The countdown to the end of the semester is here and I can’t believe we reached that point where only two weeks are left to the end *CriesCries* Time really flies in GWU and I feel like orientation week was here days ago.
Having two of my exams really early made my week an intense studying week in Gelman library. Even if the library is really big compared to what we have in our home university, you need to go early to find a table especially when you’re in a group which I never do since I always wake up late and procrastinate a lot before actually starting to study.
The weather in Dc is getting colder and colder and this week was the first snow of the winter. I usually prefer warm weather and hate snow and rain but the first snow of the year is always exciting especially in Christmas time. We usually don’t celebrate Christmas in Morocco so it was really nice to experience the holiday vibes in the US. From Christmas tree, to free hot chocolate and cookies to all the Christmas lights decorations and lights, Washington DC and its weather were really welcoming the holiday season. And to really get into the winter vibe, we decided to go ice skating in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. It was my first time ice skating and I was really bad at it, my only goal was not to slip and break my bones. But it was fun to start learning how to ice skate, maybe one day I’ll be good at it.
We ended the week by a final Christmas party where we had cookies, brownies, candy canes, made ginger bread house and danced to Christmas songs. Since most of us are busy with finals and some will be leaving soon, it was nice to gather one last time and spend great time before we get hit hard by finals.
One more week left in GWU. Stay tuned.
This week hasn’t been anything special. After all, I have all my final exams now and I have spend most of my time studying and finishing papers. But between breaks I had time to go get some coffee in new places. One I really liked was Paul, it is on campus and it is amazing. It is not expensive and it has an awesome bakery, you can chose so many things that I literally spent 20 minutes deciding what to get.
Another place I went is Churrería Madrid. One thing everyone in Spain does when it is cold is eating churros with chocolate. It is a Spanish tradition and I missed it so much that I started searching for places where they have churros. I found this place and I have to say they were really amazing, I wasn’t expecting them to be like the ones back at home but they were. All of you should try them because they are so good they are addictive.
However, the best part of the week was that it finally snowed. On Sunday everything was covered in snow, and Washington was even more beautiful in white. I live in the north of Spain so I see snow every year, and my family and friends had been sending me pictures in the snow for two weeks, I was so jealous. But on Sunday I got to send them one instead. Ass you can guess, I´m a huge fan of snow and Christmas.
One thing I have realized is that when final exams arrive free food is even more of a thing than it was before, which means free food everyday. On Thursday there was free grilled cheese, hot chocolate, and traditional Pakistan food. The on Sunday we had cookies, snacks and coffee. And on Monday there is free breakfast in Gelman library and free Midnight Breakfast at night. Taking breaks from studying here means having free food, which is awesome.
At this point, I think you can understand that one of the main things I enjoy doing in my 4 days long weekends is travelling. I just enjoy visiting new places, taking more pictures and discovering new cultures. And I would say that the on-campus part-time job I got this semester helped me a lot in doing that. This weekend destination was Havana, and it was the most exotic and different place I have been to. I’ve never thought that I would visit this country before, but I think Camila Cabello’s song “Havana” had a big influence on this decision. And it was such a perfect place to celebrate my roommate’s 21st birthday.
Havana was the best place to escape Washington’s cold weather because of its tropical warm weather. I stayed with my four friends in an Airbnb that was in the Old Habana, and once we got there we knew we’re in a totally different place from the US. Havana felt like an old movie from the 70’s and it was beautiful. The special thing about the city was the colorful retro classic cars. And what was really cool about this trip was taking open cars music for a city tour or just to get from a place to another as a normal taxi. Besides that, I also enjoyed taking the Coco taxi, which a yellow cute covered motorcycle, around the city. Not only the cars in Havana were colorful but also the buildings especially the ones around the capitol. What I enjoyed doing the most was wandering around the colorful narrow streets of the city and taking tons of pictures in front of the classic cars. What was also interesting was visiting the museum of the revolution. They portrayed the whole timeline of the Cuban revolution in the walls of the museum and it really helped me learning a lot about the history of this country. And of course what would be a vacation in the warm Havana without going to the beach. The beach was 30 minutes from the city but the road was really enjoyable since we took an open car to get there. From enjoying the clear water of the ocean to drinking coconut water, the beach day in Havana was perfect to forget about studies and GWU.
Even though Havana was a great place to visit and spend four days in, I don’t think I would be able to live there. It felt like the country was laid back in the 70’s. One of the most surprising thing during this trip was the limited internet not only for us tourists but also for citizens. To get internet in Cuba, we had to purchase an internet pass which was around 1$ per hour, search for a WiFi hotspot (Internet park) which weren’t many in the city, and then hope to get some really slow internet connectivity. It was really funny to see dozens of people around the WiFi router trying to connect to the world outside. When I asked locals about how they felt about it, they said it doesn’t really matter for them since they are used to socialize more. No wonder locals were always socializing in the streets or balconies or trying to make conversations with us.
Havana was great and having this trip with great company made it even better. Now, it’s time to stress about finals coming in a week and begin my late night journeys in Gelman library.
As finals are finally coming to an end, it is time to think about packing up and saying goodbye! This past week I tried to make the most of the time we had left whilst finishing up the last few assignments. That’s the only problem with studying abroad. Just when you want to finish exploring you spend more time in the library than you have done all semester. Nevertheless, this week I still managed to tick a few more things off my bucket list.
One of which was to finally experience a baseball game. The Washington Nationals were facing off against the New York Mets and although I know next to nothing about baseball, it was still worth the experience. The game typically lasts about three hours, which considering I had no idea what was going on seemed like an awfully long time. However, like so many other American sports the game was more of an event. It was a great opportunity to sit back, eat, drink and watch the sunset over the stadium.
For one of our final dinners together we decided to treat ourselves and headed to Rose’s Luxury over on 8th Street. For $60 per person, you get to experience the tasting menu which included too many dishes for me to remember. I definitely recommend it as you get to sit back and enjoy as they bring you dish after dish. From the Foie Gras Tart with Hazelnut, White Chocolate & Asian Pear to the Pork Sausage, Habanero, Peanuts & Lychee Salad – all the food was absolutely to die for! You are not able to make reservations unless you are a party of six or more so if you’re going to go make sure you get there in advance to guarantee yourself a table.
“Hey, come check this out!”I wearily looked outside the window of the hostel as the other resident pulled up the blinds. White specks fell from the sky. It was falling more slowly and that’s how I knew it was snow. The cold weather settled in and it was the perfect day to set up camp inside a small coffee shop a few blocks from the hostel. I have been in Boston since Friday afternoon and I decided to take a break from sight seeing. The last stretch of the exchange program and I was starting to get a little stressed out. Besides thinking about finals, there was also planning the post-exchange travels, making a video for the scholarship, and amongst all of that, trying to think about new start-up ideas.
Boston was wonderful. And being here for the first time, I went on to tick off most of the “Top 10 Things to Do in Boston” list on Tripadvisor. Nearly everything was within walking distance with the exception of Cambridge (which was definitely possible but I wanted to save time). A visit to Harvard and MIT was a must, given how famous they were. Harvard even offered free tours at the start of every hour for tourists and prospective students alike. It was led by a senior student who gave a balanced tour on fun facts and need-to-know facts. For example, did you know that Harvard College was the first institution to successfully sue the U.S. government as a result of negligence use of one of their buildings during the Revolution by George Washington and his soldiers? The colonial architecture was spread throughout the campus. Memorial Hall, which supposedly looks the same as the dining hall in Harry Potter was unfortunately closed off to visitors.
What I loved about this trip was the amount of new knowledge I obtained about the American Revolution, specifically the people and events that transpired that sparked the American people to fight for their freedom and liberty. I followed the Freedom trail (a literal trail that runs through Boston in the form of blue and red bricks on the ground) and visited the various museums which displayed information regarding The Boston Massacre and later the Boston Tea Party. The Old South Meeting House, Old State House and Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Quincy Market, Old North Church, and finally Bunker Hill Monument were a series of destinations along this trail. As night fell, I entered the Paul Revere House to be greeted with hot apple cider drinks and other 18th Century sweets.
As I sit at the airport typing out this week’s post, I am taken back to reality. Exchange has flown past faster than I ever imagined.