Tag Archives: Academics

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!

The Town That Billy Sunday Couldn’t Shut Down

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Even though most of us GW students are still occupied with the mid-term exams and paper submissions, it is essential to have a little bit of time for fun. Last Thursday after school a few of us decided to relax. We launched out to see our very first theater performance in Washington. However, it was not us, but our books and laptops, who had the mental rest. What we saw was a powerful and disturbing experience worth the discomposure one faces when reading Toni Morrison’s novels. A three-hour long play called The Convert has left us awestruck. The story followed a young girl, whose life was marked by an acceptance of Christian faith to the detriment of her family and traditions linked to it. The play certainly employed all the criticism and metaphors we are familiar with from reading Heart of Darkness or A Passage to India, yet it offers a perspective of the oppressed, which makes it more intensive. I need to say that it certainly motivated me to find out about other performances here in DC.

This play was recommended to me two weeks before by one of my professors, but I could not go that particular day. However, I got lucky. As soon as I heard that exchange students are welcome to come for free, I RSVP’d. Before coming here, I was prepared to arrange and finance my own life in terms of concerts, performances, etc. Nevertheless, I have found myself deciding between events offered by the organizations and communities in GW a few times – something that would have never happened in my home university. Therefore, I am just hoping that I will have enough time to take advantage of the many opportunities and enjoy them fully. I am really enjoying the possibility of decision here at GW – you always have the option to be independent and self-contained as well as to attend events in group when you usually meet both friends and new people.

In spite of all these keen comments, I  admit that I need a rest. One is never ready for the mid-term exam period to come I guess. Having four days until Spring Break is causing my motivation to decrease. In my mind, I am already flying to the destination (Chicago) I have dreamed of so long. The excitement is probably equal to the sensation I had experienced prior to my departure here in January. Do you remember the times when all the famous scenes from movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, or Homeland keep you up all night? Well, right now it has been John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd driving the Bluesmobile, real estate agents confused by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, Courthouse Place and its famous press room – be it for the presence of Carl Sandburg or Billy Wilder’s hilarious comedy The Front Page. This time, I see myself wandering around Chicago, having The Snatch soundtrack playing in my head. Hopefully the weather is with me.

Modern Architecture

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I cannot believe it has been nearly two months since Exchange Orientation started. That said, it’s the middle of Midterms, and I have barely any time to ponder the time that has passed amidst the revision,essays, research, and coffee breaks.

One of the subjects I’m revising this weekend in preparation for the midterm is Modern Architecture: 1750 – 2000. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty wide gap of time, and even though we’re only halfway through the course come Tuesday I will need to recall and know information on around 40 different buildings – including the architect, the inspiration, related buildings etc. It’s a daunting prospect! But I’ve really been enjoying the class.

I spent my Gap year in England, and traveled a lot through Europe while I was there, and it’s great seeing buildings come up during lectures that I’d seen in the flesh a few years ago. At the time I only knew whether I like the architectural style or not. Now, I can see the references to Renaissance buildings; understand the architect’s use of proportion or re-purposing of classical design styles to suit a new function.

I’m a pretty dedicated note taker, and have definitely been paying attention, but I didn’t realize how much information I was absorbing until an outing a few weeks ago with two friends of mine. We were driving through Old Town Alexandria, and I remarked casually ‘Oh! That’s a Palladian arch!’ I then realized they were both looking at me puzzled, and I hurriedly explained that Palladian arched windows are an element of Neoclassical architecture, and derived from the designs of the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio specialized in grand villas, palazzos, and churches and also wrote ‘Four Books on Architecture’ which was translated into English at the beginning of the 1700s, and was a heavy influence on neoclassical design in England and subsequently America.

I think I’ve also finally got my head around the different orders of columns (i.e the names for the different shapes you see in classical and neoclassical building’s columns). This has taken me a while to figure out, and I have a feeling I’ll never truly have them clear in my head. A bit of a fail really, considering there are only 4! I didn’t capture a photograph of that Palladian Arch, but I did get a nice one of Ionic Columns, framing either side of this front door. You can tell they’re Ionic because of the curled elements at the top of the column. I think. Not 100% certain.Image

Hopefully I’m certain come Tuesday Morning!

Party at Gelman!

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What do you get when you give GWU students a two-week spring break vacation? Parties. Sleep. Beach. And more! BUT, what happens when you assign those same students final reports, exams, and presentations right before this long anticipated break. You get “party over at Gelman”, or just a bunch of young adults crowding in on the 5th floor of Gelman library till way past midnight, each holding a Starbucks hot drink in hand.

For this past week I can honestly call Gelman library my second home. Let me tell you this, I have never called the library “ home” in Egypt, even with a full load of courses. If there is one thing that the diverse amount of Egyptians coming from AUC agree on, is that the workload here at GWU is a lot harder than back home. In Egypt with a course load of five classes each semester, I do about two hours of work each day which gives me enough time to submit reports and presentations and be well prepared for exams. However here at GWU with a course load of four classes, I could spend about double that amount of time doing work. There definitely is a lot more assessments and quizzes here at GWU, which I feel helps the students stay more on top of their work, and so when exams come around the students are more prepared. As opposed to my home universities where you are kind of left to work on your own pace but once exams hit, you’re in for some trouble.

Coming to a university with twice the number of undergraduate students, I was expecting to have to sit in on lectures hall and use clickers to ask questions in class. However surprisingly enough, the class sizes at GWU are roughly the same size as AUC; ranging from 20-25 students per class. I believe the size is good because it allows for a good student to teacher ratio, and it is definitely less intimidating than those big lecture halls.

Out of my four classes that I am in enrolled in at GWU I have to say my favorite is my Public Communication class. Even though the class runs pretty late, from 7:10-9:40pm once a week, I have to say Professor Schumacher’s energy sure does keep me awake and ready. This class is  a public speaking class, where we learn the basic public speaking skills needed to inform, entertain and persuade the audience. It places a strong emphasis on the speech-building process. It is such a fun and interactive class where we constantly are engaging with one another and critiquing each other speeches and there isn’t a heavy reading load (have I forgotten to mention that my other classes assign us 50 pages of reading every class).

Another major difference I noticed is that at GWU, students have to buy books. I came to be very familiar with chegg.com, a book rental website where student can rent their books and then return them at the end of the semester. At AUC most students just photocopy the chapters from the library at our university or just study from the slide shows presentations that our professors make.

So with this much  work, you bet the Gleman library would be the new hangout spot for GWU student. So if you’re looking for any GWU students, now you know where to find them.