Tag Archives: Academics

Cuba Before Finals

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At this point, I think you can understand that one of the main things I enjoy doing in my 4 days long weekends is travelling. I just enjoy visiting new places, taking more pictures and discovering new cultures. And I would say that the on-campus part-time job I got this semester helped me a lot in doing that. This weekend destination was Havana, and it was the most exotic and different place I have been to. I’ve never thought that I would visit this country before, but I think Camila Cabello’s song “Havana” had a big influence on this decision. And it was such a perfect place to celebrate my roommate’s 21st birthday.

Havana was the best place to escape Washington’s cold weather because of its tropical warm weather. I stayed with my four friends in an Airbnb that was in the Old Habana, and once we got there we knew we’re in a totally different place from the US. Havana felt like an old movie from the 70’s and it was beautiful. The special thing about the city was the colorful retro classic cars. And what was really cool about this trip was taking open cars music for a city tour or just to get from a place to another as a normal taxi. Besides that, I also enjoyed taking the Coco taxi, which a yellow cute covered motorcycle, around the city. Not only the cars in Havana were colorful but also the buildings especially the ones around the capitol. What I enjoyed doing the most was wandering around the colorful narrow streets of the city and taking tons of pictures in front of the classic cars. What was also interesting was visiting the museum of the revolution. They portrayed the whole timeline of the Cuban revolution in the walls of the museum and it really helped me learning a lot about the history of this country. And of course what would be a vacation in the warm Havana without going to the beach. The beach was 30 minutes from the city but the road was really enjoyable since we took an open car to get there. From enjoying the clear water of the ocean to drinking coconut water, the beach day in Havana was perfect to forget about studies and GWU.

Even though Havana was a great place to visit and spend four days in, I don’t think I would be able to live there. It felt like the country was laid back in the 70’s. One of the most surprising thing during this trip was the limited internet not only for us tourists but also for citizens. To get internet in Cuba, we had to purchase an internet pass which was around 1$ per hour, search for a WiFi hotspot (Internet park) which weren’t many in the city, and then hope to get some really slow internet connectivity. It was really funny to see dozens of people around the WiFi router trying to connect to the world outside. When I asked locals about how they felt about it, they said it doesn’t really matter for them since they are used to socialize more. No wonder locals were always socializing in the streets or balconies or trying to make conversations with us.

Havana was great and having this trip with great company made it even better. Now, it’s time to stress about finals coming in a week and begin my late night journeys in Gelman library.

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Halloween is a huge thing here and last weekend wasn’t everything, not at all. On Monday the exchange leaders prepared an event in the rooftop of 1959 E Street with pumpkins, music, and candy. It had been a long time since all of us were together, now all of us have things to do and I only see some of the exchange students and leaders. So it was really great to meet with everyone again. We had a really good time carving pumpkins, it was my first time and I really had fun, now I have my little pumpkin as decoration in my room.

Tuesday was the real Halloween day, and of course we went to do trick or treat.  A group  from the university planned everything for us, and when we saw on Facebook it was going to be in the embassies we thought there was no better way to spend the day, and we did´t need costumes. So we met in Kogan Plaza and walked to Embassy Row where we started going from embassy to embassy. Some of them only gave  one candy per person because we were many people, but others gave us tons of candy. In most of them there were people disguised, and you could take photos with them. I wasn’t  that exited about trick or treat at first, because in Spain only the kids do that, but it was a good time to get to know more about Washington DC. What most surprised me was all the university students that were doing trick or treat on their own, dressed up with costumes, as I said, in Spain this is not something a university student would do.

 

During the night there was another event in 1959 E Street, with free pizza, cotton candy, and cupcakes. I really love when they do things like this, because is the only way we have to meet people in the hall as we don’t have a dinning room to meet with the rest. Another crazy thing about the United States is that they really have a thing with free food. There is always some type of event with free food in it. You won’t see that happening any time soon in Spain. I think that is probably because we don’t have clubs as they have here, so no one is up for preparing anything. After all, students are much more invested in university activities here.

The rest of the week was as any other, although we went to Georgetown on Thursday to buy clothes for winter as the weather is finally getting colder, the rest was all about writing all the papers I have for next week.

However, on Saturday we tried something different and went to a coffee shop to study. It is especially prepared for that, with books everywhere, and enough space for you to study. It is called Busboys and Poets, and you can also have lunch there. In the afternoon we went to Arlington National Cemetery. I had never been there before, and I have to say I was impressed. There were so many rows of tombs creating a beautiful picture, being autumn made everything even better with the beautiful colors of the trees. Visiting it is a must of the things you have to do in Washington DC.

On Sunday we went to have brunch. We went to a place called Ted’s Bulletin, and I love this place. The food was amazing. But it was crowded, so maybe you need to make a reservation beforehand. Anyways, it was one of the best brunch I have ever tried.

Other exchange students had told me about running in the National Mall, and how awesome it is. So to finish my week I decided to go for a run instead of going to the gym. I’m not used to running, but I enjoyed it anyway. Of course I had to stop to take some photos because the monuments at night are breathtaking. I’m definitely doing it again.

Going back to the reality.

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These past two weeks have been amazing, going to New York and Florida has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go again.

Sadly the fall break has ended and we have to go back to the reality, studying for the midterms. This next week I have three midterms and lots of assignments, so I haven’t done anything but studying this entire week. As I have never had an exam here before, I’m quite overwhelmed with everything.

Nevertheless I got to do a few things during the week, one of them being going to the cinema. Here the cinemas are awesome, you have much more space and you can even lay down. We want to try all the types so we went to the Dolby Cinema and I have to say I was speechless. The difference with other cinemas is that there is an Astonishing brightness, deep darks and vibrant colors render each moment with spectacular impact. Also a breathtaking  sound in the room that flows all around you. The sleek, power recliners reverberate to move you deep into the story. It’s quite expensive, 18$, but is something you should try at least once. We went to see Blade Runner and the special effects were much better, I really loved it. Also remember to bring your GWorld with you because you will get discounts.

On Saturday night I needed to take a break so we went to have dinner to Chinatown. We went walking because it was a beautiful night and it is only 30 minutes walk. There were lots of places so we had trouble choosing one. We went to a small place and we ate for 15$. Then they gave us a fortune cookie, they don’t do this in Spain so I was kind of excited. It said that people will follow me to hear me talk, kind of a good thing.

This week hasn’t been a really interesting one, but after all, studying is more important. So I wish best week I have more stories to tell.

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.

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.

 

 

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Time to Say Goodbye!

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   It has been such an eventful fours months that it seems crazy that it’s all over! It has been a week of last celebrations, reminiscing and goodbyes. As some people head home and others move on to their next
adventures, it’s hard to accept that you’re not going to be spending every day with the same bunch of people that you have come to know and love.

Luckily, it’s not a final goodbye! People may live on opposite sides of the planet but its definitely not the last time you get to see each other. The experiences you share don’t disappear and the bonds you make last a lifetime. That’s the thing about studying abroad – yes you study and yes you are abroad. But it is the people that you share it all with that really make the difference.

Looking back on the semester, it has been packed with protests, parties, food, travel, learning, sport and friends! I got the opportunity to cross so many things off my bucket list! From witnessing the inauguration to participating in the Women’s March and Muslim Ban Protest. Spring Break in Miami to road tripping down South! Watching the Wizards, Tar Heels and Colonials win! Being in central park during a blizzard with no one else around. Pedal boating on the Potomac surrounded by the cherry blossoms. The countless nights spent down at the Lincoln Memorial. And not to forget the more mundane nights (which are also some of the best) of cooking all together in Shenkman Hall.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn new things (both in and especially out of the classroom), try new things, learn what you like and don’t like, travel, meet people from all over the world! It is six months that you get to attempt anything and everything – fail at some and succeed at others.

It truly has been a great time at GWU, in DC and in the US. Foggy Bottom very quickly became our home that it feels genuinely weird to be leaving. To all those that made the past semester possible – a massive thank-you! And to all those who are about to arrive – enjoy!!!!

Goodbye America – it’s been fun!

 

STUDY Abroad

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I guess you could say this week really put the study in study abroad. I guess the professors are trying to tell us that spring break is all but a faint history and it’s time to return to the daily grind.

That being said, I managed to take time out to explore last weekend. As April commences, we bid goodbye to winter and open our arms to spring. DC’s annual cherry blossom festival had its opening ceremony this week and it was nothing short of amazing. Thereafter, we took a walk along the Tidal Basin, past several monuments and admired the pink and white blossoms.

The reason for DC’s cherry blossoms dates back in history – Japan gifted DC with 3020 trees in 1912 after the first batch of 2000 sent in 1910 got infested with disease and pests. Since then, countless First Ladies have commemorated the start of the festival by planting their own cherry blossom tree. The one’s that we are seeing now are of the Yoshino variety but in another two to three weeks, the Kwanzan variety will start to bloom, giving DC residents and visitors a second chance to admire the majestic flora.

I was actually surprised to see that many of the blossoms were white in color, as opposed to the pink ones I had seen in Japan . Nonetheless, the paler color gives the surroundings a pure aura and are great for taking pictures too! While at the Tidal Basin last weekend, I actually met many people visiting from out of state, proving how popular the festival is. While our visit was short, we managed to capture some great graphics!

This week, I also took a trip to Tysons Corner in Virginia and it’s basically a huge mall where you can find practically everything. I went there for one very specific reason: Kung Fu Tea. Back home, whenever I craved it, I simply had to walk to the opposite street to get me some boba milk tea. In DC, it’s a lot more difficult to get hold of a decent cup of bubble tea and thankfully Tysons’ is an approximately 30 minute journey on the Metro, great for a quick getaway in between classes. The mall is also home to the only Uniqlo in the DC region, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for jackets or even basics that are of a great quality at an affordable price. I will stop talking about this now because this post is starting to sound like an advertisement.

Thereafter we headed to Dupont for tea and dinner. For now, it’s back to the daily grind at Gelman Library.