Monthly Archives: September 2014

SPORTS! SPORTS! SPORTS!

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One of the things that I was looking forward to most living in DC was American sports. Whilst the rest of the world has turned the beautiful game into a religion, soccer in the United States is growing but still a minority sport. Much is often made elsewhere in the world of the apparent rejection of the game by the majority of the American public, instead opting for Baseball, Hockey, Basketball and of course their own version of ‘football’.

Football/Soccer in other parts of the world dominates sporting life so much that is, in many countries the only sport that matters. Of course, there is hockey leagues, basketball leagues, rugby and golf are two big sports in Scotland but football dominates above everything.

It’s nice being somewhere where one sport doesn’t dominate. If the ‘skins (Washington Redskins) lose – as they did on Thursday night – then, don’t worry too much the Capitals season is just about to the start and the Nats just clinched their division with the best record in the league! It’s nice being able to support so many teams.

Something I also found different here is the real sense of unity that American sport franchises can give to a city/area/state. In Europe, there is normally at least two major clubs in the one city and fierce rivalries ensue. Here in DC, when the ‘skins are playing almost any bar showing it will have a host of loyal fans wearing their jerseys and cheering them onto… not much by the looks of it this season, but it’s nice the sense of unity it can bring.

We’re not immune from watching US sports elsewhere in the world. Growing up Mighty Ducks was on almost weekly in my household and street hockey was played almost daily during the summer months. The Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield and the Little Cowboys are all childhood favourites which introduced the majority of us to American sports and it’s great – and still somewhat unreal – to be able to go to games and it being as stereotypical as we seen on Television.

It does give us incentive to adopt teams and having travelled a bit in the US before, I already had somewhat questionable allegiances to many west coast teams. Having been in NorCal shortly after the Giants won the world series, they were my unofficial team. That was until I actually attended my first baseball game, where the Nats took on the Giants here at Nationals Park. Despite the game ultimately ending in a Giants victory, I quickly found myself rooting for my new hometown team.

And why not continue that across all the sports? I’m here in DC for one year, so might as well jump on for the emotional roller coaster that supporting a sports team is. I’ve even got a Nationals baseball cap, which I actually where – baseball caps went out of style along with VHS tapes in Scotland, so I would be mocked endlessly back home for ‘going native’.

I should warn fellow DC sports nuts however, I can be somewhat of a curse. I proudly proclaimed my support for the ‘skins the play before RG3 was horrendously crippled.

Nonetheless, I’m here for the ride!

[Disclaimer: I’m just going to totally ignore the whole ‘skins name issue because I can].

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INDEPENDENCE & H ST NE

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This past weekend has been one of a range of emotions for me. As I mentioned, being away from Scotland during the referendum was a big sacrifice in choosing to come to GW this year. It was compounded with the fact that I’d been suffering from a flu the week previous – I’m a total kid when I’m sick, all I want is to be brought tea and soup – so this past week had been tough.

When choosing to come to GW it was because it was such a good and unique opportunity, I’m not a superstitious person but I had hoped it would stand as a good omen for a yes vote on Thursday, alas it was not to be.

I did have very good company to watch the results come in as many former friends from back home, now based in DC made the trip out to The Queen Vic pub on H Street NE, a classic British boozer which ironically enough was full of Yes supporting bar staff – either Irish or American.

As the night progressed, it became quickly apparent that the result I and those who had gathered at the Queen Vic had hoped to come in, wasn’t going to. Nonetheless it was great to see many old friends again and some other Scots who are here in DC. The local news even showed up to get our views on the night:

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The following day was spent nursing a whisky hangover and binge watching Netflix. Saturday however seen us back to H Street NE with the H Street Festival – which was a blast!

H St NE was voted 6th most hipster place in America by Forbes Magazine in 2012 and you can still see why.

The festival spanned over 10 blocks along H Street NE with the street blocked off to traffic, as thousands of DC residents caroused the many stalls, which ranged from face-painting and t-shirt sales to art and political campaigns. I was told that there was over 200 businesses, restaurants, community organisations and merchants there that day.

I even got the chance to meet the mayor who was walking amongst other residents in jeans and a polo shirt, almost fitting in if it wasn’t for the two armed bodyguards watching his every move.

I spent most of my time enjoying liquid refreshments in one of the many bars with outdoor seating.

There was live music on a host of stages from local acts all afternoon, with some real talent on show.

Amongst the highlights was the Washington Nationals Presidents race down a block.

Next week sees “fall’ arrive and I’m eagerly anticipating a lower temperature. I’m also looking at forming plans for a trip to New York, another to South Carolina and back to the West Coast for some much needed relaxation in Southern California.

Classes and Mimosas

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As another week passes, I think I’m at a weird cross-over phase between feeling at home in DC and still feeling like this is a vacation. The humidity is one thing I didn’t really expect, I enjoy the sun – we don’t see it often enough in Scotland – but here the humidity can make the simplest walk feel like a trek across Death Valley. Although, with it now being September I’m looking forward to my first ‘Fall’ in the States. 

This week I sampled the delights of one of DC’s most illustrious institutions, Ben’s Chilli Bowl. Located on the infamous U street, Ben’s Chilli Bowl has remained unchanged in an area and a city that us underwent many over the last X years. Regular clientele ranges from your average blue-collar worker to Presidents and Prime Ministers. And that’s what makes it the place it is.

Throughout the decades and incidents, it’s been there. The 1950s seen jazz greats such as Nat King Cole and Miles Davis play along the street, the 1960s seen riots after the assignation of Martin Luther King Jr, the 1970s and 80s seen the decline of the area and increase in drug problems, the 1990s seen the arrival of the Metro and the 2000s further regeneration of the area. Throughout it all, Ben’s has stood there, forever unchanging – it’s a place where good service and good food is their prime concern.

It was also frickin’ delicious.

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Another secret to DC which I’ve quickly become accustomed is that of Brunch. We have brunch back home, however brunch is superior in DC for one primary reason; bottomless mimosas. For as little as $10 (The Pug, H Street), you can enjoy some refreshing champagne with a splash of OJ all afternoon long (provided you get some food – try the Breakfast burrito!). For a slightly more up market location, Southern Hospitality in Adam’s Morgan does the same deal for $15. If you go during college football season, expect the place to be packed with Clemson fans.

It’s not all about the cuisine culture though, although I really feel like I should pay some sort of compliment to the food trucks outside Gelman… another time.

The academic side of the exchange has also been an enthralling one. Being a political science student my subject are all general in that area, from ‘President’s at War’ to ‘Media, Politics and Government’ – they all offer unique insight into our modern world and moreover, they look at how they are applied in practise, instead of just theory – which is a welcome change to how my home institution general teaches.

The knowledge and calibre of professors here at GW is also impressive. You can’t really beat being taught about how media and press operate together, than by being taught by a former White House correspondent!

Next semester I’m eagerly looking forward to an internship, which could be at a number of the unbelievable places which GW has connections with, being so close to the political elite here in Washington.

So, it’s all go but I’ll be sure to keep you informed!

Only at GW

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As I mentioned in my last blog, the most prominent feeling before arriving 

was definitely excitement over a small amount of nervousness. From the moment we arrived on campus, we didn’t really have any time to let any of those emotions get the better of ourselves. 

The study abroad office were absolutely fantastic in ensuring we had a back-to-back agenda with a mixture of very informative sessions coupled with equally informative – but somewhat more fun – trips or games to introduce everyone to our new city. 

Not only did the induction week bond all the international students really well – it feels like I’ve known some of them for years, not days – it also bonded us to DC. From trips to the Smithsonian, races around campus, tour of congress and Mount Vernon – and even the group trip to Target, it forced everybody to jump head first into life here. The Nationals even gained some 80 new fans!

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The opportunities here at GW appear to be limitless. With world-renowned experts as Professors, illustrious alumni, fantastic internship opportunities and of course being at the geographic center of the political universe, it feels like GW is a great place to be with something extraordinary always around the corner.

It’s undoubtedly different to what we all know back at our home institutions. Where else would the President’s motorcade be a legitimate reason for being late for class? #OnlyatGW

So as we move forward, everyone is ready to go and wants to jump headfirst into life here. So, that’s what I’m off to today!

I’ll be checking again this week with my cultural faux pàs’ – there’s been several.