Monthly Archives: April 2014

Friend, loves, adventures, learning and happy ending?  

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Monday  April 28, afternoon. My deadline to submit my last post is over. Again many plans during the week were the excuse. A baseball game as a goodbye event, a friend´s birthday, a ball with the Class Council, another birthday, a good bye party, a Latin Festival, applications for internships, a paper, and a conference with an Argentine senator in Georgetown University… these made me to leave the blog post to the last moment. Maybe it was unconscious because my last post means concluding something that I don’t want to finish. The reality is that there is two weeks left before the finals and that’s it.

The last week, while I was organizing my papers, I founded a paper that said: “Goals at GW”: 1. Take advantage of DC; 2.Take advantage of the courses and professors; 3. Take advantage of the campus, 4. Enjoy the going outs; 5.Being part of one of the 300 organizations; 6. Know the entire city;  7.Continue running; 8. Speak English better; 9. Travel; 10. Meet new Americans and Worldwide friends. 

Would I be able to do every of these goals in four months?  Although I didn’t have those goals on paper with me, it seems that these expectations didn’t disappear from my mind because those were almost what I was doing.

  1. Take advantage of DC. With hundred of international political organizations around the corner of my house, it was impossible not to go to one of their events. Seminar in the Inter-American Development Bank, receptions with ambassadors, discussion about taxation reforms, discussions in other universities. It was complicated to understand everything in English, but really enrichment. The few events I went convinced me how much political influent DC has.
  2. Taking advantage of GW classes. Although I can’t say that I dedicated the same amount of hours of study as I had dedicated in Buenos Aires, although I missed the more deep discussions in my home university a lot, putting effort to understand the professors was a big challenge, sometimes it was frustrating but also worthwhile. I will bring with me an interesting approach of the American political system.
  3. Taking advantage of GW Campus. The fact that my 5 classes were in 5 different buildings distributed around more than 15 blocks, closer to the IMF, World Bank, and the White House, or for instance the fact that the gym and the library are each one biggest than my home university, or the detail that we have some kind of  free taxi even to go to a club, these kind of things remembered me that I have been in a first word university, in one located in the middle of a great city. I would not permit myself to not take advantage of that. Now, after three months I still finding new places to study, to hang out, to take a coffee, to enjoy it. I tried to spend my time outside of my room, changing place to study, changing every day my way to go to the classes, taking GW taxis, making friend with the drivers or just walking to the monuments after class.
  4. Enjoy going out. Spending nice time was easy with my exchange friends,  that always were willing to go to the parties on campus or to the clubs in the different neighborhoods. But I have to recognize that I missed my Argentine parties, the music, the long and later parties. Otherwise, although sometimes was impossible wake up as nothing had been happened, going out so earlier permitted me not to waste my next mornings.
  5. Being part of one of the 300 student organizations of GW. There was a position to represent the exchange student in the International Committee of GW Class Council. I applied, I had an interview, and I was accepted! From that moment, I shared meeting, events, food, a formal party, and funny moments to remember.  Until the last event I meet new interesting people.
  6. Know the entire city and …
  7.  Continue Running. Thanks that I found a nice running team with energies to run around DC I could do both (6 and 7). We saw beautiful sunsets, visited hidden memorials, took different bridges, enjoyed the first and also the last cherry blossom, and knew new neighborhoods. I am still discovering new places.
  8. Speak English better. I remember January 6 when I arrived to GW to the first time; just I could say some words and my nervousness didn’t help me.  That nice first orientation week was mixed with frustration to not be able to communicate as the same way than Argentina. The fact of having that put my effort to understand the professors; to keep reading for each class, to write for the blog and paperclass, to be communicated with the people permitted me improved my English. It is like an achievement that I want to share it, learning to speak almost fluently in a language in less than a year is possible! With effort and willingness to make mistakes all the time, with patience is possible always.
  9. Travel. I went to Boston, Massachusetts, obviously DC, New York and Florida. Amazing places! A bunch of memories from each one. Now, with Timo, Pepi, Matt, Ipek and I are planning to do a road trip to the west coast. Beginning in Texas, going to the Gran Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angles, California, among others places. I can’t believe it that I will be able to do that!
  10. Know American and worldwide friends. The willingness of the international students to be friendly helped a lot. It was obviously that my first closer friends would be Hispanic. I founded example of persons, new ears, and new opinions in them. Thank Giss, Java, Agus, Inma, Pepi, Steph and Timo for that. But being able to speak better and with the guys’s patience to understand me, I could do friend from the rest of the world Souhia, Amna, Ipek, Oceane, Candice, Nadine, Soha, Ashraf, and Matt, the list will not end if a have to name all of the great exchange students that I met, the last ones that I named were who with I shared most of my time. I can’t forget my American friend Whitney and Meagan thank girls to be open to share time. Thanks to my roommate Emily although we didn’t spend a lot of time together, I have to say thanks for her pacience, mainly for my mess, and my unorganized hours. I can’t forget the friends that I meet before to came to the US, thank Steven, Ashley, Jake, thank to my best visits: Jeru and Kathi, and thank to my best host Emma. Some can call them networking, other accountants, but they were my friends with I shared this incredible  four months.

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But, without doubt my exchange was more than 10 achieved goals, were contrasting every daily detail as cultural differences, like enjoying hearing many languages on the street, to get used to new flavors, new times, new weathers, and new ways to socialize.

After my second-to-last post, where I numbered things that I had done, some friends asked about the think #21: Fall in love, fall out love, fall in love again. I have to recognize that it was a nice part of my exchange. I meet incredible people, intelligent, interesting, fun, funny. A date, a meal, a coffee, a running, a walk, a party are moments that I will remember.

Sometimes I felt bad, overconfidence to believe that I could be able to do so many goals at the same time. But the fact the coming here was hard made that the criteria of “take advantage of every opportunity” that never have disappeared. And that’s how my main concern appeared at least half of my exchange. How can be possible that studying political science, being in the main political city, I have not been working here? My first obstacle: my Visa doesn’t allow me to work before the last four months.  Now, after the fours months, the concern have been consumed a lot of my hours, locking internship, writing resumes, writing cover letter, asking for recommendation letters, looking funding, asking for extension of my visa, trying to change my plane tickets, among other things. I would love to say what I will do in the next weeks, but nothing is sure yet. Although there was no confirmed response I knew that I was pre-selected in the Organization of American States (OAS) among 500 students, in the main political forum of the Region that promotes and supports Democracy, Human Rights, Multi-dimensional Security and Integral Development in the Americas. Besides if I will be able to work there I want to fell that I made everything to work in DC.

If I remember my expectations less four years ago, in my high school, when I was simulating to be a political leader in the OAS, I never thought that I would won an scholarship to study in one of the best universities of my country, Di Tella, I never imagine that Di Tella would give the possibility to study in the US, that also in few time I would be able to speak in another language, to write, to research and communicate in English. And more important I never imagine that few years after I would be near to work in that organization where I had simulated to work. I never imagine all the growth that I experienced in these three years.

Although I miss my family, my friend, mi province Tucuman, mi little town Santa Maria, they are “my fuel” to realized that what means be in a place of the first word, taking advantage of its development, absorbing its culture, knowing new perspectives to be applied in my country.  Although I miss Di Tella, my friend of Buenos Aires, mi friends of the university, they also was “my fuel” to put in practice what they taught me, to take advantage of the life without the social structures that they helped to break, to put sacrifice when was necessary, and not to stop to look for excellence in each of my challenges as they demonstrated me.

I realized that I am more Argentine that I imagined, just only seeing a lot American using alpargatas (espadrilles), or drinking our wines made feel proud form our exported culture. An anecdote, I promise that is almost the last one, I was in New York subway, crowd of people, almost sick after walk in the around the city with unsupportable cold, suddenly I heard an Argentinean song, a song of carnival, for a moment I got goose bumps. I realized how far away I was, how out of context the song was, but how into mine was. I remembered the dances of carnival in the school, the festival in the summers, and the Sundays playing a guitar with the family, things that I can’t change for nothing.

Whit the same intensity, but with lack of proud, I was running from a class to a seminar en the Inter American Developed Bank, I took a taxi, and the taxi driver said me: I bought the bonds offered by your former president Menem, and I lost them with your former president Kirchner, I lost the majority of my capital in them. It was awkward to hear someone disadvantaged by the corruption of one of my governments and by the celebrated restoration of our debt. This was one of these random experiences when thousand of questions came to my mind, when the gains to learn more came up, an energy to be prepared to contribute to some change in the political system of my country, or in my province, or simply in my Santa Maria , the moment when I fell responsible to put optimist in my political system, and be conscientious that my society is still having thousand of urgency problems.

In these last months I learned a lot.

I learned that we are more similar than different, maybe because we leave in the same privilege bubble to study in a university.

I learned that sometimes I need a limit of time, like this fours months, or/and a limit of resources to value every opportunity as a moment impossible to don’t take advantage.

“I learned that I don’t have to limit myself to dream, and I have work for that, being sure that I tried everything to get it, before than to give up saying that I can’t do it.”

I found evidence to something that a friend said me… that the life always surprise us, it takes the course that it thinks and we can do nothing but address it, take it, embrace it and learn from it.

I learnt that my parents are the best with me, to support beside that the sacrifice that could mean.

I really wish to stay more time in DC. But I don’t know if there will be a far happy ending working in DC, at least now everything was incredible, and it was also incredible to write it. So thank so much to those who choose me to write, to those who corrected me and to everyone who read me.

Washington Monument

 

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The Beginning of An End.

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For the past few weeks there has been this weird feeling building up deep in my guts. Slowly gathering each day waiting for a build up that is inevitably going to happen … the day I’m going to leave my cozy little apartment in Ivory Tower, leave the streets of Foggy Bottom, my classes at Elliot, taking the metro for the last time. Leaving the United States altogether.

When I first got my acceptance letter to GW, I was ecstatic. Not only because I got accepted to one of the greatest school in the United States but also because this university happened to be in Washington DC, a couple blocks away from the White house, the Lincoln Memorial and a walk from the Capitol and the Washington Monument. I was eager to set foot in the United States, a country that I only dreamt of visiting not only living in one of its greatest city, it capital no less, for a period of four months. However, the feelings of happiness  were being tinged with little apprehension and fear. I was going to delve into the unknown, a place where I didn’t know anybody, thousands of kilometers away from the place a called home. As the days of my flight approached this mixture of sheer excitement and fear only grew stronger and when I set foot at the busy Dulles airport at 10 pm on a cold a rainy night, I knew everything would be alright.

Days, weeks and months have passed where I had the great opportunity to meet incredible from all over the world that I’m proud to call my friends. I settled into my room, figured out my classes and learned to use the washing machines for the first time trying not to shrink all my clothes. Planning trips and getaways was perhaps one of the most challenging things I had to do mainly because there was so much to see and so little time ! I am nonetheless happy and content with what I managed to visit in the US. Trying to race the clock and fit everything one should see in New York in a mere four days was rewarding, exciting and exhausting. I absolutely adored the rhythm and tempo of the City that Never sleep and loved how the very feel of the city would change when you’d turn around a corner or change boroughs. Baltimore proved to hold my personal record of best seafood I’d had and although it the weather wasn’t very clement that day it had been an enjoyable day nonetheless. The much anticipated Spring Break in Puerto Rico was the culmination of everything I wanted it to be and exceeded my wildest expectations: deliciously fresh food, paradise-like beaches, warm humid weather that made my hair go cray cray, and the great company that I was blessed with.

My time here at GW wasn’t me trotting around the country although I really wanted it to be. Classes were interesting as they were intriguing especially one of my acting classes in which I got to push boundaries in myself that I didn’t even knew existed. The ride was also bumpy like everything in life but I learned to deal with it and ultimately overcome it a learn from the mishaps and the failures and hopefully it had made me a better, stronger person.

A handful of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from the Exchange office back at my hometown university Alakhawayn University, asking us all exchange students abroad to write a little paragraph describing our experience abroad. These messages were going to be shared with other students who wish to go on a semester or year abroad and it made me ponder about my time here. My exchange experience has been about being in new places, meeting new people and discovering new things. But it has been much more than that. In fact this experience is also about getting to know yourself. When you’re put in situations that you’ve never been before, whether you have to deal with difficult classes, figuring out your budget, planning trips, approaching people, dealing with an illness, feeling homesick or just feeling bad and vulnerable. You end up learning from everything and ultimately growing as person. It’s also about sharing the little things with the people you’ve met that have become your friends; being able to just hang out in comfortable silence or make jokes or tell your day or even rant about a bad day. That’s what’s exchange is all about, knowing yourself to know people and build ties with them that grow over time. The shyness and politless of the first week is slowly replaced by regular movie/pizza nights, inside jokes, new songs and even a group name and printed t-shirts !

None of this would have been possible without the support both financial and personal of my parents whom I have terribly missed especially in situations where I’m lost and I need advice. Also, the amazing Exo Leaders group and Shawna and Hilary who have tirelessly worked to make our stay here as confortable and enjoyable as possible and made sure we didn’t need anything. To my beloved exchange group, guys it’s been a great ride, you will be terribly missed and I hope to see you soon. To my peeps, the “running” club, oh you guys, a reunion is most definitely in order, I want to take you back with me because I’ve grown so used to your presence. To everyone my path happened to cross I say thank you. My life has been blessed with you presence and know that I will never forget you.

As corny as this last post must sound like and I know it is corny, I will allow myself a little bit of corniness because the words I’m writing now sitting in my desk, tears pickling the corner of my eyes, are true.

Thank you GWU, DC, for hosting me, it has been a blast and I hope to come back soon..ish.

 

Things Done at GW (so far)

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Saturday afternoon. I was just coming back to do kayak, I really tired not only to work hard navigating on the Potomac, also because I had slept less than 6 hours to finish a paper before to go to a event organized with the International Committee of the GW Class Council. So I just had arrived to my room, navigating on Internet, when I found one of the typical “101 things to do”. But those were not the typical one for me, it were “101 things to do at GW”. At the beginning I got scared with the possibility that I haven´t done any of them and the fact that the semester is almost over. But after an examination I realized that I did a bunch of them.

Here some of the 101 things that I have been doing, my experiences, my feelings and the expectations to the last weeks of the spring semester:

Thing  #3: Take the “Last Train” back to the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Done. My Chilean friends and me were coming back from a party in Chinatown. We had to run in high heels to avoid losing the last train. I am just remembering that we met a guy and we were teaching him a little of incorrect Spanish. The guy was convinced that he was learning Spanish appropriately.

 

Thing #6: Study abroad through one of GW’s many study abroad programs.

Although, this refers to study abroad of the US, my experience can be took in account as a study abroad program. So almost Done. Although it´s hard to admit, this experience has been more than a study abroad program, a change of life program I would say.

 

Thing #9: Paddle-boat around the Tidal Basin or kayak on the Potomac.

Kayak in the Potomac. Done!. Seeing the sunset from in the middle of the Potomac River, feeling a smooth wind; listen the silence; but at the same time, seeing the crowd of people walking in Georgetown were wonderful. The hard kayaking was offset with the guys’ jokes.

 

Thing #12. Go to every event during Welcome Week.

Done? Sincerely I didn’t remember exactly what I was doing in the spring Welcome week. I just can remember my first rise-high in a basketball game. Otherwise, I attended to every event of our real first week: the Orientation Week. Applause for those cold days.They seems that were yesterday. I can believe that the last event organized by the Study Abroad department is now coming.

 

Thing #13. Go ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

Done! It was the president day. We was around fifteen exchange students. My fall on the middle of the ice rink could not be missing, but neither a good dinner in Tonic after the skating with everybody.

 

Thing  #14 Celebrate George Washington’s birthday at the Annual Birthday Bonfire on University Yard.

Done! I was coming from running around the capitol and I met all the guys in the Bonfire. First time that I tasted American marshmallows, first time that I heard one of the fabulous GW Acapella groups. The first of thousands typical GW events with free food. Only at GW, at least in my university that isn’t so common.

 

Thing  #16. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.

Done. I love this memorial, maybe because its significance. On the night, on the sunset, running, walking, with cold, with sun, with the cherry blossom I visited this place a bunch of times. But I am needing a midnight walking yet!

 

Thing  #17. Join an intramural sport and practice on the National Mall.

Is running in Health and Wellness Center an intramural sport? If it is, then Done. I didn’t have excuses to stop to run in the snow days. Thank Johanna for encouraged me to go!

 

Thing  #21. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Fall in love again.

I can’t lie, so the thing#21 was done almost literally. But I can’t say “Done” as the other things, it was not “programmed”. My friends know about this, maybe some no so friends too. Definitely, my exchange experience have been including certain kinds of lessons that I didn’t expect.

 

Thing  #24. Grab a bite to eat at DC’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Obviously Done! I found the perfect company to go. After ask everyone to go, to find no one to go with me, finally at the end of my spring break and after walking all the Nationall Mall I went there with my Puerto Rican friend! The Chili Bowl´s staff was really nice. The best junk food that I tasted in DC. Hypocritically, a week after I came back to same neighborhood for organic food.

Bens

 

Thing  #26. Pull an all-nighter.

Is going to the bed at 10 and wake up at 3 or 4 to finish assignments a “pull an all-nighter”?. Definitely working without  sleeping is the most unproductive thing that I can do. So, almost done?

 

Thing  #30. Lose your GWorld card. Get a new one. Find your old one.

When I read this list the first time I was proud of myself to say that didn’t lose it. Rarely for me that I am used to lose things always. But two days ago, not only I lost my GWorld Card also my key card. I am still waiting for someone to contact me saying that they was founded. I can´t believe. Unfortunately DONE.

 

Thing  #34. Run for a position in the Student Association.

Is the Class Council similar to the Student Association? Because, I run for a position on International Committee and I got it!. Thank Class Council for the experience! You guys made me remember my high-school and university class council experience. This Saturday is the well-know Sound Fiesta, Class Council Ball.

 

Thing  #43. Try cuisine from around the world in Adams Morgan.

Done. In that neighborhood I founded the most similar food to my missed Argentine food. Also a brunch  there was one of the best. I never saw so many variety of international food in the same street. Spanish, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Mexican, Nepalese, Italian, Dutch, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Palestinian, Indian, Israeli, Thai, Lebanese, and Eritrean bars, restaurants and stores, all of them in the same street. Definitely, it is the best representation of how international DC is.

 

Thing  #48. Go to the “all-you-can-eat” weekend brunch in Pelham Commons at West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus.

Done. Last Sunday I came back  to the quiet Mount Vernon Campus after a long time. I sent a picture to my family saying them that this brunch was the way to don´t miss my typical Easter Argetine food that they was eating. Thanks girls for organize this brunch!

 

Thing  #49. Sit on Einstein’s lap.

Done. I went there with Jeru and also with Kathi. We found that Einstein has an childlike aspect, but real at the same time.

 

Thing  #54. Grab a cup of Starbuck’s coffee and chat in Kogan Plaza.

Done. The bunch of moments in Kogan Plaza have been the typical daily things especially since the weather is nice. It is the perfect place to meet all GW friends. A bunch of this moments were accompanied with a cup of Starbuck´s coffee. But after I learnt that the famous CAFE practices of sustainability of Starbuck´s aren´t so effective as they said and even more knowing that there is a thousand of pleasant in Colombia working to produce this coffee th low wages and leaving in the poverty, I decided to rethink my consume of coffee on Starbuck´s.

 

Thing  #57. Attend an embassy reception.

Is a GW reception with the Brazilian ambassador an embassy reception? If it is, then done. If it isn’t, otherwise was a good opportunity to ask to key diplomatic about Brazil´s position on the OAS regarding to the Venezuela situation.

 

Thing  #62. Cram for finals on the sixth floor of Gelman.                                                                                                                                                                              Done. Not exactly in the sixth floor, notexactly for finals.But  each of my assignments were made in the library. The silence room with the computer in the second floor is definitely my best place to study. Even more, I am starting to make new friend among the students that usually go there.

 

Thing  #66. Behold the beauty of 6,000 Japanese cherry trees in full bloom.

Done. I didn’t know that the cherry blossom would be only for a couple of days. Fortunately I could see them these days. When I was running with cross country team but also when I walked with the exchange guys and when I walked with Kathi to see the first ones.

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Thing  #72. Join a student organization…or start your own!

Yeah! I joined  the GW Class council and also in the cross country team. Both great teams to get involve in the Colonial life.

 

Thing  #81. Eat nothing but free food for a day at events on campus.

Done. From marshmallow, barbecues, cupcakes, ice creams, cookies, to fruits. One of the reasons to explain why I gained weight. Talks Receptions, student organization events, fairs, events in general were the excuse. The last one was the Easter Barbecue, the next one will be fruit smoothies offered by the Class Council.

 

Although there is activities that as exchange student I can’t do it, like thing #101:Graduate in the city of the presidents, there are others that I definitely had to do in my last weeks at GW. Like “Hear a speech by the President or another world leader”, “visit the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle”,  “Attend a free performance on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center”, “Drive to Ocean City, MD on a hot day”, “Visit Old Town Alexandria, VA”, “Observe the Supreme Court in session”, “Visit the “Exorcist” steps” “Rub the hippo’s snout for good luck before an exam”, “Read the original Declaration of Independence at the National Archives”, “Spend a sunny day at the Vern pool and walk to Jettie’s for lunch”, “Take in the view from the top of the Washington Monument” “Uptown Rent a bicycle from the Office of Campus Recreation at the Mount Vernon Campus and ride through Rock Creek Park”, “Be moved by the Hall of Remembrance at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum”, or “Tour the monuments at midnight with a date”. The list is huge and is encouraging me to don’t stop to take advantage of the days. However, it is easy and risky to finish doing them only because “I have to do it”.

There are also a lot of things that I have been doing that are not contemplated in the list:

  • As our weekly dinners with Candice, Oceane, Mariam, Soha, Nadine, Ipek, Steph and I. We started cooking “international food”, but the last time we tasted Egyptian and also French food. Now we have to taste Turkish, Mexican, and if I can find the ingredients Argentinean food.  Thank girls for the nice nights!
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  • Or the celebration of Easter playing a game like “Invisible Santa”, but with chocolate Eggs, with Giss, Inma, Java, Giss, Agus, Timo, and Matt. Thank guys for the great Sunday Ester night. Although we shared only a couple of moments together, these few moments, those few talks are worth as if they were more.
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  • Or as the Holi on the Quad event with my EXO Whitney or the many of hours simply talking with my mexican friend Steph and walking around DC. Thanks friends for that!

These activities are not here to be contemplated as list of things that I did or that I have to do. These activities means facing my challenge to appreciate each of them, to forget for a while my typical worries, to do those because I want to get immersed in each of them.

Mi little challenge for the last weeks at GW is to find a balance between putting effort to learn from the preparation of the finals exams and  to enjoy each of the upcoming events. To keep calm avoiding to try to do everything at the same time, to appreciate each of the moments, to appreciate the people who are with me and to don’t stop to learn from each of them.

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I’m just a kid …

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With every day that comes and go by the realization that I do not have much time left in DC and in America, grows bigger and bigger and the stress ball forming in the pit of my stomach only grows heavier and heavier. The phrase time flows by so quickly hadn’t resonated as much in my life as it did during this exceptional exchange experience. Now would definitely be the time to use fancy superlatives because to be honest, this experience has been entirely superlative to me.

First, I got to realize one of my dreams: coming to the US. Second, I got to travel to a paradise-like island in the Caribbean for spring Break. Third, I met and got to know people that I’m happy to call my friends with whom I had great, unforgettable moments (most of which in restaurants).

My only regret, would be that I didn’t have the opportunity nor the time , to visit more of the United States (It’s too big of a country with too many wonderful places to see).

As my time here nears to an end, a recount of one of the last weeks is necessary, more because this blog-writing process has become more of a way to write down my memories and introspection.

I got to go see an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Miami Heats which was something at the top of my to do list, it was something that I always wanted to do and something that I knew would make some of my friends who were fans of American basketball die with jealousy. I was pretty excited to watch the game although I barely knew the players. From what I gathered, the Heat was supposed to be a very good team whereas the Wizards meh not so much. It turned out to be that the Wizards won the game by a very large margin. We then celebrated it by going to FrozenYo and treating ourselves t delicious frozen yogurt topped with all kinds of toppings.

The other exciting thing we did this past week was going to the zoo; and although I looked forwards to it, I caught a cold and unfortunately wasn’t able to enjoy it to the fullest. What I did enjoy however was the delicious Lebanese restaurant we went right after the zoo and their delicious food including humus, falafel, tabouleh, shawaramah and others.

Sunday was met with delicious brunch at Circa where I had great smoked salmon benedict. After brunch we did a little egg hunt for Easter something that I had never done before. Right after the hunt and after I collected a fair amount of chocolate eggs, we went to celebrate yet another day: the Indian color festival Holi. Now, that was so much fun and getting color all over yourself, face, hair and armpits included was totally worth it !! Flinging colored chalk at each other was so much fun and the goal was to get as much color on another as possible which ended up being really enjoyable.

This weekend encompasses everything a kid would love to do: color flinging day, egg hunting, going to the zoo and even going to basket ball game, all of which I really enjoyed. At the end, I think we are all kids at hearts, loving the little things in live, the small things that bring us joy and laughter and I think that we all should be more like kids more often because .. hey it’s fun !

The inverted bell curve of a semester abroad

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It’s the nearing the end of April and in turn, nearing the end of a semester abroad. With my mind quite firmly set to “analytical mode” as the last flurry of assignments begin to come into focus, I’d like to present a little diagram which I feel pretty much sums up the experience of being on exchange.

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At the start of the curve is the enthusiasm of being somewhere new – of that long needed break from the drudgery of law school readings about lawsuits involving tainted oysters and snails in beer bottles. You meet a bunch of new people also on exchange and its great – over the course of the next few weeks there are plenty of get-togethers, and lots of travelling and exploring (one of the great advantages of a city campus no doubt). You start building friendships and bonds over terribly planned but immensely fun road trips and spontaneously put together parties. Classes have just started and the workload really isn’t that bad and perhaps not that different (or even lighter) than what you would get back at home.

Then, there is inevitably a dip somewhere. Mid-semester assignments suddenly emerge from the fray, and nights spent in the library sustained by caffeine start to reconfigure your sleeping patter to something that even most nocturnal animals would find hard to comprehend. Of course, this also tends to mean most of your other fellow exchange students are also bogged down with assignments as well. On top of this, there may or may not polar vortexes. Your Facebook newsfeed becomes a startling contrast between snow filled streets and pictures of your friends back home relaxing on the beach on a warm sunny day. A really good friend has their 21st birthday and you are a couple thousand miles away. A little homesickness starts to kick in.

But then hey, you survived your mid-semester assignments and submitted then (barely) in time. And then all of a sudden it’s time for Spring Break – who knew that one day you would actually need a break from exchange? Regardless, it has come at just the right time. All of a sudden, your enthusiasm has come right back. You meet a whole new bunch of people, get to travel and explore a whole new place. You come back refreshed and energized and guess what? Your mid-semester results are pretty good. On top of this, the weather is starting to warm up – the Spring semester wasn’t some terrible joke. You spend a lot more time outdoors. The next batch of assignments aren’t really that bad and perhaps it’s just too nice of a day to really be worrying about them too much anyway. You get to see the national mall lined in a sea of white and pink and as touristy as that may be, it is still pretty cool.

Then just as things just seem to settle in nicely, you are reminded that the end is drawing near. Email after email will provide you with checklist after checklist of administrative loose strings to tie up and check off. You start to wonder how you are going to fit all that stuff you bought back into your suitcase. The possibility that you might actually miss your charmingly messy dorm room begins to dawn. But at least you can start making plans for those few weeks left in your visa to really start travelling and exploring the country which delays the goodbyes for a few extra weeks.

The pros and pros of studying abroad

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We are now past the mid-point in April, which can only mean one thing – Spring semester is coming to a close. This semester has gone by incredibly fast, and there are now only 3 weeks to go until exams are over. For some exchange students that will be the end of their time in America. I have been fortunate enough to get an Internship in DC, so will be staying until Mid-July, but a lot of the friends I have made here will be leaving in May. A few of them will actually be in Europe with me in September, studying at various universities, just as I have done.

My friend, Paul, who will be studying in Chile next semester, asked me what the one piece of advice would be I would give to someone going to another country; this was a tough question. I could say “don’t take a lot of stuff with you, as you will never get it all back into two suitcases” or “although you may want to buy multiple cuddly toys (yes I still like cuddly toys) avoid them!” or “if you study in America you will eat A LOT of burgers.” And then I thought that these are all silly little things in the grand scheme of your exchange semester. The big thing that I have tried to do this year is say ‘yes’ to everything. Say yes to the trips away at the weekends, or the sports games (even if you have no clue about the rules of baseball). Say yes to trying new food like sushi or escargot (even though they are slimey critters!) And be willing to try new and exciting things. Every country has something different to offer – you just have to find out what that is.

I also thought about how much I have changed this year, and whether I act differently here than I do at home. I decided that being in a new place, gives you so much freedom – much more than you will ever imagine. Become more sociable and make conversation with people at parties, in your classes and at a restaurant – just because you can! The beauty of being in another country – no one knows you! You can be whoever you want to be. You can be more outgoing, or confident or laid back and no one can stop you!

I was given a quote by my parents on coming to the US and I feel it is aptly appropriate for anyone considering going abroad to study or even travel after graduation: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Another ode to a long awaited Spring

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Earlier on in the semester, being situated in the middle of DC was somewhat of an anti-climax – an endless stream of rather mundane mid-rise office buildings and apartment blocks inter-dispersed with the occasional Subway here and there was hardly the most exciting thing. Even the White House was – the quintessential icon of American politics and power – really seemed much, much smaller than it did in all those sweeping camera pans on movies or the West Wing. Added to that was the cold – something that I have long and frequently complained about and will continue to do so even when I return to Sydney. My last post was about how the arrival of Spring was kind of nice. I retract this statement. Spring in DC is not nice – it is very, very nice. I think I also said that the cherry blossoms were sort of a big deal. I also retract that – they are a very, very big deal and a literal sea of pinkish-white flowers all along the tidal basin, as tranquil as it would seem, generates a sort of tourist hysteria the likes of which I have not seen since New Year’s in Times Square. We are talking fanny pack wearing tourists shoulder charging through a sea of other fanny pack wearing tourists kind of crazy – extra points if you have a baby stroller which can double as a handy plow-like device. Heck, there is a even a parade for the cherry blossoms with all of its kitschy marching band, strangle costumed people and weird floating objects glory which this year seemed to have an added degree of zest and enthusiasm perhaps due to the particularly long and daunting winter that had just passed. There was a certain point in time in which I seriously questioned why I bothered to bring anything other than thick woollen coats and jackets. I also pondered whether the “Spring Semester” was some sort of horrible joke like the strange wildlife we Australians invent to freak out tourists from abroad. But perhaps like the exchange experience as a whole, with time comes a sort of familiarity and comfort which, when coinciding with weather which allows you to wear shorts, is just pure bliss. So my advice for those who also find themselves landing in a harsh January winter is quite simply hold on and hold out – spending the spring in DC worth it.