Monthly Archives: January 2014

First week of Classes…


By hannahbethdray

The first week back at school is always difficult to get back into; you’re trying to get to all your classes as well as seeing all your friends you’ve missed for the past month. So my first week has been all about catching up with people, lots of food and going out. And the first event of the week was the GW Basketball game! Our school team have been playing brilliantly this past semester, so it was no surprise that this game was sold out. Luckily though, I managed to get a seat and had a perfect view of the game.picture 1It was my friend Christina’s first game of the season as well, and she showed her school spirit perfectly with her GW sweater.

picture 2The final score was 76-66 to GW, with the team making our school proud. Hopefully next week I will be able to travel up to George Mason University to see their next game.

The weather as you may have noticed has also turned bitterly cold – I had three layers on the other day, just to run to 7/11! However this meant it was the perfect weather on Saturday evening for a trip to Georgetown and to the ice rink that has been built in the fountain. Now I absolutely love ice skating, however I was surprised to find out that half my friends had never skated before, so were in need of a bit of coaching.picture 3We all fell down at least once (but that’s half the fun of it!) and had a great time, finishing the evening off with a burger. picture 4 The rest of my week has been filled with food, making fajitas for my friends picture 5 and also going out for brunch on Sunday afternoon with the girls – a perfect first week back to school!


Desynchronosis (of sorts)


By aaront162

Desynchronosis, also known as jet lag, is the well known result of changes to the body’s natural rhythms as a result of long distance travel and generally speaking, a few days of rest is enough to overcome the fatigue. Yet moving from the laid back and warm summer of Sydney to the middle of winter in Washington DC – the large and unfamiliar city and heartland of American power, politics and government – involves a certain change in pace and rhythm which takes a little more time (perhaps a well planned week?) to adjust to.

The whole process begin subtly enough – the small chit chat in the lobby of City Hall on the first day of orientation week, a mixture of foreign accents somewhat anxiously looking around and getting acquainted with other new faces. The basic introductions follow, nerves gradually calm, barriers slowly break down and unfamiliar faces soon develop into familiar personalities with the help of our orientation leaders. There is a lot of walking around unfamiliar streets – the wind is biting and cold but anticipation (and plenty of enthusiasm from group leaders) is enough to drive you from place to place. Then the sound of applause in the Lisner auditorium as Sonya Sutamayor gave sound advice from someone who moved from the Bronx to the Supreme Court. Long bus rides lead to the excitement of “snow tubing” on Wisp Mountain. Then the roar and cheer of the home crowd in the Smith Centre, the sharp tension which fills the arena during a free throw and the unmistakable energy which explodes at the end – GWU wins a well fought game. Then more walking and the grandeur of the monuments and national buildings, statuesque figures of carved marble and bronze within the dome of the Capitol building. In between, plenty of jokes, lots of laughter and good humour.

By the end of the week, the weather is warmer, the wind no longer as biting and cold, the streets and buildings no longer so unrecognisable. Just like the passing of the jet lag, the pace and rhythm of Washington DC and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Not quite home – but for the semester ahead, definitely close enough.

E Pluribus Unum


By nimames

My arriving to the United States, a country I’ve never been to before, was not smooth to say the least. I flew a total of 11 hours in one single day, waited almost 2 hours for my luggage only to find it open and broken. So the only way for me to move my suitcase was to tape it. The next bad surprise was the lovely DC weather. Although I did take my precautions and packed warm clothes, I certainly did not expect the chilly -14°C that welcomed me to the DC. Luckily, the orientation week made up for all the hassle of my flight and my deep dislike of the weather.

Orientation week was exhausting but ultimately fun. We got to meet students from literally the 4 corners of the world: Korea, Singapore, France, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Germany and many. This reminded me why I participated to the exchange program in the first place: to explore the diversities the world had to offer and to be exposed and part of such diversity was a delight as it is always interesting to find out more about other countries.

This week will most definitely go down in my “history” as one of the best weeks of my life and it would have happened without the continuous help of Shawna and Hilary as well as the EXO Leaders who were always (I mean always) so cheerful and friendly and did an amazing job showing us around and giving us helpful tips. They did a marvelous job guiding us, giving us advice, making sure we make it to all our appointment and we don’t get lost but ultimately they brought us all together in an atmosphere of laughter and joy. At first, people, me included were hesitant but after each day, we all became more comfortable with each other.

The first two days were intense; we split up into small groups with two EXO leaders who helped us with our visa and bank appointments. I personally had to adjust to walking because boy did we walk a lot!

The third day, we took the metro to visit the Newseum and I have to admit that the DC metro is … weird. Not that I haven’t been to a metro station before. But being in the DC Metro stations is like being in a huge concrete alien spaceship. It was interesting to compare the DC metro stations with the ones I had previously been to but they were ultimately the same: busy.

The Newseum was really interesting for me especially for someone minoring in communication. We had the opportunity to explore 6 floors worth of media coverage of major events.  The balcony on the 6th floor offered a magnificent view of DC. In the afternoon of the same day, we had a tour of campus and later the famous scavenger hunt. I absolutely loved the game. Basically, we had a list of locations we had to find and take funny pictures with. There is a Frensh saying roughly translated in English as “Ridicule does not kill” and as a ferm believer in that, the game was tremendously entertaining for me! Although the weather did not help us, the hunt proved to be rather fun and brought our group, the SanFransisco Smarties closer.

Saturday was the last day of orientation and what a better way to end an amazing week than a visit of the Capitol and then a nice dinner. The visit to the capitol was insightful and I could feel the weight of history and the power it stands for. Later the same day, we all met at this really nice hotel where we had a great dinner. The formal dinner was a chance for us to be gathered together around a meal and get to know each other in a more relaxed fashion. We then took pictures to commemorate the moments we have spent together this week.

Saturday came and although orientation was over, I found myself up by 9am ready to meet my group. Even in one week’s time and although it doesn’t seem like a lot, I got used to seeing the warm faces of everyone.

To everyone that I met this week, I say thank you because I spent great moments with you guys ! I really hope we keep in touch !

New Friends, New Adventures, New Lessons.


By inepalacios

I can’t believe it. After nine months preparing for this trip, I am in Washington, DC. A week wasn’t enough time to realize that this adventure has started.

If I thought that it would be easy to take advantage of every situation, the past week taught me that I need to be more prepared physically and mentally to do that. The amount of activities that we (the exchange students) had to do, the new people, the new places, the new feelings challenged and exceeded my expectations.

The cold snap that hit the US didn’t stop the Exchange Orientation Leaders (EXO), Shawna, or Hilary who gave us the best beginning. Their main advice: take advantage of all the resources offered in this orientation week.

Food, trips, tours, parties, information, games, presentations, museums, discussions, and information sessions were some of the activities that we enjoyed. From the past Monday to the past Saturday we didn’t stop with scheduled activities.

The first day, I had time to get to know some of the students that are going to live with me. This opportunity began with a barbecue diner. It was the best American way to start the Exchange, definitely. Thanks to the chef for the delicious diner!

The second day, we learned more about DC and it was a good moment to mentally prepare me for all of the things that this semester has to offer. Shawna and Hilary shared video with us about DC, it was incredible.  During the activities, my Argentinean exchange mate, Timothy arrived. When I saw him, I ran to give him a big hug. We were celebratory after realizing that we were in DC after many months of planning the trip. We are able to avoid any possible homesickness through talks in Spanish, jokes and mates (the typical Argentinean drink).

The third day, we had the opportunity to visit one of the best museums in DC: the Newseum, a museum that allowed us to learn more about contemporary American and international history through the media. Thanks to Shawna and Hilary!

The fourth day, we had the opportunity to learn about the campus of GW through a fun game: the Scavenger Hunt. We took funny pictures in different places around the campus in teams. Not only was it worth getting to know each other, but we also had so much fun touring our new university. Those who have the opportunity to attend GW are definitely lucky.  It is a privilege to have so many resources to develop ourselves into whatever we want.

The fifth day was the trip: we traveled a couple of hours to go to Wisp Mountain. This moment was one of the most fun moments of the week. Not only could we enjoy the beautiful mountain, but we also enjoyed the mountain’s activities. Thank you again to Shawna and Hilary for the incredible excursion.

The last day, time to get to know the Smithsonian, to shop, and to prepare for the formal dinner. The dinner was absolutely incredible and a great opportunity to get to know the exchange students that I will spend time with this semester.

In conclusion, it is not only important to see different places, but to also meet more people while in Washington, DC. Egypt, Morocco, Singapore, Italy, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, China, Australia are some of the places were the other exchange students come from. What do you think about the new democracy in Egypt? What is your perspective on the events that occurred in 2011? Why do you think that Singapore is developing at a different rate than its counterparts? Discussions like these, daily interactions, sharing our expectations, and getting to know many interesting people were the best gifts of this week.

Thank you again to the new friends who gave me a great beginning to the program.

Thank you to the leaders for helping me with my English. Thank you for giving us funny moments and sharing your experiences as GW students and students who studied abroad.

Thank you to Shawna and Hilary for this great welcome, your work was excellent, and it is a pleasure to finally meet you in person!

I hope that I will still see everyone or at least the majority when classes start. Good luck with the start of your semester!

Checkout photos of Exchange Orientation Week on the  Office for Study Abroad Facebook!

Getting Back Into The Routine


By sbruell

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to the holidays, my bed becomes my best friend. Its comfy, warm, and I can sit and watch TV all day in it! I also find myself managing to stay in bed until the afternoon because I have nothing else to do. However, flash forward three weeks, and getting out of bed at 9 o’clock for lectures, or 7:30, as I was crazy enough to pick an 8 o’clock class, and suddenly it is hell! Not only do I need to learn to detach myself from the wonderful place that is my bed, but I also need to get myself back into a routine of studying! And homework! And papers!

On arrival for my first semester, the prospect of studying in a new country was daunting as everything was going to be a little different. My first challenge was finding out that lectures aren’t 50 minutes like they are at home, but, on average, 75 minutes or more. Now, 25 minutes doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but it can really feel like it if it meant you could have stayed in your comfy bed longer. And then there are the assignments, which come a lot more often in the US than they do at home in the UK. I struggled a few times during my first semester when I had up to 4 assignments to do at once, but the key to surviving is planning. I know I sound incredibly boring saying that, but by planning, it gives you the opportunity to take weekends away or go to see a baseball game for example.

So here are my tips for starting off the semester well:

1) Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern – yes staying up till 1 am every night watching Youtube videos can be fun, but your body will not forgive you at 9 am!

2) Plan your day, and see if there are gaps where you can fit in an exercise class or a quick trip to the gym – my escape is always swimming; totally clears your head.

3) Plan your work schedule, whether this means reading through the semester’s course guides or the assigned reading list, filling in your diary with important events can really help.

4) MAKE TIME FOR FUN – even if that is just a quick dinner with friends, or ice skating at Washington harbor (the rink is open till march!).


Follow these tips and I promise your semester will be the best ever.

Hello From Hannah!


By sbruell


Hi! I’m Hannah, a student from Sussex University in England and I have been lucky enough to have been selected to attend GWU for my third year of study in American Studies and History. When I first found out that I was coming to America and Washington DC in particular, I realized that this could be one of the greatest years of my life. My goal was to make as many new friends and new memories as I could whilst studying hard and playing hard.” No sitting back and waiting for things to happen; I was going ‘all in’ to experience as much as I possibly could in the US. I knew there would be certain things that I’d miss at home, but after one semester here, never did I imagine that ‘Percy Pig’ sweets, ‘Cadbury’s dairy chocolate’ and ‘Angel’s Delight’ mousse would be top of the list!  However, I have already discovered that I love Hershey’s dark chocolate and blueberry pancakes!

At this point, dear reader, I feel I have to say that I am not usually so interested by such frivolous and shallow thoughts that seem to center around my stomach; however, food is always the first thing that one notices is different when abroad.  I think my family and relatives would be ‘put out’ some that I have ordered them second (or even fourth!) on my list of things that I miss! I think this is because I had always expected to miss them and was prepared for the occasional bouts of ‘homesickness’; it is always the unexpected things that hit you harder.  Of course, I miss my family dearly, but that’s where new friends come in; they will effectively be your family for 4 months so make sure to pick some good ones! At some points during your first semester you will feel a little down, perhaps when you have a birthday, or when you have too many papers due in at once; but you just have to put your head down and keep going, and remember, you will never get an experience like this again. So, I learned fairly early on in my first semester to just say “yes” to new and exciting things! For me it was about joining the GW Swimming team, going to Baseball and Basketball games  and taking road trips with my new friends (even if it meant being cramped in the back seat of a car for 8 hours!) .  The best advice I can give is to travel as much as you can while you have the chance. I have just come back from a week in New Mexico and it was honestly one of the greatest weeks of my life; I tried Sushi for the first time, I snow-shoed and skied for the first time  and I experienced a real Thanksgiving meal with an American family.  I wasn’t fully aware of what to expect from GWU, but by embracing all new things and people that I’ve met, I have had an incredible first semester, and I know that the second will be even better!

On the pronunciation of tomato (and more profound stuff)


By aaront162

Similarities and differences – I think it is needless to say that this will perhaps be one of the defining themes of my experience in the US. At one level, the theme is simple enough – a sixteen hour time difference between Sydney and Washington DC, a long dry and hot summer to freezing winters and snowstorms and the pronunciation of miscellaneous fruits/vegetables (tomatoes mainly) and metals of the periodic table (“alooooominum”? is it similar to aluminium?). As a law student I feel my lecturer for Federal Constitutional Law obliging me to point out that when the founding fathers of Australia created and signed our constitution in 1901, they looked to their American counterparts who did so some 100 years early and from them, we have inherited our federalist system.

Yet all of that is small stuff and droll history. Having had a few days to ponder and as I draw deeper into the very essence of what shapes Australia, the US and indeed the relationship between our two nations I find a complex and multi-dimension landscape which surprisingly cuts into the very core of who I am today. I find myself in the heart of Washington DC where decisions taken forty years ago led to Australian involvement in the Vietnam War. I won’t debate Cold-War foreign policy but needless to say I cannot avoid the fact that the course of events that unfolded profoundly shaped the fact that I write this entry today as someone born, raised and educated in Australia. It is a feeling hard to describe to be in a place which in a way has shaped your very identity and indeed, the very circumstances upon which the words are being formed on this page as I write this entry. It does however serve as a pertinent reminder that amongst the columns and corridors of those grand marble buildings, the words and actions of a few reverberate around the world and have, and will continue to impact, shape and define the lives of the many people – and I am one such person.

Certainly a profound (too profound perhaps?) point to begin my blogging entries but hopefully one which will marks the start of a remarkable learning experience over the course of the next 6 months.  On a lighter note, I do have the say that all the snow is pretty cool.