Tag Archives: Academics

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.

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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.

 

 

IG:@sarajebbar

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.

Saying Hello

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Start of the new semester, opening of 2015! New classes, new schedule, new professors and their teaching styles, classmates, books, events – all for the first time, fresh and exciting, yet at the same time, accompanying a drop of anxiety. Saying hello to all these new things students would have encountered during their first week of school, I could say that it is more or less essentially the same as dipping your feet into the pool before getting completely wet. As if from air into water, the changes in the environment give you a little tremble, but once you get used to it, you soon become the fish in the water. Not only the changes in the environment though, I believe the same applies to the intricacy of human relationships.

Image of the Student Org Fair (Jan 14th, 2015)Meeting new people, saying hi to the person who is sitting next to you in class, introducing yourself to the professor, all requires the courage of jumping into an area of unknown. What kind of a person would he/she be? Would he/she be in possession of a character which is similar / different to mine? Would we be good friends? All such thoughts arise before the actual ‘hello’, the first eye-contact, getting the first impression on each other followed by a couple of light or short conversation necessary to explore deeper into who he/she is. As more and more information and interchange of feelings compile, the two people gets closer faster and faster, like in geometric progression.

We all know this, yet still it is the ‘actual start’ that most intimidates us. The fear of being rejected, of screwing up make us hesitate in putting the first step. I guess such anticipation of future leads us to achieving nothing. If you think that it is a right decision, jump in without hesitation. Soon you’ll be finding yourself swimming like a fish in a new world, hopefully not so much different from the world you have aspired for.

I think that is how my first week in school passed. So many things had happened, and I was enjoying every moment of my time more than I had expected or rather, anticipated. Spending time with friends definitely helped a lot. I had busy time during the day, changing classes, adding/dropping classes, reordering my schedule, introducing myself to the class, doing assignments and readings that already existed for the first class (unfortunately). What was more, the class atmosphere between US and South Korea was so much different, even though I had already expected that there would be differences, it was quite hard to adjust to the US class atmosphere at first. The biggest difference was the class participation. US students (at least students in my class – usually Political Science or International Affairs) tend to be active in trying to express their own opinions and engage in a debate during class. They don’t seem to be in much fear of not getting the right answer (although in many cases ‘right’ answers don’t exist). Professors and students communicate freely. US college classes seem to be very lively, due to all these factors.

Korean college class atmosphere tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum as that of US. Even though students may have their own opinions shaped, the majority of the students are usually quite careful and reluctant in trying to express their opinions out in front of the whole class. In many classes students are eager in trying to take note of what the professor said, accelerating the lecture to be more leaned toward professor-only-lecturing style. Having spent years in such class environment, US class styles first came as a little shock to me. So for the first few days I usually observed how other students participate in the class, giving out their opinions. By the end of the week, I took some courage to present my opinion for the first time. It was not as hard as I had expected, so after my first time, it was much easier for me to participate in the class by giving out opinions a couple times more.

Asian dinner!After the classes, I spent time with my fellow Asian friends, usually by cooking together for dinner and sharing the food. We visited the H-mart, which is the Korean market (selling not only Korean but other Asian groceries too) near the DC area. Cooking together and sharing food is not only fun, yet is a great opportunity to experience other cultures other than one’s own. DC life as an exchange student needn’t be solely about experiencing US. With so many fellow exchange students around, getting to know cultures other than US is always close to access, and experiencing, sharing different cultures are usually always intriguing!

First Week of Independence

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Living on Campus

I was assigned a room in Ivory Tower with the most awesome roommates I can ever ask for.

Haziq (National University of Singapore), James (Uni Melbourne), Andreas (Copenhagen Business School), and Muhammed (National University of Singapore)

Haziq (National University of Singapore), James (Uni Melbourne), Andreas (Copenhagen Business School), and Muhammed (National University of Singapore)

In the temple of the great emancipator, we sealed the bond of roommate-ship with a photograph, after a day’s worth of persistent counsel by those who have had bad experiences to compose a “Roommate Agreement”.

Being laid-back and very trusting of each other, we have yet to talk about anything related to any document of understanding ever since this photo was taken. The only thing we agreed upon was to take turns buying milk. The only other consensus was that cockroaches are not welcomed in our apartment.

I have stayed on campus back home occasionally to finish assignments and to do group work with friends, but this is a whole new experience. If I’m not making my own breakfast, I could get a dose of caffeine on my way out and before my hair dries, I’m already in class, answering a question, barely having swallowed a sandwich.

Now that I’m more orientated with the Foggy Bottom area, I find myself bravely using shortcuts to classes, confidently grabbing cheaper options for groceries on my way back to my room, comfortably eating from the many cafes, delis, vendors and food trucks around (I need my food to be halal) and smartly keeping quarters in my pocket for the trip to the laundry (when I say trip I mean 5 short strides to the machines across my room door).

Lessons and Challenges

I don’t have much to say about the classes I have so far since it has only been a week but what I can say is that I enjoy the “class participation” atmosphere here. My home university has vibrant and competitive “tutorials”, or the equivalent of discussion sections here, especially for participation. Here, participation also extends to “lectures” with impromptu polls and sharing of opinions on required readings as well as related current affairs. As a political science student, I somehow feel “at home”.

However, my greatest challenge here so far is the deficit of knowledge I have with regards to issues of local context. I am able to discuss theories and issues in general, but occasionally, I find myself lost when a reference is made regarding, for instance, the education system in the United States. Often, I am the only one not laughing when the lecturer makes a joke that only Americans would understand. I predict my non-involvement would get more serious as the weeks pass and I will have to borrow a few extra books to read over the weekends – I may still not laugh along, but at least, I hope, I will not be left behind in class.

obama

I did get my first chance to “keep up” when a lesson was cancelled and I managed to catch President Obama giving a speech at the Lincoln Memorial!

YES! YES! YES!

To end off my first week, I went for some family-entertainment at the Verizon Center – WWE Live! I was a wrestling fan when I was very young and, like how I’m unfamiliar with U.S. politics, I had to “catch up” and learn about the new characters.

WWE at the Verizon Center!

WWE at the Verizon Center!

I found myself sympathetic towards “Daniel Bryan” and I loved chanting along with the crowd to cheer him on. Can I make it through the rest of this semester? YES! YES! YES! YES!