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By inepalacios

While the past week I was talking about the places I knew in the US, my class, the journeys and the people that I know, I ran out of space to talk about one the most lovely aspect of my exchange experience: running around DC.

At the beginning I felt that this habit would not be interesting enough to write about. Week after week, the people I met, the places, and the enjoyable moments made it impossible to avoid talking about this activity. I actually discovered for the first time most of the most important place of DC while running.

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The first time, I went to the Washington Memorial and the White House with one of the exchange friend, Johanna. Since that time, I have not spent any week without going for a run. The following week was the turn to see the Lincoln, the Jefferson and the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial, it was awesome: the smooth wind, the landscape, the Potomac, the serenity, the beauty of the city by night made enjoyable every instant. The last time, on Friday afternoon, while running to the Capitol, I saw the best sunset I have ever seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Running To The CapitolXC

The best aspect of my running experience in DC was that I could find a running team “to temporarily replace” my running team in Buenos Aires. No doubt that both groups are particularly different, but wonderful in their own way. I miss my Argentinean team, but meanwhile I have been spending enjoyable trainings with the GW Cross Country Club, the guys of the team are really friendly people. Thanks to this team I could know new places, new roads and news neighborhoods. Most importantly: being part of the group allows me to experiment another aspect of the GW students’ world.

Many people told me that running is boring, for me is a way to relax, to keep active, to enjoy the nature, to clear my mind.  In the past years, running was the chance to spent time with my friends. Now, it allows me to get to know more people, the city and to get involve in another great GW experience.

By inepalacios

If two weeks ago the solution to see all the new friends and to save time to study was organizing a party in my dorm, this last week there was no solution. I had no other choice but to join all of the proposed plans made by my new friends, adding more incredible moments to my exchange.

The great plans started since the Sunday the 26th, when the exchange students from Australia decided to organize a party to celebrate the Australian independence. Games, music, jokes, and typical Australian food, which were delicious, set the precedent for all the rest of the exchange students to share our culture. Timo, the other Argentinean student, and I were thinking that we definitely should prepare some of our typical food: empanadas, as soon as possible.

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To not miss each other, the exchanges students planned to go to another excited Colonials’ basketball game. As it was expected, the Colonial’s victory required celebration, so  we had a dinner in Timo’s room, and played songs on Timo’s ukulele.

 

On Thursday night the plan was impossible to refuse: Nima and Nadine, both exchange students celebrated their birthday, although I had a class on Friday morning I ended up going to Nadine and Nima’s party for a while.

On Friday despite the fun moments my thought was “I spent 4 weeks in DC, with the exception of the orientation week, I didn’t go out of GW’s campus”. But with the weekend, the solution to my concern appeared.

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Agustín, a  Spanish friend organized to have a dinner with Ernestine, Inma, Gonzalo, Gisella, and Javiera (all of them are exchange students who have been studying in Washington since last semester), they were definitely a great company to get to know Georgetown, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in DC. Among talks of history, politics, personal experiences, they shared with me their exciting journey of studying in GW.

chinatown

On Saturday, as a great international city, Washington, DC was prepared to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The best way to get involved in the occasion: celebrate it in the interesting neighborhood of Chinatown. Andrew, one of our EXO leaders, invited all of the exchange students to his home. It was a really nice way to get to know and enjoy Chinatown.

On Sunday my buddy Steven planed to bring me to Dupont Circle, and have a delicious brunch. I was there, when a memory of the first Washingtonians that I knew came to mind. It was in Santa Maria, in the province of Catamarca, in Argentina last year, when I met a couple of Washingtonians who gave me my first demonstration of DC. Among their descriptions they told me “DC is well known for its nice habit to have brunches, the combination between breakfast and lunch, we do it every Sunday”. It was exactly a year ago. By that time I could not imagine that a year later, I would be enjoying that brunch that they had described to me so well in DC.

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At the end, Mary (a friend of Steven who accompanied us), Steven, and I finished walking around the pleasant area of Dupont Circle.

If I was worried because I had not left GW, a weekend was enough to give me the pleasure of knowing Georgetown, Chinatown, and Dupont circle.

But the weekend had not finished yet. Megan, Christine, Sam, Arielle, some American friends that I had met a couple of weeks ago invited me to see the Super Bowl, the most important game in American Football. Although I did not know a lot about American Football, it was an opportunity to get involved in a typical American activity.

At the end of the day, I realized that beside that the parties could be fun, the place nice, and food delicious, spending time with new people is my favorite pastime.

Although I did not talk much about my class, the difficult challenge of studying in a new language is still present. But the friendly people who are accompanying me are the perfect balance, definitely.

By inepalacios

After a first week in US, spending time with my friend Emma in the nice region of New England; after another week knowing DC and the other exchange students; it was time to begin my classes at GW, to begin my exchange routine. But when I say routine, I am not necessarily referring to a boring routine.

These last two weeks of class were not an ordinary experience. It was two weeks to know my professors, to set my new academic goals, to realize how challenging study in English will be for me, to plan how I will reach all my exchange goals.

These two weeks were unexpectedly full of new senses. On one hand, I was afraid of not being able to understand each word of lectures, because all of my professors speak in a speed that is really difficult for me. But on the other hand, these weeks were to propose myself the challenging to learn and involve myself in issues that I really want to get to know. I realized that there are many academic skills to acquire, and at the same time a lot of people to get to know.

These two weeks were worth to stop some concerns I had before starting.

- I was afraid of not be able to understand mathematics topics in my class of Public Finance, but after a revision I realized that my home university provided me a strong base in mathematics. I noticed that I am ready to learn about the US public finance. It will help me distinguish which aspects, the Argentinean public finance – a typical system of developing country- could improve following the political and economical aspect of the US public finance.

- I wanted to take an Argentinean economic policy class that is offered only this semester in my home university, so I thought that I was loosing to learn about these issues but I noticed that the Latin America class that I am taking has an important approach in the Latin America’s economic policies and the professor is very dynamic.

- I was afraid to not take advantage of GW since I wasn’t taking a class about American or Political History, but I noticed that my Poverty, Welfare and Work class is a course that not only addresses the issue of poverty, but also address American poverty problems, so I am having the opportunity to learn deeply about the US and about one of the social issues that I am interested in.

- I was wishing to be engaged in some American community service and I found that my Ethical of Leadership class is a course that not only has an activity of community service as a requirement, also it offers a good guide to learn about the practices of human services.

First conclusion: I am really gratified with the GW courses that I am taking. So, I just have to be responsible with this great opportunity to be studying at GW.

In each first class of all of the courses I was remembering the EXO’s advice: to get contact information of someone in our class to ask help whenever we need. So, just waiting to get some contact information from my classmates I found more than a simple contact information. In each class I found really friendly people.

In Public Finance I knew Darby, Christina, and Sohyoun and we met to work in the first assignments.

In Ethical of Leadership I knew Nadia and Megan; they have been helping me to find some activity of community service.

In Poverty, Welfare and Work, I knew Emily, she let me borrow her class notes.

In Latin America I knew Steph, she is a really nice person, we have shared not only classes, but also dinners, hang outs, parties, potlucks, and long talks. We also are planning to travel together! Thank Steph for those fun moments!

But also, I could meet with the people who I knew before to arrive to DC.

One of them is Fernando. I met Fernando a month ago, thanks to one great friend in Argentina, Marcelo. Thanks, Marce, for introducing me to your friend. Thank you, Fernando, for the great welcome, the coffee, the DC references, I was missing a good Argentinean talk.

Also I knew Chelsea, a friend of some guys that I met on new years in Fairfield. Thank Chelsea for your willingness to help!

Moreover, I started to do Language Exchange with one of my EXO Leaders, Whitney. She is so nice, we had been talking long talks, hanging out, and going to basketball games. She also was helping with my writing, thank you so much Whitney!

Also I met two Chilean girls, Gisella and Javiera, they are so lovely, we share outings and they invited me to visit their OAE where they are working.

I can’t forget of my dear buddy, Steven. He was studying in my home university the last semester. I can say that he was one of the people who helped me pass the English exam to be here. These last weeks, he has been inviting me to hang out with his nice friends, Bert, Betsy, Anna. We also had a nice dinner with his dad. Thank you so much Steven for everything!

Anyway, it was the beginning of this last weekend and I felt overwhelmed with all of the reading that I had, and all my expectations to hang out with all my new friends.  How can I do to see all of them? What can I do to spent time with the Exchange students? How can I plan with them but save time to study?  I realized that the best thing would be to organize a meeting in my apartment. So, I invited all of them.

We were almost 45 students among my friends and friend of my friends in my apartment. Us music, Latin-American music, Argentinean music, games, dancing, jokes, time to talk with all my friends, opportunity to invite other friends, among them to invite Bibi, another Argentinean girl who is studying in American University, so all these made my weekend a good beginning of the exchange routine.

At the same time, I had time to study and see all the new friends.

Again this exchange is exceeding my expectations.

Thanks all for this great class beginning!

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By inepalacios

In my excitement to talk about my first week in DC, I ran out of space to talk about my first week in the United States. The week before I arrived to DC, I had the opportunity to enjoy seven beautiful days with my friend Emma and her family and friends. I met Emma a little more than a year ago in Di Tella, my university in Buenos Aires. She was doing an exchange program for a year, and I shared one of the best and enriching experiences of community service with her. We visited Villa 31, one the biggest slums in Buenos Aires.

Tutoring at a high school in this slum, we started to realize that we share more interests than we knew. We started to spend times with the same group of people, mainly with Clari, another great friend in Buenos Aires. Also Emma was one of the friends who taught me how to speak in English the past year.

Journeys, classes, friends, discussions, English, clubs, projects, university life, ideas, and discussions with her caused me to grow and create great memories. That is how I received the invitation from Emma to spend the days before to start the exchange in her house in Georgetown, Massachusetts with her and her family and how I decided to spend my New Year with her.

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4 boston1It was December 29, 2013 when I entered American territory, more precisely Bostonian territory, at the Boston Logan International Airport. The hug that I gave Emma was the warmth that I needed after facing the shocking weather that I experienced. A day before, I was enjoying the summer with 99 °F (37°C), but at this moment the temperature was around of 5°F (-15°C).

 

2 new yearWhen I arrived, Emma told me about the New Year plan. We were going to Fairfield, Connecticut, a little town where she is studying and we would be celebrating the New Year with a dinner with friends in her house along the Atlantic Ocean and go to a party at the beach organized by her university. It was the plan, but definitely the celebration exceeded my expectations: games, good music, good food, and nice people.

 

 

That is how Emma´s friend told me about and introduced me to their friends who were studying in GW or living in DC. After the New Year, I had time to return to Georgetown, to enjoy the snow and the quiet town, and mainly to spent time with the Cannon’s (Emma´s family).6 all family

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5 snowWithout a doubt, it was the best transition that I could have had between my country and my university experience in the US. Not only because they were patient with my English, also because I had the opportunity to enjoy time with a really nice American family and learn about their customs, their habits, and spend a really nice time with them. I think few people have the willingness to receive exchange students during their short holidays. I was lucky to have the opportunity to share dinner, play games, talk, eat cookies, drink wine, and play in the snow.

Also I had the opportunity to tour Boston, “the capital of New England”, its garden, its avenues, its nice squares, its traditional market, as well as its food, like the pasta in the Italian neighborhood. Although I still want to return to tour more, the few places that I visited were interesting, entertaining, and nice. Definitely my first week in the US was not only was worthy for exploring the region of New England, it was a week to immerse myself in American life, to perceive and adapt to the contrast between my country and the US.

It was worth learning about the customs and to reflect on my customs. If I had to choose the best aspect of this week I would say that it was Emma and her family because they provided me with warmth and Emma gave me the best understanding of the experience that I was about to start. Who better than she that lived as an Exchange, to know about Argentina and US?

Among my experience and her wisdom, I would like to highlight her advice of living and taking advantage of each experience, activity, projects that GW and DC have to offer, especially the things that I won’t be able to do in my country. Also, it is important to do all of the things with willingness and effort, without forgetting to enjoy it.

I will see if I can follow your advice, Emma. If I can, then next week I will probably be talking about it. To Emma and her family that I am missing, thank you so much!

By inepalacios

I can’t believe it. After nine months preparing for this trip, I am in Washington, DC. A week wasn’t enough time to realize that this adventure has started.

If I thought that it would be easy to take advantage of every situation, the past week taught me that I need to be more prepared physically and mentally to do that. The amount of activities that we (the exchange students) had to do, the new people, the new places, the new feelings challenged and exceeded my expectations.

The cold snap that hit the US didn’t stop the Exchange Orientation Leaders (EXO), Shawna, or Hilary who gave us the best beginning. Their main advice: take advantage of all the resources offered in this orientation week.

Food, trips, tours, parties, information, games, presentations, museums, discussions, and information sessions were some of the activities that we enjoyed. From the past Monday to the past Saturday we didn’t stop with scheduled activities.

The first day, I had time to get to know some of the students that are going to live with me. This opportunity began with a barbecue diner. It was the best American way to start the Exchange, definitely. Thanks to the chef for the delicious diner!

The second day, we learned more about DC and it was a good moment to mentally prepare me for all of the things that this semester has to offer. Shawna and Hilary shared video with us about DC, it was incredible.  During the activities, my Argentinean exchange mate, Timothy arrived. When I saw him, I ran to give him a big hug. We were celebratory after realizing that we were in DC after many months of planning the trip. We are able to avoid any possible homesickness through talks in Spanish, jokes and mates (the typical Argentinean drink).

The third day, we had the opportunity to visit one of the best museums in DC: the Newseum, a museum that allowed us to learn more about contemporary American and international history through the media. Thanks to Shawna and Hilary!

The fourth day, we had the opportunity to learn about the campus of GW through a fun game: the Scavenger Hunt. We took funny pictures in different places around the campus in teams. Not only was it worth getting to know each other, but we also had so much fun touring our new university. Those who have the opportunity to attend GW are definitely lucky.  It is a privilege to have so many resources to develop ourselves into whatever we want.

The fifth day was the trip: we traveled a couple of hours to go to Wisp Mountain. This moment was one of the most fun moments of the week. Not only could we enjoy the beautiful mountain, but we also enjoyed the mountain’s activities. Thank you again to Shawna and Hilary for the incredible excursion.

The last day, time to get to know the Smithsonian, to shop, and to prepare for the formal dinner. The dinner was absolutely incredible and a great opportunity to get to know the exchange students that I will spend time with this semester.

In conclusion, it is not only important to see different places, but to also meet more people while in Washington, DC. Egypt, Morocco, Singapore, Italy, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, China, Australia are some of the places were the other exchange students come from. What do you think about the new democracy in Egypt? What is your perspective on the events that occurred in 2011? Why do you think that Singapore is developing at a different rate than its counterparts? Discussions like these, daily interactions, sharing our expectations, and getting to know many interesting people were the best gifts of this week.

Thank you again to the new friends who gave me a great beginning to the program.

Thank you to the leaders for helping me with my English. Thank you for giving us funny moments and sharing your experiences as GW students and students who studied abroad.

Thank you to Shawna and Hilary for this great welcome, your work was excellent, and it is a pleasure to finally meet you in person!

I hope that I will still see everyone or at least the majority when classes start. Good luck with the start of your semester!

Checkout photos of Exchange Orientation Week on the  Office for Study Abroad Facebook!
https://www.facebook.com/GWOfficeForStudyAbroad

By inepalacios

Hello readers! I'm Ines, from Argentina. During the second-to-last semester of my undergraduate career in Political Science, I will be attending George Washington University. I can’t believe I’m embarking on this incredible journey. I know that it is going to be amazing.

Mis syou

I can't wait to start touring DC, from running around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, to visiting all the museums. I am also excited to join the variety of activities that GW has to offer, like discussion groups, community service projects, sporting events and checking out the nightlife. I’m also looking forward to traveling across the US. Most importantly, I’m excited to meet new people, make new friends, share my culture, enjoy new cultures, and expand my horizons.

I have no doubt that this place will be a big change for me. To be more explicit, I am sharing below some pictures of the little town where my parents were born and where I spent all my summers, Santa Maria.

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The contrast of lifestyle, of people and of environments will definitely break a lot of the social structures that I have known. I know that I have to put in my effort, my joy, and my willingness to make the most out of this great opportunity. I am looking forward to sharing all my new experiences with you.

 

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