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By itsmaggiegwu

"Hey, come check this out!"I wearily looked outside the window of the hostel as the other resident pulled up the blinds. White specks fell from the sky. It was falling more slowly and that's how I knew it was snow. The cold weather settled in and it was the perfect day to set up camp inside a small coffee shop a few blocks from the hostel. I have been in Boston since Friday afternoon and I decided to take a break from sight seeing. The last stretch of the exchange program and I was starting to get a little stressed out. Besides thinking about finals, there was also planning the post-exchange travels, making a video for the scholarship, and amongst all of that, trying to think about new start-up ideas. 

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Boston was wonderful. And being here for the first time, I went on to tick off most of the "Top 10 Things to Do in Boston" list on Tripadvisor. Nearly everything was within walking distance with the exception of Cambridge (which was definitely possible but I wanted to save time). A visit to Harvard and MIT was a must, given how famous they were. Harvard even offered free tours at the start of every hour for tourists and prospective students alike. It was led by a senior student who gave a balanced tour on fun facts and need-to-know facts. For example, did you know that Harvard College was the first institution to successfully sue the U.S. government as a result of negligence use of one of their buildings during the Revolution by George Washington and his soldiers? The colonial architecture was spread throughout the campus. Memorial Hall, which supposedly looks the same as the dining hall in Harry Potter was unfortunately closed off to visitors.

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What I loved about this trip was the amount of new knowledge I obtained about the American Revolution, specifically the people and events that transpired that sparked the American people to fight for their freedom and liberty. I followed the Freedom trail (a literal trail that runs through Boston in the form of blue and red bricks on the ground)  and visited the various museums which displayed information regarding The Boston Massacre and later the Boston Tea Party. The Old South Meeting House, Old State House and Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Quincy Market, Old North Church, and finally Bunker Hill Monument were a series of destinations along this trail. As night fell, I entered the Paul Revere House to be greeted with hot apple cider drinks and other 18th Century sweets.

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As I sit at the airport typing out this week's post, I am taken back to reality. Exchange has flown past faster than I ever imagined.

By itsmaggiegwu

The beauty of studying at GW is that so much can happen in a short span of time. In the last 5 days, I've been to an NBA game for the first time, volunteered at the Washington DC Economic Partnership Annual Meeting, and spent 3 days in Chicago.

As a student, I took advantage of the $15 tickets to the Wizards vs. Knicks game held at the Verizon Centre. Given that I had very limited knowledge about NBA, I naturally went for the Wizards. My friend and I arrived at the stadium and ordered Chick-fil-A to go. It was a nail biting game. At one point the Wizards were up nearly 30 points against the Knicks. Empty seats scattered throughout the stadium. Fans in orange surprisingly outweighed those in red and navy. As the game entered the 4th quarter, my friend and I were on the edge of our seats cheering on the Wizards for a comfortable win.

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The next day I put on my business attire to volunteer at the Convention Centre for the WDCEP Annual Meeting. This opportunity came from the Real Estate department at GW because it was related to development. Given my keen interest in real estate, I decided to check it out. The volunteering part wasn't difficult but I was surprised that I was the only one from GW that signed up. After a few hours of peeling off name tags and directing exhibitors to the exhibition room, we were given the chance to sit in on the Luncheon in the Ballroom. In the room sat 200 attendees, and was full of lawyers, architects, engineers, developers, government employees that came to network and listen to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of D.C. talk about what they can do to continue the growth of economic development. I got a free 3 course lunch out of it too so it was pretty worth it.

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Saturday I embarked on a solo 3-day journey to Chicago. The plane ride was only 2 hrs, but delayed by an hour at the airport. By the time I arrived at the Airbnb accommodation which was about an hour by metro and bus from O'Hare, it was too late to catch the show I had planned to watch at The Neo-Futurists (Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind). I had my doubts about Chicago's safety, especially the place I was staying at which was close to the Wilson Red Line - apparently a popular spot for gang hangouts. I had no problems during my stay because I stayed away from catching the metro there and stuck with the bus option.

Since it was my first time in Chicago, I set out to do all the touristy things one might do, such as going to Cloud Gate and taking a picture (or several) with The Bean, getting cultured at the Art Institute of Chicago (with artworks by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Claude Monet), a walk through the Millennium Park, and getting a deep dish pizza (it was an hour wait at Giordano's but it was worth it), and going up to the Sky deck of Willis Tower. The most memorable, however, was the improv show at the Second City e.t.c. It was 3 hours of non-stop laughter with different sketches, songs, and a lot of improvising. Some alumnus of Second City include: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and other famous funny people. Even though my time in Chicago was short, I got a lot out of it. Travelling alone was also unexpectedly refreshing.

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By itsmaggiegwu

empire

Four day weekend - the perfect amount of time for a weekend away from the peaceful D.C. to the hustle and bustle of New York City. We arrived in the Megabus as the lit up billboards welcomed us to NYC (side note: the bus was incredible - they allowed us to go on an earlier bus with no extra cost and everything was clean and comfy, would definitely go by Megabus next time). We rolled our luggage through the small puddles o water on the sidewalk that had formed from the rain earlier. It was still sprinkling a bit but it was nice. The heavy fog and clouds prevented us from going up the Empire State Building to view the City that Never Sleeps. Nonetheless, we had plenty of other things to explore. We pushed through the crowds in Times Square and stood there for a while to take it all in. Then the  Empire State of Mind started playing over and over in our heads:

In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There is nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you,
Lets here it for New York, New York, New York

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The highlight of the night was definitely the walk over Brooklyn Bridge. Light rain touched our faces as we paced. We stopped a few time to turn and take in the magnificent lit up skyline of Manhattan on the other side. The bridge was almost deserted with a few joggers and people riding home on their bikes. We walked towards Dumbo in the middle of the darkness to get photos of the Manhattan Bridge.

We stayed at an Airbnb place on Chauncey St in East Bushwick of Brooklyn. It was a small 2 bedroom apartment right next to the Metro (convenient but also slightly noisy at night) with 5 beds crammed into one of the rooms. The hostess was really nice and provided us with everything we needed (cream cheese bagels included). This accommodation costed about $32 per person per night which was incredibly cheap. Slightly far from Manhattan but getting the metro to the city was easy and only costed a standard $2.75 per fare.

The next few days were spent by exploring the Financial District (Wall St, the Charging Bull, New York Stock Exchange), Battery Park,Statute of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, Central Park (which was quite amazing seeing the massive city surrounding this green piece of land), the MET, getting 99cent pizzas before watching Fiddler on the Roof in Broadway!
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The next two days were mostly spent in Brooklyn which was probably my favorite place in New York. In particular, Williamsburg and Bushwick both had a lot of local culture with amazing street art, markets selling creations in the form of canvases, paintings, jewelry, restaurants (which also drowned in street art) and so much more. It reminded me of Newtown, a suburb in Sydney which gives off the same hip, young, artsy vibe.

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Foods that I recommend: Roberta's Pizza in Bushwick, best in Brooklyn with long lines on a Monday morning. Criff's Dogs, for the authentic American hotdogs experience for cheap. Dunwell Donuts, for the vegans with a sweets craving (all the donuts are vegan here and they taste amazing). The Little Owl, which is right under the Friend's Apartment with people packed to the rim (get the meatball sliders and cheeseburger). 99cent Fresh Pizza near Broadway, it's cheap, it's tasty, it's pizza. Cold Stone Creamery, for some great ice cream in Time Square.

 

I loved the experience in NYC but I probably couldn't live there long term. The subway was convenient but incredibly dirty, as were the roads. It was also a harsh reminder of the reality of the rate of homelessness and people suffering from mental illness who could not afford shelter or healthcare. It was a sore sight to see this happening in supposedly the greatest city in the world. Maybe this will change in the future - let's just hope America elects the right president to run the country.

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