The week after Thanksgiving has a strange atmosphere as after five days of blissful relaxation college students are thrown straight into the intensity of finals and papers. With two weeks left of the semester everything seems to be moving so quickly and stress levels are high. However, maybe it was the amount of pumpkin pie I ate over the break but I feel I’m becoming more ‘American’ in my style of working. I’m getting into the swing of things and I seem to be more efficient with my assignments as I understand more how the American college system works – achieving the goal I had set at the beginning of the semester, after initially taking more than double the length of time to complete work and essays than it did for my US counterparts. However I still doubt I’m efficient enough for the seven deadlines I have looming next week…so a number of hours these past few days have had to be dedicated to the library.
In other ways, I do feel that I’m becoming more ‘American’ and not just on the superficial level of giving up the fight to hold onto my British words for greater ease and understanding (though I will cling to ‘flatmates’ until the bitter end), and in terms of food with my greater frequency of coffee drinking, the desire to add cinnamon to everything, and slight addiction to protein bars. One example is in being more assertive – not necessarily always a positive thing – but as someone whose form of stereotypical British ‘politeness’ can sometimes tend towards not properly defending my own interests, I feel being clearer in articulating what I want is a good thing.
Of course having many responsibilities means (for ‘real’ GW students and exchange students alike) finding ways to avoid them and I managed to succeed in this, the excuse being a number of friends’ 21st birthdays.
Combined with Christmas shopping, these gave me a reason to put down the books and run errands around Georgetown, also finally giving me the opportunity to see the admittedly beautiful Georgetown campus.
My friends’ new legal freedom meant ‘happy hours’ were high on the agenda and I experienced my first in DC at Tonic. Here, as with my fro-yo experience, the nachos crown that had previously been held for me in Edinburgh (by the student union at Teviot) was taken by America, the restaurant’s happy hour deal also meaning they were less than half price.
The biggest event of my week though was the University Honors Program Yule Ball, attending as a guest of one of my friends. With snowflake decorations, delicious desserts and hot chocolate, and an induction into the ways of the ‘cupid shuffle’ it was a great night and made the stress momentarily melt away.
However, it was at another ‘happy hour’ for a friend’s birthday at Town Tavern in Adam’s Morgan that I was given a stark reminder of the darker hours in the US this week.’Do you feel like you could get shot at any time in the UK?’ – I was caught off guard by the question and of course the answer for me was ‘no’ but it startled me that some in the US might be living with this feeling. However, it almost seems no wonder when – as with events in San Bernardino – it feels like every day news reports roll in telling of another episode of gun violence. There is a sense of real frustration among the students I am with that this situation exists but also that it feels like there is a brick wall between them and change. San Bernardino has been further politicised in its portrayal as an act of terrorism.
And there have also been some less happy hours not here but in the UK, that also make essays and deadlines fade into insignificance. I must admit it was through the medium of Facebook and my friends’ reactions back home that made me fully aware of the British government’s decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria.
To the penultimate week of the semester (it seems so strange to write this),