Author Archives: carlyfisher4

About carlyfisher4

Hi, my name is Carly :) I'm 21, from Sydney, Australia and am obsessed with theatre and travelling. I love sightseeing and immersing myself in new cultures. I'm outgoing, really like meeting new people and love taking photos! I love hanging out with friends, performing arts, history and partaking in new activities and experiences.

A Tearful Goodbye

Standard

Four and a half months ago I sat down at my computer to write an application piece for this blog. We were asked to write a bit about ourselves and our expectations of the adventure ahead – a tall order considering we were given just 500 words to express it in. Nonetheless, I felt that signing up for this blog would be a great way for me to encourage myself to document my experiences at GW and of life in DC and now, as it gradually approaches the end, I am absolutely thrilled that I did! Through my weekly posts over the last few months I have documented parts of one of the most incredible experiences of my life thus far and I hope that you have enjoyed sharing it with me as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.

Although there are still a couple weeks before we actually leave DC, this is my last academic week here and with the handing in of my last paper on Wednesday this week, my time at GW will have come to an end. Where did the last few months go?! Honestly this semester has flown by and every time I think about the approaching deadline I can’t help but get teary eyed – accordingly, I totally anticipate tears to flow before this blog is complete (lucky you can’t see me writing!).

Looking back at my first blog and reading through my list of expectations I would say I had it pretty right, with a few minor errors. I expected to make new friends, learn a lot, see new parts of America, indulge in the theatre scene in DC, get involved on campus, be challenged, get a little lost, meet like minded individuals, etc. All of these, I would say now on the flipside, were totally on point. I not only met new people, I made incredible new friends who it is going to be near impossible to say goodbye to and who I cannot wait to continue my friendship with for many many years! I travelled – I saw so many parts of the country I hadn’t before visited, I learnt so much from fantastic professors, I saw as much DC theatre as I could cram in – including some of the student theatre on campus which was nice to see, I got a little lost on campus at first but quickly found my way – its not a difficult school to navigate by any means, I met like minded individuals and got to partake in some awesome theatre nerd conversations, etc. All in all, GW met all my expectations and then surpassed them by a mile. I expected/hoped/kept my fingers crossed that this experience would be amazing and that I would love it…and boy did I ever! It was everything I hoped for and more!

Where were my expectations wrong…well, I thought I was going to struggle sharing a room with someone else but actually that was a much better experience than I anticipated. Having never shared a room before I was unsure of what to expect and to be honest I totally underestimated how fun it could potentially be. Granted, I got lucky and I know that not everyone has as great of an experience with their roommates as I have, but I really enjoyed it and because of the close living conditions, I feel that I became that much closer with these amazing girls in a much faster amount of time. Whilst having my own room will be nice again when I get back to Sydney, I’m going to miss my four roommates so much (I’m already planning a trip back to visit them though before their graduation because I don’t believe in goodbyes – haha).

So to those of you coming to GW next semester – what would be the best things to tell you…

  • This experience is completely what you make it – it can be, like it has for my friends and I, some of the four best months you will have ever had. Step outside your comfort zone, take part in anything and everything you can, meet as many new people as you can, etc, and you will have the best time!
  • Take advantage of the great classes and professors that GW has – okay, not all the classes or teachers are fantastic but there are some incredible ones that I was lucky to take part in this semester, taught by really inspiring people. For many exchange students the semester is pass/fail but don’t let that deter you from really taking advantage of the great opportunities you have at this school.
  • At the same time, don’t let your studies keep you from enjoying yourself. With good time management there is enough time to get your work done to a high standard without compromising your time for socializing, going out with friends, exploring DC, travelling, etc.
  • Be organized if you want to travel – I was able to travel a lot because I planned from early on and so found good flight prices, etc and also had time to work my school schedule around it. On that note, take advantage of your amazing position in America and go and explore. Yes, DC has an abundance to see – more than any one person will get through in a lifetime – but, I absolutely loved getting to explore other cities and states I had not before seen and I would highly recommend this decision to travel to anyone!
  • Although you should travel when you can, don’t forget to leave yourself ample time to explore the amazing city that is DC. It is an absolutely beautiful city filled with fantastic things to see! It also changes dramatically with the weather so make sure to really enjoy your amazing city whilst at GW.
  • Financially…I would say it costs more than you think it will – or at least that has been the experience of most of the exchange students I have spoken to. To get by on the amount of money that is often recommended is doable but won’t leave much for traveling, eating out, exploring DC, going out with friends, etc. I would suggest bringing – within reason – whatever you can – DC is not a particularly cheap city. As I said, it is totally manageable on the recommended amount but you have to budget well. [Side note – don’t forget to budget for move in/set up costs – I know that a lot of exchange students didn’t do that and it definitely costs a little to set up – so just make sure to factor that expense in].
  • Be friendly – I know this sounds ridiculous but it’s true. As an example, when I got the email addresses of my roommates before I left home, I sent them each an email introducing myself just to open up a dialogue. Not all of your roommates will necessarily know each other either so they may appreciate this – also, they may be nervous about you and what you are like in the same way that you may be nervous about them – so send a hello, introduce yourself – you are going to be sharing a small space with them for some time!
  • More than anything, have fun! Enjoy every minute of the experience because it totally flies by! If there is something that isn’t working for you, go about doing what needs to be done to rectify it so that you may enjoy the experience! It’s an absolutely phenomenal experience if you make it that way!

So what is the hardest part of this experience? That’s an easy one – the end. I have spent the last four months feeling like a DC local, enjoying being a student at GW and getting to know my way around/working out grading systems/making friends in classes, travelling around to other cities on the weekends, etc, all of which will be hard to give up. But even harder will be the goodbyes – especially to my exchange group of friends and my roommates! I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of tearing up now, so I better start to wrap it up.

Thank you Hilary, Shawna and the study abroad office for this amazing opportunity! Thank you to my professors and friends in classes who made the academic side of my time here so enjoyable! Thank you to my amazing group of friends who I have made here for absolutely making my exchange experience! And thank you to the people who read my blogs – I have really enjoyed detailing my time abroad and am so happy to have these logs as a memory of my time here!

So I guess this is my first in a fortnight that will be undoubtedly full of goodbyes. Goodbye blog, it’s been great!

Advertisements

A Very Busy Week!

Standard

The past week I have spent time in a number of different cities – 4 to be exact. Last weekend I travelled down to Texas with two of the other exchange students to see what the South had to offer. With that I had now covered multiple parts in each of the coordinates of America – North, South, East and West – so I feel as though this semester has really allowed me to get to know America that much better. I spent the week in DC of course for classes, etc and then at 3am on Saturday morning travelled to Ohio to visit a friend for the night. It’s been a pretty crazy week!

1

2

So let me start with Texas – what an experience! Firstly, I would highly recommend a trip there – we had such a good time! So don’t let people turn you off it with their consistent asking ‘why are you going to Texas?’ – there is heaps to see there and much of it is really pretty. I would totally go back on a future trip! We visited Dallas and Austin making it a whirlwind of a weekend that involved a lot of travelling but that was definitely worth it. We headed on down from DC to Dallas after class on Thursday and spent Friday exploring the city – especially everything that was JFK related as, in case anyone doesn’t know, that is where the president was assassinated in 1963. Accordingly, Dallas has been recovering from its reputation as the ‘city of hate’ since then but despite the horrible history that is well documented on Elm Street, really the southern chivalry is super evident in Texas – cowboys are very gentlemanly! We spent most of our first day in Dallas inside the 6th Floor Museum which is in the Book Depository building where Oswald allegedly shot from. For anyone visiting Dallas I would say that missing this museum would be a big mistake – it is so interesting and so well documented – it’s really a great museum!

3

4

 

 

We also went to the Grassy Knoll and stood on the exact spot of the road – which is marked off – that he was shot on. For a modern history lover and someone who is very interested in conspiracy theories like myself, this was a fantastic day, albeit based on a very saddening experience. The museum captures the sadness that was felt not only across the nation, but across the globe, really beautifully but also shows the build up to the event, and the bizarre series of events that followed. As I said, this museum is not to be missed when visiting Dallas.

7

We spent time on a historic street nearby where we had Mexican for lunch. Texas is apparently known for its Mexican food which I found strange at first, but later I learnt that Tex-Mex was invented in Dallas and so it made a bit more sense. Dallas apparently is also responsible for the inventions of 7/11, Dr Pepper, Lays Chips, Neiman Marcus, the Micro Chip, and so much more. Kind of crazy to think that all of that came from one, semi-random city!

That night we took the bus from Dallas to Austin which is just over a three hour trip. I have a friend who lives there who we stayed with for the night and who gave us a pretty great tour of Austin, starting with the bar scene that evening and a look at 6th Street which is a crazy part of town! We went to a couple places and saw some live music which was on our list of things to do in Austin. We also saw a bar with a mechanical bull so all-in-all we were definitely feeling like our experience was very Texan! My friend managed to raise that bar the next day when she took us out of Austin to this barbeque restaurant called Salt-Lick that was just about as Texan as it comes. It was fun to see and though we couldn’t get through a third of the enormous portions of food presented, it was definitely tasty. From there we went to my friend’s ranch to enjoy some of the amazing natural aspects of Austin – the property was absolutely gorgeous and we had a good time walking through the river and driving the golf buggy around the grounds.

8

10

Once back in the city we drove through some streets that looked quintessentially Austin – it’s a very eclectic city! We enjoyed a stop at the Capitol building because its really gorgeous and looks similar(ish) to the DC one but minus the scaffolding. That afternoon she took us to a place that had a vintage market and, again, really emphasized the ‘indy’ atmosphere of the whole city. Austin was definitely an experience and I will definitely go back some day!

15

That night there was a freak rainstorm to end all storms – it was crazy – and unfortunately it occurred right when we had to go to the bus to head back to Dallas so we got on the bus soaking wet – less than ideal! We got back to Dallas at like 1:30am so we just went to bed so that we could explore the rest of Dallas the next day. We began our last day in Texas with a trolley tour of the city which was a great way to see more than just the area in which we were staying and also to learn some interesting facts about Dallas and its history (including that they invented all the things I listed above). We went up to the top of Reunion Tower where we enjoyed 360 degree views of Dallas – it’s really quite a pretty city – lots of interesting architecture! From there we went to see the last few monuments we wanted to see before finishing off with dinner in the same historic district we had lunch at the first day – this time more authentic Southern food though.

13

Unfortunately, with that we had to head to the airport and our time in Texas came to an end. It was definitely an interesting weekend full of new experiences and I’m really glad we got to enjoy them! From there it was back to DC and back to a number of assignments for all of us!

On Friday night we had our exchange farewell dinner (although we are still here for a number of weeks, this is the last week I suppose before everyone gets really busy with finals) hosted at the Australian embassy by the Study Abroad Office. It was nice to see everyone again – obviously with 50 something of us here we weren’t all going to hang out every day and so everyone broke off into smaller groups – it was great to all reunite for one big final event. We had superlative awards that we had to vote for (including Exchange King and Queen), a trivia game that reunited us with our Orientation Week groups (and which my group won – yay!), some drinks and some nibbles – it was all a lot of fun although it is very sad to think of this experience coming to an end! I’m not going to talk about that until next week’s blog though – but I will say I definitely am not anywhere near ready for it to finish – it goes so quickly!

Because of the event on Friday night, I changed flights that I had booked to go to visit my friend and her family in Ohio for the weekend and so at 3:30am on Saturday morning I headed to the airport to make my way to Cleveland, via Chicago. It made for a very long day (we all went out after the dinner and so I managed to squeeze in a one hour nap between 2 and 3am but that was it) but it was so lovely to visit my friend that it was worth it – and I’m really glad that I didn’t miss the Friday night event! I would have been really disappointed if I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to everyone!!

Ohio is definitely not on every tourists’ list of things to do in America but spending time with my friend and her family was a lot of fun and it was nice to have a little feeling of home – even if only for a night. They were so sweet and I had such a great time seeing them! This time we also explored a bit more of Cleveland (they live an hour outside of the city so I didn’t really see Cleveland much last time I was in Ohio), so this morning we went to Little Italy and to the Cleveland Art Museum which, if you’re ever in Ohio, I would highly recommend – it’s a really beautiful museum! We had lunch with the whole family again at this crazy grilled cheese restaurant that had the biggest sandwiches I have ever seen in my life! It was insane! Although a quick trip – it was definitely a good one!

16

And so now, having just returned from the airport, I’m sitting down to what I’m positive will be a very late night of studying – finals are definitely approaching!

The Blossoms are in Bloom!

Standard

Spring really is a magical time to be in DC! The whole city seemingly glows in the sun and the green grass is finally uncovered from beneath the blanket of snow that seemed to hide it since I arrived in January. Even the fact that the fountains at the WWII memorial are on now totally changes the appearance of the national mall. All of these factors and more contribute to what really is a stunning picture-perfect city right at your doorstep whilst here at GW. And whilst all these things make the city that much more special, really it is not why spring-time in DC is famous nationwide.

For those who do not yet know (and if you come in the spring semester you will quickly find out as the National Mall goes from being a bit of a ghost town in the winter to an area buzzing with activity and tourists in the Spring), this season seemingly calls on a mass migration to the nation’s capital. The main star of the attraction are the cherry blossoms that dominate the area with beautiful pink leaves everywhere. Seeing these cherry blossoms is a treat as they are only perfectly in bloom for about a week a year, so you really have to make sure not to miss them!

The Cherry Blossom trees were a gift from the Japanese to DC in 1912 and it was Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo who proudly gifted them. Since then, late March/early April has become known as the time of the National Cherry Blossom Festival which I believe has gradually grown into the event that it is today.

Having been away for a week I was worried about the prospect of maybe missing the Cherry Blossoms and having seen them before on a trip to Japan, I knew that missing them and their beauty would be a big loss. Apparently, the cherry blossoms heard my concerns and waited for me to return before blooming into full glory. Thank you cherry blossoms!

So after a red eye flight and no sleep all night, I got in from the airport, dumped by bags and met up with my friends to head straight on down to Constitution Avenue to get a good spot along the Cherry Blossom Parade route – a large parade that goes nearly all the way down Constitution Ave to mark the closing of the festival. Because of the really cold winter we had, the closing ceremony seemed somewhat premature because it was only then that the blossoms bloomed but never mind, the thought was there. We got a spot right opposite the Washington Monument and had the White House directly behind us – couldn’t have been in a more picture-perfect/’guess what we are in DC’ position if we tried! We were very lucky because the sun was out to play that day and the weather was amazing and warm – ahhh, I like this DC!

The parade itself was 2 hours long and was pretty interesting – there were a number of marching bands, a series of different middle and high school groups and activity clubs that showed off their skills including unicycling, girl scouts, etc, some artists including Estelle who performed, various military marching troops, etc. It was a nice parade and we all enjoyed it. I particularly enjoyed watching the crowd cheer and praise their military whenever the parade showcased different men and women in service, which is systematically did throughout – it is fantastic that there is such pride in and support of people who dedicate so much.

redcoats

redcoats

unicycle

After the parade we decided to take a walk down to the Tidal Basin to have a look at the cherry blossoms and snap that cliché yet gorgeous photo of the Cherry Blossoms in front of the Jefferson. It was absolutely stunning down there although it was much to crowded as every tourist and their dog seemed to have moved from the parade trail down to the Tidal Basin with us – we did expect this to happen, but nonetheless. We decided to leave the area after that return during the week when hopefully the crowds had died down a bit.

carebear

floats

And that we did – I went back on Monday morning with two of my friends who are also exchange students to go for a nice stroll along the mall and back to the Tidal Basin. The crowds were definitely less which was fantastic and we took total opportunity to snap a few more photos with the blossoms.

cherry1

GW

water

The Cherry Blossom excitement is infectious here though and so despite surely having had my time with the trees, when the sun came back out on Wednesday 6 of the exchange students and I made our way down to the Tidal Basin again but this time to go paddle boating. It was a lot of fun! We got two four seater paddle boats between us, put some music on full blast on our phones and tried to keep the two boats as close together as possible whilst paddling around the basin checking out all of the monuments. What a gorgeous view! For anyone coming here in the Spring, I would definitely recommend this as an activity that should be done! And good luck switching drivers – we were so impressed with ourselves when we didn’t fall in!

standing

paddleboat

life jacket

All in all, to future Spring students, get excited! DC is absolutely stunning – it was in the winter too but now it is as if there is boundless energy and life seeping from the monuments and amazing nature around. I’m sure I say this every week but wow – what a city! Cant believe our time here is slowly approaching its conclusion – leaving is going to be very very difficult! But anyway, there are a couple weeks still before that becomes of concern.

ready

And so, until next time…

Driving California

Standard

This week brought on an adventure very different to my previous weekend travels as my mum (who was here visiting from Australia – in case you missed the last blog) and I went on a road trip down the Californian coast on the famous Highway 1. It was absolutely stunning (as I hope you will be able to see in the photos included) and we had a really fantastic time travelling together!

In order to make the most of our trip I took the week off school – I’m not entirely sure that I’m allowed to post that in this blog but I will say that in order to take the week off I planned for it the entire semester. I told my professors in Week 2 and reminded them again more recently, I asked them what extra work I could do for them to excuse my absence and I made sure that my attendance record throughout the entire semester was perfect until this week. I think that (whilst I’m sure I’m not meant to promote this) taking a week off is definitely doable as long as you are fair on your professors in the way you go about it before. As our grades are all pass/fail offering the extra work was not to keep my grades from being altered but instead to show respect to the professor and an acknowledgement that you are missing a class that they worked to prepare. Perhaps it is a step you don’t have to take but I would encourage that you do – the extra work that I am doing is so minimal that it was totally worth maintaining a good relationship with my professors. I’m really glad though that I took the week off – it was so worth it as it gave me an amazing opportunity to see America from the road – and wow, is it gorgeous!

carl_sanFranWe began our road trip in San Francisco – being from Australia, driving in America means driving on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car – my poor mum! It is important to note that many exchange students may find taking a road trip to be somewhat of an impossibility as you have to be over 25 for nearly – if not all – the car rental companies to rent to you. If you are 25 though, we rented from National Car Rentals and I would highly recommend them – they were so easy, well-priced and the car was great.

IMG_8314

IMG_8322

IMG_8387

San Francisco is a really pretty city and having not visited there since I was 6, I was really glad to go back and see some of the main sites. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time there and it really was just the main sites we got to see, however, I have plans to go back after the semester ends and so I will explore more then. This time it was mainly about seeing family and having a little reunion with my cousins who live there who we obviously don’t get to see all that often. It was fantastic to see them all and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge was exciting as it is really a gorgeous bridge and we drove down the insanely steep and curvey Lombard Street which was a bit of an achievement in itself! Yay Mum! 🙂 We briefly saw the Fishermen’s Wharf and looked out at Alcatraz – I definitely have a long list of things I want to do next month but I think we did pretty well considering we only had one night there!

IMG_8425

On Tuesday – after breakfast with a cousin and our San Fran road exploration we began the road trip part of our trip and headed south towards our first stop – Santa Cruz – where we spent the afternoon. Being the big kids that we are, we wanted to stop in Santa Cruz to hang out at the Boardwalk – a sea-side amusement park. We had so much fun riding rides and playing arcade games – total kids but so many laughs! From Santa Cruz we had to continue driving that afternoon down to Monterey where we would be spending our first night.

We made the decision to book hotels before we went which committed us to particular cities/towns on particular nights and meant that we had to drive certain distances each day. Whilst there were times on the road that I think we may have liked to change that, all in all, I think it was a good idea for us to book ahead because we needed to travel those distances in order to make it to LA by Friday. It also took the stress of finding somewhere when we got there away.

IMG_8444

IMG_8491

So, night one we drove to Monterey which was a really cute town – especially the Fisherman’s Wharf/Cannery Row where we headed down to for dinner. If you find yourself in Monterey, this area is definitely not to be missed – it’s basically the postcard picture of the quintessential fishing town and is full of restaurants that specialize in Seafood and are known for their Clam Chowder. I must admit, we didn’t order Chowder but the food that we had down there was fantastic – so delicious!!

We enjoyed exploring Monterey but the next morning we were off again and had to leave the sweet little town behind. Our second day of driving was definitely a big one! We started off with breakfast in Carmel which is a town that looks like it could have popped straight out of a fairytale story book. Everything is sweet and little, the streets house art gallery after art gallery and accordingly have some fantastic works for visitors to view. The beach is really pretty and we had breakfast in a tiny restaurant that really looked like it could have popped straight out of a Disney story – really all too cute! After Carmel it would be a while till our next town as we headed down the coastline and drove through the Big Sur region stopping at a few national parks and many many look out points. The Bixby Bridge was definitely a highlight as it was awesome to see a site so iconically Californian but really it was the jutting rocks in the endless water and the lush and dramatic mountains that had us totally in awe of the nature around us. It was amazing! Such a beautiful drive!!

IMG_8328

After multiple hours of driving, we eventually reached our town for the evening San Simeon – known mainly because of Hearst Castle. To be honest, with the exception of the castle, San Simeon really has nothing – it’s very close to Cambria which had a very cute little main street with lovely gift shops and many restaurants – we had a delicious dinner there! I’m sure that the beach there is beautiful but we arrived too late in the afternoon to consider heading to the beach. Cambria, however, was lovely to stroll around and San Simeon had a cute little hotel for us to stay in and an amazing display of stars at night – it’s amazing how beautiful the night sky is in places untouched by city pollution.

IMG_8593

IMG_8629

The next morning we began the day with a tour of Hearst Castle which is a definite must if you are in the area – it is so gorgeous and is so interesting to see what really looks like a little piece of Europe in the midst of the rolling Californian hills. We opted for the Grand Rooms tour but if I make it back I would really like to do the evening tour next time!

From Hearst Castle we drove all the way down to Solvang which is known as the Dutch city of America. The town is so cute – it looks like it could be a Disneyworld pavilion! On our way we stopped briefly in San Louis Obispo which is definitely a larger town and looks like it has great restaurants and shopping although we didn’t experience either to really comment. We had a quick look at what may just be one of America’s most disgusting tourist attractions though – bubblegum alley. Basically, on the two long walls of one alley, tourists and locals alike go to add their mark on the town – their chewed up gum. It is really gross! Solvang though is dotted with windmills, thatched roofs and is nearly completely void of big businesses and food chains, opting instead to support local industry. We took a tour on horse and carriage around the city so that we could learn some of the history of the city and so we were able to really see a lot. We then walked around and ate at a Dutch restaurant that is in one of the original buildings built in Solvang in 1911 and was originally the old folk school before it was converted. We also checked out the bakeries as the town is known for their pastries. Whilst Solvang requires a little detour, I would highly recommend it as an opportunity to really see something totally different to the other towns.

IMG_8643

IMG_8696

Unfortunately from Solvang we hit our first bit of traffic and so we were unable to stop again in any other towns between Solvang and Los Angeles where we would be ending the road trip that night. Although it took much longer than anticipated, we made it to LA by Thursday night and to our hotel on Sunset Boulevard near Brentwood. Although excited to hit LA, we were sad that our Californian coastal experience had come to an end and spent much of the end of the drive researching other routes that we would like to drive in the near future having loved this road trip so much!

And so, after an amazing couple weeks with my mum visiting and a fantastic road trip, I am now waiting at LAX to board my red eye flight back to DC to hopefully make it back in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival tomorrow. I just had to farewell my mum who is in the next terminal over waiting for a flight back to Sydney which was sad but I am looking forward to all the fun things I have planned between now and the end of the semester. I definitely took the opportunity this week to do something new and I absolutely loved it!

And so, until next time…

And so, until next time…

Touring GWU

Standard

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, this week I was expecting a visitor My mum flew in from Australia on Monday night which was really exciting! I decided that this week’s blog would be a written guide of the tour I gave to her so that you can have a bit of a sense of what you are arriving into – a ‘know before you go’ in a sense from a fellow exchange student.

On Tuesday morning we did a lap of campus as I was eager to show her as much as possible – so I’m going to try and describe my walking tour and give you as much information on campus as I can. You will be taken on a campus tour during Orientation Week but it’s a lot to take in in one hit and for Spring Semester students, you will be walking through the snow most likely so if you are anything like me, concentrating and freezing are not two activities you will be able to do simultaneously.

We entered campus from Georgetown so our town begins up near City Hall – this is one of the on-campus accommodation blocks that you may be placed in to live. Whilst all dorms are different, I believe city hall has a number of 2 person share rooms and each have a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen (or at least the apartments that I’ve seen do). City Hall is definitely in a good position – it’s the closest building to Georgetown and is just behind the metro station and Wholefoods area – but it is a bit older than the other buildings.

Moving on to Wholefoods and the surrounding restaurants – this is a well-frequented area for all students as it’s the spot for groceries and take away food. GW doesn’t have a dining hall or meal plan (there is a dining hall area but really only freshmen go there from what I understand – its called J-Street and it’s in the Marvin Centre – we will get to that in a minute). So, I think I speak for a lot of GW students when I say that Wholefoods essentially replaces a dining hall and becomes a very handy source of food when you cannot be bothered to cook.

whole foods

I could be wrong but I don’t think that any of the international students are in an apartment without a kitchen so there is definitely always the option to cook and prepare food – this will definitely be the most budget friendly option! However, for those times you don’t want to cook – around Wholefoods you will find:
Devon and Blakely – Soup and sandwiches
Circa – Nice restaurant with pretty good food
Roti – Mediterranean style food
Sweet green – Salads
Beefsteak – Salads/Vegetarian food
Wholefoods – Groceries, ready-to-go food, sushi, pizza, etc
Around the back of the block with all of this on it is also a burger place in case that tickles your fancy more.

Continuing on from that area – to your right you will see the beginnings of the major classroom buildings. To give an idea of where each of the buildings is in writing is not going to be an interesting read so I’m going to leave the topic of classrooms by saying, they’re easy to find and everyone is friendly so will happily point you in the right direction. The only thing that can be a bit tricky is that what looks like one building has multiple names depending on the entrance – again, just ask – someone will help you undoubtably. Majority of the classrooms are within the main blocks of campus too so it’s not too challenging. The K street rooms are a bit beyond the square that GW fits within, as is the G street block. I have a class in G Street and I think that it would be a good piece of advice to suggest that if possible, if you are taking a class in this building, try and leave yourself time between classes to get there – I have 10 mintues to get from Phillips (which is opposite Wholefoods) to G street and even though its only a few blocks, my first class rarely lets out exactly on time making the walk a very quick one! Just something to be mindful of if you can. Also, when they say on the schedule that you need to leave half an hour between classes on main campus and on the Vern, they are not exaggerating. You will need to take the free shuttle bus (known on campus as the VEX) and it is a fair distance – this is important to note as otherwise you will miss the beginning of every class!

Okay, back on my walking tour…so from Wholefoods, when you turn right and head down past the Phillips building, and then left again, you will find yourself across the road from Gelman Starbucks – rumor has it that this Starbucks is the second most frequented in America. Whether or not this is true, I’m not too sure, but there is always a long line in there irrespective of the time of day.

starbucksGelman

 

Some tips:

1. The line moves pretty quickly so if you have the time, you will make it to the front eventually .

2. NEVER try go to Starbucks on the hour or half hour that a class ends – try and go at obscure times – this is a good rule for most food places on campus. By going 15 minutes earlier, you will save yourself HEAPS of time in lines!

3. The food court in the Marvin Centre has some coffee shops – one even sells starbucks blend coffee so if you can’t wait at Gelman Starbucks, cross the road and head in there.

4. There is another Starbucks on E Street next to the E street dorms and near the Elliott School – there is often a line there too but it’s a lot more reasonable than the one at Gelman!

Who would have thought getting your morning coffee could be such an art!

So, as I mentioned across the road and up a little bit is the Marvin Centre. This is a building you will get to know well during Orientation so I wont go into too much detail, but basically, all the resources, etc that you need are in this one building. Amongst a bunch of other things some of things you can do at the Marvin Centre (beyond getting food and coffee) are: 

- Go to the doctor 
- Get your GWorld card 
- Put money on your GWorld card (you can do this at multiple places on campus though)
- Pay outstanding fees 
- Buy all your GW merchandise 
- Visit the Study Abroad office 
- Find the ballrooms (there are often events held here like careers expos, club showcases, etc)

And more. Basically the only things that you need as an international student that aren’t in this building are:
– The key depot
– The post/mail centre
– The ISO which is the International Office where you need to check in (visa requirement – don’t worry, you will do this in Orientation Week) and where you need to get your visa signed if you want to travel out of America (this includes Canada and Mexico – cant tell you how many times I have heard that question asked!) suggestion: take this to be signed by the ISO in Week 1 of your time at GW – you will thank yourself later when you have forgotten all about it and have to rush to get it done – they take 10 days to do it so leave yourself time or you will have to cancel your trip.

Okay – so the Marvin Centre is a great resource and is in a really important area of campus. Across the road you will find CVS which is backed by the Village Shopping Centre – a small centre with some food venues, clothes shops, the UPS store, etc. CVS will be your go to store – most things that you need can be purchased at CVS.

We are back tracking here, past some great sculptures – for example Martha (the hippo) Martha – I’m going to leave the hippo stories at that and challenge you to try and work out the significance of the hippo for yourself – and many many heads of George Washington sporadically found around campus. So, as we walk back past the side of the Marvin Centre, back towards Starbucks, you will find one of the entrances into Kogan Plaza which is just an open area that has the back of the Lisner Auditorium, the entrance to Gelman (the library), a nice courtyard and the creepiest statue of George Washington known to man. There is a life-like sculpture on a bench that, when you leave the library in the dark late at night, will undoubtedly give you a heart attack every single time. The Gelman library is obviously another good resource – it has plenty of study space when your dorm is too noisy, printers, computers, books, etc – everything you expect to find in a library. The staff are really friendly and are always more than happy to help if you cant find something – which you likely wont be able to because the books are everywhere! Not in a chaotic sense, just in the sheer volume of them!

kogan2

Behind the library is Duques – one of the big classroom buildings, which is backed onto by Funger – the business school. I am mentioning this school in particular because the VEX goes from out the front of Fungar so if you have classes or accommodation on the Mount Vernon campus, this will be an important stop to you. Opposite from there is the GW Deli which has delicious bagels but also often has an insanely long line – again, don’t go just as classes let out unless you really enjoy standing in lines.

At the end of the street where the Deli is, is Tonic – a restaurant that is popular amongst students because of their tater tots (potato gems). They have Happy Hour (which seems to be nearly as popular as brunch in DC – everyone goes out for Brunch or Happy Hour) where they have $4 tots – this seems to attract a lot of people and substantial lines. They are delicious though.

As we continue our walk towards E Street (which will be our final destination), you will pass the mail centre (one block down and to the left from Tonic) which is where all your packages will come in, and on top of that is the key depot – which is where you will get your keys (not if you live in E Street as your GWorld card is your key) and your mail box codes as your letters will still arrive to your building. Next door is Carvings which has burgers, fries, mozerella sticks, sandwiches, breakfast, etc – it’s open late at night making it a popular stop for lots of students!

Finally, as you turn right at the end of the street and walk back the old main building (where the ISO is), subway and then the Starbucks on the corner, you have reached E Street! This is another dorm that has many exchange students in it this semester – it’s where I live – and despite being a little further down from the rest, is a much newer and in my opinion nicer building. We are next door to the Elliott School too for students taking international relations, etc. I skipped talking about the other two buildings that you will mainly find exchange students in because we didn’t take that road – But Shenkmen (formerly Ivory – just so that you don’t get confused when people still call it Ivory) and Amsterdam are also nice and are in good locations. Near Shenkmen is also the sport centre where you will go to watch basketball games, etc. And the HellWell (Health and Wellness Centre is up in that area too).

EStreet

Final note – up 20th Street – the street that E Street dorms corner, if you walk up toward to the Village shops (where CVS is on the other side) you will find Founding Farmers – personal favorite for brunch and lunch – so delicious! But I will do another blog about DC recommendations for when you get here .

I hope that this has been in some way helpful in giving you a bit of a blue print on what to expect when you get here and where to find particular things. As I mentioned, everyone is very friendly and will happily point you in the right direction. The nice thing about the GW campus is that it is very easy to get to know – you may feel lost for the first week but you will definitely get the hang of it after that!

I wanted to take some more photos but I am currently in Vegas for the weekend with my mum and so whilst there are some photos here for you, I will definitely try and post some more later on.

And so, as always, until next time…

Back to NYC…and my meeting with Helen Mirren

Standard

As always, this week was another crazy busy one as I prepared for assessments, exams…and a weekend trip to New York (again). Post-Spring Break the workload has definitely picked up again as many of the courses I am taking have approaching deadlines and with a few weekend trips coming up, I certainly am doing my best to get ahead on my work.

“I think that an important piece of advice that I would give to exchange students on their way here is to not let yourself drop the ball on all your assignments, etc in lieu of trips.”

Whilst I think that it is really important to go and take advantage of being in such a central location and having the opportunity to go and see as much of America as is possible, in the end, if you get behind on the work it is only going to prohibit you from doing something else you may really want to do as you will have to catch up. In saying that, if you can get ahead on some things and leave others to do as they are due, you should find that you have plenty of time to do well in your classes AND really explore DC, as well as more of America. I think that whilst on exchange this is probably the toughest thing to balance in terms of time management but it really is so worth it because this country has so many awesome places to visit and explore!

Whilst this week I didn’t have as much time to sight-see DC (well not since the White House visit that I wrote about last week at least), I did make enough time for myself to squeeze in a New York trip this weekend – which is where I am writing to you from now!

Although I came to New York at the beginning of last month with two of the other exchange students, as a mad theater lover, another trip was totally required (and I’m coming back another couple times before leaving the US as well), especially because one of my closest friends lives in the city.

Despite my mantra being to try something new each week, I decided this time to also try and re-visit something old, and so, on Friday, I headed over to W 45th Street to the Broadway Dance Centre. Having not taken a dance class in the last few years I decided that it was time to revisit – I used to dance a lot – and challenge myself in a theatre dance class. Coincidentally it was also world theatre day and so it seemed to me to be an appropriate way to celebrate! The class was great – we learnt the original choreography to Chorus Line finale, ‘Once,’ and whilst I had a great time doing it, I certainly felt how out of practice I was. And now, two days later, my body is still feeling the pain! Apparently going straight into jumping high leg kicks ala Rockettes after years without practicing will hurt every muscle in your body – especially the ones that hadn’t been used for too many years! Despite the fact that I can barely walk now (okay, I’m exaggerating – but still…), it was totally worth it and I loved getting back into class – I definitely need to try and do it more often.

dance center

That night I tried my something new as I entrusted my friend to pick a restaurant and found myself in an Indian restaurant that looked as though it had come straight off a Bollywood set. The place was hilarious and we had a great night before continuing to explore the village area and then finishing the night with a good How I Met Your Mother Marathon – when in New York, right!

On Saturday morning I went and lined up for rush tickets to see a show (that I will talk about in a minute), which is a great tip to anyone coming to New York who wants to see a Broadway show but is on a budget. Many of the shows here have what they call ‘student rush’ or ‘general rush’ tickets which means that if you line up before the box office opens you can often get a ticket at a significantly discounted price (like $39 often) for the show that day/night. It’s totally worth it if you don’t mind waiting around for like an hour!

My friend and I then began our morning in total New York fashion with some delicious bagels and a subway trip downtown. We went to check out Eataly – because its amazing and delicious! – and then walked from there down to the Chelsea Markets to go for a little wonder. After a long day of walking and having fun, we finished the night at the theatre – the best way to end a night in my opinion! We went to see ‘The Audience’ starring Helen Mirren as the Queen – WOW!!! It was fantastic – a very interesting view into the relationship between the Queen and her Prime Ministers. Helen Mirren is completely mesmerizing – what an unbelievably skilled actress…and we got to meet her at the end of the play! Highlight = being told that we are “beautiful young ladies” by an English Dame/Academy Award Winner/Total Hero!

theaudienceHelen

Sunday morning and we enjoyed a bottomless brunch at a beautiful little restaurant called Vice Versa – so delicious! eggI then went off to see another show – a new musical called ‘Fun Home’ – which is an incredibly unique show that doesn’t have the ‘glitz and glam’ that is often expected of Broadway shows but that left not a dry eye in the audience by the end of the performance. The intimacy of the theatre (Circle in a Square) made the storyline that much more heart breaking as you felt as though you were in the home of these characters as they come to life changing decisions and revelations about one another. The child actress who played the young version of the main character was a stand out which is always nice to see – she was brilliant!

Sadly, after a How I Met Your Mother marathon with my friend, it was time to say goodbye to her and to the city as my weekend of Broadway fun was at an end. And so now, I’m writing this from my very delayed Amtrak – must admit, I think that the Greyhound was easier in this case!

I’m so excited for the next couple weeks coming up as my mum is flying in from Australia to visit and I cannot wait to see her! There will definitely be a lot of showing her around campus and DC.

So, until next week…

Visiting our Neighbours

Standard

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:

WH
white house

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!

broadcastbroadcast2
newseum

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…