Author Archives: inepalacios

Friend, loves, adventures, learning and happy ending?  

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By inepalacios

Monday  April 28, afternoon. My deadline to submit my last post is over. Again many plans during the week were the excuse. A baseball game as a goodbye event, a friend´s birthday, a ball with the Class Council, another birthday, a good bye party, a Latin Festival, applications for internships, a paper, and a conference with an Argentine senator in Georgetown University… these made me to leave the blog post to the last moment. Maybe it was unconscious because my last post means concluding something that I don’t want to finish. The reality is that there is two weeks left before the finals and that’s it.

The last week, while I was organizing my papers, I founded a paper that said: “Goals at GW”: 1. Take advantage of DC; 2.Take advantage of the courses and professors; 3. Take advantage of the campus, 4. Enjoy the going outs; 5.Being part of one of the 300 organizations; 6. Know the entire city;  7.Continue running; 8. Speak English better; 9. Travel; 10. Meet new Americans and Worldwide friends. 

Would I be able to do every of these goals in four months?  Although I didn’t have those goals on paper with me, it seems that these expectations didn’t disappear from my mind because those were almost what I was doing.

  1. Take advantage of DC. With hundred of international political organizations around the corner of my house, it was impossible not to go to one of their events. Seminar in the Inter-American Development Bank, receptions with ambassadors, discussion about taxation reforms, discussions in other universities. It was complicated to understand everything in English, but really enrichment. The few events I went convinced me how much political influent DC has.
  2. Taking advantage of GW classes. Although I can’t say that I dedicated the same amount of hours of study as I had dedicated in Buenos Aires, although I missed the more deep discussions in my home university a lot, putting effort to understand the professors was a big challenge, sometimes it was frustrating but also worthwhile. I will bring with me an interesting approach of the American political system.
  3. Taking advantage of GW Campus. The fact that my 5 classes were in 5 different buildings distributed around more than 15 blocks, closer to the IMF, World Bank, and the White House, or for instance the fact that the gym and the library are each one biggest than my home university, or the detail that we have some kind of  free taxi even to go to a club, these kind of things remembered me that I have been in a first word university, in one located in the middle of a great city. I would not permit myself to not take advantage of that. Now, after three months I still finding new places to study, to hang out, to take a coffee, to enjoy it. I tried to spend my time outside of my room, changing place to study, changing every day my way to go to the classes, taking GW taxis, making friend with the drivers or just walking to the monuments after class.
  4. Enjoy going out. Spending nice time was easy with my exchange friends,  that always were willing to go to the parties on campus or to the clubs in the different neighborhoods. But I have to recognize that I missed my Argentine parties, the music, the long and later parties. Otherwise, although sometimes was impossible wake up as nothing had been happened, going out so earlier permitted me not to waste my next mornings.
  5. Being part of one of the 300 student organizations of GW. There was a position to represent the exchange student in the International Committee of GW Class Council. I applied, I had an interview, and I was accepted! From that moment, I shared meeting, events, food, a formal party, and funny moments to remember.  Until the last event I meet new interesting people.
  6. Know the entire city and …
  7.  Continue Running. Thanks that I found a nice running team with energies to run around DC I could do both (6 and 7). We saw beautiful sunsets, visited hidden memorials, took different bridges, enjoyed the first and also the last cherry blossom, and knew new neighborhoods. I am still discovering new places.
  8. Speak English better. I remember January 6 when I arrived to GW to the first time; just I could say some words and my nervousness didn’t help me.  That nice first orientation week was mixed with frustration to not be able to communicate as the same way than Argentina. The fact of having that put my effort to understand the professors; to keep reading for each class, to write for the blog and paperclass, to be communicated with the people permitted me improved my English. It is like an achievement that I want to share it, learning to speak almost fluently in a language in less than a year is possible! With effort and willingness to make mistakes all the time, with patience is possible always.
  9. Travel. I went to Boston, Massachusetts, obviously DC, New York and Florida. Amazing places! A bunch of memories from each one. Now, with Timo, Pepi, Matt, Ipek and I are planning to do a road trip to the west coast. Beginning in Texas, going to the Gran Canyon, Las Vegas, Los Angles, California, among others places. I can’t believe it that I will be able to do that!
  10. Know American and worldwide friends. The willingness of the international students to be friendly helped a lot. It was obviously that my first closer friends would be Hispanic. I founded example of persons, new ears, and new opinions in them. Thank Giss, Java, Agus, Inma, Pepi, Steph and Timo for that. But being able to speak better and with the guys’s patience to understand me, I could do friend from the rest of the world Souhia, Amna, Ipek, Oceane, Candice, Nadine, Soha, Ashraf, and Matt, the list will not end if a have to name all of the great exchange students that I met, the last ones that I named were who with I shared most of my time. I can’t forget my American friend Whitney and Meagan thank girls to be open to share time. Thanks to my roommate Emily although we didn’t spend a lot of time together, I have to say thanks for her pacience, mainly for my mess, and my unorganized hours. I can’t forget the friends that I meet before to came to the US, thank Steven, Ashley, Jake, thank to my best visits: Jeru and Kathi, and thank to my best host Emma. Some can call them networking, other accountants, but they were my friends with I shared this incredible  four months.

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But, without doubt my exchange was more than 10 achieved goals, were contrasting every daily detail as cultural differences, like enjoying hearing many languages on the street, to get used to new flavors, new times, new weathers, and new ways to socialize.

After my second-to-last post, where I numbered things that I had done, some friends asked about the think #21: Fall in love, fall out love, fall in love again. I have to recognize that it was a nice part of my exchange. I meet incredible people, intelligent, interesting, fun, funny. A date, a meal, a coffee, a running, a walk, a party are moments that I will remember.

Sometimes I felt bad, overconfidence to believe that I could be able to do so many goals at the same time. But the fact the coming here was hard made that the criteria of “take advantage of every opportunity” that never have disappeared. And that’s how my main concern appeared at least half of my exchange. How can be possible that studying political science, being in the main political city, I have not been working here? My first obstacle: my Visa doesn’t allow me to work before the last four months.  Now, after the fours months, the concern have been consumed a lot of my hours, locking internship, writing resumes, writing cover letter, asking for recommendation letters, looking funding, asking for extension of my visa, trying to change my plane tickets, among other things. I would love to say what I will do in the next weeks, but nothing is sure yet. Although there was no confirmed response I knew that I was pre-selected in the Organization of American States (OAS) among 500 students, in the main political forum of the Region that promotes and supports Democracy, Human Rights, Multi-dimensional Security and Integral Development in the Americas. Besides if I will be able to work there I want to fell that I made everything to work in DC.

If I remember my expectations less four years ago, in my high school, when I was simulating to be a political leader in the OAS, I never thought that I would won an scholarship to study in one of the best universities of my country, Di Tella, I never imagine that Di Tella would give the possibility to study in the US, that also in few time I would be able to speak in another language, to write, to research and communicate in English. And more important I never imagine that few years after I would be near to work in that organization where I had simulated to work. I never imagine all the growth that I experienced in these three years.

Although I miss my family, my friend, mi province Tucuman, mi little town Santa Maria, they are “my fuel” to realized that what means be in a place of the first word, taking advantage of its development, absorbing its culture, knowing new perspectives to be applied in my country.  Although I miss Di Tella, my friend of Buenos Aires, mi friends of the university, they also was “my fuel” to put in practice what they taught me, to take advantage of the life without the social structures that they helped to break, to put sacrifice when was necessary, and not to stop to look for excellence in each of my challenges as they demonstrated me.

I realized that I am more Argentine that I imagined, just only seeing a lot American using alpargatas (espadrilles), or drinking our wines made feel proud form our exported culture. An anecdote, I promise that is almost the last one, I was in New York subway, crowd of people, almost sick after walk in the around the city with unsupportable cold, suddenly I heard an Argentinean song, a song of carnival, for a moment I got goose bumps. I realized how far away I was, how out of context the song was, but how into mine was. I remembered the dances of carnival in the school, the festival in the summers, and the Sundays playing a guitar with the family, things that I can’t change for nothing.

Whit the same intensity, but with lack of proud, I was running from a class to a seminar en the Inter American Developed Bank, I took a taxi, and the taxi driver said me: I bought the bonds offered by your former president Menem, and I lost them with your former president Kirchner, I lost the majority of my capital in them. It was awkward to hear someone disadvantaged by the corruption of one of my governments and by the celebrated restoration of our debt. This was one of these random experiences when thousand of questions came to my mind, when the gains to learn more came up, an energy to be prepared to contribute to some change in the political system of my country, or in my province, or simply in my Santa Maria , the moment when I fell responsible to put optimist in my political system, and be conscientious that my society is still having thousand of urgency problems.

In these last months I learned a lot.

I learned that we are more similar than different, maybe because we leave in the same privilege bubble to study in a university.

I learned that sometimes I need a limit of time, like this fours months, or/and a limit of resources to value every opportunity as a moment impossible to don’t take advantage.

“I learned that I don’t have to limit myself to dream, and I have work for that, being sure that I tried everything to get it, before than to give up saying that I can’t do it.”

I found evidence to something that a friend said me… that the life always surprise us, it takes the course that it thinks and we can do nothing but address it, take it, embrace it and learn from it.

I learnt that my parents are the best with me, to support beside that the sacrifice that could mean.

I really wish to stay more time in DC. But I don’t know if there will be a far happy ending working in DC, at least now everything was incredible, and it was also incredible to write it. So thank so much to those who choose me to write, to those who corrected me and to everyone who read me.

Washington Monument

 

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Things Done at GW (so far)

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By inepalacios

Saturday afternoon. I was just coming back to do kayak, I really tired not only to work hard navigating on the Potomac, also because I had slept less than 6 hours to finish a paper before to go to a event organized with the International Committee of the GW Class Council. So I just had arrived to my room, navigating on Internet, when I found one of the typical “101 things to do”. But those were not the typical one for me, it were “101 things to do at GW”. At the beginning I got scared with the possibility that I haven´t done any of them and the fact that the semester is almost over. But after an examination I realized that I did a bunch of them.

Here some of the 101 things that I have been doing, my experiences, my feelings and the expectations to the last weeks of the spring semester:

Thing  #3: Take the “Last Train” back to the Foggy Bottom Metro.

Done. My Chilean friends and me were coming back from a party in Chinatown. We had to run in high heels to avoid losing the last train. I am just remembering that we met a guy and we were teaching him a little of incorrect Spanish. The guy was convinced that he was learning Spanish appropriately.

 

Thing #6: Study abroad through one of GW’s many study abroad programs.

Although, this refers to study abroad of the US, my experience can be took in account as a study abroad program. So almost Done. Although it´s hard to admit, this experience has been more than a study abroad program, a change of life program I would say.

 

Thing #9: Paddle-boat around the Tidal Basin or kayak on the Potomac.

Kayak in the Potomac. Done!. Seeing the sunset from in the middle of the Potomac River, feeling a smooth wind; listen the silence; but at the same time, seeing the crowd of people walking in Georgetown were wonderful. The hard kayaking was offset with the guys’ jokes.

 

Thing #12. Go to every event during Welcome Week.

Done? Sincerely I didn’t remember exactly what I was doing in the spring Welcome week. I just can remember my first rise-high in a basketball game. Otherwise, I attended to every event of our real first week: the Orientation Week. Applause for those cold days.They seems that were yesterday. I can believe that the last event organized by the Study Abroad department is now coming.

 

Thing #13. Go ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

Done! It was the president day. We was around fifteen exchange students. My fall on the middle of the ice rink could not be missing, but neither a good dinner in Tonic after the skating with everybody.

 

Thing  #14 Celebrate George Washington’s birthday at the Annual Birthday Bonfire on University Yard.

Done! I was coming from running around the capitol and I met all the guys in the Bonfire. First time that I tasted American marshmallows, first time that I heard one of the fabulous GW Acapella groups. The first of thousands typical GW events with free food. Only at GW, at least in my university that isn’t so common.

 

Thing  #16. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial.

Done. I love this memorial, maybe because its significance. On the night, on the sunset, running, walking, with cold, with sun, with the cherry blossom I visited this place a bunch of times. But I am needing a midnight walking yet!

 

Thing  #17. Join an intramural sport and practice on the National Mall.

Is running in Health and Wellness Center an intramural sport? If it is, then Done. I didn’t have excuses to stop to run in the snow days. Thank Johanna for encouraged me to go!

 

Thing  #21. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Fall in love again.

I can’t lie, so the thing#21 was done almost literally. But I can’t say “Done” as the other things, it was not “programmed”. My friends know about this, maybe some no so friends too. Definitely, my exchange experience have been including certain kinds of lessons that I didn’t expect.

 

Thing  #24. Grab a bite to eat at DC’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Obviously Done! I found the perfect company to go. After ask everyone to go, to find no one to go with me, finally at the end of my spring break and after walking all the Nationall Mall I went there with my Puerto Rican friend! The Chili Bowl´s staff was really nice. The best junk food that I tasted in DC. Hypocritically, a week after I came back to same neighborhood for organic food.

Bens

 

Thing  #26. Pull an all-nighter.

Is going to the bed at 10 and wake up at 3 or 4 to finish assignments a “pull an all-nighter”?. Definitely working without  sleeping is the most unproductive thing that I can do. So, almost done?

 

Thing  #30. Lose your GWorld card. Get a new one. Find your old one.

When I read this list the first time I was proud of myself to say that didn’t lose it. Rarely for me that I am used to lose things always. But two days ago, not only I lost my GWorld Card also my key card. I am still waiting for someone to contact me saying that they was founded. I can´t believe. Unfortunately DONE.

 

Thing  #34. Run for a position in the Student Association.

Is the Class Council similar to the Student Association? Because, I run for a position on International Committee and I got it!. Thank Class Council for the experience! You guys made me remember my high-school and university class council experience. This Saturday is the well-know Sound Fiesta, Class Council Ball.

 

Thing  #43. Try cuisine from around the world in Adams Morgan.

Done. In that neighborhood I founded the most similar food to my missed Argentine food. Also a brunch  there was one of the best. I never saw so many variety of international food in the same street. Spanish, Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Mexican, Nepalese, Italian, Dutch, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Palestinian, Indian, Israeli, Thai, Lebanese, and Eritrean bars, restaurants and stores, all of them in the same street. Definitely, it is the best representation of how international DC is.

 

Thing  #48. Go to the “all-you-can-eat” weekend brunch in Pelham Commons at West Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus.

Done. Last Sunday I came back  to the quiet Mount Vernon Campus after a long time. I sent a picture to my family saying them that this brunch was the way to don´t miss my typical Easter Argetine food that they was eating. Thanks girls for organize this brunch!

 

Thing  #49. Sit on Einstein’s lap.

Done. I went there with Jeru and also with Kathi. We found that Einstein has an childlike aspect, but real at the same time.

 

Thing  #54. Grab a cup of Starbuck’s coffee and chat in Kogan Plaza.

Done. The bunch of moments in Kogan Plaza have been the typical daily things especially since the weather is nice. It is the perfect place to meet all GW friends. A bunch of this moments were accompanied with a cup of Starbuck´s coffee. But after I learnt that the famous CAFE practices of sustainability of Starbuck´s aren´t so effective as they said and even more knowing that there is a thousand of pleasant in Colombia working to produce this coffee th low wages and leaving in the poverty, I decided to rethink my consume of coffee on Starbuck´s.

 

Thing  #57. Attend an embassy reception.

Is a GW reception with the Brazilian ambassador an embassy reception? If it is, then done. If it isn’t, otherwise was a good opportunity to ask to key diplomatic about Brazil´s position on the OAS regarding to the Venezuela situation.

 

Thing  #62. Cram for finals on the sixth floor of Gelman.                                                                                                                                                                              Done. Not exactly in the sixth floor, notexactly for finals.But  each of my assignments were made in the library. The silence room with the computer in the second floor is definitely my best place to study. Even more, I am starting to make new friend among the students that usually go there.

 

Thing  #66. Behold the beauty of 6,000 Japanese cherry trees in full bloom.

Done. I didn’t know that the cherry blossom would be only for a couple of days. Fortunately I could see them these days. When I was running with cross country team but also when I walked with the exchange guys and when I walked with Kathi to see the first ones.

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Thing  #72. Join a student organization…or start your own!

Yeah! I joined  the GW Class council and also in the cross country team. Both great teams to get involve in the Colonial life.

 

Thing  #81. Eat nothing but free food for a day at events on campus.

Done. From marshmallow, barbecues, cupcakes, ice creams, cookies, to fruits. One of the reasons to explain why I gained weight. Talks Receptions, student organization events, fairs, events in general were the excuse. The last one was the Easter Barbecue, the next one will be fruit smoothies offered by the Class Council.

 

Although there is activities that as exchange student I can’t do it, like thing #101:Graduate in the city of the presidents, there are others that I definitely had to do in my last weeks at GW. Like “Hear a speech by the President or another world leader”, “visit the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle”,  “Attend a free performance on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center”, “Drive to Ocean City, MD on a hot day”, “Visit Old Town Alexandria, VA”, “Observe the Supreme Court in session”, “Visit the “Exorcist” steps” “Rub the hippo’s snout for good luck before an exam”, “Read the original Declaration of Independence at the National Archives”, “Spend a sunny day at the Vern pool and walk to Jettie’s for lunch”, “Take in the view from the top of the Washington Monument” “Uptown Rent a bicycle from the Office of Campus Recreation at the Mount Vernon Campus and ride through Rock Creek Park”, “Be moved by the Hall of Remembrance at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum”, or “Tour the monuments at midnight with a date”. The list is huge and is encouraging me to don’t stop to take advantage of the days. However, it is easy and risky to finish doing them only because “I have to do it”.

There are also a lot of things that I have been doing that are not contemplated in the list:

  • As our weekly dinners with Candice, Oceane, Mariam, Soha, Nadine, Ipek, Steph and I. We started cooking “international food”, but the last time we tasted Egyptian and also French food. Now we have to taste Turkish, Mexican, and if I can find the ingredients Argentinean food.  Thank girls for the nice nights!
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  • Or the celebration of Easter playing a game like “Invisible Santa”, but with chocolate Eggs, with Giss, Inma, Java, Giss, Agus, Timo, and Matt. Thank guys for the great Sunday Ester night. Although we shared only a couple of moments together, these few moments, those few talks are worth as if they were more.
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  • Or as the Holi on the Quad event with my EXO Whitney or the many of hours simply talking with my mexican friend Steph and walking around DC. Thanks friends for that!

These activities are not here to be contemplated as list of things that I did or that I have to do. These activities means facing my challenge to appreciate each of them, to forget for a while my typical worries, to do those because I want to get immersed in each of them.

Mi little challenge for the last weeks at GW is to find a balance between putting effort to learn from the preparation of the finals exams and  to enjoy each of the upcoming events. To keep calm avoiding to try to do everything at the same time, to appreciate each of the moments, to appreciate the people who are with me and to don’t stop to learn from each of them.

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Postcard About a Great Friend

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By inepalacios

Timo&Ines

“Who is the guy that is with you in all your Pictures? What’s it going on with him that you seem to be all the time with him?”– My Argentine friends asked me about Timo.

Although at beginning of my exchange I tried to avoid spending all my time with Timo, trying to be able to know more people and to use my English, it almost resulted unavoidable to do it. The last great time with Timo deserves a post.

It was June 26° of 2013 when I knew that I was chosen for my university to come to GW, when I also knew that Timo would be “my Argentine exchange mate”. At the time I didn’t really know him . We needed a few days to become good friends, as well as we decided to live in the same room in GW during the semester that was coming. But after rethinking the plans, we decided that it were better for both having the chance to live with other roommates, to have  opportunities to share culture and fun with people from other countries. At the time we didn’t know that, otherwise, we would shared a lot of time, even if we were living in different places. Although I can say the decision was a good one and that we made lots of friends, at the same time, if I have to tell about all my experiences here, since January, I will say that Timo was in almost all of them.

Cherry Blossoms

Our talks before, after, and during our trips, tours, meetings, or regular days have been remarkable moments for me.  Ideas about culture; politics; costumes; religion; people; things that we miss from Argentina; our friends; girlfriends and boyfriends; our classes; our dreams; suggestions or simply jokes that I felt that I needed to talk and share: I could share with Timo. Not only all the activities that we do with the exchanges students also the nights drinking Argentine mates (the typical argentine infusion), playing the ukulele, joking had been great moments to really appreciate.

Even though we differ in a lot of aspects like the contexts that we grew up in Argentina, our habits, careers, and struggles; the fact that we are immersed in a world different of our typical Argentine environment made us more similar than different. For instance, after all of  Timo’s talks about the Argentine soccer teams, I can say that I almost enjoying discussing soccer as much as him.

As all of my friends, Timo had been a great example  for me. Specifically, he has been an example to be grateful, to be more stress-free, to be humble, and to try to be always joyful.

Timo

I am almost sure that Timo knows more than anyone about all my experiences here, my feelings, my stories, my opinions. In the same way that another friend said me (after to share an unforgettable trip): Timo had been as “my written journey to never forget what I lived, what I struggles with, what I felt”.

Thank Timo for your patience, your help, and your joyfulness. Te quiero molesto!

This semester cannot be to remembered without you, friend. Let’s just enjoy the last month that we have at GW!

Timo(2)

 

Contrasting experiences and constructing new horizons

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By inepalacios

April 6, Sunday Afternoon. Healy Lawn at Georgetown University, the ground. I can feel the sun on my skin. Finally the weather has permitted me to not use a coat. Like every Sunday after a fun weekend, my assignments are a lot, but I could not permit myself to stay in the library or in my room. So here I am, getting to know a new university, hearing a couple of Georgetown students singing one of my favorite Norah Jones’ song. It is a perfect time to turn back and reflect on what has happened in the last days.

An hour ago my friend from California, Khaterina, left D.C. Pic1

As my friend Jeru, she was studying abroad in my home university. But unlike Jeru, Kathy was in Buenos Aires for a whole year.  We shared a few classes and many friends.  Her visit made me miss all of my college friends: our discussions, meetings, joking, interests and stories.  Definitely this weekend was a piece of those. It was also an opportunity to speak native English for more than two ENTIRE days.  It was a moment to compare our experiences: my cultural shock in the US and her cultural shock in Argentina. It was also a time to learn about her daily life, an opportunity to add little improvements to my own  daily routine.  Cooking and eating healthy, listening to  beautiful music, using key websites to take advantages of new spots … these are all  things that I enjoyed learning from her. Her style of life is one I think many people would envy.  Chatting with Kathy was an  opportunity to learn more about the expectations of an American student: how competitive the job market is here and how “efficient” the American student seem to be: 4 years of college, study abroad experiences, many internships, a lot of leadership experiences, community services activities, at least more than two languages and only 21 years of life, or even less.  If I have to think in the typical Argentine 21 aged, they would have a couple of years studying at the university, several more years to graduated, maybe one (often no) job, maybe some sports. It automatically makes me think in how much my country needs, how we need to improve and change at least our system of education, to be more efficient, we have a free college system and even in that way we are worst?.  I don’t want to say that here everything is perfect, but at least the American cultural models of life available for the majority of the students are better, I think that they are permitting people to be more competitive, more dreamers, more ambitious, at least for the majority of them.

I know the Argentine social problem is more complex than the way that I have presented it, but at least my experience is giving me the opportunity to take the good aspects of US and use them to improve my own reality, at least to put in practice in my life. At the same time this experience implies to value the aspects that I am missing of Argentina, and the challenge to get a combination of the best of both countries.

This weekend was also good to explore more of Foggy Bottom, to eat delicious and healthy food, to going out to a hipster club, to walk around the neighborhood of U street and its market of organic food. I had also the chance to see the fireworks above the Potomac River but most importantly to share all of that with Katherine. Thank you Kathy for your visit! I enjoyed share this week with you!
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If I have to choose the best activity that we did, I would say an Argentina exposition of Art. It was paradoxically that Kathy was who found this exposition to go. But at the same time it is understandable, knowing that Kathy is someone who really know how take advantage of every place, to be more explicit probably Kathy knows Buenos Aires better than me. So, I was in that exhibition called “Territories and Subjectivities Contemporary Art from Argentina”, I was enjoying each of the pictures, trying to understand each of the author’s ideas, I realized I was deeply  immersed in the art. I remember a few years ago when I said that the arts exhibitions were ” not my thing”. Katherine argued that I could understand them because I knew the context of the pictures, and I could appreciate them.  I don’t know what changed my mind, but I know that now I have a new activity to enjoy. I can say a new value from my exchange experience.

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Another fun activity of the week was a quick and unexpected meeting in the door of metro with one of the guys who has been going to the Homeless shelter where I volunteer. I said hi, and after catching up he happily told me that he found a house to live! This information made me so happy. Although I wont see him again in the shelter, it was beautiful that he shared this great news with me.

Another great visitor left her marks in my exchange story, another week happened quickly; a hundred new ideas and are on my mind. Time is short and there are thousands of events, activities, and adventures that are still to be lived.

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Spring Break: the end. The end?

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By inepalacios

March 30, 10.52 pm It’s been two weeks since my spring break but I still need to talk about it. Not only because I had moments to reflect on, but also because it has been hard to be more “academically concentrated”, in other words, to accept the fact that the spring break is done. A team project due tomorrow, an individual research paper due Tuesday and an eight-page essay for Wednesday. It is Sunday night and nothing is not done yet. Why? “Procrastination” I can say, but at the same time those were moments that I do not regret to have lived.

The last time that I wrote a Puerto Rican friend was waiting for me at Union Station. She was coming from New York, to spend her spring break and the last part of my spring break here in Washington DC.

That weekend (two weekends ago) the weather and my friend´s company were the best excuse to enjoy more than DC and its spots. Riding a bike through Foggy Bottom, DuPont Circle, and Georgetown; tasting the best American milkshake that I have ever tasted, knowing and enjoying the most Washingtonian hipster place (Busboy and Poets), walking across all the memorials (again!), immersing in the genuine atmosphere of Chilli Bowl and tasting its really good food (finally!) those were some of the activities that we did only in two days, great days. I was needing a friend to talk, to reflect, to share my experience, and Jeru was the perfect friend to do that.

We met five months ago in Buenos Aires when she was studying abroad. I am remembering that we only needed an afternoon to become confident friends. We were looking a classmate to prepare an oral exam in two days. Helping each other, we perfectly resulted a complement to get both a good grade. Unfortunately, she was coming back to US when I met her but we maintained contact from that moment. She really resulted to be a great person to understand me in my experiences of studying abroad, in my contrast between our Latin American culture and the American culture, in the same Political Science major, in the decision to leave home and our families to take the opportunity to study in great universities, among other similarities. It was definitely the best way to finish my spring break. I am missing her! Thanks, Jeru, for everything!

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Regardless, it was the end of spring break, but only in the real terms, because in mine, I seem to be in spring break still. I don’t know if it is because I realized that I only have five weeks left at GW, or just because a lot of plans came up. A barbecue, a homemade dinner with friends, a visit to new memorial in Virginia with the Cross Country Club, a discussion with the Brazilian ambassador, a seminar in the Inter-American Development Bank, a visit to the White House, indoor rock climbing, all events that I couldn’t not attend, besides having a lot to be learning from my courses at GW. Otherwise, all those events were moments where I have been learning too, where I had to reflect on too. Without a doubt, my exchange is passing by quickly. I only have to realized that I have to continue to enjoy it.


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Spring Break: the trip

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By inepalacios

Saturday March 15 2014, Washington DC, GW Foggy Bottom Campus, my room, 10.15 AM. I just arrived from Miami. Although my spring break is not finished I can’t believe that my trip is over. The new places that I visited in Miami, the new people and the fun moments gave new stories to tell but also unexpected lessons.

Among the typical plans that we organized to do I could discover interesting and enrichments places. Beside the plans that we did as going to the beach, enjoying some restaurants and walking down the streets of Miami, I could meet the faculty staff of one of the best universities of Miami, I also could go to a meeting of the government of the city where I was staying, the city of Doral, and could have a dinner in membership place of the Triumph National Doral Club. How we could do all of this stuff?

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It was the fourth day, after to go to the beach, swimming in the pool, hanging out with Pepi´s friends, Pepi and I decided to go over Miami. We walked across Miami downtown, across the Vizcaya gardens: an amazing green space with an interesting architecture, and across Coconut Grove, a nice neighborhood with a lot of spots to visit. Until that moment, I had no idea that what would happen. Juan, one of Pepi´s friend and co-founder of Casimiro Global Foundation invited us to attend to a political debate at the City Hall of The City of Doral. Before the debate, Juan introduced us to members of the International Business Development Advisory Board, the city manager, the city attorney, the major of the City of Doral, among other authorities. There, I had the opportunity to think how much the Argentine debate needs to improve; at the same time, I could identify some generalities regarding the failures of political debates. As a student of Political Science this experienced was really enriching. After that, Juan invited us to have a dinner, that moment was the opportunity to know personally one of most inspiring person that I had know in my entirely life. We talked about his leadership experiences, about young and successful people’s stories, about programs which help young entrepreneurs, about possible scholarships for us. He also invited us to participate in a congress of business innovation for young people; he told us about the possibility to do an internship in his city, finally inviting us to spend the entire following day with him.

If I was grateful for having lived an exciting fourth day, the fifth day exceeded my expectations. We began knowing the faculty staff of one of the best university of Miami: University of Miami, Florida International University and Keiser University. I could learn about a lot of study program opportunities in Miami. At the last university, we could attend to a conference where Juan lectured. The conference was for young Latin American leaders. The leaders come from a variety of offices of a government administration of Chile, Paraguay, Panamá, Venezuela, Dominican Republican and Mexico. Then, Juan introduced me to them giving me the chance to discuss about issues that I am interested in. Among other topics, I heard about microcredit, companies´ help, and the means to improve the economic development in Latin America. While Juan presented the existent means to develop young business, another orator talked about the last efficient government measures to generate economic and inclusive development.

At the end of the day, Juan invited us to have a dinner in the memberships’ place of Triumph National Doral Club, an amazing place. It was a really nice end, not only because the infrastructure of the place was beautiful and the food was really good, also because we met another of Juan’s friend who talked about his success career life. Finally, Juan and his friend told us about different spots to go in Miami and also we arranged to meet in Argentina, where they are going in the following months.

If I was worried thinking that Miami would not have anything to enrich my experience, since the fourth day of my trip I realized that I was wrong.

The last day, although I had not enough time, I decided to go to the beach and enjoy there the last sunshine in Miami. From there, I said goodbye to Miami, with millions of new expectations and possible plans for my life.

I would like to think more about each detail of the trip, but a Puerto Rican friend just called me because she already arrived to DC from New York; she came to spend with me the last spring days.  The spring break is not finished yet, but definitely, it gave me worth experiences I’ll never forget.

Spring Break: the beginning

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By inepalacios

Miami, Sunday March 9, 9:32 am, Fort Lauderdale Airport. I just arrived from Baltimore. From missing the train, to getting charged for excess of weight in my suitcase, to taking a last moment flight, to almost missing the plane too, with a couple hours of sleep, after taking four exams that same week, two that same day, finally: I am starting my spring break.

I felt tired, but at the same time, excited. Right at this moment I was really excited to see what Miami had to offer, but at the same time I felt the need to reflect about the last two months. I felt this way, because the spring break not only means taking a break, but it also means the end of the first part of our semester. Two months, I can’t believe they passed by so quickly. What was I doing? What things were unexpected?  Which aspects of the exchange shouldn’t I repeat? How am I spending my time? What should I keep doing during the rest of the semester? What have I learned? Is there something that I can improve?

A bunch of moments come to my mind, the first weeks in Boston, the first week with the exchange students, the first week with my class, my first friends, my DC routine: running, community service, now also GW class council, events in the university, New York, DC, parties, classes again. I can talk again about each moment, but I think that the two last days are a good representation about what was going in my exchange.

Last Friday, 6 am, I had to wake up, two exams were waiting to be taken, one in three hours and the other one, in ten hours. I feel like I did not studying enough, now this feeling doesn’t matter, it is not the moment to regret, I just had to be focus, I was telling myself. Definitely, the three first hours of this Friday were really efficient: the pressure to do well on the exams was the perfect reason to stay focus. It’s 11, I already took one exam, and I just have three more hours to prepare for the other one. It’s 12, a classmate asked to study prior the exam together, 12.30 another friend offered to explain some terms to me, good classmates are always present. 5 pm and this exam was done, I just started my spring break, I can’t believe it, time to update my Argentinean friend. A couple of Skype calls to Argentina, messages on WhatsApp, inbox on facebook, calls on Google hang out, all these are being essential for me to feel the affection that we share. 7 pm I received an invitation to hang out with a new friend, but I couldn’t accept the invitation because my Argentinian friend, Pepi, who is on exchange in Richmond was coming to DC. 8 pm we are doing one of the things that we love the most: running. 10 PM we are cooking, great homemade dinner then pregame with Pepi’s friends, 12 am another exchange students’ party. 3 am after-party in City Hall with a couple of friends, we just talked. 4 AM Pepi and I got hungry so we ate again. Shortly after I felt asleep. Saturday morning, 10 am, I started to prepare the thing for Miami. I am also finishing some pending assignments. 12pm I am going to the homeless shelter: another afternoon is waiting for me to share with the homeless members. 2 PM, in the middle of a sunny afternoon on the shelter I am sharing one of the best talks of my exchange with Ahmad an Iranian. 5 pm I went to finish some last minute shopping for the trip. Around 10 PM I hanged out with an American friend that I met in Argentina. It’s being a long time since I last saw him. Good time, a warm hug and good wishes for his spring break. Around 12 AM just a few minutes to prepare my bag, I promised a Mexican friend to hang out before my trip, long talk: I am hearing one of the chapters of a novel he is writing, amazing. I felt like I knew him since forever. 3.30 AM I just realized that I lost the train to go to Baltimore. 5 am my friend is bringing me to Union Station: I almost missed the train again, but I took another train. 6 AM, Baltimore Airport, I am trying to meet with another friend in the Airport who is going to Costa Rica; finally we talked on the phone. A few minutes before the flight, I talked to Pepi who was in Miami already.

9.30 am: here I am, thinking about what I did these last two days, thinking that I have to choose the best moments of only these two days, it was definitely the people. I feel so grateful to be accompanied with really nice people. Having a friend waiting for me in Miami, getting a call from another friend wishing me a good trip, having another friend bringing me to the station are gestures that I never thought I was going to get in such a little amount of time. I remember the situation was the opposite my last days in Tucumán, Argentina before coming to US. It was really difficult for me to get my friends to want to hang out with me, or do something. I think that the difference lays not only in the fact that the people here are more friendly, but I also think it is a consequence of my willingness to be more friendly and more attentive with my new friends, something that I was not doing in Tucumán. I know that I cannot fix my relationships with my Argentinean friends now, but I learned that I have to come back and focus all of my energies on them in order to strengthen our friendship. I definitely miss them. If something is hard now, is not being able to share all of these amazing experiences with them. Each of them taught me a lot, and is hard not being able to share what is going on, because we are growing apart. One of the most important things that I have learned is the importance of being careful about our friends, and to value our personal relationships.

Another thing that I realized during the trip is how fortunate I am. I compared something that we learn in Latin American, it was about how the majority of the Latin American people living in the US are illegal immigrants and how they have the courage to leave their house and face hardships, because they are seeking to improve their lives. Understanding that makes me realize how fortunate I am to be a Latin American studying in the US at a very good university and receiving such amazing opportunities. Also, comparing between my experience and a homeless man Ahmad, I am able to realize how values were my opportunity. He told me “slow, slow you will hate the Americans, they discriminate the foreign people, and they are racists, as an Iranian I had to face a lot of troubles”. Definitely my perception of my experience living in the United States is totally different, maybe because of how different my experience is, or maybe because of how lucky I am of attending a university and getting a scholarship to be here. Situations where I am able to compare myself with another foreign person encourage me to reinforce my willingness to take advantage of every opportunity here. This situation gave me the criteria to decide how to spent my time, have to go party more, hangout, spent time with my friends, or having to reject plans so I can study more, be more focus in my activities? I think that I have to grow up academically, this is my priority, and if sometimes I have to reject fun times, that is the way to be responsible about the opportunities I receive. At the same time I know that both things, studying and having fun, can complement each other. The challenge now is know what I can do to be more focus in my studies, but at the same time save time to hangout with my friends. How can I get this equilibrium? I don’t know but I have a week to think about that, these days will be enough time to relax. I have to leave now. Pepi is calling me; he and his friends are waiting in the car we rented for our trip. Hope that next time I am able to have a better story to learn, to tell, and to remember. I am half way through my exchange, although this is sad, this reality came with the gift of enjoying an amazing break in Miami.