Tag Archives: Exchange Orientation

We are just getting started


By ilakes2015

One week, 393 pictures, 57 exchange students, 13 leaders, Shawna and Hilary. What else do I have to say? If anyone had ask me about my expectations for my first week at GWU, I would have mentioned all the places, people, moments and experiences I just lived.

As an exchange student, fear is the first feeling you have when you arrive at your new home. Am I going to like my roommates? Am I going to make new friends? Am I going to like my classes? What am I doing here?!? That feeling automatically disappeared when 10 strangers in blue received me at the Marvin Center giving me the kindest welcome ever. Instantaneously my smile appeared. After months of planning this trip, I was finally here. The place I’ve been dreaming for so long was better than I expected. Not only because of the spectacular view I have from my window (the amazing Washington monument, or the American Obelisk) but also for the terrific freezing weather..


On my first night on Washington, standing in the Lincoln Memorial under a full moon reading Lincoln’s speech inscribed on the wall I knew I had arrived. I had arrived not so much to a place, not even a dream but to a collection of adventures yet to come. But most adventures need someone to be shared with. And what is better than people from the five continents to share those with? When I met the Australians (everyone is from Australia), the Asians, the South Americans, the French, the London, the Italians and of course, the Americans, I was reminded that I was not alone here in DC, at GWU. They reminded me why I participated in the exchange program in the first place: to explore the diversities the world has to offer and to be exposed and part of such diversity was a delight, as it is always interesting to find out more about other countries.

The first week of orientation has been the world. The museums, the Capitol, the traditional Ben’s Chili Bowl, the metro, the bars and nightclubs, the fantastic buildings and gym that belong to GWU (almost every building of the city) and the famous scavenger hunt game, made me think that my decision to come to Washington DC was the best choice I could have made.

But orientation week wouldn’t have been the same without our amazing Leaders. They did a fantastic job showing us around, giving us helpful tips, advice and guiding us. They brought us all together in an atmosphere of laughter and joy that allowed us to become friends.

Those laughs and adventures already lived and the many more to come have been blessed by those people who brought me directly and indirectly here.The group we’ve become, the peace and rhythm of Washington, DC, and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Like if they had known me forever, always so cheerful and friendly, I can not wait for the Spring semester to start.


A Busy Week in DC


By carlyfisher4

The week that has just past has been an incredible, albeit an insanely busy, week filled with orientation activities, moving into our dorms, numerous trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and the opportunity to meet a whole new group of friends made up of people from all over the world, as well as some GW students. Consequently, this has been the first moment I have had to sit all week and so I thought this would be a perfect time to reflect on my first week here in DC, and then of course to share it with you!

Since arriving a week ago, I have definitely been trying my best to get the lay of the land – and to get used to some changes between DC and Sydney, namely the cold! Arriving for the second day of orientation activities in ankle deep snow was certainly something that I realized I would quickly need to adapt to. Then later being evacuated due to a fire alarm, also in said snow, was something that really was beyond my range of weather familiarity. However, after my absolutely necessary investment in snow boots, I feel I have tackled the snow adjustment as best as possible.

Snowy Day in DC

Snowy Day in DC

Another major change has been moving into a dorm shared with four other girls. In Sydney it is rather unusual to move out of home, especially for college, and therefore this is my first on-campus/dorm experience, and also the first time I have ever shared a room in my life…or lived in a house of five people for that matter. Whilst this could have required a major adjustment or felt really uncomfortable or strange, I have been so incredibly lucky and have absolutely lovely roommates who I cannot wait to get to know even better throughout the semester.

Apart from a lesson in how to deal with the cold and live with others, this week has definitely taught me a lot more about what to expect throughout the semester and how to make the most out of my time here – so thanks Study Abroad office!

I guess really the highlight of the week has been meeting so many new people and starting to really get comfortable with life here! My best friend from Sydney and I were actually both assigned together to GW so I walked in on Monday knowing someone but also knowing that we were both so keen to make new friends and share experiences with them too. The Australians seem to make up a relatively significant percentage of the exchange student cohort this semester and so we were immediately attracted to each other, keen to find out what schools and cities we had all come from.

As well as us Aussies, we have students here from almost every corner of the globe and I have really enjoyed getting to know people from countries all around the world and learning elements of their culture from them – some of these conversations have been really enlightening as I have yet to visit the countries from which they are from, and others have been really fun to share my experiences with natives from a country in which I was a ‘foreigner.’

Meeting Martha

Meeting Martha the Hippo!

Alice (Italian) and I before the Capitol Tour

Alice (Italian) and I before the Capitol Tour










Getting to know everyone throughout the week was really enjoyable – especially because we had the opportunity to both meet in a more formal or educational environment, as well as in a more social capacity. As well as that, this group provides us all with friends eager to partake in many of the same things we are during our time here – for example, touring DC and travelling on weekends. In fact, again courtesy of the Orientation week planned by the Study Abroad Office, we have already begun exploring the city and some of the monuments and museums it has to offer. One of the highlights of this week was definitely the group tour that we took around the Capitol – especially because we had an amazing tour guide whose knowledge and interest in the Capitol was immediately engaging.

Capitol Tour!

Capitol Tour!

Despite the construction currently underway on the dome and within Rotunda, the artwork and sculptures were beautiful and seeing the original home of government, even with some of the structural elements and artifacts from before the attack by the British, was definitely exciting – especially for the history-lover within me. Particularly interesting was the unquestionable yet gradual development in who could be featured within the Capitol building and seeing the bust of Martin Luther King Jnr and the statute of Rosa Parks certainly acted as a reminder of the progression that has occurred and a reminder of the changes that are still required. It certainly was inspiring hearing the stories of some of those featured within the Capitol however, even more so was the fact that it was immediately noticeable that, although in the past perhaps only the contribution of white men was considered significant enough to deserve recognition in the form of representation, the presence of women and those of other races was finally recognized equally. Unquestionably, for me, that tour was the stand-out activity of the week.

Meeting all the Exo leaders too was really fantastic! Having been in their position in Sydney before, it was definitely different to be on the receiving end, however, all of the leaders were fantastic and so easy to quickly befriend! As all of our first GW friends, they definitely made a good impression :).

Me, Nick (ExO Leader, Madeline, and Sophie (Right to left)

Me, Nick (ExO Leader, Madeline, and Sophie (Right to left)

On our final orientation day we were instructed to go and see an assigned place that perhaps we wouldn’t otherwise see during our time here. My group received the national postal museum which, although we were initially disappointed to get (sorry!), we actually had some fun at. There were definitely some stamps with interesting heritage and history and I found myself particularly interested in the pieces of mail that had survived atrocities such as the sinking of the Titanic, the San Francisco earthquake, and in particular, mail retrieved from the rubble at Ground Zero.

Making our own stamp at the postal museum!

Making our own stamp at the postal museum!

With some time to spare before meeting our group’s Exo leaders, we made the decision as a group (we were placed into small groups at the beginning of the week and so it was with that group that we were sent to our various locations) to visit Walmart, justifying it as an important American experience (and more than anything, an essential stop for those bits and pieces that we still needed to set up our dorms efficiently). Our official Orientation activities concluded with lunch, for my group at Busboys and Poets in Chinatown, with our Exo leaders, Chao and Erin. It has been really great getting to know this small group so well over the last week, and especially to get to know people from the group at large.

To finish off my first week here in DC, two of the other Australian girls and myself went to brunch on Sunday morning, followed by a Georgetown stroll and shopping expedition. DC is such a gorgeous city and although my leg muscles are undeniably feeling the pain of my desire to explore despite a lack of car (I’m so used to driving everywhere in Sydney!), I cannot wait to continue to see as much as possible.

It’s been a fantastic first week here and now, if you’ll excuse me, my roommates and I must continue to decorate our new home.

Until next time…

Only at GW


As I mentioned in my last blog, the most prominent feeling before arriving 

was definitely excitement over a small amount of nervousness. From the moment we arrived on campus, we didn’t really have any time to let any of those emotions get the better of ourselves. 

The study abroad office were absolutely fantastic in ensuring we had a back-to-back agenda with a mixture of very informative sessions coupled with equally informative – but somewhat more fun – trips or games to introduce everyone to our new city. 

Not only did the induction week bond all the international students really well – it feels like I’ve known some of them for years, not days – it also bonded us to DC. From trips to the Smithsonian, races around campus, tour of congress and Mount Vernon – and even the group trip to Target, it forced everybody to jump head first into life here. The Nationals even gained some 80 new fans!


The opportunities here at GW appear to be limitless. With world-renowned experts as Professors, illustrious alumni, fantastic internship opportunities and of course being at the geographic center of the political universe, it feels like GW is a great place to be with something extraordinary always around the corner.

It’s undoubtedly different to what we all know back at our home institutions. Where else would the President’s motorcade be a legitimate reason for being late for class? #OnlyatGW

So as we move forward, everyone is ready to go and wants to jump headfirst into life here. So, that’s what I’m off to today!

I’ll be checking again this week with my cultural faux pàs’ – there’s been several.

Desynchronosis (of sorts)


By aaront162

Desynchronosis, also known as jet lag, is the well known result of changes to the body’s natural rhythms as a result of long distance travel and generally speaking, a few days of rest is enough to overcome the fatigue. Yet moving from the laid back and warm summer of Sydney to the middle of winter in Washington DC – the large and unfamiliar city and heartland of American power, politics and government – involves a certain change in pace and rhythm which takes a little more time (perhaps a well planned week?) to adjust to.

The whole process begin subtly enough – the small chit chat in the lobby of City Hall on the first day of orientation week, a mixture of foreign accents somewhat anxiously looking around and getting acquainted with other new faces. The basic introductions follow, nerves gradually calm, barriers slowly break down and unfamiliar faces soon develop into familiar personalities with the help of our orientation leaders. There is a lot of walking around unfamiliar streets – the wind is biting and cold but anticipation (and plenty of enthusiasm from group leaders) is enough to drive you from place to place. Then the sound of applause in the Lisner auditorium as Sonya Sutamayor gave sound advice from someone who moved from the Bronx to the Supreme Court. Long bus rides lead to the excitement of “snow tubing” on Wisp Mountain. Then the roar and cheer of the home crowd in the Smith Centre, the sharp tension which fills the arena during a free throw and the unmistakable energy which explodes at the end – GWU wins a well fought game. Then more walking and the grandeur of the monuments and national buildings, statuesque figures of carved marble and bronze within the dome of the Capitol building. In between, plenty of jokes, lots of laughter and good humour.

By the end of the week, the weather is warmer, the wind no longer as biting and cold, the streets and buildings no longer so unrecognisable. Just like the passing of the jet lag, the pace and rhythm of Washington DC and GWU settles into something familiar and everything just feels that little bit more comfortable. Not quite home – but for the semester ahead, definitely close enough.

E Pluribus Unum


By nimames

My arriving to the United States, a country I’ve never been to before, was not smooth to say the least. I flew a total of 11 hours in one single day, waited almost 2 hours for my luggage only to find it open and broken. So the only way for me to move my suitcase was to tape it. The next bad surprise was the lovely DC weather. Although I did take my precautions and packed warm clothes, I certainly did not expect the chilly -14°C that welcomed me to the DC. Luckily, the orientation week made up for all the hassle of my flight and my deep dislike of the weather.

Orientation week was exhausting but ultimately fun. We got to meet students from literally the 4 corners of the world: Korea, Singapore, France, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Germany and many. This reminded me why I participated to the exchange program in the first place: to explore the diversities the world had to offer and to be exposed and part of such diversity was a delight as it is always interesting to find out more about other countries.

This week will most definitely go down in my “history” as one of the best weeks of my life and it would have happened without the continuous help of Shawna and Hilary as well as the EXO Leaders who were always (I mean always) so cheerful and friendly and did an amazing job showing us around and giving us helpful tips. They did a marvelous job guiding us, giving us advice, making sure we make it to all our appointment and we don’t get lost but ultimately they brought us all together in an atmosphere of laughter and joy. At first, people, me included were hesitant but after each day, we all became more comfortable with each other.

The first two days were intense; we split up into small groups with two EXO leaders who helped us with our visa and bank appointments. I personally had to adjust to walking because boy did we walk a lot!

The third day, we took the metro to visit the Newseum and I have to admit that the DC metro is … weird. Not that I haven’t been to a metro station before. But being in the DC Metro stations is like being in a huge concrete alien spaceship. It was interesting to compare the DC metro stations with the ones I had previously been to but they were ultimately the same: busy.

The Newseum was really interesting for me especially for someone minoring in communication. We had the opportunity to explore 6 floors worth of media coverage of major events.  The balcony on the 6th floor offered a magnificent view of DC. In the afternoon of the same day, we had a tour of campus and later the famous scavenger hunt. I absolutely loved the game. Basically, we had a list of locations we had to find and take funny pictures with. There is a Frensh saying roughly translated in English as “Ridicule does not kill” and as a ferm believer in that, the game was tremendously entertaining for me! Although the weather did not help us, the hunt proved to be rather fun and brought our group, the SanFransisco Smarties closer.

Saturday was the last day of orientation and what a better way to end an amazing week than a visit of the Capitol and then a nice dinner. The visit to the capitol was insightful and I could feel the weight of history and the power it stands for. Later the same day, we all met at this really nice hotel where we had a great dinner. The formal dinner was a chance for us to be gathered together around a meal and get to know each other in a more relaxed fashion. We then took pictures to commemorate the moments we have spent together this week.

Saturday came and although orientation was over, I found myself up by 9am ready to meet my group. Even in one week’s time and although it doesn’t seem like a lot, I got used to seeing the warm faces of everyone.

To everyone that I met this week, I say thank you because I spent great moments with you guys ! I really hope we keep in touch !

New Friends, New Adventures, New Lessons.


By inepalacios

I can’t believe it. After nine months preparing for this trip, I am in Washington, DC. A week wasn’t enough time to realize that this adventure has started.

If I thought that it would be easy to take advantage of every situation, the past week taught me that I need to be more prepared physically and mentally to do that. The amount of activities that we (the exchange students) had to do, the new people, the new places, the new feelings challenged and exceeded my expectations.

The cold snap that hit the US didn’t stop the Exchange Orientation Leaders (EXO), Shawna, or Hilary who gave us the best beginning. Their main advice: take advantage of all the resources offered in this orientation week.

Food, trips, tours, parties, information, games, presentations, museums, discussions, and information sessions were some of the activities that we enjoyed. From the past Monday to the past Saturday we didn’t stop with scheduled activities.

The first day, I had time to get to know some of the students that are going to live with me. This opportunity began with a barbecue diner. It was the best American way to start the Exchange, definitely. Thanks to the chef for the delicious diner!

The second day, we learned more about DC and it was a good moment to mentally prepare me for all of the things that this semester has to offer. Shawna and Hilary shared video with us about DC, it was incredible.  During the activities, my Argentinean exchange mate, Timothy arrived. When I saw him, I ran to give him a big hug. We were celebratory after realizing that we were in DC after many months of planning the trip. We are able to avoid any possible homesickness through talks in Spanish, jokes and mates (the typical Argentinean drink).

The third day, we had the opportunity to visit one of the best museums in DC: the Newseum, a museum that allowed us to learn more about contemporary American and international history through the media. Thanks to Shawna and Hilary!

The fourth day, we had the opportunity to learn about the campus of GW through a fun game: the Scavenger Hunt. We took funny pictures in different places around the campus in teams. Not only was it worth getting to know each other, but we also had so much fun touring our new university. Those who have the opportunity to attend GW are definitely lucky.  It is a privilege to have so many resources to develop ourselves into whatever we want.

The fifth day was the trip: we traveled a couple of hours to go to Wisp Mountain. This moment was one of the most fun moments of the week. Not only could we enjoy the beautiful mountain, but we also enjoyed the mountain’s activities. Thank you again to Shawna and Hilary for the incredible excursion.

The last day, time to get to know the Smithsonian, to shop, and to prepare for the formal dinner. The dinner was absolutely incredible and a great opportunity to get to know the exchange students that I will spend time with this semester.

In conclusion, it is not only important to see different places, but to also meet more people while in Washington, DC. Egypt, Morocco, Singapore, Italy, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, China, Australia are some of the places were the other exchange students come from. What do you think about the new democracy in Egypt? What is your perspective on the events that occurred in 2011? Why do you think that Singapore is developing at a different rate than its counterparts? Discussions like these, daily interactions, sharing our expectations, and getting to know many interesting people were the best gifts of this week.

Thank you again to the new friends who gave me a great beginning to the program.

Thank you to the leaders for helping me with my English. Thank you for giving us funny moments and sharing your experiences as GW students and students who studied abroad.

Thank you to Shawna and Hilary for this great welcome, your work was excellent, and it is a pleasure to finally meet you in person!

I hope that I will still see everyone or at least the majority when classes start. Good luck with the start of your semester!

Checkout photos of Exchange Orientation Week on the  Office for Study Abroad Facebook!

Take me out to the ballgame!


By falseconscious

Baseball is not a popular sport in Singapore but we know what it is because of Hollywood movies that range from cheesy ones with dogs that can catch to the movie that I watched on my plane ride to DC: “42”.

“42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. I may be biased because my life experience has made me a little tender towards any stories that tell a story of discrimination, but I would recommend it to those who haven’t watched it or those, who like me, would have avoided watching baseball movies if not for the fact that I was terribly bored on my 20+ hour journey. Aside from the emotional story, that movie also got me interested in baseball and its rules particularly because the legendary player in the movie played quite interestingly.

So, when the opportunity came for me to watch a game with fellow exchange students, organized by the Office for Study Abroad, I was totally up for it. The Office also kindly arranged for an after-school session of learning how to play baseball so that “noobs” like us could actually understand what would be happening on game day.

learntoplay Playing “Wiffle”, with baseball rules.

Game day itself was an experience. It was different from watching baseball on the television or in the movies. From where I was, I couldn’t really see the dust being kicked off the ground. The huge mega screen showing replays from various angles, the crowd’s cheers and the music was what helped me guess what was going on. The Nationals led initially, but were very inefficient in that they had twice as many people on the base than they had number of runs. (My attempt at reporting what happened during the game may not be interesting).

I am very much used to the faster paced soccer games (that’s football by the way) but I enjoyed sitting in the cold and guessing “balls” from “strikes”. There was much less activity (it may be that it was not a particularly interesting baseball game) and I prefer playing it myself than just watching, but the slow pace meant that any good hit that propelled the ball up in the air guaranteed a little excitement, a small urge to witness a home run and I would edge a little bit off my seat. If it wasn’t a magical hit, I would just sigh and sit back down, continue eating my fries, mutter how I could swing the bat better and make small talk about how cold it was sitting all the way up. If it was a good hit, especially a home run, even if it was an error by those on the field, I would, for a few seconds, become a baseball fan.