Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ready, steady.. go?

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Second week of classes. The week where you still feel like you are on holiday but need to studying at the same time. The week where you remember what getting up early feels like. My second week of classes started perfectly fine. I organized my schedule the best way possible until I realized I wasn’t registered in one of my mandatory courses. I had the professors’ signature, I had the time to take it, I had the email confirmation but I didn’t know the registration system at GW was so different from the one I have back home. I had to wait the whole week not knowing if I was going to be able to attend this particular class. Consumer Behavior. My favorite course so far and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get what I wanted. Worries, an email that never came, and bad sleep. After that week, on Monday at 8:39am I breathed again. I was the first in line and with some help of my advisors; I got the chance to register myself into the class. Now I have my 12 credits and what is more important, I’m register in 4 classes that I like. So we can say I also ended the week perfectly fine.

But the worries about my course did not stop me. This week I spent a lot of time enjoying the city and walking by new neighborhoods. One of my favorites days was Friday because I met my relatives for brunch in an amazing place call Farmers Fishers Bakers. The food was spectacular and the place was really nice too. I reunite with my family that I haven’t seen in 5 years and luckily we had a fantastic time, just like the first day we met. After brunch we walk next to the river and we ended up next to the bridge enjoying the beautiful warm sunset.

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The next day was also a great day. In the morning my friends and I went to the brunch at GW. All of the different types of food that we tasted were fantastic: Tater tots, falafel, chicken, pork, donuts and muffins. Also the games we played made us spent a great time together sharing laughs and excitement. After a few hours of hearing good music and feeding ourselves, it was game time. The GW basketball team and the rivals. At this moment everyone was raising their voices and clapping their hands cheering for buff and blue colors, for our colors, for our team! The game, the team, the band, the cheerleaders and of course, George were fabulous! it’s always a pleasure to be part.

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“You are gifted in many ways.” That’s what was written in my fortune cookie. Looking back into my life and mostly the recent events, I can guarantee that it is true. After 3 weeks in the country I have made great friends, I have spent time with my relatives, and I achieved my short-term goals. Now I have so many reasons to smile. I’m gifted because I have people around me with whom I share my experiences, moments and all of my adventures. I’m gifted because I always try to keep the good part of the stories. I’m blessed because there are people here and back home that I can rely on. I’m blessed because life brought me to DC and I never want to go.

 

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A Day of Service

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In last week’s blog I decided to commit to doing something new each week that would either be outside the norm for me, uniquely GW or typically DC. This week began with the perfect opportunity to extend this to include doing something that would not only enhance my experiences here, but also help someone else in need. This was to be my first MLK day and whilst some may have seen it as a good opportunity for long weekend travels, I decided that the only appropriate way to observe the event and honor the significance of the day would be to complete service, as is called on by the day itself. And so alongside over 500 GW volunteers, I reported for service at 10am on Monday morning with a group of the other exchange students, eager to help and participate.

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Quickly decked out in our new t-shirts provided to us for the day, we entered the ballroom to hear speeches from some incredibly inspiring, insightful and interesting individuals. Not only did they explain to us the importance of MLK day (which we of course knew, but it was really wonderful to hear it from their points of view as African American women who told us of the changes they had witnessed), but they evidently rose the level of excitement in the room as it dawned on everyone the importance of the work that would be completed throughout the day.

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After hearing from the speakers and reciting the pledge of enthusiasm (which I desperately want to get a copy of – it was fantastic!), we had some lunch and then the large group of hundreds of volunteers split into smaller projects, each to complete a task for a different organization. The first organization that we were assigned to assist was Project Linus who serve children in need by providing them with warm blankets. The blankets, which are no-sew blankets and therefore are simple for everyone to make, are distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies or anywhere else that children are in need. The idea is to provide them with warmth but also with a big hug and some security in knowing that someone is thinking about them. Learning about this organization was truly touching and is something that I would love to see implemented at home in Australia in some sense as I think that, although simple, their work is, evidently, incredibly meaningful and required. Furthermore, I think that the simplicity of the actual task allows for everyone and anyone to get involved which makes it an amazing project for people to get involved in.

Mia and I made a cute bright pink and yellow blanket that we hope will provide a little girl with the warmth, comfort and support she needs. So, to the recipient of the blanket we made, there is a hug from Sydney and a hug from London hidden within that blanket just for you!MLK4

After completing our blanket to be sent out with Project Linus, we moved next doorto make cards for hospitalized kids. We wanted to make stacks of cards and so we exerted every creative ounce of our beings in order to make the most colourful, imaginative and fun cards to brighten up the days of the children receiving the cards. There were lots of kangaroos and koalas drawn, games created and sketches of Big Ben included (you could definitely spot the international table!). We used all the stickers and coloured markers we could get our hands on and together created quite a collection of cards to be distributed throughout DC hospitals.

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Reading the instructions before beginning the activity, it was interesting to note the organization’s preference that we not use the term ‘Get well soon’ or make any mention of them being sick or feeling unwell. Rather our cards were filled with encouraging messages like ‘you are awesome’ and ‘you shine like the sun.’ Whilst we think that this was obviously to take into consideration the emotions of those patients who unfortunately aren’t in a position to ‘get well soon,’ I really like the fact that asking us to include these phrases reminded us to think of them as children first and patients second. We weren’t meant to make these cards for the sick and injured, we were meant to make them for the fun loving children that would be the real recipients.

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Deciding to join the movement to serve this MLK day was easily one of the highlights of my time at GW so far. Knowing that a few hours of our time would help brighten up some kids’ days was an amazing feeling and I am so grateful to GW for presenting this opportunity to get involved! To anyone coming in the Spring semester on exchange here in the future, email as soon as you get here to ensure that you get a place and make sure not to miss out on MLK day – it is well worth your time!

So that was this week’s new experience – and its only Monday!

Until next time…

KEEP CALM we are back to class

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The first week of classes just began and I’ve done as many things as the first week in DC. I’m taking 4 business courses that I like and I have 4 different and interesting professors from all over the world: A Chinese professor, an Indian professor, an American man, and the sweetest American lady. Since it is my first week, there is not much to say (the classes were mostly introductory) but I don’t have to get up really early in the morning and I don’t finish late so I think I may have a lot of time to travel around, visit, and of course, study. But most important, I’ll have plenty of time to be with my family and friends just the way I did this week..

On Tuesday night, my brother (who lives here) took me to the basketball game where The Wizards played against The San Antonio Spurs. If you are an Argentinian or a basketball fan, you may know that Manu Ginobili is one of the best players of the NBA and I GOT THE CHANCE TO MEET HIM!! It was unbelievable, we were like one hundred people trying to meet him and I was right next to him for the picture and talking moment! That night was incredible, not only because I met him but also because neither my brother nor I know a lot about basketball but just for the game, we decided that each of us was going to cheer for one of the teams and the loser had to pay for dinner. We enjoyed the game until the last minute. We laughed a lot, we won two shirts and after the game, we went to Shake Shack for some veggie hamburgers that he paid for although my team lost. Everything about that night would stay on my mind forever.

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This week was also a special week because my roommate and me started our cooking lessons so we prepared chocolate cookies and sweet bread. Well, she cooked and I watched her (I’m a great fan of the food but not a great cooker) but I know that by the end of the semester i’ll be able to prepare different recipes. Speaking about food, this week I also went to some friends’ places to have dinner. They prepared woks, pasta and chicken and rice that we ate with a glass of wine and many different funny stories that made us laugh and share a special moment for all of us. As a song says, were our first midnight memories and there are many more to come!

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Just like in the movies I like, dancing auditions at GW are super special. Even thought I haven’t practiced in 5 years, I decided to participate on Capital Funk auditions. This group is extraordinary, they perform hip-hop routines and participate each year in national competitions where they’ve been winning first and second place for the last 7 years. Of course, I didn’t make it to the team but only the idea of sharing the dance floor with such an amazing dancers was enough to enjoy the moment. Apart from that, I decided to participate in other dance lessons such as Zumba and Ballroom that were also special and different to what I’m used to dance. I’m glad I went to the student orgs fair at Marvin Center, I wouldn’t have known that there are like 300 groups you can join at GWU!!

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My spectacular week ended with a 3 days weekend because of Martin Luther King Day. While for some people that means sleeping the whole day, neither working nor studying or doing nothing at all, for a lot of us it meant volunteering day. My friends and me participated in different activities to contribute and serve in the community. We created nice blankets, greeting cards and bracelets to donate to kids that are in hospitals or for those that just need it. It was a special day. I also got the chance to meet The President of our University (YES, in the first week!) and heard 3 different cheerful and interesting speeches about this particular day. Even though it was Monday, was the perfect ending for my first week of involvement in this community and university life.

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The Adventure Continues…

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Today marks the end of the second week that I have been in DC and it is amazing to me how quickly this city, and in particular GW, have come to feel home-like and comfortable. With that in mind, I realized quickly that although the goal here is to feel at home, it is important to ensure that we don’t take for granted the opportunity to live in DC and to get to know the city in great detail. Accordingly, I have decided to set a different goal for myself, which is to experience something new every week, which I will then be able to share with you in this blog 🙂 .

This week has been filled with new experiences and therefore is the perfect week to act as an introduction to my new challenge. Apart from starting classes at GW (and surprisingly not getting too lost – which was beyond exciting because I still get lost all the time at my home school), I enjoyed my first college basketball game, visited U-Street and took some time over the weekend to indulge in the sights of DC. So far my classes have all been great – and strangely enough they have been both very similar and incredibly different from what I am used to at home. The fact that the classes are so small are a big change, but so far I have liked all the classes I have taken, so lets hope that remains true throughout the semester.

One of the best parts of this week was going to the GW v. Richmond Basketball game. Although I am generally not a big sports fan, I ended up getting really into the game and had a really fantastic night. I have heard many GW students mention the lack of school spirit that is usually demonstrated by the student body, (I’ve heard a number of people say that internships are to GW students what sport is normally to college students) and so I went in with some hesitations. I don’t know if I was expecting a below par team or sub-standard spirit as a result of these statements, but what I witnessed certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. If this is a school that ‘isn’t all that into sports,’ they sure did a good job of fooling me! The entire court was electric, excitement was drowned out only by the chants of screaming GW fans and the stalls were filled with everyone in matching Buff and Blue supporters’ shirts. The game itself was incredibly engaging and was easily one of the most exciting basketball games I’ve ever been to – probably because we were so invested in their win as we wanted our first GW game to end a success.

L to R: Mia, Neil, Myself, Mads, and Sophie at the basketball game!

L to R: Mia, Neil, Myself, Mads, and Sophie at the basketball game!

L to R: Mia, Dion, and Me

L to R: Mia, Dion, and Me

 

 

When the game, in its second over-time, was finally down to its last 10 seconds and it looked like we had it in the bag, the floors and walls began to shake with excitement as GW supporters stomped, chanted, sang and cheered. After a rather long game of basketball (it was such a tight game!) the GW team won and made our first time to the basketball here a thrilling experience, one that we are already all planning on going back to together. It was awesome too meeting up with a large group of the other exchange students as obviously during the week we don’t see each other all the time as we are all off meeting our own friends in classes and hanging with our roommates, etc, so it was a great opportunity to meet back up as a group after a couple days apart.

L to R: Ella, Sophie, Mads, Me, Dion, and Mia

L to R: Ella, Sophie, Mads, Me, Dion, and Mia

Aside from the basketball, the other highlight of this week was having my friend from Ohio visit for the weekend, and sightseeing with her. We started the weekend off with breakfast at the Old Ebitt Grill as we were told that it was iconic here in DC, before beginning a long stroll down the National Mall enjoying the sights of the monument, the World War II memorial, the Lincoln memorial and the Vietnam memorial. The grandeur of all the sights, especially the Lincoln memorial, certainly did not disappoint and were as magnificent as my memory served based on my visit years ago. The weather definitely set the scene this visit, especially as we were able to step onto the semi-frozen reflection pool and essentially ‘walk on water.’

My friend from Ohio (Marissa) and I!

My friend from Ohio (Marissa) and I!

Marissa, Mads, and I

Marissa, Mads, and I

Eager to indulge our collective sweet tooth, our next stop for the day was a visit to Georgetown Cupcakes – and indulged we were 🙂 . With cupcakes in tow, we continued our day down on the banks of the Potomac, where we went ice-skating. Realizing my lack of skills on the ice (and that of my friends), we found ourselves eventually needing to move on once again…after embarrassingly being overtaken numerous times by the small children on the ice.

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And so the fun in DC continues, and with more of the long weekend to look forward to, I cant wait to take advantage of all the new opportunities and experiences that come my way.

Until next time…

Saying Hello

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Start of the new semester, opening of 2015! New classes, new schedule, new professors and their teaching styles, classmates, books, events – all for the first time, fresh and exciting, yet at the same time, accompanying a drop of anxiety. Saying hello to all these new things students would have encountered during their first week of school, I could say that it is more or less essentially the same as dipping your feet into the pool before getting completely wet. As if from air into water, the changes in the environment give you a little tremble, but once you get used to it, you soon become the fish in the water. Not only the changes in the environment though, I believe the same applies to the intricacy of human relationships.

Image of the Student Org Fair (Jan 14th, 2015)Meeting new people, saying hi to the person who is sitting next to you in class, introducing yourself to the professor, all requires the courage of jumping into an area of unknown. What kind of a person would he/she be? Would he/she be in possession of a character which is similar / different to mine? Would we be good friends? All such thoughts arise before the actual ‘hello’, the first eye-contact, getting the first impression on each other followed by a couple of light or short conversation necessary to explore deeper into who he/she is. As more and more information and interchange of feelings compile, the two people gets closer faster and faster, like in geometric progression.

We all know this, yet still it is the ‘actual start’ that most intimidates us. The fear of being rejected, of screwing up make us hesitate in putting the first step. I guess such anticipation of future leads us to achieving nothing. If you think that it is a right decision, jump in without hesitation. Soon you’ll be finding yourself swimming like a fish in a new world, hopefully not so much different from the world you have aspired for.

I think that is how my first week in school passed. So many things had happened, and I was enjoying every moment of my time more than I had expected or rather, anticipated. Spending time with friends definitely helped a lot. I had busy time during the day, changing classes, adding/dropping classes, reordering my schedule, introducing myself to the class, doing assignments and readings that already existed for the first class (unfortunately). What was more, the class atmosphere between US and South Korea was so much different, even though I had already expected that there would be differences, it was quite hard to adjust to the US class atmosphere at first. The biggest difference was the class participation. US students (at least students in my class – usually Political Science or International Affairs) tend to be active in trying to express their own opinions and engage in a debate during class. They don’t seem to be in much fear of not getting the right answer (although in many cases ‘right’ answers don’t exist). Professors and students communicate freely. US college classes seem to be very lively, due to all these factors.

Korean college class atmosphere tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum as that of US. Even though students may have their own opinions shaped, the majority of the students are usually quite careful and reluctant in trying to express their opinions out in front of the whole class. In many classes students are eager in trying to take note of what the professor said, accelerating the lecture to be more leaned toward professor-only-lecturing style. Having spent years in such class environment, US class styles first came as a little shock to me. So for the first few days I usually observed how other students participate in the class, giving out their opinions. By the end of the week, I took some courage to present my opinion for the first time. It was not as hard as I had expected, so after my first time, it was much easier for me to participate in the class by giving out opinions a couple times more.

Asian dinner!After the classes, I spent time with my fellow Asian friends, usually by cooking together for dinner and sharing the food. We visited the H-mart, which is the Korean market (selling not only Korean but other Asian groceries too) near the DC area. Cooking together and sharing food is not only fun, yet is a great opportunity to experience other cultures other than one’s own. DC life as an exchange student needn’t be solely about experiencing US. With so many fellow exchange students around, getting to know cultures other than US is always close to access, and experiencing, sharing different cultures are usually always intriguing!

Pride and Prejudice in DC

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Just as any foreigner would have had, I also had my expectations and prejudices about Americans, American culture and society before I arrived to Washington D.C. Some of them were positive, some negative, yet most, unfounded. GWU’s 6 day-long orientation reestablished my perception and understanding of American culture and society, adjusting my prejudices to the reality. Looking back on my first week in D.C., I can undoubtedly say that my first impression of D.C. couldn’t be better. It broke most of all my negative prejudices and strengthened my positive expectations.

The strongest positive prejudice that I had was that Americans are usually very open-minded and generous. I had already received help from a generous lady who got me out of trouble when at airport, I was struggling to use a luggage cart but did not have any change to pay for its usage. She actually paid for my $5 cart when there was no way that I could pay her back. During the orientation week, the willingness and kindness, friendliness of the leaders surprised me. They surprised me again when I heard that they had just volunteered for the leader position, without getting paid for all the hard work. From the procedural, tiring things such as checking in, getting the GWorld card, opening a bank account, settling in the room to interesting, fun things such as going on a D.C. tour, Welcome BBQ, Movie Night and DC City Drop Off’s, the leaders never seemed to get tired or bored. Even with the weather being so freezing cold, snowy and windy, making every step of our orientation activities hard, their face were full of smile, always trying to tell us more about DC culture and needy information. Through them, I could really feel the generosity of these people who are so accustomed to giving and sharing their time, knowledge and happiness with others.

Yet still of course, I had some negative prejudices. That Americans are two-faced was the biggest among all. By two-faced and dualistic meaning that Americans act so willing to be engaging in your life, all nice and kind while actually in real mind they are not interested, not caring a bit about you. For instance on first meeting they would just say ‘you can call or ask me help whenever you need me’ yet those words could actually turn out to be passing-by remarks. I felt this might be true whenever I went to CVS or other shopping malls encountering and getting into conversation with the cashiers, or when I was greeted by from strangers I met on the street. Americans seemed to be used to this one-shot, superficial relationship to which I was so unaccustomed to. I saw this with criticism, thinking that Americans were so used to faking things, yet slowly I began to think, this is just the way they are. Still, it’s better to be greeted with a smiling face, than just passing by without even looking at each other. The relationship is superficial anyway, and everyone knows about the superficiality of such greetings and attitudes. If we regard this just as sort of a social custom of Americans, there’s frankly nothing to be so cynical about.

So basically, a week in DC told me that DC is a wonderful place. Obviously the things I have learned and felt about this city during my first week of orientation would be just a drop in a bucket of what I would feel or know about throughout the rest of my semester in GWU. I hope my positive first impression just gets to be better as the days pass.

We are just getting started

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One week, 393 pictures, 57 exchange students, 13 leaders, Shawna and Hilary. What else do I have to say? If anyone had ask me about my expectations for my first week at GWU, I would have mentioned all the places, people, moments and experiences I just lived.

As an exchange student, fear is the first feeling you have when you arrive at your new home. Am I going to like my roommates? Am I going to make new friends? Am I going to like my classes? What am I doing here?!? That feeling automatically disappeared when 10 strangers in blue received me at the Marvin Center giving me the kindest welcome ever. Instantaneously my smile appeared. After months of planning this trip, I was finally here. The place I’ve been dreaming for so long was better than I expected. Not only because of the spectacular view I have from my window (the amazing Washington monument, or the American Obelisk) but also for the terrific freezing weather..

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On my first night on Washington, standing in the Lincoln Memorial under a full moon reading Lincoln’s speech inscribed on the wall I knew I had arrived. I had arrived not so much to a place, not even a dream but to a collection of adventures yet to come. But most adventures need someone to be shared with. And what is better than people from the five continents to share those with? When I met the Australians (everyone is from Australia), the Asians, the South Americans, the French, the London, the Italians and of course, the Americans, I was reminded that I was not alone here in DC, at GWU. They reminded me why I participated in the exchange program in the first place: to explore the diversities the world has 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.

The first week of orientation has been the world. The museums, the Capitol, the traditional Ben’s Chili Bowl, the metro, the bars and nightclubs, the fantastic buildings and gym that belong to GWU (almost every building of the city) and the famous scavenger hunt game, made me think that my decision to come to Washington DC was the best choice I could have made.

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But orientation week wouldn’t have been the same without our amazing Leaders. They did a fantastic job showing us around, giving us helpful tips, advice and guiding us. They brought us all together in an atmosphere of laughter and joy that allowed us to become friends.

Those laughs and adventures already lived and the many more to come have been blessed by those people who brought me directly and indirectly here.The group we’ve become, the peace and rhythm of Washington, DC, and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Like if they had known me forever, always so cheerful and friendly, I can not wait for the Spring semester to start.

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