Tag Archives: DC

NEW ORLEANS!

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Last Wednesday I went to New Orleans with my friend Miren. It took me just a few hours to realize NEW ORLEANS IS MY FAVORITE CITY IN THE US SO FAR! I’m so glad I had the chance to visit it before leaving in May.

So we took the MARC Train to Baltimore around 2 pm, getting to the airport at 3. Our flight departed at 4:30, and we landed in New Orleans around 6:30 pm. We got into our hostel at 8, straight after taking the StreetCar, a really old but cozy tram.

First impressions

We were staying in a hostel, called India House that was supposed to be 10 minutes far from the French Quarter (the old city downtown). However, 10 minutes were more like 25. The place was pretty weird, and the nicest guest was probably this obese cat.

The first thing we did was getting some seafood, poboys and walk around the famous Bourbon Street. I had so many oysters (Miren feels pretty disgusted by them, so even more for me!) and seafood and crab poboys, that are basically sandwiches with real bread. It was so good I wish I wasn’t so full to keep trying everything.

Happiness at its finest

Then, we went out and we were surprised about all the people drinking in the street. Apparently, New Orleans is the only city in the United States were public consumption of alcohol is allowed, to the point you can even order a drink and bring it to another bar. Also, it’s so warm and humid that most bars are completely open while there’s live music being played inside, so many people just walks around Bourbon street drinking, to the point that there is more people in street that inside of the bars. We had a grenade, one of the typical NOLA drinks, while many people in the balconies threw the classic Mardi Gras necklaces to the pedestrians.

So touristy

The morning after we were planning to take a free walking tour around the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. However, we woke up at 7am because of the noise of a thunderstorm. It was raining as I never saw before and we kept hearing the sirens of the firefighters driving back and forth. Of course, the tour was cancelled, but we were encouraged to sign in for the one at 2:45 pm, and so we did, being hopeful. We went downtown to have breakfast Cafe du Monde, probably the oldest cafe in New Orleans, famous for its cafe au lait (people started having it because of war rationing) and beignets (like doughnuts, but way better). During breakfast the tour was again cancelled because of the storm, so we decided to go to the National WWII Museum, the 3rd most visited museum in the US!

One of the buildings was a recreation of the route of the Ally troops freed Paris and then Berlin

During the evening we went to have some more amazing food and listen to live jazz. We explored some Voodoo shops, where we found information about the religious tradition and its origin and we finally went home hoping the weather would get better the day after.

The weather didn’t really improve, but the show must go on! So we went on the walking tour (after 20 minutes Miren’s shoes were already flooded) and when we got to the Mississippi river I was so amazed by it! Then we went to a “Hot sauce shop” were we tried even one we had to sign a waiver for, and of course we ended crying and spitting all over the place. Disgusting. We also visited the Garden District, famous for its colonial architecture, and we finished our night taking a really funny tour about ghosts and vampires in New Orleans in which even the tour guide was having a drink! We had dinner and Frenchman Street, where the locals go out. The weather was finally good, so we were able to put our raincoats and umbrella in our bags and party like we didn’t have to catch a flight the morning after!

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Exploring DC

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March and February were very busy months; with all the traveling in addition to classes and homework, I realized that so far I had visited more of the US outside DC than DC (I’ve visited more things in LA then I did in DC). In DC I have become very familiar with GWU’s Gelman Library and the rooms on the ground floor of Marvin that offer the most undisturbed and quiet study sessions ever. But outside of that I hadn’t seen much of DC.

Therefore I decided to spend the whole month of April in DC and visit this beautiful city — and what better time to start than at the beginning of the cherry blossom festival?

I started my discovery of DC by doing something people here talk about every day — “brunch.” In my 2 years in Paris, I don’t think I’ve been to a single brunch. I did hear people talk about it, but it wasn’t as big. In DC it’s probably the thing people talk about the most after politics.

I heard great things about Agora so I went there with my cousin who was in town. We were quite hungry and decided to go for the unlimited option of the brunch. The food was great, the restaurant was full and lively and yet the service was efficient and fast. I won’t talk about it too much, but I did take pictures of everything him and I were able to eat and so I’ll let those do the talking:

*As I said we were quite hungry!

We then went to the Washington Monument for the kite festival. The weather was great, and therefore everyone looked much more happy. There were tons of kites and people running around in attempt to untangle their kites. The atmosphere was great and it was truly appealing to see the sky full of colorful kites flying around.

At the end of the festival I decided to walk around the Tidal Basin to see in real life all the picture I have been seeing online of the cherry blossoms covering the shores of the water. The blend of pink, white and blue with the Jefferson on the other side was a great view. Taking a picture was a bit complicated because the path around the basin was stacked with people but I did manage to get a few pictures of the landscape and myself.

During this walk, I saw the Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Both of these places were impressive and rich in history. I eventually found myself following a Park Ranger who was talking about the history of DC, which helped me learn a lot about the history of this place.

On Sunday, I went to Union Market where throughout my time there, I kept asking myself why I hadn’t come before. The variety of food there was amazing (there was even a Burmese inspired restaurant). I ate oysters, a few Burmese dishes, and got ice-cream. I got full pretty fast that day which annoyed me cause I wanted to keep eating, but that just means I will go back there soon. Definitely recommend going here if you’re ever in DC and hungry.

To continue my exploration of DC, throughout the coming week I will be going to different museums I’ve heard great things about!

SPRING IS HERE!

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Just kidding. It lasted a day. But that day was Saturday, I didn’t work and I had the chance to go both to the Kite Festival and the Cherry Blossoms around the mall and the Jefferson Memorial. I went with my friend Miren and we spent the morning going around families and kids playing with
their kites. We tried to go make one ourselves but the line was infinite. Then we went around the Martin Luther King Memorial to take the same pictures that flooded Instagram that same night. It was a really nice walk, however it was pretty crowded.

Miren giving me her best influencer face.
In my head I was like “Is that kite abandoned? Shit. No.”
There was a line to take this picture.

I went home for lunch and then I realized I didn’t want to study at all, so I texted my friend Luca to have a picnic in the mall, since he had already invited me to have dinner and grab some drinks later with Conor, his roommate, best friend, and definitely, my favorite American so far. We brought some drinks, prosciutto and bread, cookies and we played Uno and pet a dog that was around until it got dark. The weather was so nice I didn’t want to leave at all! After dinner and another Uno battle that of course I won we went to Johnny Pistolas (I know GWU students love it, but still, I need Latino music!) After a few gintonics and pretty much done for the day we walked all the way home enjoying the good weather that of course, didn’t last. Anyways, I’m heading to NOLA today! I’ll keep you updated!

“Why on f*****g Earth I’m playing this stupid game?”
The most beautiful sunset in DC ever.

GETTING STUFF DONE!

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I’m planning a trip to New Orleans in a few days so I have been working really hard in order to save some money to spend on seafood and jazz bars. Unfortunately this means that I’ve been working every single day since we came back from the break and it’s going to keep going like this until I leave next Wednesday. But I’m sure it’s all going to be worth it! At the same time, things are working really well at the OAS, where I’ve been working next to the Spanish Ambassador during a really interesting time for the Americas: the Venezuelan crisis.

This week, the OAS is celebrating African Descents and Afro heritage and because of that all the delegations were invited to visit the African American History Museum today. I felt so lucky since I have been trying to go for so long but getting tickets was an impossible mission! We had a guide that explained all to us, relating it perfectly to the current reality of the Americas. It kind of felt like going on a field trip with my fellow delegation, it was so much fun. If you haven’t had the chance to visit the museum yet, it’s a must. It’s the most recent Smithsonian and tickets are released the last Wednesday every month around 10AM. Be quick though, they vanish!

Some of the OAS tour members in the main room of the Museum.
The Panamanian and the Spanish Delegations members next to Chuck Berry’s Cadillac. ⅓ of the OAS members are women, and even though there’s still a long road to walk towards equal representation, it’s amazing to be surrounded and able to work with this amazing group of empowered women from every single corner of the American continent.
The African American History Museum lobby.
Some pictures in the gallery about Modern Civil Rights Claims.

Also, on Sunday, when the weather was so good that I could put down my coat for the first time since probably…November, I asked my best American friend, Luca, if he wanted to go grab some food in a place with a TERRACE. He told me about a place called Barcelona and although I’m kind of reluctant to go to Spanish places for food since it’s generally pretty disappointing I said yes. OMG. OMG. It’s so real I felt like I was eating at my grandma’s. We had simple but delicious tapas and some Spanish wine, the place was full but it didn’t feel crowded. Here are some pictures. It’s on 14th St, order albondigas, arroz caldoso and olive oil cake. De nada.

My friend Luca enjoying some Spanish wine (he’s originally French and we always fight over which one is better)

SPRING BREAK

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For spring break I went back home (home is Madrid for those of you who don’t know!) because my grandpa was sick and since my family is mostly abroad we try to go visit as much as we can. Apart of making my grandparents really happy I was able to see my friends and fly for a couple
days to Morocco (Fact: the shortest border between Europe and Africa is the Gibraltar Strait that separates Spain and Morocco by 14 kilometers and where both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet).

Madrid is a really beautiful city located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are. With around 6 million inhabitants, Madrid is one of the most important European
cities and an really welcoming hub for immigrants from Latin America and North and Sub- Saharan African countries, as well as Eastern Europeans. This has enriched Madrid, turning it into a multicultural, diverse and unique spot loved by tourists from all around the world.

What I loved the most about going back for the break was definitely the weather. Since the moment I landed I was able to get rid of my coat and my scarf, enjoy the early spring, make a barbecue with my friends and just lay down in my yard with my bunny pet. (Who doesn’t want a
picture of a bunny?!)

Also, even though I didn’t know about it when I bought the plane tickets, I was able to attend my Masters graduation that was scheduled for the same day I arrived! As some of you might know, this is my second BA program and during my junior and sophomore years I studied a MA in
Madrid, for which I just graduated. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring much luggage and my mom decided to be my stylist. This was the result.

Another great thing I was able to do was to lecture in my home university. A professor requested me to lecture his two hours course in “Security Models” on Monday and so I did. I prepared a lecture about the differences between Spain and the US when talking about prisons, gun control and incarceration. (I highly recommend a documentary in Netflix called 13th about mass incarceration in the US and slavery). I had 62 students and I had so much fun. Here you can see me faking it until I make it.

After this exhausting vacation I went to Fes, in Morocco to visit Amine, a friend I actually met at GW during the fall semester. Although I barely had two days there we drove (just him, to be honest I shit my pants just by thinking about driving in Morocco) 1,000 kilometers! We went to Ifrane, where his university is, and then we went to Rabat, which is by the coast since I’m a sea lover. There I was able to lie in the sand and nap while just relaxing which is something I miss so much when in DC. Then we came back to Fes, one of the oldest cities in Morocco, from where I flew back to Madrid before heading back to DC. Here are some pictures.

DIPLOMAT BY DAY, LIBRARIAN BY NIGHT

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As many of you have probably seen, I’ve been working at Gelman library since the beginning of the semester. It’s a really nice job, it’s pretty chill and allows me to make money enough to cover all my expenses. My tasks are basically check people in, mostly patrons from other universities or institutions, students that forget their Gworld, prospective students and people that come to attend events that take place in the library. When I’m at the check-out desk I check books for people, I find the books they requested from other universities or the ones the want to get from the reserves and I help them to find books in the stacks. Sometimes, I also help people who need an appointment with a specialized librarian for research. I love being at the check-out because it’s when I’m interacting with people and friends come say hi and bring coffee which is so nice. Some other times I’m shelving books back to the stacks or discharging them. My coworkers are so funny, there’s a really good vibe and we all help each other. If you are looking for a job and they open any position on Handshake don’t hesitate to apply, it’s such a great place to work in!

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So professional. Trust me, I work at Gelman Library!

Also, a couple weeks ago I got an internship in the Permanent Mission of Spain to the Organization of American States. I work directly with the Ambassador, attending meetings in the OAS itself or visiting other representing Embassies on behalf of our delegation. Then I write reports that are send straight to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. I have my own office in the Embassy, that is located in Massachusets Avenue in front of the Islamic Center of DC. On Fridays, when usually Muslims gather for the prayer in the afternoon the athmosphere is really good and I love watching from my window. Last Friday I also went to the Embassy of Canada for a meeting, and to a council in the headquarters of the OAS where the Secretary General Luis Almagro gave a speech. I feel so happy I got this opportunity, it’s a dream internship!

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The views from my office, the Embassy of Canada and the Headquarters of the OAS

SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GWU AND UAM

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Even though I’ve been studying at GWU for around six months now, there are several thinks that keep shocking me. Education in Spain is way different than in the US and that determines a lot how we are and how we understand the world. Here are some of the things that shocked me the most:

  • University is SO EXPENSIVE: Most universities in my country are public, meaning that around 80% of the cost of tuition fees is covered by the state through taxes. For this reason, many people independently of their background can access university. To enter a university in Spain you have to take a public exam during your senior year of high school, and the highest the grade you get, the greater number of degrees you have access too. Private universities don’t require people to take this exam and accept people that got a bad grade or failed, and because of that private universities are generally considered bad quality, while public ones seem to be more competitive and have a higher prestige. For me, the fact that people take loans that they are going to be paying for years just to go to school scares me and makes me think that education is only accessible to those who are privileged enough.
  • Living so far from home: In Spain, as in many other places in Europe college education is a natural extension of high school, so most people live with their parents and attend the closest university. In the US, a lot of people leave their parents’ home as soon as the finish high school and they study really far away. I’m so jealous of that!
  • Masters program: Generally in Europe we get our Masters degree straight after our degree, and only then we start working. I guess since university is so expensive people need to find a job before going to college again.
  • “Hiring all majors”: That’s something I love from the US. One of my business professors got a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering and after a few years she started working for the World Bank. Then she got an MBA and now she’s lecturing at GWU. In Europe, it’s really hard to find a job out of what is considered your area of study.
  • Courses:  When you study a Bachelors degree in Spain, all courses are fixed until the spring semester of senior year, and everybody is supposed to graduate at the end of their fourth year. This means that everybody has a fixed schedule, let’s say Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm, and the same people you start the first day with is the people you are going to be with for the next four years. In the US it is completely different and for me it was really shocking when I had to create my own schedule and I realized that I saw my classmates just once or twice a week!
  • Majors and minors: They don’t exist in Spain, just “Bachelor in…” and to be honest I still don’t know how many credits are each or how they exactly work.
  • Internships: In Spain, an internship is a compulsory course in every degree. Every Bachelor program has agreements with different companies or public organisms that take interns during the spring semester of senior year. Internships are unpaid in almost every case. During the rest of our degree, we don’t intern. I never questioned myself why, because we had the chance but however nobody does it. I loved the idea, and that’s why I’m interning now in DC!
  • Police presence: This one is what shocked me the most. While GW has its own university, the Police in Spain needs the written permission of a judge to even enter the campus! There’s no way you can spot a policeman in a university campus. This law exists to protect freedom of speech, discourse and the right of reunion of students and professors since Spain was a dictatorship during 40 years and university students and professors suffered constant censorship and persecution.
  • Cafeterias and beers: In Spanish universities every building has its own cafeteria. These places are so cheap because they are supposed to be student-friendly and they offer lots of different food. Since the legal drinking age there is 18, usually before, after or in gaps between classes students go grab some beers and play cards or just chill in the open areas of the campus. Yeah, you can buy beers in a university cafeteria at 9 AM and everyone is okay with it. Now I see how weird it is.

Anyways, even though there are some things that I miss from my home institution and the university environment in Europe, I feel like college in the US is way more enriching and a more holistic experience. If I had to choose a system I would definitely prefer to study in the US for the remaining time until I graduate!