University systems, new cultures and Kayaking

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Time flies, and being here for a month feels like it has been only a week. Thankfully I’m here for the whole year so I have time to experience everything without being in a rush.

This week has been a relaxed one in the new experiences field, so I haven’t done many things, but I had a lot of work to do for class.

I had my first exam on Wednesday and it was easier than I thought it would be. The system here is quite different from the one at home. Here they focus on practice and readings during the year, and the exams are not so difficult. Meanwhile, in Spain you don’t have much work to do during the semester but you’ll have to do well in hard exams in order to get good grades or pass. Normally I barely touch a book until the week before the exams, so in one hand it is better for me in Spain because I have much more free time, but in the other hand I think you don’t learn as much. Here, as you practice every week, you became more familiar with the topics and you acquire permanent knowledge.

I particularly prefer this system because, although I have many things to work on during the week, in the end I feel like I am  benefiting much more.

Even if I didn’t do as many exciting  things as the weeks before, I sure did three that I highly recommend.

First of all,  on Friday morning, we went to Walmart. Yeah, I know, not such an experience. But I recommend you guys go there to buy groceries because is way cheaper than Whole Foods. You can get there by uber and it’s 8$ more or less, so if you’re four it’s perfect. We bought nearly the whole market and it didn’t cost me that much, so if you have to buy many things Walmart is your place.

On Friday evening  it was Starry Night Eid Mela, an event the GW Pakistani Students’ Association organized.  It was at the  Marvin Center at 7:30, there were different dance performances, some of them were typical from Pakistan so I had the chance to get to know the culture better. I did that not only with the dances but also with the food. At the end of the day food is part of our cultures, and the food was amazing. Of course, the whole event was for free so I couldn’t miss it.

 

On Saturday I went to do kayaking to the Georgetown Waterfront. It was one of the best experiences I have had in DC so far. The tickets were 16$ for a one person kayak and 22$ for a double one, so it was quite cheap, and so much worth it. The weather was perfect, it’s better to go when it’s hot and sunny because you get wet while doing it, but don’t worry falling is nearly impossible. We had so much fun racing each other and then chilling. Just being there, without moving, enjoying the atmosphere, relaxing made me feel in peace. We even put some music on while we were rowing along the Potomac river. We ended up having  cupcakes and coffee in Baked and Wired, my favorite place in Georgetown.

I’m definitely doing everything  again, all of you should.

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Discoveries around Washington, DC

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It has been already a month from the first day I came to GWU. I feel like time is flying, and I still have a lot of things to take out from my bucket list.  Since my weekend starts from Thursday at 9am, I always feel like my class days end very fast.

In this week, I tried something I wanted to do in the US. I went to the AMC movie theater to watch the horror movie IT. Well, the movie wasn’t as scary as I expected, but I loved the movie theater. In Morocco, the movie theaters that I tried have usually normal seats. However, the reclining seats in the AMC theater are just AWESOME. You can literally lay down 100% and enjoy the movie. Also, since all the seats were sold out, I think that Americans still have the culture of going to the theaters to watch a movie.  In my country, it’s less common to see a crowded movie theater.

In the weekend, I went with some friends to visit the National Harbor in Maryland. We took an Uber for 30 minutes, that costed us 10$ each round trip.  First, we went do some shopping in Tanger Outlets. I spent around 100$, that I will regret later when I’ll run out of money, but it was worth it. The stores were way much cheaper than the ones in Washington DC. For example in Nike, I found many sneakers that costed 34$. Even in Morocco where everything is cheaper, you couldn’t find less than 60$ Nike sneakers. So, I really think it’s worth to go there for shopping. The National Harbor Waterfront is a popular place where you can find hotels, restaurants, stores… It’s also a nice area to chill by the water or walk through. There are fun statues, like foot, hand…, everywhere if you love to take original pictures. And we stayed there for 4 hours approximately and we were lucky that we had the chance to be there by the sunset time. The sunset behind the Capital Wheel is fascinating and terrific. It’s one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. So, you should definitely visit this place if you’re in Washington DC.

This semester, I didn’t join many association, I only joined DC Through A Lens, the photography club in GW. Why did I join it? I’ve always been passionate about photography, even my previous part-time job was a photographer. So, I think that this club was the perfect one for me. And you always know that you will go to exciting places with a photography club. Well, this is what happened this Saturday and they paid admission tickets for Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens. Basically, it’s the house of Marjorie Post, a businesswoman and socialite in 1955. I can’t even describe how fascinating and magical this place was. It reminded me of castles I always saw in movies during my childhood. The art and decoration inside the house were fancy and beautiful and the different gardens around the house were amazing. You can literally imagine how rich people at that time were living and what they were wearing… I think that this place is one of the most interesting places I’ve been into and going there is definitely a must. Stay tuned for my next experiences 😀

IG: @Sarajebbar

4th Week

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New week, new things to tell. As always here, Washington DC is full of  things to do, and of course I took advantage of it.

We started by going to the Pentagon on the 11 of September, as all of you know it’s been 16 years since the terrorist attacks, and what a better place to remember it than in the Pentagon? Of course, we couldn’t go inside, but a guide was there to explain us everything. He even had pictures to show us how the place ended up after the plane crashed. Later we walked around the memorial, and I have to say it was beautiful. The way they have represented all the victims there is inspiring.

 

 

 

 

During the week I was so occupied doing all my homework, and reading so many things, I barely had time to go to the gym. And talking again about the gym, I feel obliged to tell you about the bowls they have on the bar upstairs. These bowls are healthy, made completely of fruits, and they taste so good. It’s a bowl for 10 dollars but it’s so worth it, and it’s like a whole meal. There are four types to choose from, and you can add any fruit you like, so you all should try them.

 

The weekend arrived and I had so many things planned. First we went to Alexandria, it’s a city near Washington, and you can get there by metro or uber. It isn’t that big of a city, but it’s a great place to go for a walk and spend the afternoon chilling in the harbor. The view was amazing so we took a coffee by the river, and then came back. We were planning a gathering with the other exchange students, and each one of us brought different kinds of food, so we decided to make Spanish tortilla. We had so much fun. I wish we could do that everyday.

 

On Saturday we went to the H Street Festival, it was full of trucks to eat and to buy things, from clothes to jewelry. Along the street there were like five stages or so where people were singing, dancing and performing. It was a really cool place to go. We spent the afternoon there, walking around, buying things, and trying different types of food. The place was so crowded it was difficult to even walk, and it was so hot that at times I feel so overwhelmed I just wanted to leave, but later in the afternoon it was much better, and I really had a great time there.

 

To finish my  fourth week here, on Sunday I went to St. Agustin Catholic Church to see a gospel mass. The church is really beautiful and the atmosphere was something I had never see before, all the people were singing together, really feeling the songs, and I was moved with all of it.  I think it’s something everyone should see, whatever your religion is.

Gym, Kayak, Baltimore trip…

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It’s just the second week of classes and I can tell that studies in GWU are SO intense. We’ve already had a quiz, assignments, case studies, and tons of readings. What’s different in classes in GWU is that I feel like everyone is so passionate about what they’re studying and everyone is participating. Maybe I should consider participating as well if I want to pass my classes T.T. I feel like time is running here in GWU because of the many activities that we’re doing and intense classes that I have.

Since everything is so large in the US especially the food, I decided to subscribe for the fitness classes that the university is offering. It was 80$ a semester but it was totally worth it. I have a variety of classes which I can attend from Zumba, to yoga to bodypump… and a lot of other classes. I think these were the best fitness classes I’ve ever attended thanks to the professionalism of the instructors. For me, it was like one of the famous Youtube fitness classes. In general, it’s a good investment to have fun, relieve stress and prevent from gaining the extra-kilograms.

One of the “must-do’s” in Washington DC is kayaking in the Potomac river. It was one of the most fun activities I’ve done here in Washington. It was 16$/hour for single kayaks. I loved how the scenery in the river is so different from side to side. You can take a shot with the bridge, with the green forest or with the skyscrapers. It felt so peaceful inside the river, away from the city hustle and I would definitely try it one more time.

 

I ended the weekend with a one-day trip to Baltimore with some friends. We used Wanderu website to find the best deals of buses and it costed us 27.5$ round trip. Baltimore is the major city in Maryland known by its seaport. And it’s 1 hour only away from Washington DC so we arrived at 11am. The main place to visit there is the Inner Harbor. It reminded me a lot of my hometown’s harbor. What I loved the most is walking around the waterfront of the harbor and discovering its different sides. We also visited Little Italy which is the Italian neighborhood of Baltimore. It had the cute European style buildings and Italian music and food. Concerning the food, we went to Hard Rock Café. It was my first time and I loved the hard rock vibe that the restaurant was giving and I recommend it 100%. The lunch was really good and I enjoyed: staring at all the guitars hanged in the walls and the hard rock decoration. Our return bus was until 8:25pm so by the end of the day we got really tired from the 18km that we walked around the city and we stayed chilling in front of the water. Baltimore is definitely a must-visit city but I think couple of hours are enough to tour the main places in the city. It reminded me of my childhood with the “Good Morning Baltimore” song in the Hair Spray movie.

 

 

IG:@sarajebbar

Getting to know DC and its sourroundings.

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One week more, and many new things to tell.

It’s been my third week in Washington DC and I’m starting to feel like it’s not summer anymore, two weeks since classes started and everything is overwhelming. I have so many readings and papers to do that I can’t catch up, but it’s okay, I need time to adjust to this new system, everyone of you is probably having the same problem.

Either way I also had time to go to new places and even visit a new city. We are still adjusting to Washington DC, and one of the things that I really love is walking down to Georgetown and looking around all the shops and restaurants. Georgetown is really beautiful and the walk there by the Potomac river is too. One girl from DC told me that the best cupcakes of Washington were there, in a small place named Baked and Wired, so there we went. The place was awesome and we had an oreo cupcake that tasted incredible, the coffee was also really good compared to the ones I have tried in The United States, as coffee here is also different from Spain it has been difficult for me to find one that I really like, but I found it there, and all of you guys should go to try at least the cupcakes, there are so many  cupcakes to choose from and the place is also really cool.

I also want to talk you guys about the gym, I have been going this three weeks, it’s a really good gym and it’s for free. It has all the machines that you could possibly need, the only problem is that there are usually lots of students there, but you should probably be able to use any machine you want if you don’t go at 5 pm.

This week I also went to Baltimore to spend  a day there. Baltimore was really nice but I didn’t like it at much as  Philadelphia because there weren’t many things to visit. Anyways it was a really good place to spend our Saturday, we arrived at 11 am, walked around for a bit and then we had lunch in Hard Rock Cafe,  the food was awesome, as was the place. After lunch we went to the Italian neighbor and we were so lucky because it was the Madonna Arts Festival so the streets were crowded with people and lots of paintings in the floor. It was really beautiful. Then we went to  Fell’s Point neighbor took some pictures and came back to the Inner Harbor. It’s not a must, but you should probably go there to chill and have a nice day.

First week of classes

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When GWU students think about the 28th of August, they all think about that miserable day that marks the end of summer vacation and the first day of classes. Well, I think about it that way too but it’s also the day I turned 20 years old. It’s not the special 21st birthday but for me it’s the beginning of the new phase of a young woman. It’s also special because it’s the first time I celebrated in the US away from my old friends and family. Celebrating my birthday before the start of the semester with my amazing new friends was the best way to start this upcoming year and especially this semester in GWU.

Sometimes I had that feeling that we’re just here for a summer vacation. But now it’s the end of orientation week and the start of why we’re here for: STUDIES (I always need to remind myself of that). The first week of classes ended very fast especially when I squeezed all my classes in a three days schedule. Unlike my other friends who found the studies in GWU really different than their home universities, I didn’t find much difference in the way the classes are taught since I was already studying in an American-based system university.  What I wasn’t expecting is finishing the first chapters of all my courses in the first week of classes. Usually in my university, it’s called syllabus week and all what we do is chilling and getting to know each other. From here I realized that probably the classes are going to be harder than in my home university. I also liked the GWU professors and how they use their experiences in the field to explain the concepts of the chapters. And I’m ready to study in an American university like I’ve always dreamt of.

The Friday of this week was Eid Al Adha (Sacrifice Fest). Basically, it’s one the most important religious holiday for the Muslim community. Celebrating it for the first time away from my family was kind of hard. Fortunately, The Muslim Student Association in GWU organized a prayer in the university and we had pancakes and donuts’ brunch in Founding Farmers with everyone wearing traditional clothes from their home countries. It’s true that it didn’t feel like the celebration in my country with sheep barbecue… but it was a nice initiative from the MSA to make us feel home and I got the opportunity to get to know many people from my community.

We ended the long weekend with the Labor day. I didn’t get the chance to travel since I wanted to tour more the city so we went to a Caribbean fest. It was a very nice day since I got to try different types of food and dance to African and Caribbean music. I loved how multicultural Washington DC and how you can feel tropical in an island just in a fest next to the White house! 😀

IG:@Sarajebbar

Adjusting to my new life.

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It’s been two weeks since I found myself alone in the airport with three huge bags and without knowing anyone in this new country. So many things have happened since that day, I’m not alone anymore and Washington DC is not so foreign now.

These two weeks have been great so far. All the expectations I had are coming true, not only about visiting the city but the people I have met. The exchange students are great, everyone has been so nice to me and they have made it so easy for me to feel comfortable. Studying abroad is hard because you live far away from your family and friends but also because  you have to start from the beginning. Nevertheless it was much easier than I thought. Clearly this is thanks to all the leaders that have accompanied us during this week, and also thanks to Hillary and Ami because I don’t know what I would have done without them and all their help.

The orientation week was overwhelming, we did so many different things, it was really like a summer camp but with a lot of information being thrown at us all the time. Back at home we don’t have this kind of things. In Universidad Autonoma de Madrid you’re on your own from day one, but here we had so many people taking care of us I hardly felt I was alone in a new country till the week ended.

So many activities were planned, we had a barbecue the first day, a visit to the Capitol, a tour to Georgetown, and much more things. My favorite ones were the baseball game, not for the game itself because I didn’t understand most of the things that were happening, but because of the atmosphere, and also the night tour to visit all the monuments, the views are breathtaking and the Lincoln memorial is just amazing.

 

The orientation week sadly ended and classes started. At first I was kind of terrified but everything has been really good, and I actually like my classes. The system is different from the one back at home, basically because we don’t have to participate that much and we don’t have so many work to do at home, but I’ll probably get used to it.

 

As we didn’t have any classes on Monday due to Labor Day we decided on going to Philadelphia on Sunday. It was a one day trip but we visited everything we could, like the independence hall, liberty bell, the city hall and more places. We were rushing everywhere because we didn’t want to miss anything but it was worth it. It was fun learning more about the declaration of independence and seeing  the place where United States was born. Also the city was  beautiful, a mixture of old and new architecture that I really loved. I actually recommend you guys to save at least one  day to go to Philly, you’ll love it.