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By gjmacdougall

It's the night before the beginning of the spring semester and so it feels appropriate, now that the dust has settled after the whirlwind of finals and the slight jolt and joy of a visit home, to reflect upon the fall semester.

True to the words of every exchange student, the time has flown by - as well as friends flown away, needing to return for the spring to their home universities. But though the time has gone quickly, it has had an effect. Though I was greeted back in Norwich by friends congratulating me on having 'escaped' the accent, I did feel at times slightly more 'American' at home - a little more outgoing and assertive, perhaps, than those around me who were more reserved. Not to mention needing to go cold turkey on caffeine for a while, after my first finals experience.

Going to a country that shared my native language and that had a culture which closely mapped onto my own, I had been doubtful about how much an exchange would affect me. However, it has.

For example, I have had to become much more efficient and organised - in Edinburgh I never had a diary but here you can't survive without one. I also now appreciate my university's city much more, being excited to return and play the tourist there, as I am doing here, and not take it so much for granted. And I have grown in confidence in myself and my ability to relate to others because, contrary to my initial fears, America 2.0 couldn't have been more different from the first version.

In terms of academics, my exchange so far has had a great positive effect, introducing me to many new ideas and writers as well as forcing me to become much more time-efficient in my writing due to finals (10 essays, 7 days...). However, I feel I have also become a little lazier with my essays, spared from having to adhere strictly to a word count as in Edinburgh, where laboriously cutting down the words is half the battle.

Though I couldn't have imagined a better first semester of my exchange, there are still some lessons I will be bringing into the spring term. One of them is pacing: something that I feel I should have applied to more than just my Thanksgiving meal. There is the temptation - spurred on by all those you see around you - to try and do everything at once, and though trying new things outside your comfort zone creates the great experiences (and in terms of the less great ones, 'good stories') of an exchange, sometimes saying 'no' would save future stress down the line. Hopefully I'll remember some of this wisdom a couple of weeks from now.

So much of my enjoyment of the first semester is down to the care taken of us by our exchange coordinators and for that I am very grateful.

Anyway, to get to bed and start this new semester with its new adventures -

 It's goodnight from me...and it's goodnight from GW - goodnight!
It's goodnight from me...and it's goodnight from GW - goodnight!

Grace

By gjmacdougall

Maybe it's the amount of caffeine and sugar in my system to get me through deadlines and finals (for a time I was feeling my body was 60% coffee/coke and not water), but even though there is almost a week left after this one, I'm starting to get emotional about the end of term.

One example was at the end of my last Beginning Acting class, which I have loved this semester. In a class earlier in the term we had 'thrown' an imaginary big ball to the ceiling as part of an improv lesson, and in our final time together our professor said 'the last thing I want you to do is to get into a circle', before reminding us that the ball was still up there and that we needed to bring it back down. We did that and then he said 'I want you to grab a piece, and bring it to your heart, and keep it there...forever'. I would be lying if I said I didn't get a little teary-eyed.

The class has grown together so much over the term and the professor is just amazing - if anyone is looking for course options for next year, I can't recommend it highly enough!

This week has been a collection of other 'lasts', such as the last time for tots and trivia at Tonic with the same group of people. It ended with a bang as we placed the highest I've ever experienced there, though I haven't exactly improved on the level of my contributions from the beginning of the semester, my role still being little more than ornamental. However, my moment of glory came in knowing that a 'brolly' is British slang for 'umbrella' (though if I had failed there they would probably have made me relinquish my UK passport).

It was also the last pre-class Tuesday Dunkin' Donuts date I had with my friend, which had seen the sweet sustenance of donuts and friendship power me through each week.

And the donut theme continued with my American poetry professor bringing in Duck Donuts for our final class together, to accompany our study of Dunbar (the American, not the Scot).

It seems free food is everywhere if you know where to look as the university tries to give its students some motivation and respite from work. From stumbling across an academic department party, to attending the Midnight Breakfast (breakfast food, activities and prize givings one night from 10pm - 12am) laid on by GW, as well as cookie hand-outs in Kogan Plaza from different societies, we were stressed, but well fed! Socialising over delicious food was also a feature of the GW Exchange Farewell Party though the occasion was bittersweet as it was great to catch up with fellow exchange students who we hadn't properly seen for a while, but sad to know that we wouldn't see some at all next semester.

A week of all-American college stress obviously called for an all-American college study break and so I went with a friend to burger chain Five Guys. It got a rare thumbs up from both of us and so will be returned to in the future. 

So the week has been a time of endings but also of future excitement, as I attended the GW Student Theatre Council's 'Star Wars Disco' Prom - which revolves around the announcement of the different theatre societies' upcoming Spring 2016 seasons - as a reward to myself for completing the week's deadlines which had seen me pull all-nighters of an intensity I never had to in Edinburgh.

 Reunited: Smackdown (some of us may have thought the theme was more binding than it was)
Reunited: Smackdown (some of us may have thought the theme was more binding than it was)

I'm incredibly grateful I get to spend another semester here at GW and in DC as the end of term has completely snuck up on me. However, I will be really sorry to see the semester-only exchange students go, as well as American friends who are leaving for a term abroad.

To more emotions, finals and the final week!

Grace

By gjmacdougall

The week after Thanksgiving has a strange atmosphere as after five days of blissful relaxation college students are thrown straight into the intensity of finals and papers. With two weeks left of the semester everything seems to be moving so quickly and stress levels are high. However, maybe it was the amount of pumpkin pie I ate over the break but I feel I'm becoming more 'American' in my style of working. I'm getting into the swing of things and I seem to be more efficient with my assignments as I understand more how the American college system works - achieving the goal I had set at the beginning of the semester, after initially taking more than double the length of time to complete work and essays than it did for my US counterparts. However I still doubt I'm efficient enough for the seven deadlines I have looming next week...so a number of hours these past few days have had to be dedicated to the library.

In other ways, I do feel that I'm becoming more 'American' and not just on the superficial level of giving up the fight to hold onto my British words for greater ease and understanding (though I will cling to 'flatmates' until the bitter end), and in terms of food with my greater frequency of coffee drinking, the desire to add cinnamon to everything, and slight addiction to protein bars. One example is in being more assertive - not necessarily always a positive thing - but as someone whose form of stereotypical British 'politeness' can sometimes tend towards not properly defending my own interests, I feel being clearer in articulating what I want is a good thing.

Of course having many responsibilities means (for 'real' GW students and exchange students alike) finding ways to avoid them and I managed to succeed in this, the excuse being a number of friends' 21st birthdays.

Combined with Christmas shopping, these gave me a reason to put down the books and run errands around Georgetown, also finally giving me the opportunity to see the admittedly beautiful Georgetown campus.

My friends' new legal freedom meant 'happy hours' were high on the agenda and I experienced my first in DC at Tonic. Here, as with my fro-yo experience,  the nachos crown that had previously been held for me in Edinburgh (by the student union at Teviot) was taken by America, the restaurant's happy hour deal also meaning they were less than half price.

What the doctor ordered
What the doctor ordered

The biggest event of my week though was the University Honors Program Yule Ball, attending as a guest of one of my friends. With snowflake decorations, delicious desserts and hot chocolate, and an induction into the ways of the 'cupid shuffle' it was a great night and made the stress momentarily melt away.

However, it was at another 'happy hour' for a friend's birthday at Town Tavern in Adam's Morgan that I was given a stark reminder of the darker hours in the US this week.'Do you feel like you could get shot at any time in the UK?' - I was caught off guard by the question and of course the answer for me was 'no' but it startled me that some in the US might be living with this feeling. However, it almost seems no wonder when - as with events in San Bernardino - it feels like every day news reports roll in telling of another episode of gun violence. There is a sense of real frustration among the students I am with that this situation exists but also that it feels like there is a brick wall between them and change. San Bernardino has been further politicised in its portrayal as an act of terrorism.

And there have also been some less happy hours not here but in the UK, that also make essays and deadlines fade into insignificance. I must admit it was through the medium of Facebook and my friends' reactions back home that made me fully aware of the British government's decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria.

To the penultimate week of the semester (it seems so strange to write this),

Grace

By gjmacdougall

These past five days have been the highlight of my semester. Thanksgiving was the perfect pick-me-up, coming at a low point for everyone in the semester and refreshing us all for the last push of finals and the end of term. Although five days is just enough time to make us all think the Christmas holidays have come already!

For the break I was was so generously invited by my friend to spent it with her and her family in Connecticut, and I also got the chance to visit Long Island and New York City.

The first day of the holidays was a trip down memory lane as I accompanied my friend on her visit to her old high school to see old teachers and friends, something it turns out a lot of returning students seem to do when they return home after starting college. It was a surreal experience for me to be in classrooms that reminded me of middle school in New Jersey eight years ago - right down to the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of each day - but also felt a fitting and symbolic part of my 'come back' to America and made me think about and feel thankful for the great differences between my two US experiences.

In the evening I also got to experience 'Friendsgiving' - a pre-Thanksgiving meal and get-together for a group of friends all returning to their hometown for the break. A lot of fun and also a training exercise for the main event in terms of food pacing...

The next day was the day of Thanksgiving and was as perfectly 'American' as I could wish, the preparations in the kitchen and gathering of relatives reminding me very much of Christmas celebrations. We visited my friend's uncle and family in Long Island and the day was filled with a feast of delicious food, American football on the television, and relaxing around the dinner table. I was immediately made to feel part of the family, joining in the annual tradition of walking the two minutes to the shore of the Long Island Sound, to choose a pebble on which to write our name and what we were thankful for and to add it to the increasing collection.

Another American 'tradition' of Thanksgiving I indulged in was 'Black Friday' (and I must confess, on my return, 'Cyber Monday') - though thankfully in Connecticut I did not experience the full-on craziness I had been dreading and did not have to fight anyone for my bargains. And my friend kindly let me cross off another American bucket list item by taking me to a '50s-style diner for burgers and milkshakes.

Time Warp
Time Warp

Over the weekend I also was given the opportunity to visit New York for the first time since I've been here. Taking in some culture at the Whitney Museum of American Art before finding lunch elsewhere in the Meatpacking District was followed by a wander around Soho, grabbing coffee in independent cafés along the way.

I've been thinking, I've been thinking...
I've been thinking, I've been thinking...

I also got to experience Chinatown and Little Italy and picked up tips for my return (a group of us have - foolishly? - decided to head back for New Year's Eve...).

So good they named it twice!
So good they named it twice!

The break was also a whirlwind of new culinary experiences for me - from Polish dessert babka at 'Friendsgiving', to Vietnamese food in Chinatown and cannoli in Little Italy as well as churros over coffee in my friend's old high school hangout in Connecticut. However it was not only my taste buds that were educated as over the course of many conversations I was also instructed in American slang, which I look forward to springing on my unsuspecting friends over the Christmas holidays.

My break was full of lovely touches, from the little chocolate turkeys awaiting each place setting at the dessert course on Thanksgiving, to watching the movie 'Garden State' whilst travelling through New Jersey on the bus back from New York. I also hadn't realised how much I'd missed home-cooked meals and it felt wonderful to be fully immersed in a family atmosphere.

The next few weeks promise lots of deadlines and stress but the break has rejuvenated me as well as given me many memories that I will treasure.

To another week of much to be thankful for and catching up with other friends' Thanksgiving adventures,

Grace

By gjmacdougall

This week I experienced DC from the inside of my flat - sorry, apartment - through a combination of illness and pre-Thanksgiving essay deadlines: turns out feeling sorry for yourself can take up a lot of time. I'll admit, there was a low point which did see me sadly scrolling through the mince pie section of the Tesco website as I mourned this apparently very British food stuff's absence in America, as well as the fact that Christmas preparations seem to be on hold until Thanksgiving whereas in Britain I get the impression they are well underway.

However, in the spirit of that impending holiday, this week also reminded me I have a lot to be thankful for. I have money for insurance and medicines, I found the GW Colonial Health Center to be helpful and accessible, professors have been understanding, the wonders of technology mean I can Skype countries around the world, the weather is still strangely warm for this time of year - but perhaps most importantly, I have amazing flatmates and friends who will check up on me and who will brighten my day with tea and a catch up.

Anyway, next week I have a lot to look forward to as I have very generously been adopted by my friend's family and invited to spend the Thanksgiving break with them: to say I am excited would be something of an understatement.

Till after Turkey Day,

Grace

By gjmacdougall

These were the words of the six year old daughter of one of the teachers at the Lyon school where one of my best friends works for her year abroad, when talking about the events in Paris on Friday. The simplicity in this innocent summary, that can be applied to events around the world this week, is heart-breaking, along with the child's hope for the good in people that is missing from politicians' speeches of retribution.

Hearing the news about Paris in the States felt different than if I had been in the UK - being across the water it initially sounded like it was coming through water. But being an exchange student at GW also gave a greater immediacy to the outcome of the events: here there are a number of students from Paris.

Watching Obama's statement on Paris was a strange experience, delivered from the White House that just last week we were happily strolling through. A reminder of the power of that place and the power of America on the international world stage, in case it had ever been briefly forgotten.

The pain and the politics will continue in the weeks and months ahead, and it looks like it already has.

Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and all such other events make everything else seem meaningless. These are the times that try men's souls. But there is the hope of a child.

Grace

By gjmacdougall

This weekend the 'fresher's flu' I'd been running from since the beginning of term finally caught up with me and made me miss the creature comforts of home, but before then, this week was about experiencing a mix of different cultures.

It started with a delicious, American home-cooked meal by the mum of one of my friends, the US theme continuing later in the week with the GW Alternative Breaks Fall Ball (a fundraiser for volunteering trips during university holidays that my roommate is a part of) as well as in my weekly struggle with american coffee chain ordering systems for my caffeine/catch-up fix with a friend.

However, the highlight of the week and perhaps the ultimate 'American' experience was our visit on a balmy November (try saying global warming isn't real) afternoon to the East Wing of the White House. Organised for the exchange students by our exchange coordinators we were able to wander a selection of the corridors, admire the rooms and their history (the extent of which the European students felt a little superior over), and even - with the photography ban lifted - take photographs, because did it even happen if it wasn't captured on film?

 A Room with a (slightly wonky) View
A Room with a (slightly wonky) View

Seeing the inside of the White House had an air of surrealness similar to that which I felt during the Garden Tour. Aside from the stringent security, designed, one felt, as much to instil fear as to protect against threat, it felt hard to reconcile what seemed to be just a beautiful English country house with one of the most powerful places and symbols in the world.

We concluded the tour with another cultural experience by going to District Taco to sample some (albeit Americanised) Mexican food. I have been told countless times by my American friends in Edinburgh that 'Yeah, British people can't do Mexican food' so I was eager to try some in the States. District Taco has a number of locations across the Washington and Virginia area and you are able to customise your order, Subway-style, whether it be tacos, burrito or quesadilla. It had been highly recommended to me by a friend here and I have to say, after my first time trying soft tacos, I will definitely be making a return visit.

However, the day of cultural experiences was not done as later that night Bahar had invited me to an evening of spoken word by DarkMatter, a trans south asian performance art duo who were performing at GW. Spoken word is an art form I had never encountered before going to university and some of my friends in Edinburgh are heavily involved in it, so I was very keen to be in the audience. Their fresh, radical intelligence was amazing to hear - hearing a mention of the name of my mother's state in India was also nice for me - as they articulated how bringing cultures together can, and have been, highly destructive.

For culture with an uncomplicated moral message and most likely complicit in the processes DarkMatter were calling out, I went to see the latest James Bond film, Spectre at the AMC Loews Theatre in Georgetown (the same cinema where I had previously attended a church service) with a group of other exchange students. A Bond fan already, being overseas made me even more appreciative of the positive portrayal of my country, despite any flaws the film might have, seeing Britain as it wished to be seen in the eyes of the world.

To another week of experiencing different cultures and their interaction,

Grace

By gjmacdougall

This Halloween was scary for me, but not in the way you might expect.

It was because this week was the first time I saw the inside of an American hospital when helping a friend who had to go to ER. It was the same as a hospital in the UK with the long waiting times and hard working and over-worked staff - until a nurse came to ask for my friend's insurance card. It was only after she had also handed over her credit card for the $100 copay that they would touch her.

American health insurance is a topic that is much discussed and disparaged in the media, even put to comic effect - as in the episode of The Office (US version) where Dwight is put in charge of choosing a health care plan - and a visa stipulation meant I had to take out a policy, but seeing how the process fully works in person is still quite shocking and upsetting. It all seemed so deeply unfair that life and death are so explicitly linked to economics. One is forced to become a doctor to themselves and decide if their condition is life-threatening enough to make that visit to the doctors or emergency room worth it. I feel so privileged with the health care under the NHS (despite any flaws people feel it may have) that I take for granted in the UK. I don't understand how this system still exists in America. And on a practical note, the experience was a definite wake up call to carry my insurance id on me at all times.

The nightmare of that awful incident and my first exam-style midterm over, it was time to fully embrace Halloween in America.

This involved trying and failing to get into the immensely popular Rocky Horror Picture Show produced by GW theatre society Forbidden Planet Productions, going to the uni-organised Boo Bash in Kogan Plaza (a stereotypically American affair with free burgers, candy floss and candy apples), and the uniquely DC event of Trick or Treating on Embassy Row - my first ever time trick or treating. The British embassy slightly let down the side on that front by refusing to participate which is a shame when their 'candy' is among the most prized!

A Short Cut to Candy
A Short Cut to Candy

I must admit I was a little sceptical when my American flatmate back in Edinburgh told me Halloween was her favourite 'holiday', as in England people will just use the night as an excuse to have a party, but here there is a whole culture around Halloween and it is a key part of the celebration of all things 'fall'. There are many activities leading up to Halloween - remember, we exchange students picked our pumpkins for it two weeks ago - and the night itself almost seemed anticlimactic because so much had happened before. Halloween carries the importance of a holiday and there is a general festival atmosphere in the air, it being common not only to see a pirate shopping in the days leading up to it, but acceptable to guess and compliment their outfit choice - when someone appreciated the carved pumpkin I was carrying, it did make my night.

For the over-21s, October 31st meant heading to Nightmare on M Street along with a staggering amount of others in costume. An observation of Stateside attitudes to Halloween costumes is that really any kind of 'fancy dress' (as the British would say) is on show, whereas in the UK people tend to dress up more readily for other events, so feel the need to make their Halloween outfit suitably 'scary' to fit the occasion. And again in America, there is some truth in cliché, as I saw a number of costumes of the kind mocked in Mean Girls.

Though Sunday meant an end to Halloween activities it also was the day of something I had been looking forward to all week since passing the place whilst walking back from the gallery and museum: having dinner with a friend at The Hamilton. The food was delicious, the ambience classy and the company fantastic, so was the perfect way to celebrate the transition into another month of exchange life, the second truly scary part of the week being the feeling that the end of the semester is coming too close.

The week ahead is a little less crazy but equally exciting, with events such as the GW Alternative Breaks Fall Ball and a tour inside the White House itself!

Anyway, to sign off with an American phrase that I heard for the first time this week -

Catch you on the flip side,

Grace

By gjmacdougall

This week has been completely consumed, in the best way possible, by tech week and performances for the final show I am a part of this semester, GW Shakespeare's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. As I have found with most of my experiences here in America, theatre at GW can get a little intense, with 5 shows being performed over three evenings. However, again I am incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to create something with the loveliest, most talented people, as well as to the friends who came to give their support. This experience has definitely been the biggest highlight of my time here so far.

The greatest people you will ever meet...
The greatest people you will ever meet...

Keeping up the energy for the performances of course meant lots of caffeine and sugar, the latter of which I found in the form of 'froyo', going with a friend to the FroZenYo store next to Farragut West Metro Station. I had thought Edinburgh did pretty well on the frozen yogurt front - at home me and my friends are fans of 'Frisky' - but it seems DC has the last word. Being priced by weight and not by size and topping means that you can try the whole range of flavors at FroZenYo (such as pistachio, birthday cake and dulce de leche) and all the toppings (think pecans and blueberries through to brownies and gummy bears)...before taking it to the till and realizing you have the size and price of a small dinner (which is in fact what it becomes - 21, who?!).

Inner peace at FroZenYo (photo credit: Kelli Jones)
Inner peace at FroZenYo (photo credit: Kelli Jones)

Another activity that I enjoy in Edinburgh is going to the galleries and museums - the National Museum of Scotland being my favourite place in all the city - so I was looking forward to continuing my week of theatre and culture by finally visiting more of the vast number here in DC. On Sunday I went to one of the free classical music concerts held in the West Garden Court at the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall, as part of the 74th Season of Concerts. There I listened to the National Gallery of Art Orchestra play music by Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, the beautiful melodies mingling with and becoming part of the equally breathtaking setting.

I also briefly visited the Smithsonian American Art Museum which again had stunning architecture and again felt a little like a film set, modelled in the style of classical Europe yet oddly retaining its sense of newness. I was also slightly brought up short by a reminder of home, the collection turning out to contain a number of paintings by John Sargent which gave me a surprise pang of the heart.

However, this week I was sharply reminded that these great experiences I have been having are not shared by everyone. On shopping at Whole Foods (poor planning on my part meant I claimed I did not have enough time to go to favourite Trader Joe's and instead went to the closer but more expensive Whole Foods to 'grab a few things', which inevitably always ends with financial regret) I was talking to the cashier about being an exchange student and he asked 'do you like America?', to which I replied 'I'm finding it great!'. What slightly shocked me was his response of, 'I hate it', a stark contrast to the sometimes extreme patriotism and even nationalism that is a stereotype of America and that I have encountered here, saying he would rather go somewhere like Egypt instead.

This uncomfortable mixing of two worlds of experience was again to be noticed when at the American Art Museum, the grandeur of the building, combined with the triumphant classical music somewhat mysteriously blaring from speakers outside, having a dystopian feel when contrasted with the area of Downtown/Chinatown DC, a neighbourhood appearing much less affluent than the area of Foggy Bottom I have become used to.

Another off note was struck when passing the White House on the way there, a heated argument apparently regarding a DC tour being given what one felt was special attention by police officers, due to the ethnicity of those involved. However, it is not the first time that my friends and I have been wary of the police and security and their seemingly overly heavy-handed attitude.

Now that the play is over I feel both free and slightly lost. However, this week I am able to distract myself with the wonders of 'Halloweek', seeing the 31st of October celebrated in a way unlike anywhere else in the world.

To the end of a second full month here, and the opening of a third,

Grace

By gjmacdougall

The Lerner Health and Wellness Center at GW is a place where a large number of students spend their time. Membership comes free with enrollment, so why would you not use it? Everyone else does.

A friend recently shared an article from The Guardian about orthorexia and this made me start thinking about image, health and wellness in the States. Yes, it's a stereotype, but I do get the feeling there's a greater emphasis on image in America. The food, I would say, could be deemed 'unhealthier' than in Europe, but the gym and fitness culture is also bigger, along with the portion sizes. And there seems to be an uneasy relationship between the two.

In terms of health, it feels sometimes like the 'wellness' has been a little lost.

Obsession with health and fitness is something that it is all too easy to get sucked into. Obviously exercise is medically a good thing, but you get the sense, and experience it also, that the motivation to work out comes from places of insecurity over image and the idea that 'everyone else does', rather than for the health benefits.

As mentioned before, in terms of food, everything is amplified: the portions, the decadence, the intensity of flavour - and also the guilt. There's this idea that if you eat something deemed 'unhealthy' you have to justify it by explaining how you'll go to the gym later so that it will all be ok. You skip that cupcake catch-up with a friend...or you do it anyway, and then beat yourself up about it. Everyone else does.

And of course the market also has its say.The cost difference between traditionally 'unhealthy' foods such as burgers and cookies and 'healthy' foods is quite staggering, and though in the UK the 'unhealthy' foods are also cheaper, I feel it is not quite to the same extent. If you have limited money, the choice has already been made for you.

***

The idea of image and presentation came up again during my week (though in a much more lighthearted way) with one of the scarier moments of my life: doing a Southern American accent in front of a drama class full of American students, for midterm rehearsals. One cliché that I was thankful is mostly a reality is the welcoming and encouraging nature of Americans, as they were very supportive about it and still wanted to talk to me afterwards, so they didn't seem too offended with my attempt...

This contrast between Britain and the States was also found in my participation with friends in a 'trivia night' at Tonic, a restaurant I walk past longingly every day on the way to class. 'Trivia night' is the equivalent to the British 'pub quiz' (and my friend who had studied abroad in the UK did say the lounge at Tonic had one of the most pub-like atmospheres she had found in DC) but I did not find the questions to be equal. Left to my own devices I would have been lucky to score a handful of points - if I go again I definitely need to brush up on baseball, presidents, and Dragon Ball Z - but my smarting competitive pride was more than soothed by the restaurant's basket of tater tots, a food stuff I had only ever heard described in films and on tv, let alone eaten.

Other unique State-side experiences were checked off this week, watching the CNN Democratic Debate whilst eating heavenly homemade brownies, pumpkin picking at Larriland Farm, Maryland (sampling the delicacies of funnel cake and apple 'cider' and driving past scenery that reminded me of New Jersey, bringing the memories rushing back), going to the Smithsonian National Zoo and also attending the Washington Prayer Gathering on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.The biggest was probably the White House Fall Garden Tour which was a very surreal experience, as a house and gardens which ultimately seem so ordinary, end up meaning so much, complete with the full force of US security.

Up close and personal
Up close and personal

However, it's not only the big things but also the little ones that continue to strike you as different and serve as a reminder that you're in the US. Groups of smartly dressed sororities and fraternities spilling onto the streets on their way to chapter meetings and initiations, the blank stares you're met with when you call a piece of clothing a 'jumper' instead of a 'sweater', police officers with guns - these all add up to create the experience of a different culture.

This week has been the one where I've most been missing home, the sudden drop in temperature reminding me of England and Edinburgh, combined with the flood of GW students' parents arriving for 'Parents Weekend'. However my friend's family who were down for the weekend very generously also took me out for sushi (like brunch, it's becoming a problem) at Kaz Sushi Bistro, ending the night with my first ever crêpe from GW-staple Crepeaway, and so making me feel part of a family even though far away from it.

The past few days have been unexpectedly laid back but this week things pick back up again with tech week and performances for the GW Shakespeare Company show 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', along with a few deadlines.

To another week of American experiences, cliché and otherwise,

Grace

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