They said that life can always hide you surprises for the future. And this weekend, I got to meet my American friend that I never thought I’ll meet again. We were roommates in Morocco when she was doing her summer abroad in my university two years ago. But this weekend, we finally had the chance to meet in the US after such a long time. I went to Atlanta to visit her and her family and to get to see a different part of America which is the south.
The Atlanta airport is one of the biggest ones in the US so the flight was affordable from Washington DC. I really loved my trip there. First, I got to see my friend and spend some quality time with her family. And since she had Indian origins, I had some really great homemade Indian food. It was really great to share some moments with a family in the US and it just reminded me of home and how it’s like to be with your family.
The city was also really nice. The best part of it was Georgia Aquarium. It’s one of the largest aquariums in the world and the largest one in the US. It was really fascinating to see all these types of sea creatures that I’ve never seen before. And the dolphins and sea lions shows were really amusing and worth the whole aquarium entry ticket. Atlanta is also home of the headquarters of Coca Cola, CNN, Delta. So, it was one of the touristy attractions to go and take picture with all the logos and signs of this big multinational companies.
Since Atlanta is located in the south of America, I noticed how different is the south from the north like New York or Washington DC. People there were more open and engage into conversations more in the streets and public places. I also realized that they are slower in their relations and transactions. It just reminded me of my country Morocco. I was always used to a slow pace of life where everyone tend to smile more and talk more. It was really amazing to see how the US as a country in itself is different from a state to another and that’s why I really enjoy travelling because it opens my eyes to many new things and make me discover the different aspects of this country.
This is it, the end of my journey in GWU. I can’t believe it’s already here, the end of one of the best semesters I had so far. But yeah, we all knew this time will come sooner or later. Here I am sitting in the airport waiting for my flight and writing my final blogpost for the semester. I never thought this moment will come by this fast, but time flies here in GWU. Last week was such a hectic week. From finals to the last goodbye parties, it was so emotional to live the last days of the semester.
Studying abroad was an experience that I enjoyed so much. For me being an exchange student meant experiencing a new culture, traveling a lot, meeting new people, and adapting to a new environment that is very different from the one I live in my home country Morocco. Washington DC was one of the greatest places to live in. I really enjoyed living in the city center of the capital of the US and visit all the monuments, museums and touristy spots whenever I felt like: late at night, on sunrise or on sunset… One of the things that I’m very glad I did this semester were all the trip I did around America. Starting from Baltimore, to New York to Florida, to Mexico to Canada to Cuba and finishing with the West coast. I’m so grateful I had the chance to travel around the continent, discover new cultures and take more and more pictures. I believe that being in the US helped me visiting new places I never thought I will visit from Morocco.
Travel was great but the most precious thing I earned this semester were the friendships with people from all around the world. Before coming to the US, I knew I will meet people with whom I will have fun and spend good time. But I never expected that I’ll meet people that will become family in such a short period. I met people with whom I laughed, cried, danced, cooked (mostly pasta and ramen), traveled to exotic places, sang, chilled at dorm on lazy days, spent hours in Gelman procrastinating, and more and more. And I’m grateful I shared the best moments of my GWU journey with them. I think the worst part of the study abroad is the fact that these people will not be around on a daily basis. But memories never fade away and I’ll never forget about all what we lived in GWU. I believe that we will meet again somewhere in the world, maybe in Morocco (such a great country to visit lol) *coughcough* or maybe somewhere else. I know we might be in opposite sides of the planet, but I know for sure our friendships will not end here. The boarding time of my flight to West coast is here, which means I need to end this blogpost here.
GWU was great, the US was great and special thanks to all the people who made my semester memorable. Can’t wait to come back to DC again. It was a BLAST.
The countdown to the end of the semester is here and I can’t believe we reached that point where only two weeks are left to the end *CriesCries* Time really flies in GWU and I feel like orientation week was here days ago.
Having two of my exams really early made my week an intense studying week in Gelman library. Even if the library is really big compared to what we have in our home university, you need to go early to find a table especially when you’re in a group which I never do since I always wake up late and procrastinate a lot before actually starting to study.
The weather in Dc is getting colder and colder and this week was the first snow of the winter. I usually prefer warm weather and hate snow and rain but the first snow of the year is always exciting especially in Christmas time. We usually don’t celebrate Christmas in Morocco so it was really nice to experience the holiday vibes in the US. From Christmas tree, to free hot chocolate and cookies to all the Christmas lights decorations and lights, Washington DC and its weather were really welcoming the holiday season. And to really get into the winter vibe, we decided to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. It was my first time ice skating and I was really bad at it, my only goal was not to slip and break my bones. But it was fun to start learning how to ice skate, maybe one day I’ll be good at it.
We ended the week by a final Christmas party where we had cookies, brownies, candy canes, made ginger bread house and danced to Christmas songs. Since most of us are busy with finals and some will be leaving soon, it was nice to gather one last time and spend great time before we get hit hard by finals.
One more week left in GWU. Stay tuned.
At this point, I think you can understand that one of the main things I enjoy doing in my 4 days long weekends is travelling. I just enjoy visiting new places, taking more pictures and discovering new cultures. And I would say that the on-campus part-time job I got this semester helped me a lot in doing that. This weekend destination was Havana, and it was the most exotic and different place I have been to. I’ve never thought that I would visit this country before, but I think Camila Cabello’s song “Havana” had a big influence on this decision. And it was such a perfect place to celebrate my roommate’s 21st birthday.
Havana was the best place to escape Washington’s cold weather because of its tropical warm weather. I stayed with my four friends in an Airbnb that was in the Old Habana, and once we got there we knew we’re in a totally different place from the US. Havana felt like an old movie from the 70’s and it was beautiful. The special thing about the city was the colorful retro classic cars. And what was really cool about this trip was taking open cars music for a city tour or just to get from a place to another as a normal taxi. Besides that, I also enjoyed taking the Coco taxi, which a yellow cute covered motorcycle, around the city. Not only the cars in Havana were colorful but also the buildings especially the ones around the capitol. What I enjoyed doing the most was wandering around the colorful narrow streets of the city and taking tons of pictures in front of the classic cars. What was also interesting was visiting the museum of the revolution. They portrayed the whole timeline of the Cuban revolution in the walls of the museum and it really helped me learning a lot about the history of this country. And of course what would be a vacation in the warm Havana without going to the beach. The beach was 30 minutes from the city but the road was really enjoyable since we took an open car to get there. From enjoying the clear water of the ocean to drinking coconut water, the beach day in Havana was perfect to forget about studies and GWU.
Even though Havana was a great place to visit and spend four days in, I don’t think I would be able to live there. It felt like the country was laid back in the 70’s. One of the most surprising thing during this trip was the limited internet not only for us tourists but also for citizens. To get internet in Cuba, we had to purchase an internet pass which was around 1$ per hour, search for a WiFi hotspot (Internet park) which weren’t many in the city, and then hope to get some really slow internet connectivity. It was really funny to see dozens of people around the WiFi router trying to connect to the world outside. When I asked locals about how they felt about it, they said it doesn’t really matter for them since they are used to socialize more. No wonder locals were always socializing in the streets or balconies or trying to make conversations with us.
Havana was great and having this trip with great company made it even better. Now, it’s time to stress about finals coming in a week and begin my late night journeys in Gelman library.
This week we had the thanksgiving break that we all were waiting for to get some rest from studies and classes. Since it was kind of a long break, I took the opportunity to travel to Canada. I know many of you will wonder why am I leaving the US in such a big American holiday, Thanksgiving. What’s great about the US is that they start their holidays days before the actual day so I got the chance to try some Thanksgiving food before my trip.Being in Washington DC made it really easy for me to travel to Canada unlike when I’m far in Morocco. I started my trip by Montréal. The city was in Québec, the French speaking province of Canada. Since my second language is French, I and my French friends enjoyed speaking French with the locals. We also enjoyed hearing the Quebec French accent because it was really different from the one in France, which I’m used to use in Morocco. Montréal reminded me a lot of Europe (The architecture, the language, the streets…) One of the coolest thing I did was to hike to the summit of Mont-Royal. The hike was pretty tiring and cold but the breathtaking view of the whole city from the top made me forget about all of that. We visited a lot of places like Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, the old port… And I enjoyed walking through the old city of Montréal in the Christmas vibe. I also tried my first Poutine there which is a typical Canadian meal and I loved it.After 2 days in Montréal, we took the bus to Toronto. I really loved Toronto over Montréal. Because of the cold weather, the streets in Montréal become dead as soon as it gets dark. However, Toronto was such a lively city and it had a lot of places to visit. One of the main characteristics of Toronto’s skyline is the CN tower. So, we took a ferry to Ward’s island to see the beautiful skyline from front of the water. I also enjoyed taking pictures in the Graffiti Alley, trying to ice-skate in the Nathan Philips square with regular shoes on, walking through the Christmas market and trying the really good food in all the diverse restaurants of the city.One of the main reasons of my Canada was to take Niagara Falls off my bucket list. And the greatest thing was that I had the opportunity to visit them from both sides, the American and the Canadian one. The Niagara Falls were the most breathtaking natural wonder I’ve ever seen. They were just magnificent and powerful. I got the chance to see them from really close by taking the ferry to the heart of the Falls and you can feel their real power from there. We walked after that to cross the bridge that links between Canada and the US. It was really cool to cross between the countries in such an easy way. In the US side, I saw the Niagara Falls illuminations which were colorful lights projected on the Falls, and made them even more beautiful during the night. Seeing the Niagara Falls was one of the most impressive things I saw in the nature, and I’m grateful for that. And what a great unexpected way to end my Canada trip is by enjoying music, ice-skating show, Christmas tree lighting and fireworks in my last night in Toronto.
At the beginning of the week, I and another exchange student were invited to have a dinner with an American family to get to know more about the culture and try some homemade food. The event was organized by the exchange program advisors and it was a great opportunity to discover other sides of the Americans and their local life. Our host was working as an exchange advisor in GWU years ago. So, it was really nice to talk to her and her partner about her previous experiences with exchange students and to share with her our adventures in Washington DC. The food was really good and the two hours we spent there made me realize more about the American culture in some different states of the US.
For the weekend, as it says from the title, I went to MEXICO. I have always been dreaming of visiting this country but it was really difficult to do it from Morocco since the flights are really expensive from there. So being the US gave me the opportunity to discover Mexico. My flight was to Cancun but I stayed in Playa Del Carmen which is a city an hour from Cancun. I stayed there from Thursday to Monday. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. In the first day I went to an island called Cozumel where I had the chance to snorkel and swim with all types of fish, sea turtles and starfishes in the Caribbean sea. I also went to two parks: Xel-ha and Xcaret and they were insane. The first one was a water park with many snorkeling spots, slides, rope jumping… And the other one was exhibiting the Fauna and Flora of the region and at the end I stayed for a show that represented the specific music and dances of each region of Mexico. It was really beautiful to see how within one country there are different cultures, and that show was a summary of it all. Mexico is also known for its cenotes which are holes that lead to a pool of turquoise-colored water connected to secret underground caverns. I visited two of them: Dos Ojos and Ik-kil. Those cenotes were surreal and snorkeling there was simply fascinating because under the clear water you can clearly see all the reefs and the beautiful underwater life. And apart from the beautiful beaches and turquoise water, Mexico has a very rich history especially of the Mayans and Aztecs culture. So, it was a must to visit Chichen Itza which is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and one of the seven wonders of the world. It was really fascinating to see how the history of Mayans was carved in the rocks and how it’s still preserved until now. Tulum was also a great city to visit both Mayan ruins and the beach at the same time. What made this trip special is spending it with other Mexicans so I had the chance to get to know more about their culture from a local perspective.Mexico is one my favorites countries right now because it combined between the beautiful white-sand beaches, the tropical forests, the turquoise-colored cenotes, the rich history, the great food and the nice and outgoing people. And it was really nice to see with my eyes that it’s really far from its stereotypes shown in the media.
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.
I know it’s not the Halloween week yet, but in the US they start celebrating it the whole month of October and especially this week. In Morocco, we celebrate many holidays during the year. So, coming from a cultural-rich region makes holidays my favorite period of the year. I was so excited to experience Halloween in the US since in my country we’re not used to celebrate it. We only have some parties going on the night of Halloween and that’s all. But here, it’s a whole new level.
During the week, there were many Pre-Halloween events organized by the university. Donuts, apple cider and candies were served everywhere for FREE. The scary Halloween decorations were all over the places on campus. They also organized a pumpkin carving event in which you can carve your pumpkin and take it with you for free. Me and my roommates decided to take 2 pumpkins home to get in the spooky vibe. There was also that event that I really loved in Kogan Plaza where they served popcorn, cotton candies, pizzas, burgers, and a lot of candies. Being the foodie person that I am, Halloween celebration was happiness for me and I wouldn’t tell you much candies I brought home with me to survive the next days. And to get more in the Halloween vibes, we also decided to bake ghost-themed brownies and share them with our friends.
Even if it’s not Halloween yet, there were a lot of parties organized this weekend. But I wasn’t very lost between my options since they were already limited because of my underage. I was so confused about my costume but at the end I went for the mainstream skeleton. We had so much fun and it was definitely much more better than the Halloween parties we have in my country. It was also really funny to see people in all types of costumes walking DC’s streets during all the nights of the weekend. I’d say that Halloween is definitely my favorite holiday and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next Tuesday in the actual day of Halloween.
I don’t know why they call it Midterms week because for me I’m having midterms for 3 weeks now. This week again I had two midterms and I still have one to go. I can’t wait to see the grades to finally know how I’m performing here in GWU. So, after a tough week of exams, I deserved some rest and fun during the weekend.
One of the experiences that I loved doing during this weekend is going to a corn maze in Lawyers farm in Maryland. As you know Halloween is coming, and there are a lot of activities happening in Washington DC around that. The event was organized by GW Campus Outreach and honestly, we had a LOT of fun. It was my first experience in a corn maze and I really enjoyed it. I have never thought that getting lost in a maze is a real thing. But it was fun being lost for an hour trying to find the exit in the dark while scaring each other. By the end, we had s'mores around the bonfire. It was really cool to get around the fire and talk for a while, especially in that freezing cold weather.
Since I love outdoor activities, after a night in the farm around the fire, I had a hike with GW Trails to Mary’s Rock summit in Shenandoah National Park. The Shenandoah park was two hours drive from GWU but the scenery in Virginia’s roads was so beautiful. The hike was relatively easy, one hour up and half an hour down. But I can’t describe how fascinating the nature was. The trees were colored from red to faded orange colors. It was so beautiful to see the autumn vibe at its best in the park. Golden leaves were covering the narrow itineraries and I totally loved it. The best thing was the view from the Mary’s Rock summit. You just can’t get enough it. I would say it was totally worth the 15$ and going to Shenandoah national Park should be in your bucket list here in DC.
On Sunday, the White House opened its doors for the public to visit. It was a tour in the Gardens and apparently it happens twice a year. You can imagine the massive amount of people in line to get their tickets to the White House at 8 am. After a long wait, we finally got them. It was nice to get a tour around the White House gardens and get that close from the presidential residence. But as the non-morning person I am, I think it wasn’t as impressive as I expected but at the end it was a must thing to-do when living in Washington DC.
And the greatest way to finish the week was to get Moroccan food for lunch. I didn’t think that I would miss it that much. It was SO good and I can ensure that by the approvals of all my other friends that tried it for the first time. At this point, I’m still not homesick yet but going to the Marrakech restaurant reminded me of how much I miss my country and its food.
After a four days vacation in Florida, it was hard for me to get back to studies and school routine. I had my first two midterms the day right after my trip. I didn’t do as good as I used to do in my home university. But it was expected since I didn’t study for them that much. It’s that moment of the semester where I feel guilty about all the times I wasted not studying and my moral conscience starts to speak out loud. Seriously, at a moment I totally forgot that I’m here for studying. But now I feel more motivated and ready to study for my three other midterms. In general, the midterms I had here were similar to the ones I usually have in my university: a mix of multiple choice, true or false and open questions and problems. I think this was because my home-university follows an American-based system. So, I believe that if I study more I would be fine in the next midterms.
Of course, I didn’t spend the whole week studying. In the weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer in the International Monetary Fund Annual meetings 2017. It was a great experience, especially for me, a Finance student. I was helping people with directions and I was answering the questions they had. We also had the right to attend one of the sessions presented during the event. There were many famous personalities in that event like Christine Lagarde… This event is an example of how great it is to study in GWU. Being in the heart of Washington DC gives GWU students the opportunity to attend and participate in international events or get internships in the international organizations. If you want to boost your academic and professional career in the heart of politics, George Washington University will be the best for you.
And in the journey of taking off places in Washington DC from my bucket list, I decided to go to the National Smithsonian Zoo before the winter. Well, it was a nice a place to walk through and discover. But to be honest, for a zoo it was kind of a disappointment. I only saw three or four animals. And each time I’m looking in the cages, I don’t see any animals. I’ve seen much better zoos in Morocco. I think it’s probably because I went in the afternoon and the cold season has already started. So, I assumed all the animals were sleeping. Anyways, if you are planning to visit it, try to go in the warm season (August, September...) and maybe during the morning to enjoy it better. Stay tuned for more adventures after my midterms.