Monthly Archives: April 2013

Exams are looming…

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As we near the conclusion of our semester abroad there is one thing that remains the same about my educational experience at home and here are GW – I’m still stressed about work.  Being somewhere new and exciting doesn’t mean I don’t still worry as deadlines near. Taking a heavier course load than I do at home (5 rather than 4), adds to the stress, as does the increased number of assessments. I’ve mentioned before that in Australia it is customary to have two assessments for each class over the semester. Here I’ve had upwards of 5 in 4 of my classes, and the one class that didn’t have that many assessments made up for it with a lot of reading.

This means that the final two weeks, of study, review sessions, essay writing and exams, will be filled with exactly those things – Study, review, essays and exams. I’ll have a little time to say goodbye to DC, and to the friends I’ve made here, but enjoying those experiences and the good weather will be balanced out with a whole lot of hard work.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves, when we’re studying abroad – that we’re doing exactly that, studying. This semester is primarily meant to enhance my educational experience and broaden my academic abilities. The travel and adventures and friendships are incredibly wonderful side affects of the experience.”

Of course, years from now it’s more likely I’ll remember the friendships I’ve made, and laughs we’ve shared, than a small detail regarding a philosopher’s view regarding whether we have minds, or the exact date Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater in Philadelphia. But those academic experiences as a whole are ones I’m sure to remember – because they’ve been excellent, and have really enhanced my experience at university.

I may not know whether I have the ability to remember all the cases I need to for my health law exam, or whether the essay I’m writing on Urban Planning for Modern Architecture even make’s sense. I don’t know for sure which new friends I’ll still know 10 years down the line, or where we’ll all end up in life. But one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll forever remember my semester in DC.

The Purple and Orange Side of Virginia

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tech

 

You know that feeling when you are in Foggy Bottom and you assume that every student walking around is a Colonial? Or that every person wearing a sweatshirt is supporting our bluff and blue colors? Well that was exactly what it felt like being in Blacksburg, Virginia. Except that the entire town of Blacksburg was the size of our very own Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and DuPont circle where all covered with forest green trees and the woods.

Literally Blacksburg, Virginia is made up of Virginia Tech University and one main street with restaurant, and that’s it. I never believed my Hokie friends (Virginia Tech students) when they said that their whole town is literally the size of Foggy Bottom. So I decide to leave Foggy Bottom and head to Blacksburg Virginia, to prove them wrong.

I knew they were right, the minute I hopped off of  Megabus, in Christiansburg, Virginia. It was nothing like Union Station, or Grand Central Station, or even Newark Station. All I could see around me was the color green and a few small houses. That’s when I knew, that maybe they were right.

Having not seen my Egyptian friends for over a year, I was extremely excited as they pulled up in the middle of this green scenic view and we were ready to spend exactly 36 hours before I would have to head back to DC. VT

First off we took a tour of the campus, with purple and orange stripes everywhere (school colors). They had a very big bookstore that literally had everything from VT water bottles to VT tents; anything you wanted could be found her except with a VT logo on it.

I must say the campus was absolutely beautiful, it was very scenic and felt like an actual college, it was extremely different then GWU open campus.

After a walk down the main street (which was also covered in VT pride products), there really was not much do then to eat and then get ready for an 18+ lounge; Oz. Now the fun thing about Oz, is that you can be guaranteed that everyone there is a VT student. There is no other university in the area, and as I was often told in those 36 hours “ Are you crazy to leave DC and come here?”

hannahwaterfall

Heading back home, we needed a good night sleep before we would have to wake up at 9am to hike up to “cascades”, one of the famous waterfalls in Virginia. This 60 feet waterfall, which crashes down on a two hundred foot cliff, is absolutely breathtaking.  There were two different routes to take, the challenging lower one and the scenic down hill one; we of course picked the easy trail. It was a one-hour hike upwards but it was totally worth it once you reached the beautiful falls as they crashed down on the rocks.

After a whole lot of pictures and a week’s worth of workout, we were ready to head back for a nice lunch. Olive Garden, you are officially my favorite restaurant in America. With endless salad and amazing garlic bread, there really is no place I have been to that beats this awesome restaurant. Absolutely loved it. After our stomachs were completely satisfied we decided to have an Egyptian night with some cards and hookah and some Arab music out in the patio. It really did feel like home. hiking

However this feeling was soon interrupted when the next-door neighbors informed us that they were having a neon party; so we quickly changed and headed over there. With neon colors, and my white shorts shinning in the dark, it really was a fun night.

36 hours completed; 5 hours later we were at the nations capital. Even though Blacksburg was very small, I really loved the feeling that everyone around was a VT student and that everywhere you go it was filled with students and the university colors. However because I love to go out and explore; being in the city is definitely more ideal for me.

I liked you Virginia, but I would never give up DC for you.

Shahd_Hanna

Weekends

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There’s something about living on Campus that can make you a little complacent. It’s easy to spend the entire weekend in Foggy Bottom, and then come Monday morning realise you’ve half wasted the weekend away. So here are my tips for little outings in and around DC:

1)    The National Gallery of Art & Smithsonian Museums

If it’s raining, catch the Metro to the Smithsonian metro stop and pick one of the museums. They’re all free, and there’s something to interest everyone. I have so many more I’d love to visit before I go! It’s worth checking their websites also, because often there are free guided tours and public talks and lectures on the weekends.

2)    Georgetown

If you want to go shopping (or window shopping) Georgetown is the place to go. There are also a lot of cupcake stores (always a good thing!). Today a friend and I wandered down to our favourite, Baked and Wired, grabbed our cupcakes and went and ate them on the Georgetown waterfront. It was a perfect afternoon wander.

3)    Old Town Alexandria

Catching the Metro to Old Town Alexandria is easy as pie. I’ve blogged about it before but it really is a nice place to wander and has a lot of good cafes and restaurants.

4)    Capital Bikeshare cycle to the Tidal Basin

I’d prefer to walk rather than riding a bike, as I get a little anxious riding. But if you like cycling I’ve heard greats stories from other exchange students of the ease of hiring a bike from the Capital Bikeshare locations (there are a few on campus) and cycling down to the tidal basin and mall. Especially on sunny days – though these are the days the tourists are out in force, so you may need to dodge a few of them!

5)    DC Challenge Scavenger Hunt

This was something two of my roommates, my neighbor and I did just this weekend. It’s organized by a company called Challenge Nation. We got a Groupon deal, so paid half the entrance price and for that got t-shirts, and a fun scavenger hunt through DC with pretty difficult clues that were great fun to figure out. We had no hope of winning but it was great fun anyway. There were big groups of friends and colleagues, and also families playing and many people in costumes (we’d definitely recommend costumes, we didn’t do them and regretted it. Especially after seeing a group of women wearing shark hats and t shirts that read ‘Every week is Shark Week’ on the back, and a day of the week on the front.)

If I could go back in time to January and give myself one piece of advice it would be to find time on weekends to have a little explore and get out of Foggy Bottom and adventure in DC.

Coming Home After Semester Abroad

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So last week I attended a Pre-Departure Orientation, originally aimed at helping future GW students to prepare for their semester abroad. Well, it turned out to be a pre-departure orientation for me as well. The end of this semester is drawing near and I am slowly making arrangements for my return; I can’t believe I have already booked a cab to take me to the airport in 3 weeks. Last week it was the first time I have ever heard of a phenomena called “reverse culture shock.” Basically it means that getting over the problematic part during one’s semester abroad is not the end of all troubles. I am to expect hard times after my arrival. This session made me ask myself, what are the things I got used to here that I will miss so much back home, and what are the things I will just find odd back home after a few months away.

Firstly, I am certainly afraid of the responsibilities that will be really overwhelming after I get back. This fear is even more pronounced when I compare the service provided by GW employees to a rather rude way of dealing with students back home. Similarly to this, I am also afraid I will miss the American shop assistants. As much as this is a duty and a habit at the same time, it always helps when people around welcome you warmly. Nice behavior and interest people take in you made me a little self-conscious in the beginning, it was an unfamiliar behavior to me after all. The minute I got used to it, I fully appreciated such situations.

Secondly, I will miss the comfort of a campus. As much as the dorms and other forms of housing are always within 10 minutes from school building, I will have to get used to the fact that I will not be able to stop by at home in between the lessons, and that commuting will also take me some time. I will also miss having a good cup of coffee, gym, and whatnot just around the corner.

Thirdly, I will miss this exploring. Not that the sense of being in a foreign environment is utterly appealing, but I think the fact that there is a limited time of your life in this place will be really missed. It made me value my time much more, since I’ve always regretted wasting it – this feeling is, of course, even more significant when the day count to my departure dropped under 30. I don’t really think I have explored all Prague, or all Czech Republic, but I certainly am more motivated here just to go out and enjoy seeing something new.

Finally, I will miss the non-stop opened library. My schedule here is a little uncommon and I understand this might not be the study abroad experience one craves for, but I have enjoyed the solitary Friday and Saturday nights on the 6th floor in Gelman. I am usually busy during the day, so this was always an option to catch up on work.

There are other reasons for me to be afraid of coming to me as I am writing. However, the most frightening aspect of all is the fact that I only have three more weeks before I find myself there.

A colder Alexandria

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So clearly I was fooled yet again. Spring fling surely did not mean that spring was here in my book 10 degrees Celsius, or as Americans refer to it as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, is clearly not spring. Wearing a long sleeve shirt, a hoodie and pants, doesn’t seem like spring, am I right? I’m sorry spring fling u failed to bring spring to the DC district. I should have known that instead of signing up for spring semester abroad, I must have in fact signed up for winter semester abroad.

You see, this my be warm for most people in the east cost but coming from the coastal city of Alexandria Egypt, this is nowhere as warm as the month of April should be. Back home its almost 86 degrees Fahrenheit, now that’s seems more like spring to me!

Even though the uneven weather had me trading in my knee length floral dress and flip flops for a sweatshirt and boots, I still managed to get out and finish crossing some items off my bucket list. Paddling on the Tidal basin was definitely one of those things that I had to do before departing back home. With an orange life jacket wrapped around me; paddle boat turned out to be more of an adventure than a simple stroll on the lake.
rowboat

“Okay mam’am, this is a special edition for you, right, left and back,” said the man, as he noticed the blank stare on my face when he handed me a whistle and told us to go.

Once you get the hang of the steering wheel placed in the middle of the blue and white paddleboat; it all begins to feel right. Circling around the tidal basin and capturing what is most likely the last photographs of the disappearing cherry blossoms; did turn out to be a good Saturday afternoon. However once you step out of the paddleboat, that’s when you begin to realize how much of a workout that really is, one hour on a paddleboat sure does equal a day at the gym.

Longing for some Egyptian food, I was finally satisfied when I went to Zakerayat a Middle Eastern restaurant, lounge. There I finally had some Egyptian shawamra as well as some of my favorite Middle Eastern salads “fattoush” and “tabouleh”. Just like the area’s name, it really felt like I was in Alexandria, except this time Alexandria was a lot colder, and it was in Virgina!

salad

            Maybe this time I will be heading to southern Virginia! Anybody know if the weather is better over there?

It Is Hot and Beautiful in DC

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I do want to be careful and prevent myself from making statements about the weather here in Washington. After my last post that concerned the weather, I claimed that spring has finally sprung in DC. However, I woke the day after submitting the post and the first thing I saw from the window was snow. Now, just a few short weeks later, it is summer. Temperatures last week have been in excess of 90 degrees and it has caused me to notice many differences between the Czech Republic and the United States. First of all: we are not used to this heat. In the last few weeks back home, it has been less than 45 degrees and rainy every day. Something that isn’t very nice, but also isn’t atypical of Central Europe. Secondly: air conditioning. Here, it seems to be everywhere. In Prague, one can find it advertised in the windows of restaurants like it is a luxury, and it is almost nonexistent in homes, student housing, or public buildings. I can deal with the heat, but quite frankly, I’m not accustomed to this luxury and  the dry air pumped out of the air conditioning units has been causing a bit of a sore throat. Of course I was not the only one, who encountered some difficulties – all the librarians must have been sweating buckets. As a result of the extreme and unexpectedly high temperature, all the students got a relieve from studying when Gelman Library closed down.

In other big news from Washington, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Taking advantage of a beautiful Friday afternoon without classes, my friend and I toured the familiar grounds around the tidal basin. Although, I had visited the monuments and gone on jogs through the area a number of times, it was like discovering something entirely new. We do not have trees like this, especially in this abundance, in Prague and the sight of hundreds all around the city was boarding on alien. The gorgeous weather and the addition of the sometimes pink and sometimes white flowers covering the trees amplified the beauty of the colossal monuments. The way the flowers had overtaken the trees that I had previously only seen bare and the way they flowed into the basin was incredible. Being able to see the Washington Monument framed by the pink, snowball-like clusters of flowers only made me long more than ever to be able to go to the top and see how pink the world was from a bird’s eye view.

Thursday was a little bit windy so there were petals all over the ground, and this fairy-tale-like atmosphere with people on paddle boats on Tidal Basin changed the whole feeling in the city. The walks and the runs I have had since the trees blossomed have been amazing and it always helps you getting rid of the stress from all the papers and tests at school. It is just so easy to fall in love with Washington this time of the year.

Color Our Way to Homerun

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When you think of Americans, what is the one sport that crosses your mind? Let me give you a hint: there is a bat involved in the game. Its no other sport than baseball, and I can gladly say that my weekend was filled with baseball ,baseball, and baseball!

Nationals Stadium

Nationals Stadium

Last Thursday, the study abroad office took the exchange students, to what was many of our first, baseball game. With our red, blue and white shirts on; over 30 exchange students were ready to cheer on the Washington Nationals. I cannot begin to explain how cold it was up in the 10-dollar row. So with a few shivers and a sad face, we managed to squeeze ourselves into the front row.

While most people around us could clearly tell we were not Americans, we still knew exactly what was going on with the game. That is because about 7 of us are members of the intramural baseball team in GWU called “ Sons of Pitches”. With Ashleigh, our former orientation leader, as our captain we had many practices and drills, so at least we knew the basic rules of the game.

Softball

 

Following the Nationals defeat, we also lost both of our matches at GWU, but it was still such an awesome experience. As exchange students we got to meet and play with other GWU students, which we wouldn’t have normally met. Not many people can say I played on a baseball team in GWU right across the Lincoln Memorial! I bet my friends back home will be jealous!

 

 

Taking off our knee long socks and our blue team shirt, we were ready for the Indian color festival called “ Holi on the Quad”. This festival is used to signal the beginning of spring. What do u get when you mix college students with colorful powder and then top it off with water balloons? Yes, absolute chaos! It really was but it was totally worth the spoiled clothes!

An awesome weekend, and now a week full of work ahead of me!

 

Holi at GW

Holi at GW