The week that has just past has been an incredible, albeit an insanely busy, week filled with orientation activities, moving into our dorms, numerous trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and the opportunity to meet a whole new group of friends made up of people from all over the world, as well as some GW students. Consequently, this has been the first moment I have had to sit all week and so I thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on my first week here in DC, and then of course to share it with you!
Since arriving a week ago, I have definitely been trying my best to get the lay of the land – and to get used to some changes between DC and Sydney, namely the cold! Arriving for the second day of orientation activities in ankle deep snow was certainly something that I realized I would quickly need to adapt to. Then later being evacuated due to a fire alarm, also in said snow, was something that really was beyond my range of weather familiarity. However, after my absolutely necessary investment in snow boots, I feel I have tackled the snow adjustment as best as possible.
Another major change has been moving into a dorm shared with four other girls. In Sydney it is rather unusual to move out of home, especially for college, and therefore this is my first on-campus/dorm experience, and also the first time I have ever shared a room in my life…or lived in a house of five people for that matter. Whilst this could have required a major adjustment or felt really uncomfortable or strange, I have been so incredibly lucky and have absolutely lovely roommates who I cannot wait to get to know even better throughout the semester.
Apart from a lesson in how to deal with the cold and live with others, this week has definitely taught me a lot more about what to expect throughout the semester and how to make the most out of my time here – so thanks Study Abroad office!
I guess really the highlight of the week has been meeting so many new people and starting to really get comfortable with life here! My best friend from Sydney and I were actually both assigned together to GW so I walked in on Monday knowing someone but also knowing that we were both so keen to make new friends and share experiences with them too. The Australians seem to make up a relatively significant percentage of the exchange student cohort this semester and so we were immediately attracted to each other, keen to find out what schools and cities we had all come from.
As well as us Aussies, we have students here from almost every corner of the globe and I have really enjoyed getting to know people from countries all around the world and learning elements of their culture from them – some of these conversations have been really enlightening as I have yet to visit the countries from which they are from, and others have been really fun to share my experiences with natives from a country in which I was a ‘foreigner.’
Getting to know everyone throughout the week was really enjoyable – especially because we had the opportunity to both meet in a more formal or educational environment, as well as in a more social capacity. As well as that, this group provides us all with friends eager to partake in many of the same things we are during our time here – for example, touring DC and travelling on weekends. In fact, again courtesy of the Orientation week planned by the Study Abroad Office, we have already begun exploring the city and some of the monuments and museums it has to offer. One of the highlights of this week was definitely the group tour that we took around the Capitol – especially because we had an amazing tour guide whose knowledge and interest in the Capitol was immediately engaging.
Despite the construction currently underway on the dome and within Rotunda, the artwork and sculptures were beautiful and seeing the original home of government, even with some of the structural elements and artifacts from before the attack by the British, was definitely exciting – especially for the history-lover within me. Particularly interesting was the unquestionable yet gradual development in who could be featured within the Capitol building and seeing the bust of Martin Luther King Jnr and the statute of Rosa Parks certainly acted as a reminder of the progression that has occurred and a reminder of the changes that are still required. It certainly was inspiring hearing the stories of some of those featured within the Capitol however, even more so was the fact that it was immediately noticeable that, although in the past perhaps only the contribution of white men was considered significant enough to deserve recognition in the form of representation, the presence of women and those of other races was finally recognized equally. Unquestionably, for me, that tour was the stand-out activity of the week.
Meeting all the Exo leaders too was really fantastic! Having been in their position in Sydney before, it was definitely different to be on the receiving end, however, all of the leaders were fantastic and so easy to quickly befriend! As all of our first GW friends, they definitely made a good impression :).
On our final orientation day we were instructed to go and see an assigned place that perhaps we wouldn’t otherwise see during our time here. My group received the national postal museum which, although we were initially disappointed to get (sorry!), we actually had some fun at. There were definitely some stamps with interesting heritage and history and I found myself particularly interested in the pieces of mail that had survived atrocities such as the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake, and in particular, mail retrieved from the rubble at Ground Zero.
With some time to spare before meeting our group’s Exo leaders, we made the decision as a group (we were placed into small groups at the beginning of the week and so it was with that group that we were sent to our various locations) to visit Walmart, justifying it as an important American experience (and more than anything, an essential stop for those bits and pieces that we still needed to set up our dorms efficiently). Our official Orientation activities concluded with lunch, for my group at Busboys and Poets in Chinatown, with our Exo leaders, Chao and Erin. It has been really great getting to know this small group so well over the last week, and especially to get to know people from the group at large.
To finish off my first week here in DC, two of the other Australian girls and myself went to brunch on Sunday morning, followed by a Georgetown stroll and shopping expedition. DC is such a gorgeous city and although my leg muscles are undeniably feeling the pain of my desire to explore despite a lack of car (I’m so used to driving everywhere in Sydney!), I cannot wait to continue to see as much as possible.
It’s been a fantastic first week here and now, if you’ll excuse me, my roommates and I must continue to decorate our new home.
Until next time…