Author Archives: hannahbethdray

The pros and pros of studying abroad


We are now past the mid-point in April, which can only mean one thing – Spring semester is coming to a close. This semester has gone by incredibly fast, and there are now only 3 weeks to go until exams are over. For some exchange students that will be the end of their time in America. I have been fortunate enough to get an Internship in DC, so will be staying until Mid-July, but a lot of the friends I have made here will be leaving in May. A few of them will actually be in Europe with me in September, studying at various universities, just as I have done.

My friend, Paul, who will be studying in Chile next semester, asked me what the one piece of advice would be I would give to someone going to another country; this was a tough question. I could say “don’t take a lot of stuff with you, as you will never get it all back into two suitcases” or “although you may want to buy multiple cuddly toys (yes I still like cuddly toys) avoid them!” or “if you study in America you will eat A LOT of burgers.” And then I thought that these are all silly little things in the grand scheme of your exchange semester. The big thing that I have tried to do this year is say ‘yes’ to everything. Say yes to the trips away at the weekends, or the sports games (even if you have no clue about the rules of baseball). Say yes to trying new food like sushi or escargot (even though they are slimey critters!) And be willing to try new and exciting things. Every country has something different to offer – you just have to find out what that is.

I also thought about how much I have changed this year, and whether I act differently here than I do at home. I decided that being in a new place, gives you so much freedom – much more than you will ever imagine. Become more sociable and make conversation with people at parties, in your classes and at a restaurant – just because you can! The beauty of being in another country – no one knows you! You can be whoever you want to be. You can be more outgoing, or confident or laid back and no one can stop you!

I was given a quote by my parents on coming to the US and I feel it is aptly appropriate for anyone considering going abroad to study or even travel after graduation: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”


The Start of the Cherry Blossom Festival


In 1912, to celebrate the nations’ then-growing friendship, Japan gave 3,200 cherry blossoms as a gift to the United States. Planted along the tidal basin and only blooming for 2 weeks of the year, the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the best times of the year in Washington DC. Last week the weather was terrible, with hail and snow still hitting the city; however spring has now finally arrived! One of the events to celebrate the festival was a huge pillow fight held under the Washington Monument. Picture 1 After taking a few photos, I knew I had to get involved so grabbed a spare pillow and got involved! Picture 2The only difficulty I had was hitting certain people like this 8 year old boy who nearly knocked me off my feet! Picture 3Albert and I also decided to hand out free hugs which was a lot of fun.
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Walking back home, every monument was swarming with people trying to enjoy the Capital. Picture 6 It is always interesting to listen to the tour guides tell the history of each monument and its significance, particularly when listening to Vietnam veterans discuss the wall. Saturday evening was the fireworks festival, so I went down with Albert, Adam and David to get a good spot by the water. Some of the cherry blossoms have started to bloom a little, but the best site of the night was the beautiful sunset we got to see. Picture 7
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Picture 9I love being down by the Jefferson memorial, and have decided that it is my favourite monument of them all (although it is the furthest walk which is annoying!) Picture 10 Unfortunately we weren’t in the perfect spot for the fireworks, and they only lasted 15 minutes, but we were still able to see some great ones above the trees. Picture 11
Picture 12Although the main area for the cherry blossom trees is by the tidal basin, GW is lucky enough to have a few on its campus, and on Sunday morning I managed to find a few of them already in bloom: Picture 13
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Picture 15For dinner this evening we headed into Virginia to get some Korean Barbeque Picutre 16
Picture 17which was delicious, but always leaves me wanting to lie down for an hour or so – luckily its Sunday! It can be really difficult to really enjoy being in DC when I am bogged down with papers, work and exams, which is why I was glad this weekend I was able to relax and have some fun!

The life of an American as seen by a British chick…


The countdown has begun…I only have 3 and a half months left in the US. The weather is getting better FINALLY and spring has appeared. April in DC is the time of Cherry Blossoms, Festivals and beautiful weather. So I feel like I need to experience as much as I can while I am still here. The first step was finally going to see a professional basketball game. As you’ve seen on my blog before, I have been to a lot of games at GW, but being in an arena is a completely different thing. Photo 1 (1)The Washington Wizards were playing the Phoenix Suns. Although the Wizards were down by 23 points, they managed to pull it back and only lose by 6. We had cotton candy (candy floss) and ice cream – way too much sugar!Photo 2 (3)The girls spent the rest of the week seeing all the sights of DC including the Zoo and Georgetown. We headed out to Chinatown in the evening to visit a country bar (some people class DC as being the edge of the South) and experience a real American bar.

On Saturday I tried to think of the most stereotypical American place to take Georgina and Tamara for dinner – where better than Hooters!  Photo 3I had also not been there myself after Trevor and I made a deal in September to go there at some point. The wings were huge and the place was full of men watching sports – us English girls felt a little out of place. We watched as multiple people had birthdays and had to stand on a chair while the Hooter’s girls danced around them. And surprisingly I was apparently turning 22 again that day as my friends had told the waitresses it was my birthday! Embarrassing photo of me having to dance like a chicken on a chair: There is also a video but I hope that never sees the light of day! Photo 4 (2)Saturday night I also got to experience something new: A Graffiti Party. All white t shirts and a lot of sharpie pens! (Note to self, sharpie takes a long time to come off skin! Photo 5
Photo 6 Various parts of my shirt includes: “you sound like you’re from London”, “US saved Britain during both world wars” and a rainbow drawn by Maddy. Maddy and I also perfected our Sorority girl pose that evening:Photo 7

Sunday morning saw the girls head to Union Station to begin their trip to New York and me head to the shower to get the Shamrock and Flower off my cheeks! I spent most of Sunday afternoon in shock as it was once again snowing (luckily it didn’t settle) and trying to catch up on work – I need another Spring Break! I managed to have a break on Tuesday night when I went to see the Washington Capitals take on the Dallas Stars in my first ice hockey game and I loved it! Photo 8 The atmosphere was even better than the basketball game! Photo 9
Photo 10 So this week has been one of firsts: First basketball game, first ice hockey game, first trip to Hooters and first Graffiti party. Overall a successful week! Photo 11

Shamrock Fest and Visiting Friends!


Spring Break was the most incredible week, full of amazing food, great friends and a lot of relaxation! Unfortunately though, I came back home to lots of snow and four papers to write!  For this reason, I was unable to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Monday. Luckily we were able to celebrate this weekend at Shamrock Fest! Two of my friends Georgina and Tamara from school have come over from the UK to visit for two weeks so were able to join us in green and celebrate! We were packed out in green and luckily the weather was on our side and it was beautiful! Pic 2  The festival was being held at RFK Stadium in South East DC, so after joining other green wearing Americans, Pic3we had arrived! After exploring everything the festival had to offer, including carnival rides and various Irish paraphernalia, we watched a couple of Irish bands to play.Pic4
Georgina and Tamara were suffering a little from time difference jet lag so we went to experience some good American food: Pizza and Funnel Cake!!
Pic10 I also managed to switch my tiara for a flashing one due to my English accent (the perks of being an exchange student). Pic7Pic8 It was a little crazy getting back from the festival as everyone was travelling back at the same time, but we had an amazing day! 








Today was Tamara and Georgina’s first day of being tourists in DC, so what better way to start than see all the monuments! Overall we walked 5 miles today and my feet are really feeling the effects of this. We saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Vietnam among others, and the girls had a really great time
Pic18 although I was at one point being followed by a squirrel who would not leave me alone! Pic13  The day was ended with a trip to Chipotle – I felt I had really earned my food by that point!
What I learnt from today was that having lived in DC for 7 months now, I have really got the hang of the area; I don’t feel as much of a tourist anymore, although I do still sometimes have my moments of getting lost on the metro!

From Midterms to Spring Break!


The week of midterms is never fun – you have the panic of trying to remember where your notes are, the last minute to phone calls to friends trying to remember one ID on your list, and the mountains of coffee you inhale to keep yourself awake! However what is fun about midterms in March is that the week following is SPRING BREAK!
After having our exams at the beginning of the week and experiencing some bizarre weather at the start of the week with another snow day Picture 2 (7)(Picture 2), we all made it through our exams. To top off the week we had a lazy Friday with Vanessa cooking some amazing Korean food Picture 7 (5) and then having a good cuddle while watching movies in my room Picture 8 (5)Picture 9 (6) On our way out to get some Fro-Yo we saw another incredible sunset right in the center of the city which was beautiful.Picture 3 (7)
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However I am hoping that this week I will be getting even better pictures as I will be on my way to the Bahamas! As seen in the top picture we will be taking a cruise from Baltimore and stopping along the way in Florida, and then stopping in Nassau and Freeport in the Bahamas! Trip to BahamasI am incredibly excited as I have never been on a cruise, and it looks like a mini city! Over 2000 people with 5 bars, multiple restaurants and even a mini golf! Not forgetting the pool too! It is going to be a perfect girls weekend with the fabulous Chrisanthe and Michelle:Photo2









the beautiful Hannah:

Photo 1and the crazy but loveable Vanessa:Vanessa
A real girls week! Pray for good weather for me and I’ll blog while I’m away!


Showing off your City


One of the best parts about being on exchange is going away and exploring new cities. I managed to see quite a few different places last semester so this weekend I returned the favor when my friend Louis came to visit this weekend. It is always nice to be able to show someone the city you are living in, and your favorite places to go to. Louis arrived on Thursday night and got the shock of his life when getting off the plane coming from LA – the average weather over there has been in the mid-70s, whereas in DC it has been below freezing with icy winds!
In true DC tradition we started our Friday morning with Brunch – for Louis this was great as he had gotten too used to healthy food in LA. Picture 1 (5) This was not the case at Founding Farmers! After this we set off on our adventure around DC checking out the national mall and Dupont. We found a great little café called Kramerbooks & Afterwords Picture 2 (6) it was a book store with a cute little café out back with amazing cakes and tea. After this we headed over to the Capitol and were surprised to find that the water in front of it had been iced over. Picture 3 (6) Unfortunately it was not enough for me to stand on it! He headed over to the other end of the national mall to check out the Lincoln Memorial Picture 4 (6)and also watch the sun set on the steps. Picture 6 (5)After seeing the White House, we went for dinner at a great restaurant across from it – Old Ebitt Grill. For anyone who is visiting DC or is looking for a fancier meal, this is the place for you! Picture 7 (4) That evening we headed out to U Street to explore the other parts of DC – as an exchange student you can sometimes get caught up in staying in Foggy Bottom and not exploring further out in other areas. On Saturday we headed over to Hains Point to watch GW Rugby play against Ivy league school Columbia. It was a tough game with a muddy pitch and unfortunately the boys lost by 3, but it was still a great game. Picture 8 (4)The slight upside though was the great sunset we managed to seePicture 9 (5)Picture 10 (3)
Louis was meant to stay till Monday afternoon however due to the Winter Storm coming; he had to fly back on Sunday unfortunately. And luckily that he did as we got over 6 inches of snow on Monday! Picture 11 (3)This meant another snow day! I was hauled up in the apartment due to upcoming Midterms this week. However come Thursday it will be Spring Break!! I can’t wait!!

Enjoying the City


We are already 6 weeks into the semester, and it has been an interesting one to say the least. Insane weather, with two snow days and two days off school for President’s Day and Martin Luther King Day. And this week, I was hit by February Flu, or in the UK what we would refer to us Fresher’s Flu, wherein after a few weeks of classes, and everyone returning back from their holidays, you are knocked off your feet and into bed. I did however get a reprieve this weekend when the sun suddenly appeared, and the temperature wasn’t scarves and gloves for the first time! I have been told that nothing is more beautiful than Washington DC in the Spring and I cannot wait to see this, and this weekend, I started to see the beginnings of it. After spending most of the week watching House of Cards and sleeping, I decided to head down to my favorite spot in DC: the national mall and monuments. Hundreds of people had gathered in the sunshine to take a walk around the Vietnam memorial and Lincoln memorial and have their photographs taken. I had not visited every monument however; my missing ones were The FDR memorial, Martin Luther King memorial and Jefferson memorial.  For any student who has not walked every monument – take some time one afternoon, have your walking shoes on and get out there. Because they will take your breath away, particularly this weekend. I was surprised to find that although there was sunshine some of the reflection pools were still covered in ice. Picture 1 (4) Our first stop was at the Martin Luther King memorial Picture 2 (5) where a stone had been pulled out of a larger rock, with the inscription “out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” What I found surprising was that this monument was only completed two years ago, over 40 years after his death. I also walked through the large FDR monument, an interesting look at everything that happened during the 12 year presidencyPicture 3 (5).However my favorite moment of the afternoon was seeing the Jefferson memorial Picture 3 (5)  Sitting beside the water, there were blocks of ice slowly melting and floating on top of the water was an interesting sight! Picture 4 (5)Walking up the steps, it was truly an impressive site Picture 5 (5), it completely takes your breath away. I love DC, and at times forget how lucky I am to have places like this on my doorstep. Next week keep an eye out for The St Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria on March 1st.