On March 8th, there was a Deaf rally in front of the Capitol Building where Deaf people and special guests who have long been concerned about the Deaf community gathered to speak out and fight for their rights, including better education, communication, and jobs. Although I took American Sign Language this semester, I am still not so familiar with the Deaf culture. Hence, it was a precious opportunity for me to get to know more about Deaf people, and how they struggle in their daily lives.
When I arrived at the Capitol, many Deaf people had already been seated, and the speeches from several special guests had already started. Even though most guests used sign languages during their speeches, I could still fully understand them through their facial expressions, body language, interpretation, and the written lines on the screen. Through their speeches, I realized that Deaf people have been deprived of their basic rights, which hearing people have long taken for granted. Among several speeches, one of them impressed me the most. The special guest said, “We are not here to be angry. When people go low, we have to go high. It’s about education. It’s about moving. It’s about fighting.” I could barely stay calm when facing inequality, so I was so moved by the speech. Also, I was moved by how Deaf people got united in the cold and windy weather just to fight for themselves and their generations.
Through the Deaf rally, I learned to pay more attention to other people’s needs and rights. Sometimes, we tend to forget to do so because we do not face those difficulties and inconveniences as others do. In addition, I would like to know more about Deaf community, and their situations in my home country, after I finish my exchange student program in GWU. Though it still seems to be a long way to go, I believe Deaf people will have the same rights as every citizen does, and all their efforts will pay off in the near future.
It has been more than two months that I’ve been in DC and I still feel like I didn’t visit all the parts of the city. Two months without visiting any museum made realize that I need to discover more places in Washington DC.
I started my week by going to the Embassy row trick or treat in Halloween. It’s one of the things that you can only do in DC, so I went for it. I really liked how each Embassy welcomed us with candies and got to present its country. I also enjoyed stacking a huge amount of candies that I still have now by the end of the week. If you’re in DC in Halloween, make sure to walk through the Embassy Row.
I also decided to finally visit some museums in the city. I started by visiting The National Museum of Natural History and it was really interesting. It got a diverse human, animals, and rocks collections. It showed different species of mammals, ocean creatures, insects and historical bones. It also exhibited the history of the human evolution and human origins. So, if you’re curious about the natural world and its discoveries, the National Museum of Natural History will be the best for you. I also visited the National Gallery of Art. Even if I don’t understand much about art, I would say that the pieces of art in the gallery were really beautiful. From paintings to sculptures, everything was so sophisticated and really beautiful. They represented the art in different centuries from different countries and artists. After visiting these two museums, I made a list of all the museums I want to visit before the semester ends (hopefully).
In addition to that, I visited the United Sates Botanic Garden. Basically, it’s a plants’ museum where you can find different species of plants. I really enjoyed walking through all the types of plants and get to know more of them. It also felt like a tropical jungle so it was nice to be there and forget the city’s cold weather that day. I also took the opportunity this weekend to ride a bike around the city. I really love the foliage of Washington DC’s and its colors during the Fall season. I really appreciate how good it was to visit the city in that beautiful scenery.
And the best way to finish this week was definitely attending the concert of Imagine Dragons in Capital One Arena. I feel really lucky to be in a city where there are many concerts happening. After Katy Perry, Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias, I had to experience more of US concerts. It’s true that the tickets are really expensive but the cheapest way to get them is waiting until the last minute. That concert gave me chills in many songs and hearing Imagine Dragon performing live was the best thing that happened to me this week.
If you know me, you’ll know how much I love hiking and outdoor adventures. It was always my favorite activity and my biggest achievement was climbing the highest peak in North Africa, Mt Toubkal 4167m. I knew I had to join GW trails which is a student association that organizes hikes and trails around DC. It has been a while that I wanted to go to their hikes and it finally happened this weekend. It was Billy Goat Trail in the Great Falls Park. I can’t describe how beautiful the scenery was. Unlike Moroccan hikes, that have more of an arid scenery, Great Falls Park had the best combination between green forest, the Potomac river, scrambled rocks and the narrow flows. The trail costed 15$ and it covered transportation. I think that the hike wasn’t challenging and was relatively easy. The fun part was climbing through the rocks like little goats. I was really amazed how such a beautiful exists just 30 minutes from dorm; which again makes Washington DC more than a historic and political city. This hike was a great way to forget about the city’s hustle and make new friends from the GWU community. I would definitely sign up for more of GW trails trips.
The perks of having international friends is to get to try their food and restaurants. We decided that each one of us will take the group to his/her local restaurant in DC. Since I have many Koreans friends, we started with Korean food. The restaurant was called Yechon and it was located in the Korean town in DC. It is true that the meal was totally different from the one in Morocco but it was really good and spicy. We went after that to the cutest bakery ever called Breeze Bakery and Café and it had the best cakes, cupcakes, tiramisu… So, if you’re Korean or would like to try Korean food I’d recommend you to go to the Korean town. It also has an H-mart, Korean market, if you would like to buy a pack of noodles to survive the expensive food in Washington DC.
I also went to a hockey game this weekend. It was again a sport that I have never watched before. I’m still surprised how the popular sports in the US are totally different from Morocco or I would say the rest of the world (American Football). In Morocco, football (soccer) is the most popular sport but I’m taking the opportunity of being in the US to watch other ones. In comparison to Baseball, Hockey was way much more fun. The best part was when the players were fighting and all the audience screaming and cheering. I’ve never imagined that Hockey would be that tough but it was a fun game overall. Speaking of sports, the next thing I need to remove from my bucket list is a basketball match. Can’t wait to go to one. Stay tuned.
It has been such an eventful fours months that it seems crazy that it’s all over! It has been a week of last celebrations, reminiscing and goodbyes. As some people head home and others move on to their next
adventures, it’s hard to accept that you’re not going to be spending every day with the same bunch of people that you have come to know and love.
Luckily, it's not a final goodbye! People may live on opposite sides of the planet but its definitely not the last time you get to see each other. The experiences you share don't disappear and the bonds you make last a lifetime. That’s the thing about studying abroad - yes you study and yes you are abroad. But it is the people that you share it all with that really make the difference.
Looking back on the semester, it has been packed with protests, parties, food, travel, learning, sport and friends! I got the opportunity to cross so many things off my bucket list! From witnessing the inauguration to participating in the Women's March and Muslim Ban Protest. Spring Break in Miami to road tripping down South! Watching the Wizards, Tar Heels and Colonials win! Being in central park during a blizzard with no one else around. Pedal boating on the Potomac surrounded by the cherry blossoms. The countless nights spent down at the Lincoln Memorial. And not to forget the more mundane nights (which are also some of the best) of cooking all together in Shenkman Hall.
Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn new things (both in and especially out of the classroom), try new things, learn what you like and don't like, travel, meet people from all over the world! It is six months that you get to attempt anything and everything - fail at some and succeed at others.
It truly has been a great time at GWU, in DC and in the US. Foggy Bottom very quickly became our home that it feels genuinely weird to be leaving. To all those that made the past semester possible - a massive thank-you! And to all those who are about to arrive - enjoy!!!!
Goodbye America - it's been fun!
It sounds cliche, but it seriously seemed like last week when we were walking around with our group leaders around DC, taking in the sights and making multiple trips to Target for groceries. Three days ago, I sat for my last final and yesterday, I bade farewell to my home of five months - DC.
The final week was a whirl of meeting up with different groups of friends, trying out new restaurants and revisiting ones we've been before. Parties were held, apartments were cleaned and emptied. Sleepless nights weren't because of cramming for finals, but rather the rush to pack to hit the move-out deadline.
In retrospect, choosing to do my exchange in DC was probably one of the best choices I've ever made. From the election rush and the slew of protests in January and February to the proximity of popular spots like Florida that came in really handy during spring break and finally to the host of lawn festivals and restaurant week when warmer weather rolled around in April and May - I constantly found ways to entertain myself regardless of the seasons. GWU presented me with an endless string of opportunities - from joining hikes with student group GW TRAILS to being accepted as a member of a co-ed fraternity to experience Greek Life to attending career fairs and related events, I had reaped immense knowledge and managed to immerse myself in a whole new experience this semester.
Perhaps one of my best memories from DC is visiting the
monuments at practically any time of day. From having picnics on the national mall and reading a book on the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial - these are experiences unique to DC/GWU students (to the envy of many). Bored at night? No problem, round up a few friends and go for a walk of the national monuments basking in moonlight. Feel like you've been eating too much recently? The scenic views of your running route along the national mall provide the definitive motivation.
I am grateful for the friendships forged, the memories created and the help I've received in navigating these 5 months of independent living. Thank you to everyone who's made a difference!
Audrey out. (Mic drop)