Author Archives: audrey

Bonjour, Canada

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By audrey

This past

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Into History and Nature

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By audrey

I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour’s drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park’s map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you’re an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather – I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn’t do it justice. Here are some pictures from the day trip:

[Insert pictures]

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

Into History and Nature

Standard

By audrey

I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harpers Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour’s drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park’s map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you’re an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather – I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn’t do it justice. Here are some pictures from the day trip:

[Insert pictures]

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

Greek Life

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By audrey

Going to a college in the United States meant exposure to a wide range of co-curricular activities, such as playing sports or representing the school in the performing arts. What is unique about the American system is the existence of greek life – it comprises of fraternities for guys and sororities for the ladies. Generally, membership in a fraternity or sorority is obtained while an undergraduate student but continues, thereafter, for life. Some of these organizations can accept graduate students as well as undergraduates, per constitutional provisions. My first exposure to greek life came at the beginning of the semester, during the spring club fairs which were seeking new members. Among them, there were several greek organizations that were tabling in the hall.

 

I soon learnt there were several stages that one must undergo in order to gain full membership ie. become a brother or a sister.

  1. Rushing
    “Rushing” is when students become acquainted with the different fraternities or sororities on campus, and the process can range from very formal and structured to informal and casual. Rushing for sororities tend to be more formal, with different themes and requirements for each day. Rush events can include casual informational sessions, where potential recruits have their first interactions with those who are already members and to get a feel of what that particular greek organisation is like. Immediately following rush, members will extend a bid to successful rush-ees.
  2. Pledging
    Once a new member accepts the bid, he or she then becomes a pledge and enters the pledging process. It usually involves learning about the history of the organization, the history of the chapter, the current members, and team building/bonding among the class of new pledges through social and fundraising events. While the length of time differs for every organization, pledging usually lasts for 5 to 8 weeks in the semester before pledges are officially initiated as brothers or sisters.

Why rush a greek organisation? People do it for different reasons – networking forms a huge part of why people rush. Joining a greek organisation is a great way to widen your social network and this could help you in the future. Also, when you join a fraternity, there are many leadership opportunities within the organization to be filled – this is great if you’re looking for a leadership position.

I definitely encourage those who go to school outside of the States to attend the rush events – even if you have no intention of joining. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and expand your network on campus. As an incoming exchange student, your chances of getting a bid might be lower, but it never hurts to try!

DistriCt farewell

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By audrey

 It sounds cliche, but it seriously seemed like last week when we were walking around with our group leaders around DC, taking in the sights and making multiple trips to Target for groceries. Three days ago, I sat for my last final and yesterday, I bade farewell to my home of five months – DC.

The final week was a whirl of meeting up with different groups of friends, trying out new restaurants and revisiting ones we’ve been before. Parties were held, apartments were cleaned and emptied. Sleepless nights weren’t because of cramming for finals, but rather the rush to pack to hit the move-out deadline.

In retrospect, choosing to do my exchange in DC was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made. From the election rush and the slew of protests in January and February to the proximity of popular spots like Florida that came in really handy during spring break and finally to the host of lawn festivals and restaurant week when warmer weather rolled around in April and May – I constantly found ways to entertain myself regardless of the seasons. GWU presented me with an endless string of opportunities – from joining hikes with student group GW TRAILS to being accepted as a member of a co-ed fraternity to experience Greek Life to attending career fairs and related events, I had reaped immense knowledge and managed to immerse myself in a whole new experience this semester.

Perhaps one of my best memories from DC is visiting the
monuments at practically any time of day. From having picnics on the national mall and reading a book on the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial – these are experiences unique to DC/GWU students (to the envy of many). Bored at night? No problem, round up a few friends and go for a walk of the national monuments basking in moonlight. Feel like you’ve been eating too much recently? The scenic views of your running route along the national mall provide the definitive motivation.

I am grateful for the friendships forged, the memories created and the help I’ve received in navigating these 5 months of independent living. Thank you to everyone who’s made a difference!

Audrey out. (Mic drop)

Into History and Nature

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By audrey

I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harper’s Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour’s drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park’s map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you’re an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather – I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn’t do it justice.

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

Bonjour, Canada

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By audrey

This past week, I took a solo trip to Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. It was about a 2 hour flight from DC, and studentuniverse had some great discounts so it was approximately 220 USD for a round trip. 

Having been to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, I initially thought Montreal and Quebec City would be similar – but boy, was I wrong. Unlike the cities I’ve been to previously, Montreal and Quebec City are the most bilingual cities in Canada – more than 70 per cent of its citizens speak English and French. In Montreal, casual conversations are often heard in French, but even more so in Quebec City. Both cities lie along the Saint Lawrence River, so I was treated to many panoramic views of the seaway and the river right in the heart of both cities.

For my first stop in Montreal, the highlight has got to be the biodome. Think of an indoor zoo with controlled conditions – that’s the gist of the biodome. Wildlife roamed right before my eyes and I got to see animals like capybaras, sloths, penguins and salamanders. It was right next to the Olympic stadium, so I managed to kill 2 birds with 1 stone in a single day.

Montreal has the highest food per square metre of any city, second only to New York City. Poutine, arguably the national food of Canada, on the surface may just seem like fries with gravy and bacon bits sprinkled on top. Here, poutine is an industry, a franchise – flavours and toppings are unlimited; even the choice of fries can be chosen. Smoked meat, is another one of Canada’s famous dish –  it is a type of kosher-style deli meat product made by salting and curing beef brisket with spices. The brisket is allowed to absorb the flavours over a week, and is then hot smoked to cook through, and finally steamed to completion.Old Cities

Both Montreal and Quebec City have old towns, namely Old Montreal and Old Quebec City. Respectively, these are the oldest living areas in both cities and are preserved till today. Stepping in felt like entering old-style Europe – colourful buildings and town squares with a centralised water fountain.  Old Quebec City also houses several UNESCO heritage sites, such as Place Royale.

In both cities, the subway is very convenient – as someone who doesn’t own a license, I was able to get around both cities really quickly. The bus is also a good substitute for the subway as it penetrates areas of the city that the subway does not serve – bus transfers are almost always complimentary within 2 hours so remember to retain your bus ticket!