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!
A lot happened this week. Unfortunately it's the week I learnt about just how painful it is getting your hand stitched up. It happened because I wasn't paying attention to the direction of cutting a cauliflower (note to self: never cut sideways). It's also because I lacked experience in the land of living by yourself and cooking for yourself. For the first minute or so after slicing my hand open with an extraordinarily sharp Ikea knife, my mind went blank, my heart started racing because I've never been good with blood. I got a bandaid out from my emergency kit but realized the cut was way too big and too deep. I grabbed some paper towels and pressed on the wound until my Uber transported me to the Colonial Health Centre. I didn't wait for long but it was also useless because they couldn't give me any stitches. They wrapped me up in bandage, charged me $30 for service and I was out the door. I was redirected to the Emergency Room which was in McPherson Square. Accessible by Metro. That's good. Then I waited in the waiting area for about 2 hours. I guess I wasn't dying so why the rush. A lovely nurse practitioner gave me 6 stitches. We talked about Grey's Anatomy to pass time. It looked horrible, still does, reminds me a bit of the Frankenstein's monster sorta thing. Whole procedure would cost me something like $500 AUD, which is bad if you had no health insurance (luckily I do). In about a week I'll be getting the stitches out, and it seems to be healing fine. It's an experience that teaches me to be more careful especially when you're overseas.
Onto some better news. Despite the cut, I was still able to go on a white water rafting trip with GW TRAiLs on Saturday. The closest place to raft was unfortunately in Ohiopyle State Park all the way in Pennsylvania (3 hours drive one way). If it weren't for the long drive, I'd definitely go every second weekend. No experience required and you don't even need to know how to swim (which is great for a non-swimmer like myself). We navigated through thrilling rapids for about 5 hours with a break in the middle (lunch was provided) and all of that (including transportation) was only $60! You can feel the endorphins rushing through your body. Each rapid is unlike the next. You're getting splashed all over but all you can think about is "Again! Let's do that again!". Our raft and trails leader, Kate, is a raft instructor and worked on the Colorado River over the summer so with her experience an our teamwork, we killed it on the rapids. I wish I had brought my phone to take photos but it was too risky without a waterproof case. So the photo here is the view on the drive to Ohiopyle which is equally as awesome.
I love the outdoors. Before coming to D.C. I spent a month road tripping the west coast of American and Canada (BC and Alberta). I was in awe and fell deeply in love with the canyons, glaciers, forests and the wildlife that inhabits within. It was a good change coming from nature to the city. I mean, after all, we are all social animals that need human interactions.
Throughout orientation week, our leaders told us that we must join GW TRAiLS, a student engagement organisation that goes on outdoor adventure trips throughout the year. At UNSW, we have student organisations that are similar to TRAiLS (UNSW Outdoors Club and UNSW Adventure Society) but since grass is always greener on the other side, I haven't had the opportunity to go on any trips with them. So of course I signed up for TRAiLS at the student org fair. I took the plunge and registered for a Billy Goat hike over the weekend and I was not disappointed at all.
I was also surprised to learn that such a beautiful place exists so close to D.C. We took the bus from the Marvin Centre and was there in an hour. Our large group of students were split in two, each group with 2 guides to lead us on the trail. The hike took around 2 hours to complete and it was more difficult than I thought it would be. Imagine a normal trail with flat elevation, now through that image out of your head and replace it with bit and small rocks everywhere. We had to climb up and down and across (pretty much like a goat, hence the name I guess). At the end of it all, we rested at the Great Falls overlook. What a magnificent sight.
Not only was I able to explore the nature surrounding D.C., I also had the pleasure of meeting new people (one of them was a part-time bee keeper at the university which is so interesting!). My next trip? I'm thinking of either spelunking (caving) or maybe even a haunted hike (or both) but there is so much to do and so little time!
The first week at GW, otherwise known as syllabus week, was nothing short of amazing. Not only do some classes run short, it is also a welcome week filled with exciting activities such as Sports Fair, Org Fair, and Fall Fest. It was also a week of discovering the American learning style, which has smaller classes and somewhat compulsory attendance. The lectures and tutorials structure is replaced by a small seminar-style class that occurs twice a week. One thing remains unchanged and that is the skyrocket prices of textbooks here that are comparable to the prices back home, but at least the textbook rental is cheap. I also love the free gym membership provided to students at the Lerner Health & Wellness Center. It was rather packed for a Friday morning but there were plenty of equipment to be shared around.
I also caught the last Jazz in the Garden on the Friday at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. It was also the day I discovered the spectacular D.C. sunsets. Purple, orange, yellow painted across the sky. People slowed down their pace, paused, to take in the colors that seemed to be too unreal for this world. This was also the time I fell in love with D.C. and all its beauty.
Another highlight of the week would be the 15th Annual Page to Stage performing arts festival held at The John F. Kennedy Center. The Brave Soul Collective gave an insight into the Black Lives Matter movement as well as highlighting issues faced by Black LGBTQI communities. The moving performance was followed by a standing ovation from the crowd. Coming from Australia which has a very low population of people from an African background, these issues are often not highlighted in mainstream media. In the coming months, I endeavor to learn more regarding the issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequity that exists in America.
The weekend was complete with a brunch at Ambar and a visit to the markets of Eastern Market on Sunday. I bought two George Orwell books from Capitol Hill Books for $8 and fresh peaches from the market. We followed the sound of jazz and enjoyed the antiques and art along the way. On Monday, we paid a visit to the Air and Space museum as well as the American Indian museum. We were overly ambitious and walked a bit too much and realized that visiting two museums in a day is nearly impossible. Just hope that I won't be too tired for class tomorrow!
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.
I remember the excitement of receiving the email from GWU informing that I was chosen as a recipient for the Inbound Exchange Blogging & Digital Storytelling Scholarship, I was in Beijing at the time attending my first exchange experience for a short winter course at Peking University. Straight after this first leg of exchange, I had planned to arrive in America three weeks before orientation week to go on a road trip in America and Canada before finally going to Washington DC for a semester exchange at GWU. This exchange will undoubtedly be an experience of a lifetime and I am so glad I get to document and share it through blogging and a final video!
I am typing my first ever blog article in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. My name is Maggie and for the past 13 days I have been on the road with my mum traveling the west coast of America. Starting in Los Angeles, we rented a campervan and have driven to Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon (North and South Rim), Page (for the famous Horseshoe Bend Canyon), through the Death Valley into Yosemite National Park and finally arrived at San Francisco (totally 2200 miles!) before taking a plane to Vancouver. I was absolutely blown away by the shear beauty of nature which was not the first thing I had associated America with. In about 7 days I return once again to civilization, this time in Wasgington D.C. and I am looking forward to the many adventures to come. I have been lucky to get a 3-day timetable, with classes from Tuesday to Thursday, which means I get a four-day weekend to explore D.C. and maybe even up and down the East Coast!
Besides all the travelling, I am also looking forward for the courses I am about to undertake at GWU. I am currently an undergraduate student studying a bachelor of civil engineering and commerce (majoring in accounting and finance) at the University of New South Wales. We are usually given a maximum of two semesters to spend studying abroad with exchange partners all over the world. It has been a dream of mine to study in America and I'm not even sure why that is the case myself. Perhaps in comparison to Australia, there is just so much more to do and explore in America. Even though Australia is approximately the same size as America, we have a much smaller population and utilization of land (it's all desert in the middle). Due to the flexibility in the commerce side of my degree, I will be studying a combination of accounting, finance and management courses at GWU. In particular, I am most excited about Real Estate Investment and E-Entrepreneurship, both of which I would not have been able to take back at my home university. I am also keen to participate in the many clubs that GWU has to offer, especially ones related to outdoor/adventure activities and sports.
It will also be the first time living away from home since in Australia there is no "college" culture (a lot of students live at home and travel to university). To save on some accommodation costs (I didn't realise the costs were so high to live in D.C.), I decided to live off-campus in a student accommodation that GWU has linked on their website. It's a few minutes walk from the metro station and then maybe a 20 minute ride to university which isn't too bad. I think the reality of living away from home will only hit once I get there and I will realise the many things I take for granted such as not having to cook or clean most of the time around the house.
My exchange experience at GWU will give an insight in America's culture and way of life, which will be invaluable in becoming a global citizen in this world. Studying in the nation's capital during election year will also give insight into American politics that is so engrained in this country. GWU, I can't wait to see you soon!
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