in Wholefoods. They also had a live seafood section with lobsters and fish. A BBQ section with BBQ pork, duck, chicken. A bakery with the egg tarts, pineapple buns, pork floss buns. And everything else in between. It was difficult to decide what to buy but I had to restrain myself because we had to bus back.

maggie-11-7maggie-11-7-2maggie-11-7-3

The next few days of the week were pure agony. It was probably from an accumulation of things but I had a severe case of tonsillitis that was met with 2 visits to the ER. I wanted to write about it briefly in case any exchange students are met with an unfortunate illness that requires them to go to the hospital. The experience wasn't all that horrible. I went to Virginia Hospital both times because I figured that it'll have less of a wait (and also I live in Virginia). You sign in at the ER and wait to be called in for them to do a triage. After that either a doctor or physician will have a look at you (depending on the severity of your case I guess). The second time I had to stay for a few hours because they had given me IV drips for my infection and inflammation and had a CT scan done in case there was any abscess (there wasn't, thank God). I felt a hell lot better when I walked out of that ER and I'm glad that I went even though initially I thought I could just sit and let it slide at home. The bills will probably come in the mail soon, but luckily I have insurance that'll cover me.

 

It's been a rollercoaster of a week, but I've learnt something new: living away from home is difficult and there's only you to take care of yourself. So make sure you do.

By baharmahzari

First and foremost, I would like to clarify that cupcakes are on the top of list of things, which make me happy no matter how bad of a day I had. Only avocados and watermelon beat my love for cupcakes. Hence, me dedicating an entire blog post to cupcakes is totally normal, when you get to know me. So while strolling through picturesque Georgetown for the first time, I could do nothing else but run into ‘Georgetown Cupcake’. Seeing all those delicious cupcakes stacked up on cute étagères, it was impossible to listen to reason and I just simply bought two. I bought two cupcakes and ate them both right after the other. No regrets. Well, maybe some regrets towards my blood sugar level. I will gladly share the perfection with you; only in form of a picture though.

georgetown cupcake

Experiencing a city spontaneously without a plan is the best way of exploring its greatest treasures. In the case of DC: 'Georgetown Cupcake'. But sometimes a little bit of local help and experience can make a stay in a foreign city unforgettable. So, thank you, to every local, who persistently told me that I should visit ‘Baked & Wired’ instead of ‘Georgetown Cupcakes’. You did not disappoint. I love carrot cake and I love cupcakes. To find the fusion of these two in the form of a way bigger cupcake than the one sold at the store mentioned previously made my day full of exhausting readings not only bearable, but also actually fantastic. As you noticed before, the top 3 things on the list of stuff making me happy are some kind of food. So a cupcake can definitely save my day. And, by the way, I had two again. This might become a thing: Me just always casually ordering double. But hey, I am just trying to integrate into American consumer society. Although, my blood sugar might rebel at one point. I am definitely challenging it at the moment.

baked and wired

Of course, I won’t make this whole article about me visiting two cupcake places. I am not that shallow. Maybe you have already noticed that I like to use metaphors, comparisons and analogies. It is somehow my thing and I like to believe that I am actually good at it. So let’s try this stretch: ‘Georgetown Cupcake’ represents my adventurous, independent and curious side. I love to just stroll around DC and explore new places by myself. Without any former opinion. Without any prejudices. I like to experience it myself without being bound to the borders of someone else’s mindset. On the other hand, locals do know the city’s best places sometimes. Places, which you normally maybe would never pass by. A perfect example of that is the Ethiopian food at 'Zenebech Injera' close to U Street. Although, I love Ethiopian food, I would have overlooked that place probably. But thanks to my American friend Meg, whom I will refer to as M from this point onwards, I had one of the best nights with lovely Injera. Another example is ‘Baked & Wired’. Hidden in a side road of M Street, I wouldn’t have seen it.

I will get to know DC in the combination of these two modes of exploration: Going out without any plan and just be lucky in finding the right spots  as well as enjoying the comfort of being guided by trusted locals, who know exactly what is worth to go to. Next stop: 'Maketto' on H Street.

Skip to toolbar