Monthly Archives: January 2013

Here’s to New Adventures

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By claudiadev

This week at GW has been overwhelming. But not in a way that makes me want to ring home and fly back. It’s the kind of overwhelming that makes me incredibly excited for the months to come. Mostly because our cohort of exchange students were blessed with a great orientation program and a great group of exchange orientation leaders. They really made our first week on campus worthwhile and a whole lot of fun. They took us to a college basketball game, got us participating in a flash mob at the Lincoln Memorial, went with us on a tour of the Capitol building, had snow-tubing races with us, helped us get all our Target room supplies back to campus, answered our questions (however strange or off-topic) and became our friends.

One of the activities I found the most fun (and helpful) was the scavenger hunt. At home, our campus is near the city and reasonably enclosed – a full day at University and you’d never see anyone except other students and staff. Here, with the GW campus sitting on city blocks, and our neighbors being the Red Cross, IMF, State Department & World Bank, it really does feel like we’re in the center of things. Luckily GW used pennants to identify their buildings, or else there is a fair chance I will end up walking into some random office building expecting my American Art of the 20th Century class.

In our orientation small groups we were sent off with a double sided list of places to find. Some were worth more points, because they were harder to find, so we decided to aim for the higher point locations first. At each location we had to have a photograph with a group member in it. Because there was a 45 point bonus for the group with the funniest photos we tried to add a little humor into ours. This included feeding one of the George Washington busts chips, and a photo of all of us pretending to be passed out on the ground from jet lag. Lying on the freezing concrete was worth it, because we got that extra 45 points. Unfortunately, we came third overall. But given the amount of fun we had it was well worth it! It also improved my sense of direction, and the likelihood of me wandering off into Georgetown or the National Mall accidentally while trying to find a class is significantly lowered. The scavenger hunt was also good for practical reasons – now we know which CVS is open 24 hours!

My orientation group

My orientation group

The next week will be an overwhelming experience in its own right, because classes are beginning and I’ll need to manage sightseeing & exploring with classes & study, not to mention having fun. But what a lot of adventures lie ahead.

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Experiencing the Diversity

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By zelenkal

At one point last week we were supposed to write down goals for our stay here at GW. One of my goals for a semester was learning from the diversity at GW and US generally. I guess I am not talking for myself exclusively when I say that this week was quite a lesson in diversity for all of us in the group. The last week was really intense. Through various activities we were able to talk to people from so many different countries and see the differences that would have never occurred to us. For me the most striking was seeing that there were people who had never seen or touched snow in their life before, so we could all witness how a completely new experience and amazement look like when having a trip to a mountain resort. Seeing so many different stories gives me a feeling of achievement since being a part of this wide-ranging group makes my first goal accomplished.

The important part of last week was getting to know other people in our group. However, we also learned a lot about the life at GW. Even though the campus seemed to be almost deserted, we got to try a couple of different things that gave us the feeling of being a part of the life here. Back in the Czech Republic, we do not have college athletic programs. Therefore, watching GW basketball game was a real excitement for us. It seems like the whole university becomes part of the team. The other most important activity was the tour around the Gelman library. Browsing the piles of books certainly motivates one, and I believe it made us look forward to classes much more. I had to immediately explore the syllabus for the courses and got so excited that I cannot wait for the classes to start. This is also thanks to our leaders (GW volunteers) that had always been there for us should we have any questions. In the past week they had shared their valuable experiences concerning the studying and living at GW and I dare say they made it much easier for us to get over the hard first couple of days.

Orientation group 6 with its lovely leaders Cailey and Chelsea

Orientation group 6 with its lovely leaders Cailey and Chelsea

So, what is my next goal then? I would like to explore Washington outside of campus more. We’ve only been off-campus few times and every time it was worth it. The best experience off-campus for me was the Library of Congress, even though I only managed to go through the Jefferson Building. It was a very inspiring place, connecting the ideals and basic principles the United States was built upon with the traditional knowledge. This, of course, felt very European seeing the references to Ancient Greece and mostly Italian Renaissance, so I could feel the bond between my permanent and contemporary home.

When I look back and see that I have arrived less than a week ago, I am impressed with everything we did as well as with everything that we have ahead of us. Thus, I would like to wish every student, exchange or not, successful start of the semester. Let’s see what I will be doing and thinking of next week.

A Semester to Remember: Claudia

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By gwblogabroad

ClaudiaHello! I’m Claudia. I grew up in Sydney, Australia, but moved to Melbourne with my family when I was 13. I attend the University of Melbourne, in a city that in recent years has been voted the most Liveable City in the world (It’s a title under much debate by Melburnians themselves, especially when the trains run late!). It’s a city of trams, cafés, laneways, sport, the arts and food. Like all of Australia, gradual immigration from all over the world has made the city diverse and a place full of great food and people. But we’re a tiny city, in a tiny country (population-wise) in comparison to so much of the world. Granted, Melbourne is bigger than Washington. But the Population of Australia is just under 23 Million. That’s 2 million less than Texas, and only four million more than New York State.

At University I’m studying a double major in Art History and Philosophy. They’re probably an unlikely combination, but I love studying them and I always want to learn more, which is the best you can ask for in choosing a discipline! Likewise, I picked DC for exchange because the USA fascinates me and I want to immerse myself into life in Washington. I’ve always been interested by American history and politics, and where better to experience it for real but the nation’s capital. The galleries and museums in Washington are another major drawcard for me given my Art History major.

There’s no doubt that the event I’m looking forward to most is the Presidential Inauguration in late January. I’d been following the American Election (since way back when the Republicans started their primaries) with a mix of fascination at the process and horror at the amount of money spent on campaigns. Once I knew I was definitely going to the USA, and the Election hit it’s final crescendo, it became even more exciting. From an outsiders perspective, the US electoral system – with it’s electoral colleges, swing states, primaries and SuperPacs – seems unbelievably complex. By Election Day itself, I think I vaguely understood how it all worked, but I have to admit for a long while I was following the election with fascination but not real understand of what on earth was going on! I’m sure the Inauguration Day will properly signify a quiet moment in the electoral world of US politics, at least for a year or two! From what I know of US politics though, there’s plenty going on to fill hours of fodder for Pundits on news networks and hours of debates in Congress. When I watched the first Inauguration for President Obama I was amazed at the level of patriotism and energy in the crowd. I’m looking forward to experience that for real on Inauguration Day!

George Washington University, so close to the center of DC, in a metropolitan environment, seemed like the perfect choice for exchange. I cannot wait to study hard and experience a USA university culture. I also want to take time to learn about the cultures spread throughout America. I look forward to exploring the Washington DC mentioned in guidebooks, and immortalized in movies and TV series, but also the DC where people live and work each day, and meet the people that call DC home.

In this last month leading up to Exchange, I’m buzzing with excitement. My friends and family are probably already sick of me blabbering on about everything I’m looking forward to experience.

It really will be a Semester to remember.

From Prague to D.C.: Alena’s Journey

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By gwblogabroad

AlenaI have been learning English for almost my entire life. One of the most important parts of learning a foreign language is exposure to the culture. My mother is an English teacher and in her process of learning spent a considerable time abroad in the U.K. I have dreamed of having a similar experience. In the past few years, while I’ve been attending Charles University in Prague studying English language and literature, I too have been exposed more and more to the English speaking world through new academics, new friendships and vacations to the closest English-speaking country, the U.K. I have felt a strong draw to American culture and when presented with the chance to study for a semester in the nation’s capital, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Now that I have been accepted and going through the application process, there has been so much going on on my mind that I feel it almost impossible to sum up my expectations. At this point it is a mixture of positive and negative anxiety. For a while I had been merely mirroring the excitement of the people around me. However, as I was handed the flight tickets, the reality of this trip struck me. I am still fond of repeating what I believe deep down, that the opportunity awaiting me is going to be an excellent and formative one, but with the date of the departure getting closer with each day, my feeling towards the study abroad experience has been fluctuating between phrases like “I cannot wait!” and “What am I going to do?” My time in Washington will be the first time that I am away from home for an extended period of time. My first time away from my tightly knit circle of friends, family, familiar environment and native language will be an excellent learning experience however, in the time leading up to the actual event, it it causing a bit of stress and anxiety. I guess I really fear a bitter experience similar to Mr. Smith, that begins with “I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled in my whole life, and that Lincoln Memorial! Gee Whiz!” However, I don’t think that when the story of how Alena goes to Washington will end in the same way that Mr. Smith’s does. I am extremely hopeful and fondly looking forward to the moment when I step off the airplane and begin my semester abroad. Judging from the help and guidance I’ve already received from the George Washington study abroad office, I expect that the transition into the new culture, of both the country and the school, to be a smooth one, allowing me to fully take in the experience.

With An Obsession For Cupcakes, Some Reporting Skills, and a Leather Jacket

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By gwblogabroad

Hanna El-amrawi Heads To The White House

HannaWhere are you from? Why is that whenever I answer this thought-to–be simple, normal question, I am immediately bombarded with such bizarre follow up questions? Are you Cleopatra’s second cousin? OMG do you live in a pyramid? Wait wait, do you own a camel? Hold up! Can I see your cobra tattoo? Well as much as it may be flattering to be compared to Cleopatra’s beauty, I am in fact not her second cousin, and thankfully I don’t go to school on a camel.Hanna 2

So allow me to introduce myself properly; I’m Hanna El-amrawi (Yes I spell my name without an H at the  end) an average 20-year-old Egyptian girl, who grew up on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus (Does Ayia Napa, ring a bell? One of the world’s largest clubbing destinations).  I’m a junior in the American University in Cairo (yes its an actual building, not a pyramid) and I’m currently studying Mass Communications, while minoring in Business. I have a strong passion for reporting and the media; so what better place to develop my skills in this field, then to live across the in-famous White House (Did I mention I get to be in DC during Obama’s inauguration!).

grease-posterIf there are two things that my friends associate me with, its; Cupcakes and musical theater. I’m known as the one that gets overly excited over decorated cupcakes (You really should have seen my face when I first heard of the cupcake ATM machine in DC) and the one who believes that one day she will star as Sandy in the musical, Grease (I even bought myself a similar black, leather jacket).

My excitement over the existence of a 24-hour cupcake machine was nothing compared to the excitement I had, when I was accepted as an exchange student for the 2013 spring semester at The George Washington University. I’m certain that by joining some of the various student organizations at GW, I will be able to meet new people and to seek many new opportunities. I’m extremely excited to be immersed into a new culture and to get the chance to live in a multi-cultural society.sprinkles

However one thing I am not particularly excited about is the cold weather; having never seen snow in my life, I am not sure how I’m going to cope with the icy weather. If there is one thing I wish I could take with me to DC, it would be the blazing heat of the desert sun.

So follow the blog of an overly excited (have I mentioned that I was referred to as an overly excited freshman, up until the beginning of this year), cupcake-obsessed Egyptian girl, as she battles the cold weather of the East Coast dressed in her black leather jacket! I’m pretty sure you are going to be in for some surprises and some laughs!