Monthly Archives: February 2019

SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GWU AND UAM

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Even though I’ve been studying at GWU for around six months now, there are several thinks that keep shocking me. Education in Spain is way different than in the US and that determines a lot how we are and how we understand the world. Here are some of the things that shocked me the most:

  • University is SO EXPENSIVE: Most universities in my country are public, meaning that around 80% of the cost of tuition fees is covered by the state through taxes. For this reason, many people independently of their background can access university. To enter a university in Spain you have to take a public exam during your senior year of high school, and the highest the grade you get, the greater number of degrees you have access too. Private universities don’t require people to take this exam and accept people that got a bad grade or failed, and because of that private universities are generally considered bad quality, while public ones seem to be more competitive and have a higher prestige. For me, the fact that people take loans that they are going to be paying for years just to go to school scares me and makes me think that education is only accessible to those who are privileged enough.
  • Living so far from home: In Spain, as in many other places in Europe college education is a natural extension of high school, so most people live with their parents and attend the closest university. In the US, a lot of people leave their parents’ home as soon as the finish high school and they study really far away. I’m so jealous of that!
  • Masters program: Generally in Europe we get our Masters degree straight after our degree, and only then we start working. I guess since university is so expensive people need to find a job before going to college again.
  • “Hiring all majors”: That’s something I love from the US. One of my business professors got a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering and after a few years she started working for the World Bank. Then she got an MBA and now she’s lecturing at GWU. In Europe, it’s really hard to find a job out of what is considered your area of study.
  • Courses:  When you study a Bachelors degree in Spain, all courses are fixed until the spring semester of senior year, and everybody is supposed to graduate at the end of their fourth year. This means that everybody has a fixed schedule, let’s say Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm, and the same people you start the first day with is the people you are going to be with for the next four years. In the US it is completely different and for me it was really shocking when I had to create my own schedule and I realized that I saw my classmates just once or twice a week!
  • Majors and minors: They don’t exist in Spain, just “Bachelor in…” and to be honest I still don’t know how many credits are each or how they exactly work.
  • Internships: In Spain, an internship is a compulsory course in every degree. Every Bachelor program has agreements with different companies or public organisms that take interns during the spring semester of senior year. Internships are unpaid in almost every case. During the rest of our degree, we don’t intern. I never questioned myself why, because we had the chance but however nobody does it. I loved the idea, and that’s why I’m interning now in DC!
  • Police presence: This one is what shocked me the most. While GW has its own university, the Police in Spain needs the written permission of a judge to even enter the campus! There’s no way you can spot a policeman in a university campus. This law exists to protect freedom of speech, discourse and the right of reunion of students and professors since Spain was a dictatorship during 40 years and university students and professors suffered constant censorship and persecution.
  • Cafeterias and beers: In Spanish universities every building has its own cafeteria. These places are so cheap because they are supposed to be student-friendly and they offer lots of different food. Since the legal drinking age there is 18, usually before, after or in gaps between classes students go grab some beers and play cards or just chill in the open areas of the campus. Yeah, you can buy beers in a university cafeteria at 9 AM and everyone is okay with it. Now I see how weird it is.

Anyways, even though there are some things that I miss from my home institution and the university environment in Europe, I feel like college in the US is way more enriching and a more holistic experience. If I had to choose a system I would definitely prefer to study in the US for the remaining time until I graduate!

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Boston Trip

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Since school was closed Monday for Presidents Day I decided to take the opportunity to travel somewhere, and somehow, I ended up in Boston. Apparently my Burmese friends want to go to places that are even colder than DC…

I had a lot of time since my flight was at 7:30pm so I decided to try the electric scooters, and I ended up going from GWU to Union station with it. The trip ended up costing me more than taking an Uber, so I wouldn’t recommend it. I took the MARC train to the airport and got there much faster than I expected (if you want to save money, fly out from Baltimore it’s much cheaper than Dulles).

I landed in Boston at 9pm and quickly realized that city is very proud of their NFL team. I wasn’t expecting this, but the high of winning the Superbowl persisted as I saw tons of people wearing Patriots clothing.

Friday morning my friends were sleeping, so I decided to head to the center of Boston and walk around the city center, and meet them for lunch later on. I decided to take the bus but I didn’t have cash nor a travel card so I was planning on showing the driver my card from DC and asking him for a free ride into the city so I could get a “Charlie card” there. When the bus arrived an old lady had a hard time getting off, so I helped her get on the sidewalk. I then reached for my wallet to take out my DC card as I walked into the bus and the driver said, “You’re not paying for this ride, god bless you” which was pretty convenient. During the rest of my trip there I noticed that Bostonians were quite friendly compared to Parisians.

I met up with my friends by noon and since some of us were first-timers in Boston we headed to Quincy market. Since Boston is known for their lobster rolls, I tried it and honestly if you’ve had lobster and bread before you aren’t missing out on much. Not saying it’s bad but it’s nothing spectacular. After the market, we headed to the harbor which was really beautiful, the mix of old and new architecture is pretty spectacular in Boston. In my remaining 3 days there I visited Cambridge, the Harvard campus, Boston commons, and spent a lot of time walking around and exploring the city. I’ll say this one more time, Boston is beautiful and I definitely recommend visiting this city!

Now for the less “touristy” aspects of my trip: During my 4 days in Boston I managed to go to IHOP twice and both times at 3 in the morning. I discovered that Burger King sells 10 nuggets for 1 dollar. I saw some of my high-school friends and we managed to gather 19 Burmese people at Harvard for a reunion (here’s a picture of all of us). It was great to see my childhood friends and hang around Boston with them!

On Monday I took the bus to New York, managed to visit Times Square for 20 minutes and take another bus back to DC after (I saved a lot of money taking the bus back but I wouldn’t recommend it if you plan on doing it only). I’ve been to New York twice now but spent a total of about 2 hours in the city so next weekend I’m going there for a few days!

Also, I was told that licking the shoe of the John Harvard statue would bring me good luck so hopefully I won’t fail my midterms now!

*I didn’t actually lick the shoe in case it wasn’t obvious that I was making a joke.

FAV THINGS TO DO IN GEORGETOWN

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Georgetown is a must. It doesn’t matter if you go to visit the University (tip: their library is open to the public and it’s such a good chance to switch from Gelman!) or to buy clothes, books or antiquities, just walk around, get lost, grab some food and enjoy yourselves. There’s a lot of places I love to go:

-Georgetown Waterfront: best views for the sunset, you can eat your ice cream there and until mid February you will be able to ice skate in the ice rink! That’s what I did last Friday.


-House of Sweden: the Swedish Embassy is way more than a beautiful building. You can enter as a visitor and wonder through their temporary expositions for free. It’s by the waterfront so they have amazing views.

-Thomas Sweet: is it the best ice cream in DC? Probably! Get a whole bucket of ice cream there combining as many flavors as you want (and they have so many) and toppings! Btw, they say Obama loved it.

-Flamenco live? Yes! Bodega, one of the most famous Spanish restaurants in DC hosts live flamenco and guitar every Thursday 7:30 to 10:30. Although going to a Flamenco show in DC without being Spanish could be weird, it’s a good chance to see something new and get some amazing food.

-Craving sweet but still too cold for the 2 kilos of ice cream? Then go to Georgetown Cupcake. It’s so good! Cupcakes are around 3 or 4 dollars and they come in so many flavors. They have also lactose and gluten free cupcakes. Just be aware that you might have to wait during the weekends, it’s so popular!

-El Centro, DF: If you are 21 and you have been going out in DC you might have felt like our beloved Americans are not especially gifted for dancing and you are too shy to show them your best performance. No worries! El Centro DF is a Latino club, where the only music played is reggaeton, salsa, bachata…You are welcome! Also, it’s an amazing Mexican restaurant during daytime!

-Paper Source: it might be just me, but I’m sure you also love brand new notebooks and incredibly original but useless gifts. Also, you get cards for your friends, there’s a million themes in Paper Source.

-Dating? Impress them! Chez Billy Sud must have be the best food I had in DC. It’s a small cozy restaurant delicately decorated. French food at its finest. Dress formal.

-Not really into French food? In the same street you will find Flavio, a really popular Italian restaurant where you can find the most amazing seafood pizza ever!

-3 sisters: this great bakery has pies you can buy by the slice or whole. Perfect for a coffee stop or if you have people over and you want to impress them with that fantastic pie you made

-Escape rooms! Perfect for bonding and groups. IQ PanEscape Room is super famous. Although I ended up in another one in Alexandria, you can find really affordable packages in Groupon.

-American food: Yeah, you came all the way to the US and you still don’t know what “American food” is exactly, apart of hot dogs and mac & cheese. No problem, try Clyde’s of Georgetown. It’s a really famous local chain, but has nothing to do with fast food. Try the spicy-fried chicken!!

-The Tudor’s Place: don’t miss this amazing landmark. This house and its yards belonged for the family of Martha Washington for 6 generations!

-The Blues Alley: It’s the most famous Jazz and Blues bar in Georgetown. It hosts live music every single night. Although most nights shows are programmed and require the purchase of tickets, you can walk in anytime! Enjoy!

School Work

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So I just completed my first few weeks at GWU and there’s going to be a lot of getting used to. First of all, my classes were all 3 hours long in France but I didn’t have too much homework. Here it’s the complete opposite, the classes are much shorter, but the homework is non-stop. I wasn’t really expecting that and as a result, I’m already feeling overloaded with homework.

I knew reading was required for every one of my classes, but as I received the syllabus of each class I understood that I wouldn’t be watching Netflix before going to bed, but instead reading one of the six textbooks I will eventually finish for my 4 classes.

In high school I had great teachers, but on top of that, they were so friendly and helpful that there was a great teacher student relationship. At my university in France, these relationships, for most teachers didn’t exist. It’s considered weird in France to be close to your teacher, knowing them personally is very rare. GWU is more similar to my high school than university in this aspect. Teachers here give out their phone number in case a students needs to contact them. Teachers are more than willing to help you outside of class with the topics addressed in each class. I also loved that in every single one of my classes the teachers introduced themselves by talking about their life and telling us more than what we could find out about them on Linkedin. This personal touch made the classroom atmosphere more relaxed which made me feel like it was easier to participate in class and ask a question if I got confused.

Regarding my classes, I took 3 challenging ones and 1 class that I was just really passionate about but didn’t have too much to do with business. All of my classes have a heavy workload but I love the atmosphere because the students and teachers are really motivated. I came to the US to witness the “you can do it” attitude, and in my classes this motivation resonates and I’m glad because with the workload that I have aligned this semester, I’m going to need all the motivation I can get. For those who think that 4 classes isn’t a lot, a lot of accounting and finance laws differ from Europe and America, and in all my classes we are focusing on American practices so additionally to the workload given by my professors, I have to conduct my own research to understand the differences in American and European practices to understand the content of my classes, but I’m not complaining because I came here to learn!

This will probably be my only post about schoolwork but I felt like it is important because my mom reads this blog and I don’t want her to think that I’m just chilling here in America! So here is a picture of me studying!

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Orientation Week

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Before anything, I would like to thank everyone that participated in the organization of the exchange orientation week it was truly very helpful. This week helped me understand that my semester in America is going to be, as Americans always say, awesome.

We started the week by meeting all the spring 2019 exchange students and the diversity of this group was great, there was such a mix of cultures in this room which lead to a very interesting week.

During this week I visited the National Mall during the night and day which was just beautiful. Went around the white house, which was much smaller than I imagined. Visited the Capitol Hill where I watched the congress in session which was really amazing. Apparently Joe Kennedy was there which I thought it was pretty cool to be in the same room as him! We did a campus tour and I have to say that I already love GWU. I mean the campus has a ton of facilities that simply made me want to be a student here forever. And, we had American barbecue and did tons of other things (thank you again to the ExO team for the organization)

I have to say one of the things that shocked me the most during this week is that there’s bacon everywhere. During this week I had a BLT which was basically a B (compared to the bacon, there was basically no L or T), I had bacon in basically all of my meals that week, and I had bacon in a milkshake and on a donut. On top of that, not to make generalizations or anything, but I feel like at least half of Washington is or at one time in their life, tired to be vegetarian or vegan, which I admire because to me Washington is surrounded by bacon.

On the last day of orientation, the exchange team brought us to a NBA game, which was basically the reason I came to the US. It was a great experience and thankfully the wizards were playing well for once and therefore there was a great atmosphere and I was glad to witness it live and not behind a screen.

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Traveling!

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PLANNING TO TRAVEL FOR SPRINGBREAK BUT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO START?

Ok, ok, don’t panic!! So, at this point you probably know that there’s a break between Monday 11th March and Friday 16th March, which means that we get 10 days of holiday (YAAAAASSSSS!) You must be wondering what you can do since there are too many options and too much stuff to plan. Here’s a little bit of help!

  1. OMG…WHERE TO GO?! Well…this depends a lot on your budget and how many days are you planning to travel.
  • My personal advice: During the fall I went to Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, New York, West Virginia and California. Although I loved every single place, if I had to recommend something I would tell you all: fly to California, rent a car, drive all over the state and please, please, please, don’t miss the chance to cross to Tijuana (Mexico) from San Diego! (If you need more info about this, I’m happy to help!)
  • Budget: Here’s a list showing how much does it cost to fly to some destinations during the break if tickets were bought today (27th January) Remember to add the costs of transportation to/from the airport. Also these prices are probably higher than usual because of flying on the weekend. I’m not telling you to go to class straight from the airport on Monday or to skip one day in order to get more affordable tickets but…
    • Boston: $103
    • Tampa: $152
    • Houston or Dallas: $178
    • Toronto: $178
    • Atlanta: $188
    • New Orleans: $229
    • Los Angeles: $242
    • Chicago: $262
    • Las Vegas: $320
    • Montreal: $322
    • Jamaica: $358
    • San Diego: $365
    • Cancun: $376
    • Puerto Rico $383
    • San Francisco: $394
    • Austin: $400
    • Colombia: $401
    • Mexico City: $423

KEEP IN MIND THAT IF YOU ARE FLYING OUTSIDE OF THE US YOU WILL NEED TO GET YOUR DS-2019 SIGNED AT THE ISO AND YOU WILL HAVE TO CARRY IT WITH YOU TO ENTER BACK THE US!!!

. Fly cheap: the cheapest airlines, like Spirit fly to many destinations in the US and abroad, but keep in mind that they generally fly from Baltimore, 55 km far from DC. There’s two ways to get to the airport:

  • MARC Train: departs from Union Station in DC (an Uber/Lyft shouldn’t be more than $7 from Foggy Bottom) and goes straight to the airport. Takes around 40 minutes, costs $7 (one way) departs every 15 minutes and works from really early in the morning until 11PM. There’s a free shuttle between the station and the airport. You don’t need to book in advance, but in the station. Times are available here.

Buses: there are so many buses during the entire day from Union Station in DC to Baltimore. You can compare prices and buy in Wanderu. The bus is a little bit more expensive, and unfortunately Baltimore Downtown Bus Station is pretty far from the airport, so you can either take an Uber/Lyft from the bus station to BWI Airport ($20) or take a lyft to the closest Light Train Station and catch it there, depends a lot on your timing. I would only do the bus if my flight departed or arrived during times when the MARC train is not operating.

Do you want to cover long distances and reach the unreachable? Sure! Rent a car! Driving in the US is pretty easy. If you are used to manual cars, you are gonna be so bored. However, it’s completely worth it. If you guys are a group of people and want to travel without the stress of catching buses it’s the best option, plus come on! Who doesn’t want to go on a roadtrip in the US? However, if you guys check mainstream rental agencies you probably have realized that it’s really expensive. No worries, you can use Turo. So Turo is an app/website where people post their cars and works exactly as Airbnb, meaning that particulars rent their cars. You will need to register and scan your driving license and you will have access to many cars with different mileage and consumption for a fixed rate daily, no hidden costs. I used it for a roadtrip in California, it’s the best!

. Where to stay? Yeah, probably that’s giving you headaches. I offer you three options.

  • Airbnb: Do I seriously need to explain this?! Just in case you never used it, here is a discount.
  • Hostelworld: You have probably have heard about what a hostel is before, no?! Okay, a hostel is basically a place with several rooms that fit a bunch of people in bunk bed for a fixed price per bed and night. You can find luxurious hostels or terrible ones, depending on your budget. They include wifi, maybe breakfast, the use of common bathrooms and are really great if you travel solo (you meet tons of travelers!) or with a group of friends, but maybe they are not the love nest your just-met exchange boyfriend and you were looking for.
  • Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is my favorite but it would only be useful for you if you are one, two, or maximum three people. Basically, it’s an app that puts in touch people who altruistically offer their houses for people to stay and travelers. I use it a lot when I travel on my own and it’s great since you have the chance to stay with locals in a real house, and lets be honest, FOR FREE!! However, if you want to explore this option you have to create a profile that looks good and trustable, and people probably require reviews for them to open their doors, so contact me, I’ll leave you one!

. Keep it cheap: here’s some advice not to spend the rest of March eating plain noodles and wondering how on Earth you spent a thousand dollars in 10 days.

  • Check for flights using Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak. Use the incognito mode of your browser in order to avoid prices to increase and try to book straight in the airline site once you have found the flight you want.
  • Keep track of you expenses! Especially when traveling with people, it’s really easy to lose track of how much you are spending and who owes to who. The app Tricount would keep track of everything so easily!
  • Use the public transport!! Don’t be afraid of catching the metro or the bus in the main cities. You can find the closest station or stop, routes and waiting times in Google Maps. If you are going to spend more than a couple days in the same city consider buying a pass rather than single tickets.
  • Eat CHEAP AND GOOD: Wherever you are, you can just go to Tripadvisor and find cheap, excellent and open restaurants around you. No more dissapointments and no more surpises with the bill! (Still, the tipping thing sucks, I know!) Also, if you are in an Airbnb or a hostel and you have access to a kitchen, you can save some dollars cooking!

 

Let me know if you need any advice or have any questions. Have fun and safe travels!!!!!!

Arrival in America, NYC to Pennsylvania

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After traveling for more than 20 hours, I landed at JFK. After 2 more hours and a quick set of questions, I was able to leave the airport, and for the first time of my life, step on American soil. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my journey from New York to Pennsylvania, but I do have to mention that I used to think the Parisian subway was complicated, but in New York I felt like rabbit in a hole.

Anyways I got to Pennsylvania in a small town called York and slept at a friend’s place.

The next morning I was alone in the Apartment (my friend was at work) and I was hungry. There was a mall across the highway and I figured I would walk there. 5 minutes in my walk I started seeing tons of signs that said no walking on the highway and I realized that if i kept going I was going to die. I went back and started to ask people how do I get on the other side of the highway (google maps basically told me to just cross it) and the basically all the answers I got was “with a car.”

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Eventually my friend came back and showed me around. I saw America just like it is described in the movies. The cars were all trucks, but not the normal trucks that I’ve seen my whole life. Big trucks with raised suspension. I mean I’m 6’4 and I felt like i would need a step ladder to get in one of the trucks. I also saw a guy with a hoodie that had the American flag in the front and on the back the words, “stomp on my flag I’ll stomp on you” which I thought was funny because no one would ever wear something like that in France.

So basically, if you did not get it yet, I was in the rural areas of America. Therefore, I asked to do something very “American,” and I was quickly directed towards a gun range. The whole experience baffling. To begin, there were shopping carts at the entrance for customers, and no, the gun range wasn’t in a grocery store or in a mall, the shopping carts were there just for the guns, bullets and machetes. I got to the range and asked how old do I have to be to enter, and to my surprise, I only had to be 8 (In France I believe 8 year olds go to bowling alleys but I’m not here to judge, just observe). So I picked my gun, watched a video about safety in the range, and was given the bullets after a few words on how to use the gun (I did also sign a very long contract). After that I was on my own. I entered the range and tried out 2 different guns. It was loud and I did pick out a huge rifle so I felt the huge kickback. But the experience of shooting a gun wasn’t as shocking as actually entering the gun store.

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The next day I went to target, and it confirmed what I thought was a myth. Everything in America is huge, the portions are just huge compared to France. This was again the case when I went to a local diner for burgers. In France I eat 2 burgers whenever i go to a to restaurant because I get hungry if i don’t. But in America, again, the portions are huge! One burger was enough and I loved it. I finally felt like I was in a country where my appetite is normal. Now I keep imagining what Americans must feel like about French restaurants and their tiny portions.

To conclude this post, My trip to Pennsylvania was great, I met the nicest people and had time to visit cities like Harrisburg and Lancaster. I didn’t mention this much but I do want to state that Americans are super nice and I immediately felt welcomed when I arrived which was something I didn’t expect as I was going through the visa process because I was asked about 3000 questions and documents!

Oh and here’s me accomplishing one of my lifelong goals to ride a motorized shopping cart at target!

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