Tag Archives: history

Hola Mexico

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At the beginning of the week, I and another exchange student were invited to have a dinner with an American family to get to know more about the culture and try some homemade food. The event was organized by the exchange program advisors and it was a great opportunity to discover other sides of the Americans and their local life. Our host was working as an exchange advisor in GWU years ago. So, it was really nice to talk to her and her partner about her previous experiences with exchange students and to share with her our adventures in Washington DC. The food was really good and the two hours we spent there made me realize more about the American culture in some different states of the US.

For the weekend, as it says from the title, I went to MEXICO. I have always been dreaming of visiting this country but it was really difficult to do it from Morocco since the flights are really expensive from there. So being the US gave me the opportunity to discover Mexico. My flight was to Cancun but I stayed in Playa Del Carmen which is a city an hour from Cancun. I stayed there from Thursday to Monday. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. In the first day I went to an island called Cozumel where I had the chance to snorkel and swim with all types of fish, sea turtles and starfishes in the Caribbean sea. I also went to two parks: Xel-ha and Xcaret and they were insane. The first one was a water park with many snorkeling spots, slides, rope jumping… And the other one was exhibiting the Fauna and Flora of the region and at the end I stayed for a show that represented the specific music and dances of each region of Mexico. It was really beautiful to see how within one country there are different cultures, and that show was a summary of it all. Mexico is also known for its cenotes which are holes that lead to a pool of turquoise-colored water connected to secret underground caverns. I visited two of them: Dos Ojos and Ik-kil. Those cenotes were surreal and snorkeling there was simply fascinating because under the clear water you can clearly see all the reefs and the beautiful underwater life. And apart from the beautiful beaches and turquoise water, Mexico has a very rich history especially of the Mayans and Aztecs culture. So, it was a must to visit Chichen Itza which is a complex of Mayan ruins on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and one of the seven wonders of the world. It was really fascinating to see how the history of Mayans was carved in the rocks and how it’s still preserved until now. Tulum was also a great city to visit both Mayan ruins and the beach at the same time. What made this trip special is spending it with other Mexicans so I had the chance to get to know more about their culture from a local perspective.Mexico is one my favorites countries right now because it combined between the beautiful white-sand beaches, the tropical forests, the turquoise-colored cenotes, the rich history, the great food and the nice and outgoing people. And it was really nice to see with my eyes that it’s really far from its stereotypes shown in the media.

 

 

 

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Adjusting to my new life.

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It’s been two weeks since I found myself alone in the airport with three huge bags and without knowing anyone in this new country. So many things have happened since that day, I’m not alone anymore and Washington DC is not so foreign now.

These two weeks have been great so far. All the expectations I had are coming true, not only about visiting the city but the people I have met. The exchange students are great, everyone has been so nice to me and they have made it so easy for me to feel comfortable. Studying abroad is hard because you live far away from your family and friends but also because  you have to start from the beginning. Nevertheless it was much easier than I thought. Clearly this is thanks to all the leaders that have accompanied us during this week, and also thanks to Hillary and Ami because I don’t know what I would have done without them and all their help.

The orientation week was overwhelming, we did so many different things, it was really like a summer camp but with a lot of information being thrown at us all the time. Back at home we don’t have this kind of things. In Universidad Autonoma de Madrid you’re on your own from day one, but here we had so many people taking care of us I hardly felt I was alone in a new country till the week ended.

So many activities were planned, we had a barbecue the first day, a visit to the Capitol, a tour to Georgetown, and much more things. My favorite ones were the baseball game, not for the game itself because I didn’t understand most of the things that were happening, but because of the atmosphere, and also the night tour to visit all the monuments, the views are breathtaking and the Lincoln memorial is just amazing.

 

The orientation week sadly ended and classes started. At first I was kind of terrified but everything has been really good, and I actually like my classes. The system is different from the one back at home, basically because we don’t have to participate that much and we don’t have so many work to do at home, but I’ll probably get used to it.

 

As we didn’t have any classes on Monday due to Labor Day we decided on going to Philadelphia on Sunday. It was a one day trip but we visited everything we could, like the independence hall, liberty bell, the city hall and more places. We were rushing everywhere because we didn’t want to miss anything but it was worth it. It was fun learning more about the declaration of independence and seeing  the place where United States was born. Also the city was  beautiful, a mixture of old and new architecture that I really loved. I actually recommend you guys to save at least one  day to go to Philly, you’ll love it.

 

 

Philadelphia Bound

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As we near the end of the program everyone is trying to tick as many boxes as possible off their study abroad bucket list. I had been planning to visit my friend at Swarthmore College and so this weekend I headed up to Philadelphia to explore the city and have a catch-up.

The majority of my weekend was spent on Swarthmore campus. It’s interesting to visit friends at different universities as they are always so different to what I am used to. From the acapella groups, battle of the bands, frat parties and dining halls the college culture in America is so different from back home.

As this was my second visit to Philly, I was able to skip some of the tourist sights. Heads up! If you’re planning a trip to Philly I recommend skipping some of the historical stuff (unless you’re a massive US history nerd!). Even as a history student, I still found the Liberty Bell to be underwhelming. There are also so many other interesting cultural activities to explore! Here are a few that are worth checking out:

 

Reading Terminal Market
One of my favourite food markets I’ve ever been to! Has a great selection of foods. Make sure you get a Philadelphia Soft Pretzel as they are absolutely delicious and you get served by authentic Mennonites.

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
Indoor and outdoor art exhibition consisting of mosaic murals and alleyways. $8 for students. Great for photo opportunities.

City Hall
Located in Center City it is definitely worth checking out! Stunning architecture and an iconic building in Philly.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (and Rocky steps)
The PMA has a great selection of art; from a replica Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, one of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Claude Monet’s Japanese Bridge and Water Lilies. Even if you’re not into art it is worth a visit just to see the iconic Rocky steps (I do not recommend trying to run them!)

Food

  1. The Dandelion – for all the Brits studying abroad in desperate need of a Sunday roast!
  2. Tippling Place – doesn’t look like much from the outside but the interior and the beverages are delicious
  3. Tattooed Mom – great vibe, stunning interior and a relatively cheap selection of food and drinks!

 

As Philly is a short bus ride away from DC I definitely recommend visiting during your time here!

Easter Weekend

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Despite Easter not being a national holiday in America we still made the most of the weekend and celebrated with food, friends and family! A friend of mine was visiting from New York so it was the perfect opportunity to explore DC whilst making the most of the holiday.

 

Although we have been in DC for the good part of four months there are still so many things I have yet to see and do. When friends come to visit it gives you the perfect excuse to be a tourist in your own city. So many iconic and historical sights are situated around the Mall and one of the best ways to see the sights is by bike. City bikes are available all over the city and for $8 you get a 24-hour pass (although, make sure you check in every 30 mins else you will be charged an extra $2 every hour). We rented our bikes at the National Mall, checked out the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Korean War Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. We looped around the Tidal Basin, passed the FDR Memorial and ended up at the Jefferson Memorial.

Along with the bikes, we rented paddle boats and spent the afternoon chilling in the middle of the Tidal Basin, soaking up the sun. For only $20 you get an hour in one of the paddle boats (although, it is more if you want the electric swan!) It is definitely worth doing as it gives you stunning views of the Jefferson and the MLK Monument. Make sure you avoid weekends as you will be queuing for around an hour!

On Easter Sunday we were invited to a proper American Easter dinner. We headed up to Columbia, Maryland to a quiet suburban neighbourhood for a feast! It was our first time experiencing a true American home and it did not disappoint! After being away from home for awhile it was nice to spend some time in a familial setting. The food was delicious and dessert was absolutely to die for! It was my first time saying grace, playing catchphrase and having an American Easter

It was not a typical Easter, and yet it was nice to experience it from an American perspective. Although they do not recognise religious holidays on a national scale, they sure do know how to celebrate!