Tag Archives: Academics

The Differences between GWU and My Home University (2)


   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.


    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.


    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!


The Differences between GWU and My Home University (1)


  Time really flies! It has already been two months since I arrived at GW for the exchange student program. Since I have stayed here for quite a while, according to my own observation, there are some interesting differences between students, courses, environment, etc., in my home university, National Chengchi University (NCCU), and George Washington University. Some of the differences are caused by the essential difference between Western and Eastern culture, and others are not. Just bear in mind that it is nothing right or wrong, but only distinctive ways of living.


    Before I go into details like teaching styles or approaches, I would like to tell you the difference between the length of a semester in GWU and NCCU first. In NCCU and most of the universities as well in Taiwan, a semester consists of 18 weeks. Within a semester, students have break time only on a few national holidays. That is, there is not a one-week spring break like GWU and most universities in the United States. Because of the relatively long semester, students in Taiwan often feel exhausted and discouraged during the final few weeks of a semester because they have already been stuffed with excessive knowledge and materials.

    In addition to the length of a semester, the teaching approaches professors take in GW are also slightly different from those in NCCU. From my own experience here, no matter in a big or small class, professors encourage students to raise their hands, convey their thoughts, and interact with them. Apparently, they lay much emphasis on the two-way learning. In other words, although professors are obviously more knowledgeable than students, they are also open-minded to learn things from their students and they believe the courses are designed for both the professors and students. Therefore, they have to work together throughout the whole semester to make full use of the class. On the contrary, in NCCU and most universities in Taiwan, even though there are still courses in which professors take the similar teaching strategies that I just mentioned, in most courses, professors adopt the traditional Eastern way of teaching. That is, they play the role of the authoritative lecture givers who are distant from their students. Especially in big classes with over 80 students, there is seldom interaction between the professor and students. Besides teaching approaches, students’ personalities might also have something to do with this phenomenon because Eastern people are raised up in the environment where “showing-off” is not encouraged. Gradually, they become more afraid of conveying their own ideas or feelings in public for fear of criticism or making mistakes.

  In brief, what I stated above are just my personal point of view according to my observation these days. Both of the teaching approaches have their merits and weaknesses, so they are not superior to one another. There are still some interesting differences between GWU and NCCU that I want to show you, so I will update them next week.

My First Few Days at GW


After over ten hours of flight, I finally arrived at D.C. safe and sound. In the first few days, I spent most of my time exploring the campus to make myself get accustomed to the whole new environment and I found a lot of interesting things so different from my hometown, Taiwan, which I would like to share with you.

First of all, it took me an extremely long time to find my dorm and the places I needed to go for check-in on the first day because the road naming system differs from that in Taiwan. In Taiwan, the names of most streets or roads are a combination of proper nouns and numbers, such as Nanping First Street; however, here in GW, a lot of streets are merely named either with an English letter like E Street, or a number like 23rd Street. Therefore, it was really hard for me to tell the differences between different streets and I got lost easily. Thankfully, I still have my google map to rely on!

Also, learning the currency system in U.S. is another new class for me. When I was going to pay for my first meal at GW, I was totally confused about the value of the coins because it was so complicated. In Taiwan, in terms of coins, there are only fifty, ten, five, and one. The size of fifty is bigger than ten, ten bigger than five, and so on. However, in U.S., there are pennies, dimes, nickels, quarters, and their sizes do not correspond to their values. As a foreigner, it is really a challenge to grab the right amount of coins at the counter, so sometimes I just took out all my coins and asked the clerk to kindly do me a favor, or I would probably block the line when I was slowly counting the money.

In addition to road and currency system, I am also still trying to get used to the tax and tipping culture. The prices of commodities in my country always include tax, so we can pay for the exact amount of money shown on the products’ price tags, but in U.S., the situation is different, for the tax is shown separately here. Sometimes I felt nervous when I could not prepare for the right amount of money in advance under these circumstances. Giving tips is still another unfamiliar culture to me because we do not give tips almost on every occasion.

Although there are still so many things I need to learn, I feel excited to conquer all the challenges. My first few days in GW were awesome, especially under the guide of those brilliant ExO leaders. I believe I can explore more interesting things in the following few months.


Introducing: Melissa Chen!


“Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough/ Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades/ Forever and forever when I move,” says Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Hello! My name is Melissa from National Chengchi University in Taiwan. Like the poem above mentions, I am an optimistic person who willing to embrace new challenges every day and I enjoy making friends with people from different countries. Thus, I participated in the exchange student to attend the George Washington University in 2018 spring semester to brave myself, for this is my first time studying abroad.

As a student majoring English, I am considering to be an English teacher as my lifelong career in the future. Therefore, this exchange program is appealing to me because on one hand, I am granted a precious opportunity to polish my English skill while studying and getting along with native speakers. On the other hand, I have a chance to learn the American teaching style when taking courses in GW. Both language proficiency and effective teaching skills are necessary if I want to be a qualified and professional teacher, so this program, which helps me improve the two abilities, serves my long term personal goal.

I chose GW as my exchange institution is important to me because it is a famous university full of diverse courses, cultural resources, and it is located in the capital city, surrounded by the White House, museums, banks, and a lot of renowned tourist spots. With these resources, I believe if I can make good use of my time, I can not only acquire knowledge from classroom, but also broaden my horizon outside the classroom.

In brief, I expect and believe that I will definitely enjoy a great time for my upcoming semester in GW. If you want to make friends with me, or you are interested in reading journals from a Taiwanese girl’s perspective, keep on following my blog! The blog will be updated at least once a week.


Winter is here!


The countdown to the end of the semester is here and I can’t believe we reached that point where only two weeks are left to the end *CriesCries* Time really flies in GWU and I feel like orientation week was here days ago.

Having two of my exams really early made my week an intense studying week in Gelman library. Even if the library is really big compared to what we have in our home university, you need to go early to find a table especially when you’re in a group which I never do since I always wake up late and procrastinate a lot before actually starting to study.

The weather in Dc is getting colder and colder and this week was the first snow of the winter. I usually prefer warm weather and hate snow and rain but the first snow of the year is always exciting especially in Christmas time. We usually don’t celebrate Christmas in Morocco so it was really nice to experience the holiday vibes in the US. From Christmas tree, to free hot chocolate and cookies to all the Christmas lights decorations and lights, Washington DC and its weather were really welcoming the holiday season. And to really get into the winter vibe, we decided to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. It was my first time ice skating and I was really bad at it, my only goal was not to slip and break my bones. But it was fun to start learning how to ice skate, maybe one day I’ll be good at it.

We ended the week by a final Christmas party where we had cookies, brownies, candy canes, made ginger bread house and danced to Christmas songs. Since most of us are busy with finals and some will be leaving soon, it was nice to gather one last time and spend great time before we get hit hard by finals.

One more week left in GWU. Stay tuned.


Snow and lots of coffee.


This week hasn’t been anything special. After all, I have all my final exams now and I have spend most of my time studying and finishing papers. But between breaks I had time to go get some coffee in new places. One I really liked was Paul, it is on campus and it is amazing. It is not  expensive and it has an awesome bakery, you can chose so many things that I literally spent 20 minutes deciding what to get.

Another place I went is Churrería Madrid. One thing everyone in Spain does when it is cold is eating churros with chocolate. It is a Spanish tradition and I missed it so much that I started searching for places where they have churros. I found this place and I have to say they were really amazing, I wasn’t expecting them to be like the ones back at home but they were. All of you should try them because they are so good they are addictive.

However, the best part of the week was that it finally snowed. On Sunday everything was covered in snow, and Washington was even more beautiful in white. I live in the north of Spain so I see snow every year, and my family and friends had been sending me pictures in the snow for two weeks, I was so jealous. But on Sunday I got to send them one instead. Ass you can guess, I´m a huge fan of snow and Christmas.

One thing I have realized is that when final exams arrive free food is even more of a thing than it was before, which means free food everyday. On Thursday there was free grilled cheese, hot chocolate, and traditional Pakistan food. The on Sunday we had cookies, snacks and coffee. And on Monday there is free breakfast in Gelman library and free Midnight Breakfast at night. Taking breaks from studying here means having free food, which is awesome.


Cuba Before Finals



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.