Monthly Archives: May 2013

Its not goodbye, its simply see you later

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Every time I sit down to write my final goodbye I just can’t seem to get myself past the first few words, before I find tears rolling down the side of my face. I guess because once this post is published, it will officially be the end of my exchange experience. The end of the most amazing five months of my life. The end of late night pizza delivery, and the end of midnight monument tours. Simply the end of GWU.

Kogan Plaza

Kogan Plaza

I know that my GWorld card will be deactivated and I will no longer be a resident of Philip Amsterdam Hall, but the memories and friends I made here will forever be part of me.

From the Italian pasta party to the Korean birthday parties, to the amazing Latino music; we became a family. Never will I forget the feeling of sitting in a room hearing over 7 different languages at the same time and learning about everyone’s different cultures.

These 80 students have not just been friends but more of a family to me. We learned to face culture shock together, to accept everyone’s differences and by the end of the semester we had shared secrets, laughs, and tears. We become a family.

Going back home no matter what stories I share or what pictures I show to my friends and family, nobody will understand or know what I went through expect for my new family. We shared it together, went through it together, and now we only have pictures, blogs and our memories to remember those great days. I am certain though that we will meet up again, because as I said they are not just friends, but a second family.

While the experience may be over for most exchange student as they pack their bags and journey throughout the US or head back home, they have all said their goodbyes. However as for me I am traveling to Florida with a few exchange students and I’m back to DC for a whole new challenge. I managed to land an internship with the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and will be staying in DC till end of June. Not able to stay in Foggy Bottom without my exchange students, I have decided to move out of the dorms and stay in Tenlytown.

A whole new challenge, an experience I’m ready for, I’m ready to enter the real world. Goodbye GWU, thanks for having us I will still be around, but this time call me a GWU Alumni.

 

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The Goodbyes

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So. My last blog post I’ve taken a little time to get this up – it’s been a whirlwind week since I left DC on Monday and headed to NYC. I’m with my family now. It’s definitely a change after 5 months living on campus!Image

From NYC I’ll be heading solo to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego before flying home. I’m getting my travel all done now, after the semester is over, my marks are back and the stress is long-gone. It’s amazing how easily you forget how stressful finals can be. Every six months I get the surprise of my life trying to cope with the anxiety about final papers and exams. But enough about the easily forgotten finals!

To say goodbye to DC, GW and my exchange experience I thought I’d list the things I’ll miss:

My Roommates and neighbor – were awesome. There’s no other word for it. They know how much I’ve appreciated their support and friendship, and  hope I’ve been able to as best I can return that support and friendship. We won’t be living together any longer, and they’ve all just graduated this weekend to move into a new chapter of their lives – but I won’t be giving up on these friendships any time soon!

My exchange friends – I can’t remember who said it, but ‘no man is an island’ (John Donne maybe?). Friends are the people that make life what it is. Creating new bonds with people (who, unlike family, aren’t obligated by blood and marriage to love you and put up with your quirks!) is a pretty darn wonderful thing! A week after leaving I still can’t quite grasp the fact that I won’t be able to just randomly bump into these new friends walking to class every morning and text a friends for an impulsive late night coffee or snack run. My friends and I at home all live much further from each other, and our university, work and life schedules are much harder to coordinate. Which brings me to…

Living on Campus – is something I didn’t realized I’d love so much. Convenience is one of my favorite things. When the library, food, coffee and company are all within a 5 minute walk it’s a pretty darn wonderful thing. Especially given the campus itself is in such a great location and a 15-minute walk takes me to Georgetown or Dupont or the Tidal Basin.

DC – Never again will I live so close to the monuments. If I was ever feeling a little stressed I could just wander down to the mall and instantly feel better. The fresh air and people watching potential will be sorely missed! Because no building can be higher than the statue above the Capitol, Washington never feels impossibly tall or overwhelming. The American accents you hear on the streets are from all over the country and there’s something about DC, about it being the capital, so full of energy, power and super-important-decisions-I-don’t-even-want-to-know-about, which I just love.

Goodbye George Washington University! Goodbye DC!

With many thanks to Jacki and Shawna and the whole Study abroad office for their help and support.

Claudia

Semester in Review

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 I’ve been asked to write a “semester in review” blog post to summarize and finalize the semester. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I have seen a great deal of what D.C. has to offer, travelled all over the Eastern part of the country, been exposed to literary and academic works that I wouldn’t have been exposed to in Prague, and finally, made friends that I will remember long after leaving George Washington.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you have already heard about my adventures around the Eastern and Central time zones. The semester was a lot of work and long nights. However, I did manage to find some time to see the biggest and most famous cities in the U.S. My first trip was to Philadelphia for a day and then to Hartford, CT. Philadelphia speaks for itself, and I was actually there twice, so I can speak a great deal about it too. You might question why Hartford. While it does not have the international fame that Philadelphia, New York or Boston does, Hartford has been home to a number of writers though the ages from Mark Twain to Jack Kerouac. I couldn’t pass up a pilgrimage of sorts like that. Over spring break, I saw two much more famous cities: Chicago and Boston. I was instantly in love with Chicago, and while D.C. will always be my U.S. “home” Chicago is my favourite city. Full of interesting architecture and art, it was teeming with life. After Chicago, it was a short flight to Boston, which I found to have many similarities to European cities, and is one of the most historical place I visited in the U.S. Honourable mentions go to New York and Philadelphia. Philadelphia was also full of life, art and very interesting people that were really living by the city’s reputation as the city of brotherly love. And New York completely speaks for itself. It is like no other place on earth.

As I’ve made mention to before, the semester was demanding in terms of the workload. I wrote approximately 230 pages (or about 70,000 words) in total for all my courses. The courses gave me insights into both what I had been studying as well as new areas that I can incorporate into my studies when I return to Prague. One of my goals in coming to study at George Washington was to increase my knowledge and broaden my sources for my work on my thesis for Charles University. My time at George Washington has more than fulfilled its expectations in this area.

While D.C. was a great place to live and all the travel in the U.S. was amazing, the thing I will be most sad about leaving is the friends I have made. I formed close bonds with my room mates, the other students in the exchange programme and also some four-year George Washington students. We shared experiences all over the city and country and they know whenever they want, there is a couch waiting for them in Prague.

Goodbyes are hard. Let’s not say them.

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It’s pouring rain today, and the campus is filled with students going to and fro between finals, the library, places that serve coffee and food, and their dorm rooms. Amidst the stress and trying very hard not to focus too much on the semester coming to the end I went and got lunch with Hanna (from Egypt) and Marie (from the Czech Republic). In our orientation week we won a quiz, and had been planning to all three of us have a celebratory lunch. Which ended up only happening today (whoops!).

We sat over big plates of Pad Thai and had a good hour long chat about life. About friends, family, university, the future, GW, our exchange experience overall. Sure, we’ve had chats about all these things before – but now we’ve nearly come to the end there’s a certain tone or mood to them. Every conversation I have with a fellow exchange student is shaded by discussions about where everyone’s is traveling, when their flight home is, whether people have internships. It’s the realization that this semester is coming to and end, and we have to actually think about what we’re all doing next. Some of us have a few more semesters of university to go home to, and some of us are truly finished with our undergrad forever. We’re all looking towards post-student life, and whatever that many entail. It’s pretty darn daunting to be honest!

As we finished walking back to our dorms, I was about to say goodbye. But when I started to I realized this wasn’t a ‘bye, see you in a day or two!’, It might end up being a proper goodbye. So we decided it wasn’t going to be. Instead it was a ‘goodbye, I’ll see you later this week, and we’ll say goodbye properly then!’. But I don’t really want to do that either.

The marvelous thing about friendships and technology is that the latter helps you maintain the former. Thanks to email, Facebook and Skype the friendships I made here won’t just be maintained in the occasional letter. We have instant connections to people all over the world. It’s something I’m very glad for.

At the start of semester in Orientation we wrote goals down for our semester. One of mine was to work on having a ‘global network’ of friends. A pretty silly name for it really. But thanks to GW Exchange, I’m going home knowing that’s what I actually have. We come from all over the place, and leave with a variety of friends, acquaintances, and contacts and memories we’ll have for an awfully long time.

Around the World on Massachusetts Avenue

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peru

For all my time living and studying in another country, the international experience I had this past weekend was by far the most insightful into cultures that are vastly different from both the Czech Republic and the United States. Last Saturday, over forty embassies opened their doors to the general public. The embassies showcased food, drink and culture including music and dance. The event was completely free and there was a lot of buzz surrounding the event. Being students of the world, we decided to partake and see what the world had to offer us. We decided to stick to the Western Hemisphere as it has been our home for the last four months and none of us have been south of the boarder, it also ties into my studies and I felt that it would be rewarding to get a little closer to the cultures I was learning about in my classes.

Marie, Pavla, and Myself at the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago

Marie, Pavla, and Myself at the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago

Our journey began in Peru. We were greeted to the unique musical sounds of a Peruvian pan flute band. This is not unlike the sound that one can find in the Renaissance era of the old world, but it had it’s own South American feel to it. Everyone representing the embassy was dressed in very colorful traditional clothing. We saw llamas, an animal that has been extremely important to Peruvians for hundreds of years. Native to South America, these animals provide fiber for making clothes and blankets as well as their use as pack animals. After viewing the wildlife, there was a showcase of native Peruvian dancing, namely, the Marinera. Somewhat similar to the tango, this dance uses a handkerchief instead of a rose and represents courtship between the two dance partners. Finally, we indulged in the edible offerings of Peru. Most enjoyable was our sampling of quinoa, prepared with basil and Inca Kola, a sweet lemony soda that tastes a bit like bubble gum. We also tried Pisco, however we were not overly impressed with drinking this straight.

After Peru, it was a short trip to Trinidad and Tobago. Like Peru, we were welcomed with traditional music from the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, the steel drum. While it is a well known sound, we were quite impressed by hearing it in person and the musicians ability to make such wonderful sounds from a seemingly simple instrument. After the music, we looked into the native dress of the small island country and were surprised to find that we were able to wear them ourselves. While we found them to be a little tall for our tastes, they were intricately and beautifully made. Finally, we once again were treated to some food, although this time much sweeter. Traditional sweet bread and a not so traditional coconut cupcake made for a great tastes of the Caribbean.

Then it was back to South America to visit Chile. There was a large presentation and video screening about the folklore and the countryside of the country, which was quite interesting, but was a short stop to the best part of the visit to the Chilean embassy: the food. They are known for their wine and the red was excellent. It accompanied the smoked salmon excellently. While it is very possible to get fish in the Czech Republic, we are a land locked country far from the ocean and fish is not a major part of our diet. When we find it prepared by people who have been doing it for generations, it is really a treat. The small meal was topped off with a Pisco sour, yes the same Pisco that we did not enjoy in Peru, but when mixed with some lemon or strawberry juice and a hint of sugar, it was much more pleasant.

Nicaraguan Embassy with Pavla

Nicaraguan Embassy with Pavla

Finally, we saved the best for last. All day we had been hearing that Nicaragua was the best that everyone had been to, so we finished the day there. The lines were long but very well worth it, mostly from a gastronomical point of view. There were loads of samples of excellent Nicaraguan food and drink. Namely, the sweet bread, served with some jelly, accompanied with Nicaraguan rum. We make rum in the Czech Republic, but like the fish, sampling it from it’s origin, prepared by time tested methods gave us a very different and authentic taste. Finally, we had some coffee. I don’t mean to write a short sentence about the coffee, it might have been the best coffee I’ve ever had and my friends will agree with me. While not native to South America, they have been growing coffee for hundreds of years in a climate that is perfectly conducive to it’s growth and cultivation. And it really shows. Like Peru, we were able to try on some head wear from the country.

Finally, our trip around the world came full circle with a little trip home. The embassy of the Czech Republic was not open (that’s next week when the EU embassies will host a similar event) in our wanderings, we found memorial honoring the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Masaryk. While Czechoslovakia has split, Masaryk is still a very important figure to the people of the two new countries and after a day of traveling around the world it was very nice to see a little piece of home at the end of our journey.

czech republic

Rhianna had me dancing all night!

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As I’m laying on my bed with a severe fever, I’m desperately trying to find the capital gains and the present value of “Smith’s vehicle workshop”. You know it not a good day when you’re trying to study for a comprehensive finance final and French final scheduled for tomorrow, all with a fever and a mind wandering off. I’m not thinking about Mr. Smith’s vehicle workshop, or how to conjugate the verb “aller” in French, all I can do is sit around and wander how time passed so fast. Was last Wednesday really my last day of classes? Do I really have less than a week before I have to say my last goodbyes to the people I now call my family?

I promised myself that I wouldn’t make this a sad post, as this is definitely not my last one but, it really is a bittersweet feeling. Instead I’m going to push back tears and move away these thoughts, and begin by telling you about my first concert experience.

Living in Egypt, and especially after the January 25th revolution, not many celebrities would pick Egypt as part of their world tour. So unfortunately the idea of singing your lungs out and seeing your favorite celebrity live, is something extremely new for us. That is why the crowd sure did hear my voice, and must have been annoyed, at the sound of a tone-deaf, Egyptian girl singing her lungs out to Rihanna’s new hits. So if you missed Rhianna, as she rocked the stage at the Verizon Center last Monday, don’t feel too bad.

rhianna

But seriously can you blame me? A girl who has never been to a concert before and who has all of Rhianna’s songs memorized; can she really keep calm at her favorite singers concert? It was clearly impossible. I really had such a blast, as I was able to dance the night away and celebrate the last day of classes with other exchange students; Julie from Argentina, Rhiannon from Australia, and Dina from Egypt. Definitely, a night to remember.

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Dina, Rhiannon, Julie, and Hanna

Apart from a crazy concert, my rest of the week consisted of work, work, and work, and as an exchange group we managed to squeeze in a dinner at Sequoia. Sequoia is a fancy restaurant that overlooks the Washington Harbor. With a reservation of 20, it was a nice dinner where we had a chance to reminisce about some of our hilarious memories. However, our dinner abruptly ended when we all realized we had to go back and study for finals.

            Exams week almost here, and I can’t even get myself around the fact that this exchange is almost over.

Two Weeks To Go and Five Courses To Complete

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Exactly two weeks from now, I will be waiting outside Amsterdam Hall with all the pieces of luggage around me, hoping that I did not forget anything. I am a little bit homesick, so I am looking forward stepping out of Prague airport. At the same time, it makes one feels anxious. Will I ever the chance to see these places that have become so familiar in the past few months again? Am I even able to be familiar with Washington at all? I feel like it is certainly easy to become familiar with the campus. I remember Claudia talking in her blog about how easily it so happens that you spend your whole weekend without walking out of campus, where you have basically everything. This is even harder now, with the amount of work, either with writing the papers or preparing for the finals. You just cannot allow yourself to wander around DC for a couple of hours, because even a couple of hours is vital in order to finish the work you have. However, I am hoping I will be able to experience unique last two weeks in Washington, being able to get out of campus more often than in the past.

This was my goal I set on the weekend. On Sunday, I went with my friends to Georgetown in order to get a new Washingtonian experience – we were canoeing on the Potomac river. We were able to go sort of close to the Kennedy Center around the Waterfront. Then we found ourselves somewhere in between tall business building on the right side (Rosslyn) and wild-looking forest on the left (Theodore Roosevelt Island). It was interesting, I have never had such an experience inside the city. It feels strange to paddle in the US Capital with all the airplanes roaring above your head, and see a fisherman, whose surrounding is trees and nothing but trees. After that I found out I cannot just wander around Georgetown without getting a cupcake. This one was really special, though. As an honor to The Big Lebowski, Baked and Wired named a cupcake called “Dude,” which is filled with the ingredients that are included in the protagonist’s favorite drink, The White Russian.

Well, I have list of things to do before I leave. I will have to explore more the East of Washington, then I am hoping to have a little trip to Virginia to three different locations. Fingers cross the finals are gentle to me and I will manage to have a picnic on the Mall once more, have a run around all the monuments at least three times before I leave, get a Krispy Kreme doughnut before I leave, and much more. I am also putting the list of movies and TV shows set in Washington together, so that I can still go through places that are now my temporary home even when I am at my permanent one. A new candidate for me has been The House of Cards, with beautiful scenes from Washington, witty dialogues, interesting concept, and Kevin Spacey as the main protagonist, congressman Frank Underwood.