Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sunshine at Last – A Trip to Mexico

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After nearly three months in sub-freezing temperatures and constant jacket wearing, it was finally time to trade in the snow boots for swimsuits and head to Cancun, Mexico for a week soaking up the sun and the sand. Spring Break seemingly calls on the mass exodus of a campus worth of college students as they head for some sun, some time at home, some volunteering experiences or some time to tour new destinations. And so, in keeping with tradition, I, alongside three of the other Australian exchange students, boarded a flight to Mexico early Monday morning.

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Cancun for Spring Break definitely implies some element of craziness and real ‘Spring Break’ activity/behaviour. To be honest, and I’m sure this is the case with any Spring Break destination, it really is what you make of it. We decided that we didn’t want to have a ‘crazy intense’ Spring Break just because that was what was expected of Spring Breakers. Instead, the week was filled predominately with lounging by the pool, hanging out on the beach, enjoying the sun and taking in the tropical climate we were all craving so!

One of the main reasons for my wanting to go to Cancun in particular was the mixture of beach time fun and history. I have been interested in seeing the ruins in Mexico for some time now so to be that close to one of the wonders of the world, an incredible Mayan ruin called Chichen Itza, was definitely a major draw card. Accordingly, one of the first things we did once arriving at our resort for the week was go ahead and book a tour to take in some of the ancient wonders of Mexico. Three of us decided to go and the tour – which I will talk about in just a moment – was amazing and totally up our alley (which makes sense when you consider that we had two history students – one whose focus is ancient worlds – and an architecture student visiting an incredible ruin that really proves how the ancient world defied often even modern building capabilities).

The morning of the tour was a little rough as it meant another very early morning in a row (we had to be on the shuttle to Dulles at 4am just the day before the tour!), however, once on the bus we began the journey with our tour guide and group to a little town called Valladolid – a city that boasted architecture from three different eras and conquerors – it was very cool! The main town square definitely proved the Spanish influence on the area as there was a clear European influence both in the layout of the square, as well as in the religion of the area evidenced by the large church that stands opposite the small park in the centre. We had a look at the church, took in the bright colours of everything that filled the square and the surrounding streets and enjoyed the smiling locals that filled that park before we had to continue on in order to make it to the next stop on the tour.

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Next we went to a Cenote which is essentially a water hole and the particular one that we went to was so deep that they are yet to discover exactly how deep it is. These cenotes – or sinkholes – are sporadically seen around the area and all still join together to supply much of the areas water. Set within a cave, the water, though freezing, was incredibly refreshing and really beautiful as whilst swimming you look up through the open gap in the cave’s roof to see only the sun light imposing in. I would highly recommend a visit to a cenote during a visit to Cancun!

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We had lunch nearby to the cenote and were entertained by traditional dancers performing their way through the tables. We were also encouraged to try a really spicy sauce that is apparently a staple item of any Mexican’s daily food intake but I passed on that. I’m all about indulging in a culture and trying anything but I have my limits and my limit is chilli!

Our next stop before continuing on away from the cenote was the so-called ‘tequila museum’ next to the sinkhole. I say ‘so-called’ because museum is really just a glorified way of saying tasting – we went to a tequila tasting where they offered us our choice of fourteen different flavours of tequila to try. After tasting a couple – chocolate and mango definitely being the winners in my opinion – we continued on in pursuit of the day’s main attraction – Chichen Itza.chichenitza

Upon arriving at the site, our group split into English speakers and Spanish speakers and we went on our way – our first stop in the enormous area filed with ruins and buildings representing the traditional Maya way of life, had to of course be the star of the area, Chichen Itza. It really is a beautiful site and the symbolism of each and every detail is amazing. Our tour guide was incredibly dynamic and brought the traditions, sacrifices and way of living to life in each story and detail that he told about both the main temple and the surrounding ruins too. It was interesting too to learn about the ways in which they controlled the people, the sports that they took pleasure in (even if it did result with the winner having his head cut off as a sacrifice to the gods), their abilities in astrology, science and mathematics, and the ways in which they sacrificed their subjects (however gross and graphic the description was).

After an amazing day we began the drive back to Cancun where we all met up again and continued enjoying resort life. We picked to stay at an all-inclusive resort which I would definitely recommend to Spring Breakers – it’s a great way to firstly keep track of your budget, secondly to make decisions easier, like to where to eat, for example – it’s in everyone’s price range because its included, and it was good to know what we had already spent so that we could decide how much or how little more we were each comfortable spending. We found it to be very worth-while and good value for what we had paid and had an absolutely fantastic time!

On our last day we decided to finish off with some jet-ski riding which was so much fun! We all loved it! It was very sad to leave the gorgeous sunshine and crystal blue waters of Cancun but I will definitely be back! And so now, with a full-on week ahead, we are back in DC and ready to resume!

Until next time…

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The Weather Changes

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The week before Spring break is generally the most chaotic one. Most students have their midterms so a mix between stress, happiness and desire of leaving the city consumes them. This particular week also represents the middle of the exchange program and it turned to be the shortest one as well. Already more than two months in this country, who would have said that?

As the weather has been crazy, last Thursday was declared as a snow day, the second one since I got here. Is the global warning trying to tell us something or what? While on Wednesday everyone was freaking out, praying and checking the news to know if they had to stopped studying for their exams or not, I was checking my email praying to not receive a “flight cancelled” message. I did not have exams because I’m going to have them the week AFTER Spring break, what means that instead of being full relaxed, my mind eventually would be thinking about the million things I have to study. Anyway, I stayed up writing until 4am when I assumed that GW was not going to cancelled classes and I went to sleep. The light of the sun woke me up the next day. My roommate had turned off my alarm clock when she read the most expected email. At that time my flight was still not cancelled so my friends and I decided to go outside and build a snowman together before I had to leave. This time instead of going on Spring Break together, as we wanted in the first place, we ended up going to 5 different places and I was the one that was leaving first. After lunch we met in front of E Street and Dion and I started building the snowman. I must say, build a snowman is more complicated than it looks like. It was still snowing so the snow did not compact so after 4 different tries and 40 minutes later we kind of found the best way to create our little cute monster. After that, we decided to walk to the Lincoln Memorial and spend some time there. On our way we took the long walk so we saw the frozen river and the ducks lying on top. We approached a little and the ducks started walking through us so we got scared and continue walking to the memorial. When we finally made it we realized that the Washington Monument had “disappear” in the middle of the mist. Everything around us was white and everything looked nice so we ended up playing like little boys with the snow. After the snowman, the walk and the snow war, we ended up all wet and cold so we run to my place for some tea and a warm shower before I had to leave to the airport. When all of these happy things were happening I forgot the reason why I had an extra day: the snowstorm. My happiness didn’t last much. When I was saying bye to my friends and leaving my apartment, an American Airlines call destroyed the smile in my face. I had to return to my place, call the airline to change my flight to the first one available, call my family and friends waiting for me in Miami and re organize my whole week. After almost two hours and 3 different calls I finally changed my flight to Sunday morning. That meant that instead of being the first one leaving, I was now the last one. That also meant that instead of having the following week to study, I had to organize almost all my writings in two days.

On Thursday night I had dinner with my friends and we watched a movie together. I was supposed to be travelling but instead I had Spaghettis, homemade brownies and “The Italian job”. Actually, a really good replacement. snowday

Last week I also used my time to cook. I’m not a really good chef because I never practiced but living alone makes you learn new things either you like it or not. Fortunately for me, I really enjoy cooking. The past week I decided to eat some of the things that I had on my fridge and never cooked before. Homemade hamburgers, spicy rice, tortilla de papa, calabaza rellena, chicken wok and croissants were some of the dishes I prepared. For being my first time, I must say I did a really good job. Not that someone else tasted it but for me those looked and taste really good.

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The weekend was also not as bad as I expected. It was my roommate’s birthday so I surprised her with a delicious cake and 22 candles. We spent the day studying but at night we went out to celebrate. Also, my friend Vicky and me decided to go to swim at the gym so we spent almost two hours doing some exercise. I also called my parents and my best friends with Skype and I stayed up studying until 4 am on Sunday when I had to leave to take my flight. At the airport I did the security and check in things in less than an hour so I had plenty of time to have breakfast and look into the duty free stores. At 7am I was ready to leave and I must say there was nothing as beautiful as looking the sunrise from my window. A whole week was reaching its end, a new day was starting, A city stayed behind while two hours from that moment the beautiful warm Miami was waiting for me. Spring Break is about to start and too many new adventures are waiting for me. So let’s close my eyes, sleep and wait for it.. birthday

One Way to Enjoy the Snow Day

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I can proudly say that the second snow day in GW was one of my best days in DC. To begin with, the snow day notice saved my life. I was to have a test that day that I did not prepare enough – for I had started studying for that course from after midnight on that test day – just to find out that the materials that needed studying was way too much to study overnight. I was literally going to stay up the whole night for that test when I heard of the possibility of another snow day in GW. I was quite worried though, that the snow day rumor may not be true, with my American roommate saying things like how GW is tries to avoid announcing snow day because once in the past there had been too many snow days announced in GW that a law school student sued GW for canceling classes too frequently. Anyways, the moment I got my email from GW security at 5 am, I nearly jumped with joy, closed my books and went to bed right away, and woke up past 12pm.

After cooking something for lunch, my friends and I went to the Pentagon City Mall to do some shopping for the upcoming spring break (we were going on a cruise to the Bahamas), only to find out that it was an unwise decision. It did snow a lot – even Uber charged extra $15 due to the weather – yet still we thought the shops in the Pentagon City Mall would be open because the Pentagon City Mall is an indoor shopping place. Yet our guesses proved to be wrong, and when we got there most of the shops were all closed, with only a few food stores selling food. We had no choice but to come back without any gains.

Yup, so my snow day started off not so great. Yet there’s a saying: “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase”. I guess my snow day was a day that exactly fit to those words. My friend invited me to join dinner with her friends in the dorm, where we cooked food together. I made some fried chilly shrimp and lemon cake for dessert. Most of her friends were American, GW students who already had their experiences of Study Abroad in some other countries. There even was a guy who did his studying abroad in Korea, my home country. We talked mostly about our experiences of studying abroad, and those American friends there seemed very interested in the reason I chose to do an exchange program at GW and about my current life in DC.

After dinner, at around 10pm, some fellow exchange student friends and I went out to take a walk to the monuments and have fun in the snow. It wasn’t as cold as expected, yet the roads were very slippery. We first headed to the Lincoln Memorial, where we lied down and made snow angels on the untainted, pristine white snow field. We also tried making a snowman, but the snow was too soft. We found an already made snowman and took a photo with it instead 🙂 (thanks to whoever built that snowman). It was a nice night-walk, to leave our footprints on untrodden clean snow, getting a sense of being purified mind and body by looking and touching the white snow, in the cool night air. With hot chocolate in our dormitory afterwards our stroll in the snow, there was practically nothing else that we would long for!

 

Time to Explore

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After what felt like a long week of late night study sessions and multiple exams/assessments, Spring Break has finally arrived! With Thursday being called a snow day, Spring break began prematurely throwing off everyone’s countdowns. Nonetheless having spoken to many of my friends who are dispersing all around the country, there is no denying that the excitement for this week off is palpable!

I am heading off to Mexico for a week with 3 other Australian girls – more on that in my next blog once I have finished enjoying what I hope will be a week of sunshine and very warm temperatures!

I decided, however, before leaving for Spring Break I would spend the weekend here in DC and use it as an opportunity to go explore some of the sights I haven’t yet seen, and spend some more time with friends and roommates before we all split for the week. Thanks to this decision, yesterday I had time to go and visit the Smithsonian Museum of National History which archives American culture, politics and transformations. I’d been warned that the museum is big and even though they are currently renovating the entire West Wing, with just the East side to explore, you still needed to allocate hours to the museum – this advice was really true and I would definitely recommend leaving yourself a few hours if you are to visit this museum…which I would also recommend because it is a beautifully organized museum with tons of interaction, and also immerses you into the American culture as it changed throughout history.

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After talking to the lovely lady at the information desk and asking her to give me a run down of what was where, I decided to begin my exploration through the museum on the second level where the original star spangled banner is on display. The enormous flag, which was sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a professional flag maker in Baltimore, with assistance from her daughter, nieces and staff, was raised at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry celebrating an important win over British forces in the 1812 war, flew high in September of 1814. The sight prompted Francis Scott Key to compose the lyrics to what is now the American National Anthem. There is something incredibly powerful about the exhibition, American or not, as you feel undeniably moved by the significance of the flag before you as you stand in a dark room with various renditions of the anthem playing in the background – the sounds, the excitement of others around at seeing the flag, etc epitomize, to me, the sounds of patriotism.

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From that exhibition I continued on in search of the ‘American Stories’ exhibit which contains some of the most revolutionary and culture changing items, clothing and artifacts from American history. My journey in that direction was halted, however, by a bench with four stools at it that sat in the middle of what is essentially the hallway that lies between two different exhibits. The bench, I recognized quickly, was one at which the fight for the end of segregation was fought. In particular, this was a piece of the counter from the Greenboro Lunch Counter where, in 1960, four African-American students intentionally sat down at the ‘white’s only’ section of the counter in an act of protest. This sparked many ‘counter-top’ protests around the South especially as people fought for their basic civil rights. The enormity of seeing this particular piece on exhibit after the patriotism experienced in the room right next door, proves how well thought out this museum is!

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Arriving at the ‘American Stories’ exhibit, I was very excited to find that there was no crowd around the particular item I wanted most to see, although the nice information lady had warned me that there always is. The original ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, lay before me and I got my own time to take photos with them as the museum was pleasantly quiet as it was a Friday. There were many other interesting items in that exhibition, however, the ruby red slippers were certainly a highlight for me!

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As you head upstairs, the top of the escalator takes you to the entrance of the military exhibition where America’s involvement in battles are traced from as early as those led by George Washington, right through the Civil War, Wars of Expansion, World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, etc. As well as looking at the militaristic side, the exhibit notes the individuals worldwide responsible for playing large roles in each war, highlights the rise of the role of women as a result of wartime efforts and shows the cultural changes that occurred on the home front following each war. Emphasizing the role that wars played on even those not enlisted in armed forces, there is part of the exhibition devoted to those who served in other ways, for example, those who went to entertain, and those who entertained on the home front. To that end, the piano of legendary theatre maker Irving Berlin is placed on display, and whilst this may seem random and insignificant to many walking through this particular exhibition, I for one was very excited by this – being the theatre nerd that I am and all. The exhibition is meticulously put together and the combination of mediums by which the information is offered certainly makes it an exciting and informative way of tracing an incredibly long and involved military history!

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As I ventured off to the president and first lady exhibitions around the bend, I was stopped along the way by a giant wooden ship, placed within its own room, called the Gunboat Philadelphia. It was a very impressive boat and interesting to see. Once at the front of the presidential exhibitions, I made the decision to first go through the section devoted to the first ladies where their crockery and many of their inauguration ball gowns are preserved and on display. As the woman at information had said, it really was a beautiful exhibition and certainly highlighted the fashion changes throughout the various terms of the forty-four presidents. I really loved seeing all the dresses in particular – wow some of them were stunning! In particular, Michelle Obama’s dress, which I remembered thinking was beautiful at the time that it’s picture was plastered all around the globe, I am now completely obsessed with and want very much to wear =)

Within the exhibition on the presidents, obviously a lot is covered! The exhibit is so well put together and showcases some really incredible pieces, for example, the top hat that Lincoln wore to the theatre the day he was assassinated. It also has a podium and screens from which to read off where you can pick one of the inauguration speeches and try to read them off the tele-prompter. There is a lovely section based on the lives of the white house children, and many items that are certainly exciting to see! On the way out of the exhibition I stopped to watch a History Channel documentary where they interviewed many of the past presidents asking them what they thought of the job and how they wanted to be remembered – it was very interesting.

Having finished the upper two levels, I headed for the base level where they currently have a Warner Brothers exhibition in the main lobby showing off some of the original costumes from movies, etc. After looking around at the items on display in the foyer, I went in to have a look at the current exhibition on food and on the ‘story of money’ where they have the 100,000 dollar note on display – needless to say, its no longer in print.

All in all, I really enjoyed my time at the museum and would highly recommend going to see it if you have not been yet – or even if you have, its large enough that I’m sure I could do it again and have a completely different experience!

Saturday morning and the sun was finally showing its face again! Eager to take advantage of the gorgeous weather (I’ll point out here that it was still cold and the snow was ankle deep) I headed out for a walk to re-explore the monuments and enjoy the beautiful scenery. GW is in an awesome position – it’s literally a 3 minute walk from my dorm building to the national mall! I took in the sights of a snow covered WWII memorial and the Washington monument. I walked around the frozen over lake and over to the Jefferson monument. From there I continued on to the Roosevelt (which I remembered as my favourite one from my visit to DC years ago) and to the MLK Jnr memorials. I walked back along the mall and decided to stop at the Art Museum of the Americas which was filled with modern artworks and interesting designs. I decided to walk up past the buildings surrounding the White House and only then back towards campus. All in all, it was a gorgeous day out!!

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What an amazing city DC is!!

Until next time…

Big Decisions

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When you start thinking about your future, every single decision you take becomes the most important one. Because everything you decide, every step that you take is going to change and determine the next one. Even if this is true, sometimes we cannot prevent or have power over other situations that may interfere in our way, in the road we are visualizing and walking by.

If there is something I learned from life until now is that most of the events, accomplishes or failures, happen for a reason. Most of the time is not something we understand in the short-term future but eventually we do.

This time I’m not writing for myself, I’m writing for him. This time I’m looking into the past, into the now and into the future. This time my brother Uriel is moving out from his house in the US, where he has been studying and working for the last 6 years. When he was 17 years old he won a full scholarship to go to Yale for his undergraduate program. After 4 years of receiving an education of excellence and having the chance to work in 3 different continents, he decided to move from New Heaven to Washington DC. His fantastic life as a student had come to an end when he joined a company he liked in the city that he loved.

After almost 7 years of living in Argentina as a only child, destiny reunited me with my brother in the capital of the US, the capital of the world. My decision of doing the exchange program at GW was made a month before I found out he was moving so it was really destiny what made us coincide. I’ve been in this country for 2 months. Two months were I did not only learn how to be a typical American college student but also how to move around in this beautiful city. Uri took me to his favorite places in DC, to the places where he feels relax and the reasons why he can call Washington his home. He shared with me his friends, his music, his roommates, his favorite type of food, his colleagues, his studio and his life. He shared somehow who he is now. To do that we decided to use our time together to enrich our bond so in the last two months we ended up doing a bunch of different things. From museums, to new restaurants, cooking classes (of course he taught me, he is an amazing chef) and fantastic shopping afternoons, the relationship I have with my brother has never been better. We get along really well; we still know each other preferences and laugh as loud as we always did. Our bonds are not only because we share the same blood, we have a connection that not a lot of people share. Is not only the fact that the first time I walked I was trying to reach his arms, it is also the fact that I still do.Uriel

 

Buying boxes, selling furniture, donating cloth and organizing suitcases. The last weekend I helped Uri move out. I don’t know if you moved recently or if you remember how was to move out but I can assure you that packing 6 years of your life in two days is even more chaotic than it sounds. Saying “goodbye” to things is not that easy, you have memories that make you remember moments that take you to places and people you like and even a birthday card can take you 10 minutes to pack. I also realized that is doesn’t matter how many times you move, you never really learn how to do it less stressful. Today I have his life and mine in my apartment. Yes, my roommates hate me but all the suitcases would be gone soon. How strange sounds to say that all your life can fit in a few boxes don’t you think? But if you really think about it, all the relevant things in your life can fit in a smaller box call heart. That sounds less stressful. I now understand why Uri is a citizen of the world. Uri

Every new decision, not matter good or bad has both things: pros and cons. My brother is leaving the US but he is coming home for a few months. This time is time to go back where everything started so lets celebrate for the good moments, for the new beginnings and for all the things yet to come.

DC Living!

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DC Living

Some advice for those on their way and applying

Having now lived in DC for almost two months, I thought I would use this blog to write about some of my experiences to give those who are reading this blog wondering what to expect if they apply/have been accepted to GW a better idea of what life here is like. Before I begin though, if you are reading this trying to decide if you should apply here – DO! It’s such a fantastic school in an awesome city with lovely people. And if you have just been accepted, congratulations! Get ready for some of the best months of your life thus far!

As well as this week marking my two months here, it is also the week before midterms which means stress levels are a little bit higher. This has definitely meant that the amount of time studying has increased (although somehow the amount of Netflix watching time has not decreased…), the trips to the library are more frequent (apparently it’s the most productive place to work although I have found it to be the most social place to study) and the line at the Gelman Starbucks definitely seems even longer. In saying all of this, although there is a fair amount of work assigned, it is definitely manageable!

Perhaps the most difficult part of living here is the conflict you face when you know you need to get your work done but also really want to go and explore the city. I think that many of us are aware that our time here is really going to continue flying by, as it has been, and therefore are mindful of how much DC as a city has to offer, whilst still not wanting to leave ourselves with too many late night cramming sessions either. It is definitely tough sometimes trying to find the right balance between getting the work done, seeing the city and just socializing with friends.

So – to those on their way – if you are rolling your eyes or laughing at this thinking ‘as if, I’m never going to even see the inside of that library – I’m going to have fun’ – don’t worry! I totally understand because I said the same thing! But I think that a more realistic view of what to expect would be this – I get the work done (often last minute but still…) and still have plenty of time to socialize and travel on the weekends. The truth is that once you are surrounded by others who are working, you will too. Furthermore, no matter how much or how little your grades count when you go back home, there is no one that I’ve met here – from any school – that doesn’t at least require you to pass and therefore you have to make some time for the work.

I think people will also be surprised by the dorms. To be totally honest, when I found out that I was going to have to share a room I was nervous! I am an only child so the idea of having no space of my own was a strange concept to try and wrap my head around. Yet somehow it just seems to work so naturally – which I definitely think is aided by the fact that all my roommates are lovely and so we all get along really well. So, if you are nervous about that – don’t be! Just cross your fingers for a really nice group of roommates – and don’t be afraid to reach out to them before you get here – I did and it made the meeting process that much smoother.

But now to the things that you really care about – the fun parts! DC life is awesome! You get all the benefits of being at college – like friends and social activities – whilst being in a fantastic city that has so much on offer! If you are into museums – this is the city for you, if you like cool bars and nice restaurants – this is the city for you, if you are interested in history – this is the city for you, if you like city living but don’t want to be overcrowded – this is the city for you – basically if you want to have a good time living on a city campus – this is the city for you!

I think something else that most people on their way here want to know about is the ability to travel. Can you leave the city and explore on the weekends? Absolutely! DC is really conveniently positioned and with a couple of airports and a big train/bus station, which makes getting in and out of the city is really easy. There are so many places to go and see in America and if you are anything like my friends and I here, you will definitely want to go and see as much as you can! Most of us are lucky and we have Fridays off – which definitely helps – but irrespective of this, picking places that are not too far from here still leaves you with enumerate options and awesome places to go and see. We are all currently planning more weekend and after exam trips so there are definitely plenty of opportunities to go exploring and traveling with the friends that you meet.

On that note – I think that it is important to mention that if you are interested in this aspect of the exchange experience, it is important to make friends with the other exchange students. This is not to suggest that your exchange group should stop you from making American friends too – it definitely shouldn’t! However, the other exchange students are the ones who will also want to see DC and travel around on the weekends too. Having made an amazing group of exchange friends as well, it is definitely nice knowing that I always have people to do things with!

For those coming in the Spring semester like we are in now, you will be here for Spring Break – which is not next week (exams, remember) but the week after. Deciding on where to go and who else was going to go, was tricky. If I have any advice on that process I would definitely recommend finding a little group first and picking a place and price together. Then, if you want to travel with a larger group, have a big meeting altogether but go in with a place and some research already done. We started off trying to go away together in a large group of 14 people, however, we quickly realized it wasn’t going to work and so we split off into smaller groups. I think that this is the most realistic situation of what will happen but that doesn’t discredit how excited we all are for Spring Break and for the adventures we each chose. My group is off to sit by the pool in Cancun for the week and I couldn’t be more excited!

That’s another piece of advice for Spring Semester students – It’s cold –like really cold! Bring lots of warm clothing because it’s now nearly March and we are still getting snow and freezing temperatures. We had a lot of snow the other day so Wilson, a Singaporian exchange student, and I tried to build a snow man – it was a bit of a fail but we tried :). So, my advice – bring a coat…or three!

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There is so much about your upcoming experience to tell you but if I shared it all now I would have nothing for a final blog later this semester. I hope this has helped you decide whether or not this experience is for you! I can only recommend it with the highest regard – I absolutely love it here and its only been two months so far!

George Washington's Birthday Celebration band!

George Washington’s Birthday Celebration band!

So, until next time…

American People, Culture, Music and All That JAZZ

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Music preference reveals quite a lot about a person’s character. How people create music, how others like and enjoy that music, how people think about and develop that music reflect how people like to enjoy, as amusement-seeking and emotional beings, their leisure time or express their feelings. The type of music a certain group of people commonly make and enjoy reveals the cultural characteristics and identity of that group. To extend this logic a little further, a real American music can reflect the true cultural essence and identity of America. And one of this ‘real American music’, according to my GW jazz piano professor at least, is jazz.

Here in GW they offer quite decent music classes or programs even to non-music major students or exchange students too (For GW students some music courses require extra fee to take that course, but since exchange students pay tuition fees to their home university we exchange students are free to take any music course we like 🙂 ) I take a jazz piano course, once every week, a 1:1 tutoring from the professor (as mostly are instrument-learning courses) Anyway, the professor who teaches me jazz piano is just great, very friendly to students, with a clear philosophy and love for jazz music. Following is what he told me once during the class, although it may not be that accurate as it is based on my memory;

“Jazz reflects the true cultural identity of America. Other things that Americans say they are may not accurately be American. Values, ideals, even the US Constitution – What Americans say they are and what they actually are are two different things. The reality is always far away from American ideals. But Jazz is different. Jazz is a mixture of African, Latin American, and European music, but jazz itself is uniquely American. If you came to America and wish to experience and learn something that is truly American, listen to jazz. Jazz is the truly ‘American’ music.”

While learning jazz piano, what really came to my mind was that jazz is the type of music that gives the most freedom to the player. Since playing piano as a hobby, for nearly 14 years I’ve been playing classical music, playing exactly as written, and in the aspect of freedom, only able to practice some variations or learning a few techniques. Jazz seems to make the ground totally open to the interpretation, imagination and style of the player, with no set way to play, not many strict rules. For this reason one can more easily establish his/her own style in jazz, and communicate, express and exchange feelings with others with people responding to his/her style of playing. That was what attracted me to jazz; the liberty of breaking rules and creating something completely new and unique.

There are obviously a lot of places in DC where you can listen to jazz music, but among the very few places I’ve visited during my past 2 months stay in DC, ‘Georgetown Piano Bar’ was the place that I personally liked. Also in GW, you can visit a jazz jam session in Phillips Hall B120 every Friday, from 12-2pm. Apart from this, there’s a lot of big or small events or concerts held, and you can easily find out about them through the posters or notices on the walls especially in the Phillips Hall Music Department.