March for Our Lives

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When I decided to come to D.C as part of my degree, I had also taken into account my passion for American politics. D.C doesn’t deserve its reputation as a heartless capital, filled with greedy corporations and stern-looking institutions. Not only is D.C home to congress, the White House and the Supreme Court, it also contains a vibrant civil society, which is the beating heart of the nation’s capital. This is what I witnessed last Sunday at the “march for our lives” event.

As an external observer, I took part in the march. And I did it gladly, even though it is not my fight. Coming from Europe, guns are seen in a completely different. Or they are literally not seen at all by people who can’t use them: no concealed or open carry of any sort. No second amendment. Arguably, no school or mass shootings of any sort, as a result of no guns given to civilians. But this is another story.

I slept in and woke up around 11. I grabbed a quick breakfast and was soon out of my place. After a week of bad weather, finally a sunny day. Cherry blossoms, rays of sun, and the city is completely revamped.

I went to the Lincoln memorial, thinking I was going to find a protesting crowd. But there were sparse groups of people, some with signs, but mostly tourist. I asked for information and was directed to freedom plaza, close to 13th and E street. Where the march was happening. Turns out, the March wasn’t a March, it was a huge gathering. I made my way through the mass of people, took pictures of signs, laughed at the spelling mistakes and shuddered at the death related statistics. The testimonies of the activists on the stage were powerful, to say the least. It was a very emotionally charged march.

More than 500.000 people attended the march, according to reports. On top of that, similar marches were organized all across the US, elevating the march to being the biggest for gun control.

America is so alive politically. The citizenry does care. And I know it’s not only DC.

People voice their approval, as much as their disapproval for their political leaders. In comparison, Italians passively accept what happens. More often than not, the majority adopts a resigned posture with regards to politics. They don’t happen to think that they can use their voice.

In a capital like Rome, it would be hard to be dragged into a nation-wide demonstration.

That’s the beauty of D.C. You can wake up on a mid-semester Sunday morning, decide to go for a walk to end up being part of a historic moment.

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A Piece of Shocking News

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    A few days ago, there was a piece of news in Taiwan that shocked all the Taiwanese and Americans, for a Taiwanese exchange student was accused of threatening a shooting at his high school. Although he later said he was only joking, he was arrested on a charge of making terroristic threats.

    When the incident broke out, tons of news overwhelmed social media and platforms instantly partially because it was such a serious issue and partially because  of the teenager’s special identity. Therefore, the case provoked a lot of discussions on social media. For example, many people re-emphasized the importance of home education and they criticized the teenager’s parents of spoiling the kid. Others warned people that terrifying to shoot at a school was nothing merely a “joke” especially when people in the United States were furious about gun violence and calling for action against it due to the recent massacre at a South Florida high school.

     When I read the news, I felt extremely ashamed of the teenager’s behavior because as a Taiwanese, what he did represented “Taiwan.” As a result, though it was an individual case, he created a negative image of Taiwan internationally without a doubt. Also, I felt quite disappointed about news personnel, for they did not comply with journalistic ethics and justice when they were making the coverage. As a responsible journalist, they were supposed to be a bridge that conveyed objective and authentic information to their readers, but some journalists were too eager to draw readers’ attention that they began to make terrifying headlines or reveal information about the individual’s identity that had nothing to do with the issue itself.

     To sum up, it was an opportunity for all the Taiwanese to reflect on the responsibility of news personnel and the importance of home education. Most importantly, people need to bear in mind that it is not funny at all to make this kind of joke. For those people who lost their beloved family members at such massacres, the disrespectful words may tear their hearts.

 

Preserving the Past

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    One thing I was really impressed by the United States when I came here was its strong protection and preservation of its historical heritage and history. Also, the guide tours in most national museums, cemeteries, and historical sites which are made to teach or introduce their stories are well-organized. Therefore, it is not rare to see teachers bringing their students to these places to learn. As an English major, I appreciate it so much because I can learn American history vividly on the spot rather than reading all those tedious materials only based on textbooks. In addition, I believe preserving history is the only way for people to remember what efforts their ancestors made and try not to make the same mistakes that will bring disasters such as WWⅠ and WWⅡ.

    Among those places where historical sites are preserved and organized in a great condition, Philadelphia is my favorite one until now, and I strongly recommend those who want to dig into the 18th and 19th American history to go there. Philadelphia used to be the temporary capital of United States where declaration of independence and the constitution were signed. Hence, Philadelphia can be viewed as the starting point of America’s democracy. There are a lot of historical sites worth visiting like Penn’s Landing, Independence Hall, Old City Hall, Congress Hall, Betsy Ross House, Benjamin Franklin Museum, Liberty Bell, and so on. In brief, Philadelphia is a place best for a few day trip to get immersed in its historical atmosphere and admire the beautiful architectures.

    If you crave for some delicious food, do not forget to try the famous cheesesteaks there! (Franklin Fountain should also be in your list if you also want to try some ice cream for your dessert.)

  

Springbreak no springbreak

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I did not have a spring break. That was completely my choice. Despite the absence of classes, I kept working at my internship, where business went on as usual in a quiet DC, depleted of students.

I spent the week seeing pictures of friends that were actually on vacation: Florida, Mexico, California, you name it. I came to the realization that maybe I should have taken some days off. D.C was cold and empty. Work was unusually little stimulating and fairly repetitive. Other than a cool event at the Organization of American States, where they served amazing Colombian coffee, I spent the rest of the week doing  mostly secretarial work.

I still managed to have fun after work. I tried a few food places that I had never tried, such as Founding Farmers, which I enjoyed.

I climbed up the rooftop of the Hepburn apartments, which has to offer one of the best views in all DC. Also, the Hepburn is an amazingly classy apartment complex. There is a pool on the rooftop and so many amenities. The Hepburn is the epitomization of wealthy, corporate D.C. Unnecessarily luxurious, in my opinion. Although it could be argued that Luxury is by definition unnecessary, depending on your understanding of necessity. I also did something productive and future-related: enrolled in Masters. Starting in August, I will be in the SciencesPo Economic Law Master in Paris. Cool, right?

Anyhow, going back to my spring break. I managed to have fun regardless of the city’s emptiness.

One thing, though, was occupying my mind over the past week.  An underlying sensation of an imminent, fast-approaching and unpredictable threat. The ancient romans would call this feeling “horror vacui”, which literally means fear of the void. Far from being scared, I felt some sort of uneasy feeling as if something was just not right. After a lengthy and thorough internal dialogue, I had an epiphany. Today, March the 19th, it is the beginning of the end.

I have been in the US since August. It will soon be 7 months since I’ve been here. And less than 2 months left of the exchange.

Spring break has been the turning point. 75% of my exchange year is now gone, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The second semester is literally running in overdrive mode, and it feels that I have no control over the things that I wanna do. My days go by very quickly, from a report to a memo, from a midterm to an essay, with little time left to stop and stare.

I have to find a solution to this: in the coming days, I will draft a bucket list of what I should do before I leave the US at the end of this academic year.

Stay tuned.

Deaf Grassroots Movement in DC

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  On March 8th, there was a Deaf rally in front of the Capitol Building where Deaf people and special guests who have long been concerned about the Deaf community gathered to speak out and fight for their rights, including better education, communication, and jobs. Although I took American Sign Language this semester, I am still not so familiar with the Deaf culture. Hence, it was a precious opportunity for me to get to know more about Deaf people, and how they struggle in their daily lives.

  When I arrived at the Capitol, many Deaf people had already been seated, and the speeches from several special guests had already started. Even though most guests used sign languages during their speeches, I could still fully understand them through their facial expressions, body language, interpretation, and the written lines on the screen. Through their speeches, I realized that Deaf people have been deprived of their basic rights, which hearing people have long taken for granted. Among several speeches, one of them impressed me the most. The special guest said, “We are not here to be angry. When people go low, we have to go high. It’s about education. It’s about moving. It’s about fighting.” I could barely stay calm when facing inequality, so I was so moved by the speech. Also, I was moved by how Deaf people got united in the cold and windy weather just to fight for themselves and their generations.

  Through the Deaf rally, I learned to pay more attention to other people’s needs and rights. Sometimes, we tend to forget to do so because we do not face those difficulties and inconveniences as others do. In addition, I would like to know more about Deaf community, and their situations in my home country, after I finish my exchange student program in GWU. Though it still seems to be a long way to go, I believe Deaf people will have the same rights as every citizen does, and all their efforts will pay off in the near future.

The Differences between GWU and My Home University (2)

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   Last week, I talked a lot about the professors’ teaching styles and how students interact with them in class. This week, I would like to introduce the environment in both GWU and NCCU.

Campus

    The most obvious difference between the two campuses is that GWU is an open campus, but NCCU is a relatively closed one. To be more specific, in GWU, you do not have to go through a gate that indicates the entrance of the campus. The campus is in between other stores, residence halls, and so on. Therefore, it is a huge area where two campus buildings could be as far as a few blocks away. However, in NCCU (or I can say almost all of the universities in Taiwan), we have a specific closed area designed only for the campus. Thus, you will have to pass a gateway to enter the area and all the buildings inside the area belong to the university. In other words, people (if not students or professors) living off campus could not drive their cars or walk into the campus at their will.

Dormitory

    Here in GWU, we live in the dorm that is similar to an apartment. That is, we four people live in two separate double rooms and we share the living room and the kitchen. I really like this dorm because it makes me feel that my housemates, roommates, and I were just like a family living together. Besides, I love the kitchen because the appliances are so complete that I could cook or make almost everything I want by using them. In my home university, however, it is not the same case. In all of the dorms on campus, we have to share the restrooms and kitchens with other people who also live there. As a result, we seldom cook for ourselves because it is too inconvenient. Instead, we buy food from student cafeterias on campus or restaurants outside. Hence, those who do not feel satisfied with the environment will choose to rent a house off campus. But obviously, they have to pay a lot more if they do so because the price of the dorms on campus might be the cheapest (especially in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan).

  In addition to the courses and environment, I would also talk about the students. For the personalities or behaviors of students in GWU and NCCU, I did not find a significant difference. We all work hard, play hard, and find interns during winter or summer vacation to have some working experience. I think one of the most different part is that students here really enjoy parties. They will dress beautifully before they go to parties and they enjoy drinking alcohol. On the contrary, we do not really have the concept of “party” in Taiwan (perhaps partially because the space in the dorm is limited, so it is inconvenient to find a place to throw a party) and we do not drink so often (perhaps because of the warm and humid weather). Take myself for an example, when I want to relaxed or have fun with my friends, we will either go shopping, watch movies, or go to KTVs to sing overnight, but not throwing a party. Anyway, it is just the cultural difference as I mentioned in my previous post.

    It is really interesting to observe how people live differently in different countries, so I am glad that I have the opportunity to study abroad and share what I have observed with you. I hope you like the series of posts in this two weeks!

Dad’s surprise visit

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Surprise visit with my dad.

My dad’s here, again. He’s stopped by D.C before leaving to go back to Italy. He’s scheduled to leave next Wednesday.

This time he came with his girlfriend, Erica, that I met for the first time. They met back in August in New York, when my dad came to help me move in. They met in a Starbucks. My Dad was in line to the cashier and could not understand a word of what the employee was saying. Not being able to speak English, he was just standing there trying to figure out what the cashier was asking.

Erica was the next in line. She was in a hurry, and paid for his coffee. And here they are, coming to visit in D.C.

They are funny together, they have their own way to communicate as they have no shared language to speak in.

So once again, despite my fast approaching midterms, I spent the weekend doing touristy activities. We went to see the Smithsonian American Art museums, where the portraits of President Obama and Michelle are exposed.

I have finally been fed good food for the entire weekend: we tried Ethiopian, Thai, Japanese and Indian cuisine.

We concluded the weekend watching the Italian elections that took place on Sunday, march 4th. I’d say this is the lowest note of the weekend. As I write, the votes have been counted, and the situation looks particularly dire. A center right, populist coalition has won a clear majority. The anti E.U 5 Star Movement comes second.

I find solace in the fact that I don’t live in Italy. My dad is leaving tomorrow, and flying back home on March 7th. I’m not envious.