Visiting our Neighbours

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As we continue to get to know DC better and better, the exchange office decided it was about time that we got to know our neighbors. Ordinarily this may not seem like the most exciting idea, but when you go to GW and your neighbors live at THE WHITE HOUSE, yeah, the excitement builds!

This Saturday, as one of the activities organized for the exchange student group (of which there are a few scattered throughout the semester), we went on the tour inside the White House – something that has definitely been on my bucket list for a while and an event I was very excited about! Simply getting to go beyond the gates and take photos of the building was awesome!

Inside the tour is self-guided allowing you to move at your own pace throughout the corridors and rooms. Whilst only a small number of rooms are available for public viewing, the rooms do not disappoint as they are elegantly decorated in a timeless fashion with reminders in every corner of the importance of the house in which you are standing. From the details of the eagle on every chair in a room, to the larger-than-life portraits of American presidents through history, there is certainly no questioning the historical value and significance of each item within each room.

The rooms that you can walk through (as opposed to the ones you can only see from the doorways) are certainly highlights and as a history buff, I couldn’t help but imagine what, and who for that matter, these walls have seen. We went into the east room – the room where both Lincoln and Kennedy’s bodies lay following their assassinations – and which is decorated in gold with multiple elaborate chandeliers. The Green, Blue and Red rooms, all now, I believe, used to entertain guests, were also rooms that we got to go into and learn the history of – each one decorated by and used for a different purpose by each president.

At the conclusion of the tour we were able to take some photos before having to leave which was really cool! I have included some here:

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Getting into the White House is certainly no easy task as it takes months often to get approved if you are an international student as you normally have to apply through your embassy, etc. It was awesome getting to go in and having it all organized by the exchange office here at GW – both because, I mean, we went into the White House – how cool is that! And also because it meant that we all got to go together which was an added bonus.

So meeting your neighbors at home may not be the most thrilling of tasks, but at GW…well, its something that I would highly recommend!

The day before our White House adventure, I continued my exploring of DC by visiting the Newseum with Katie – an English exchange student. The Newseum is unbelievable! From the beginning of the suggested path, immediately you are confronted with both pieces of history and an indication of the importance of the media and of journalism within history. ‘Pieces’ is actually a perfect word to explain this first exhibit as in the basement of the Newseum are parts of the Berlin Wall – literal pieces of history. Also on the basement level was an exhibit on Baby Boomers that we enjoyed, and an entire room devoted to the FBI which was really really interesting and probably my favorite individual exhibition we saw. I saw a number of people skipping that particular room so I have to say that my advice to anyone going to the Newseum is not to skip it!

As we ventured upstairs and ascended the levels gradually, stopping at each exhibit on the way, the enormity of what this museum has successfully achieved certainly weighed on us, especially as we are both interested in both history and journalism as potential future career paths. As we moved higher and higher through up the levels, we became more and more inspired. One quote in particular that I saw on the wall of the exhibit featuring original front page news clippings from some of the most important dates in history, really summed up the museum for me; “journalism is the first rough draft of history.”

As well as the FBI exhibition, some of the other exhibits that I particularly enjoyed included the Pulitzer Prize Photography exhibit, the modern technology exhibit – in particular, the large movie that they play that left the Australian and British audience members (ie. Katie and I) teary as we felt incredibly patriotic for a country that isn’t technically our own (awkward), and the 9/11 room which was my other favorite exhibit of the day.

This particular exhibit was so tastefully done, in my opinion, as the emotional value was in no way contrived but rather left you in a position where you both felt the unbelievable weight of sadness that I find accompanies all 9/11 exhibits and memorials, but simultaneously appreciated, celebrated even, the power of journalism and the wonderful people who risked their lives in order to bring news, images and hope to the world in a time of great sorrow. I learnt of one individual photographer who grabbed his cameras after seeing the plane hit the building and ran to the towers, approaching closer and closer snapping as many photos as possible. Unfortunately, this man perished after the tower collapsed, but a colleague and friend of his was able to retrieve his camera and the images he lost his life trying to share with the world. To see the pictures and an interview with his wife where she explains what it is like to see the last hour and a half of her husband’s life through his eyes was like, was a very powerful experience. There was a quote on the wall in this exhibition that really underpinned the amazing work of journalists to me; “there are three kinds of people who run toward disaster, not away: cops, firemen and reporters.”

Perhaps the most fun we had in the Newseum was in the interactive News Room where we tried our hand at reading from the teleprompters and presenting the news. We each tried two different scripts and had a lot of fun…and realized that we both need a little more practice! To future exchange students – although this is one of the few museums I know of that you pay to enter in DC, I would definitely tell all who visit DC that it is one not to be missed – it’s worth every cent!

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As spring is finally beginning and the cold is dying down (YAY!), DC seems to be transforming completely. I cannot wait to continue exploring the city, but with a fresh look as even the monuments I have visited countless times look totally different in their new spring glow.

Until next time…

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