Tag Archives: Claudia

The Goodbyes


So. My last blog post I’ve taken a little time to get this up – it’s been a whirlwind week since I left DC on Monday and headed to NYC. I’m with my family now. It’s definitely a change after 5 months living on campus!Image

From NYC I’ll be heading solo to Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego before flying home. I’m getting my travel all done now, after the semester is over, my marks are back and the stress is long-gone. It’s amazing how easily you forget how stressful finals can be. Every six months I get the surprise of my life trying to cope with the anxiety about final papers and exams. But enough about the easily forgotten finals!

To say goodbye to DC, GW and my exchange experience I thought I’d list the things I’ll miss:

My Roommates and neighbor – were awesome. There’s no other word for it. They know how much I’ve appreciated their support and friendship, and  hope I’ve been able to as best I can return that support and friendship. We won’t be living together any longer, and they’ve all just graduated this weekend to move into a new chapter of their lives – but I won’t be giving up on these friendships any time soon!

My exchange friends – I can’t remember who said it, but ‘no man is an island’ (John Donne maybe?). Friends are the people that make life what it is. Creating new bonds with people (who, unlike family, aren’t obligated by blood and marriage to love you and put up with your quirks!) is a pretty darn wonderful thing! A week after leaving I still can’t quite grasp the fact that I won’t be able to just randomly bump into these new friends walking to class every morning and text a friends for an impulsive late night coffee or snack run. My friends and I at home all live much further from each other, and our university, work and life schedules are much harder to coordinate. Which brings me to…

Living on Campus – is something I didn’t realized I’d love so much. Convenience is one of my favorite things. When the library, food, coffee and company are all within a 5 minute walk it’s a pretty darn wonderful thing. Especially given the campus itself is in such a great location and a 15-minute walk takes me to Georgetown or Dupont or the Tidal Basin.

DC – Never again will I live so close to the monuments. If I was ever feeling a little stressed I could just wander down to the mall and instantly feel better. The fresh air and people watching potential will be sorely missed! Because no building can be higher than the statue above the Capitol, Washington never feels impossibly tall or overwhelming. The American accents you hear on the streets are from all over the country and there’s something about DC, about it being the capital, so full of energy, power and super-important-decisions-I-don’t-even-want-to-know-about, which I just love.

Goodbye George Washington University! Goodbye DC!

With many thanks to Jacki and Shawna and the whole Study abroad office for their help and support.



Goodbyes are hard. Let’s not say them.


It’s pouring rain today, and the campus is filled with students going to and fro between finals, the library, places that serve coffee and food, and their dorm rooms. Amidst the stress and trying very hard not to focus too much on the semester coming to the end I went and got lunch with Hanna (from Egypt) and Marie (from the Czech Republic). In our orientation week we won a quiz, and had been planning to all three of us have a celebratory lunch. Which ended up only happening today (whoops!).

We sat over big plates of Pad Thai and had a good hour long chat about life. About friends, family, university, the future, GW, our exchange experience overall. Sure, we’ve had chats about all these things before – but now we’ve nearly come to the end there’s a certain tone or mood to them. Every conversation I have with a fellow exchange student is shaded by discussions about where everyone’s is traveling, when their flight home is, whether people have internships. It’s the realization that this semester is coming to and end, and we have to actually think about what we’re all doing next. Some of us have a few more semesters of university to go home to, and some of us are truly finished with our undergrad forever. We’re all looking towards post-student life, and whatever that many entail. It’s pretty darn daunting to be honest!

As we finished walking back to our dorms, I was about to say goodbye. But when I started to I realized this wasn’t a ‘bye, see you in a day or two!’, It might end up being a proper goodbye. So we decided it wasn’t going to be. Instead it was a ‘goodbye, I’ll see you later this week, and we’ll say goodbye properly then!’. But I don’t really want to do that either.

The marvelous thing about friendships and technology is that the latter helps you maintain the former. Thanks to email, Facebook and Skype the friendships I made here won’t just be maintained in the occasional letter. We have instant connections to people all over the world. It’s something I’m very glad for.

At the start of semester in Orientation we wrote goals down for our semester. One of mine was to work on having a ‘global network’ of friends. A pretty silly name for it really. But thanks to GW Exchange, I’m going home knowing that’s what I actually have. We come from all over the place, and leave with a variety of friends, acquaintances, and contacts and memories we’ll have for an awfully long time.

Exams are looming…


As we near the conclusion of our semester abroad there is one thing that remains the same about my educational experience at home and here are GW – I’m still stressed about work.  Being somewhere new and exciting doesn’t mean I don’t still worry as deadlines near. Taking a heavier course load than I do at home (5 rather than 4), adds to the stress, as does the increased number of assessments. I’ve mentioned before that in Australia it is customary to have two assessments for each class over the semester. Here I’ve had upwards of 5 in 4 of my classes, and the one class that didn’t have that many assessments made up for it with a lot of reading.

This means that the final two weeks, of study, review sessions, essay writing and exams, will be filled with exactly those things – Study, review, essays and exams. I’ll have a little time to say goodbye to DC, and to the friends I’ve made here, but enjoying those experiences and the good weather will be balanced out with a whole lot of hard work.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves, when we’re studying abroad – that we’re doing exactly that, studying. This semester is primarily meant to enhance my educational experience and broaden my academic abilities. The travel and adventures and friendships are incredibly wonderful side affects of the experience.”

Of course, years from now it’s more likely I’ll remember the friendships I’ve made, and laughs we’ve shared, than a small detail regarding a philosopher’s view regarding whether we have minds, or the exact date Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater in Philadelphia. But those academic experiences as a whole are ones I’m sure to remember – because they’ve been excellent, and have really enhanced my experience at university.

I may not know whether I have the ability to remember all the cases I need to for my health law exam, or whether the essay I’m writing on Urban Planning for Modern Architecture even make’s sense. I don’t know for sure which new friends I’ll still know 10 years down the line, or where we’ll all end up in life. But one thing I’m sure of is that I’ll forever remember my semester in DC.



There’s something about living on Campus that can make you a little complacent. It’s easy to spend the entire weekend in Foggy Bottom, and then come Monday morning realise you’ve half wasted the weekend away. So here are my tips for little outings in and around DC:

1)    The National Gallery of Art & Smithsonian Museums

If it’s raining, catch the Metro to the Smithsonian metro stop and pick one of the museums. They’re all free, and there’s something to interest everyone. I have so many more I’d love to visit before I go! It’s worth checking their websites also, because often there are free guided tours and public talks and lectures on the weekends.

2)    Georgetown

If you want to go shopping (or window shopping) Georgetown is the place to go. There are also a lot of cupcake stores (always a good thing!). Today a friend and I wandered down to our favourite, Baked and Wired, grabbed our cupcakes and went and ate them on the Georgetown waterfront. It was a perfect afternoon wander.

3)    Old Town Alexandria

Catching the Metro to Old Town Alexandria is easy as pie. I’ve blogged about it before but it really is a nice place to wander and has a lot of good cafes and restaurants.

4)    Capital Bikeshare cycle to the Tidal Basin

I’d prefer to walk rather than riding a bike, as I get a little anxious riding. But if you like cycling I’ve heard greats stories from other exchange students of the ease of hiring a bike from the Capital Bikeshare locations (there are a few on campus) and cycling down to the tidal basin and mall. Especially on sunny days – though these are the days the tourists are out in force, so you may need to dodge a few of them!

5)    DC Challenge Scavenger Hunt

This was something two of my roommates, my neighbor and I did just this weekend. It’s organized by a company called Challenge Nation. We got a Groupon deal, so paid half the entrance price and for that got t-shirts, and a fun scavenger hunt through DC with pretty difficult clues that were great fun to figure out. We had no hope of winning but it was great fun anyway. There were big groups of friends and colleagues, and also families playing and many people in costumes (we’d definitely recommend costumes, we didn’t do them and regretted it. Especially after seeing a group of women wearing shark hats and t shirts that read ‘Every week is Shark Week’ on the back, and a day of the week on the front.)

If I could go back in time to January and give myself one piece of advice it would be to find time on weekends to have a little explore and get out of Foggy Bottom and adventure in DC.

Activities on Campus – Macklemore!


If there’s one thing I’ve learned while being at university both at home and here in DC is that there will always be something going on. Just this evening I had planned to grab dinner at SweetGreen, a great place to get yummy salads, and gave up when I saw the line out on the sidewalk. Turns out there was a Sorority/Fraternity philanthropic event going on. It worked out okay, and I grabbed dinner next door at Roti.

But I digress. On campus, there will always be something going on. For instance, each semester GW’s Program Board puts on a big concert in University Yard. For Spring Fling on Sunday afternoon we got Walk the Moon as the support act and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It. Was. Brilliant!

The yard was full of college students, the weather was warm and the sun was out. There was free food and soft drinks, and free t-shirts if you braved the rush for them. Most importantly, Macklemore put on a great show, entertained the crowd and took a selfie with us all when some (crazy!) girl threw her phone on stage (the photo ended up on Reddit, which gives GW a bit of internet cred!)

Standing in the crowd, jumping up and down and trying to avoid being crushed was just so fun. The music was pumping and my throat got hoarse from singing along. As I walked home with the sun setting I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be there. I just went to a free concert of an artist I really like, in a city I’ve can’t help but feel affection for, on a campus that almost feels like home with a bunch of friends and strangers – there really is nothing better than that!

If I was to give one piece of advice I have for any exchange student coming to GW it would be to keep an eye out – on Facebook, on posters etc – for events that interest you. Even if no-one you know will be there, it’s worth taking the risk and just investigating. There really is something to suit every individual here – cross-country running groups, Ballroom dancing clubs, theater performances, acapella groups, intramural floor hockey – the list goes on!

Even better than that, there are events like Spring Fling, that bring more than half the campus together for an afternoon of fun.

Technology & Homesickness


I’ve only this week started to feel any pangs of homesickness. My little sister turned 16, and it’s hard not to want to be at home, celebrating her day with family. Thankfully, we have so many ways of staying in contact with home these days, and so I could contact home and still feel a part of the birthday celebrations.

T-Mobile Phone Plan

I have a pay by the month plan with T-Mobile for my iPhone, and for $10 extra a month I get free texts messages to international mobiles and free calls to landlines. There is a limit for how many, but for the occasional text or short call back to Australia it has been working really well. I have a feeling AT&T has a similar plan available, and it’s definitely worth asking about.


Viber is a phone app, available on nearly every phone platform that allows you to send free texts and call via wifi. Unlike iMessage, which requires other users to also be using an iPhone, it doesn’t matter what you have – the message will be free. You can also send pictures. If you don’t have wifi I believe the calls are made through your 3G/4G network, so you will be charged a little, but it’s still a great nearly free option for staying in contact with friends and family wherever they are.


Whatsapp is similar to Viber, except you can’t make calls. Again, it’s available on a variety of platforms. I don’t use it much, but you can send videos with it, and also group text – great if you have a group of people to stay in contact with (even if it’s just your parents and siblings).


Ahhh, Skype. As well as being perfect for making video calls between computers (regardless of which platform you use), you can also Skype call with your phone. Be careful if you’re not on a wifi network though, because the video can suck your data allowance. Skype also allowed you to charge money to your account, and then make calls to international landlines for far cheaper than from a real phone. There’s something wonderful about seeing people’s faces too, as well as the environs of home. My sister’s toured her clean bedroom with me, and dragged the cats meowing onto screen to say hello.


Facetime is an app on iPhones, but you can also install it on iPads and Apple computers. So, theoretically, you could be walking back from class and get a Facetime call on your phone from home, and say hi then and there with video in the street. I don’t use it an awful lot, as I’m pretty good with Skype, but an exchange friend of mine loves it, as her mother always has her iPad around, and it’s a very easy app to use.

Finally, a website great for checking time differences and coordinating all these phone and video calls: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html

Though the world is incredibly large, and the distance between home and DC may seem intimidating, technology does help make you feel just that little bit closer.

The Search For Coffee


I come from a city that prides itself on the quality of coffee. Melbourne had an influx of Italian immigrants during the 20th century, and along with their food they brought their coffee machines. In a city with generally glorious weather, outdoor cafes, and laneways a culture of coffee and coffee snobbery has developed. As a result I was a little concerned about the quality of my daily (or twice, sometimes thrice) coffee here in DC.

So here are my recommendations for coffee at GW and nearby. As an aside, I only ever order espresso machine coffee, so I have nothing whatsoever to recommend in terms of filter or percolated coffee.

Baked and Wired, Georgetown (1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW)

I love walking down to Watergate and then along the river and up the street to Baked and Wired. This cupcakery is near the Georgetown Canal, it has really comfortable couches (if you can get a seat) and on weekends sometimes has a line out the door. The cupcakes are the main attraction, and they are absolutely to die for – my favorite in Georgetown (a place over-run with cupcakes) – I recommend the Vegan Chocolate with Peanut Butter frosting or the Carrot Cake cupcake. But another excellent feature of Baked and Wired is their tea and coffee. They do excellent lattes; as good as I get at home, and a really great dirty chai, a cross between a latte and a chai tea. I love how they size their drinks too – you have a choice between big and small, no silly faux-Italian names here.

Filter Coffeehouse, Foggy Bottom (1916 I Street, NW) & Dupont Circle (1726 20th St NW)

My roommate took me here. She had been on exchange at the University of Melbourne, and knew this place made Flat Whites, a variety of coffee you struggle to find outside of Australia, and my favorite. Hands down, Filter is the coffee place most like home. Walking in is like walking into any hipster coffee place at home – a little pretentious, but so very worth it when that delicious cup of coffee gets put in your hand. A flat white is a little like a latte, but with no foam and half steamed milk, half espresso. Their original location is in Dupont, but there is one much closer to campus too. Neither location has wifi.

Bourbon Coffee, Foggy Bottom (2101 L St NW)

Bourbon coffee is a firm favorite of mine. They have wifi, comfortable seating, and a whole selection of milk options. I avoid dairy, and go for Almond milk over the soy, but there’s also the rice milk option. They do a good iced coffee and a really great latte. Bourbon also has some really interesting flavored coffees, including one called Pralines and Cream, which I really must try before the semester ends.

Starbucks (at Gelman Library)

If all else fails, and you want to grab a coffee before class, head to Starbucks. I order soy lattes, because the slight sweetness of soy offsets the burnt coffee taste. They also do decent iced lattes. The real risk with Starbucks is all the flavored coffees – the sugary syrups give me a sugar high on top of the caffeine hit! The Gelman location is always, without fail busy, but it does have wifi and is conveniently open 24 hours a day during peak midterm and final exam time. If you ever find the line is nearly out the door, go to the Starbucks inside the GW Hospital and if you’re down near the Elliot School, try the Starbucks there.

There’s also Dunkin Donuts, in the basement of Ivory Tower, which I go to because I live in the same building. But I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re feeling particularly lazy and I only ever get the iced lattes (and bagels…)

My name is Claudia, and I love coffee.