Tag Archives: Life @ GW

My second week in DC


This week was very exciting. I started classes and I had the privilege of hanging out with a member of my family in Washington, DC. My cousin traveled from New York to DC just to see me since she was on vacation. I was so happy to see her here in a completely different environment from Morocco. We got to visit new places, activities, and delicious food.

My cousin Salma was staying at a hotel only ten minutes away from my dorm. Our first day together, we had dinner at a burger restaurant called Shake Shack. It was delicious, especially their well-known cheese fries. Later that night, we walked around and sat by the fountain at the U.S. Navy Memorial Plaza. On the second day, we went to Georgetown and I was a tour guide this time as we navigated around the clothing stores and restaurants. Salma and I had Thai food for the first time near the Watergate Hotel.

Our first day of classes will always be remembered by a crazy fire alarm “May I have your attention, please. There is a fire emergency reported in the building. Please exit the building by the nearest exit. Do not use the elevator.” That was how I started my first day of class at George Washington University. We had to stand on the street so that the firefighters can enter the building. The police officers monitored the residents outside. I posted a video on my social media and people thought I was at a movie filming. The alarm started at around 4 am in the morning, so I was very tired that day.

Classes at GWU were exactly as I expected. This semester I am taking psychology, software design, stress management, golf, yoga, and cycling. I am very thrilled about my classes because they are allowing me to try new interests. I was so surprised to see my classmates which are all diverse. The professors are nice, knowledgeable, and willing to help as much as they can. The first class I went to was cycling, unfortunately, it was not outdoor cycling, but I still enjoyed getting my cardiovascular workout. The next class I had was Software Design, I was amazed by the engineering students’ high level of experience and knowledge. I also had a psychology class that I consider my favorite because of the interesting material. My golf and yoga classes are fun as well because I have never tried either of them. The stress management class is helping me learn relaxation techniques and controlling levels of stress.

On Salma’s final days in DC, we had coffee in Dupont Circle and last but not least we visited the Smithsonian National Park/Zoo. We got to see all types of animals such as elephants, pandas, lions, reptiles, and much more. I was surprised by the amount of interest people have on pandas here. I had a lot of fun exploring with my cousin Salma, it was a highlight of my week to have her here with me in Washington, DC.


My first week in Foggy Bottom


When I woke up after my first night in Foggy Bottom, and I found myself on E Street in DC I wasn’t believing myself…

 It was my first week at GWU! This week has been very intense in term of activities and emotions. (FACT: According to my cell phone, I walked 13 miles every day and I burned 1500 calories daily). I will try to cover every aspect of this week in this post.

The first thing that got my attention this week was the international students. International students in GWU are such a great resource. In less than a week, I got some basic notions in Chinese, learned some cultural facts about Argentina, understood the relationship between Australia and New Zealand. I spoke German, Spanish, French, Arabic. It is very diverse and doing this exchange in Washington, DC is a kind of exchange in the world.

We visited some important monuments of the capital. We went to the capitol, that big white breast where all the American laws are voted. During the presentation, I felt some strong emotions for the particularity of the United States and its history. It was fascinating to learn about how all the states merged and even going through civil wars and other obstacles, the nation ended up to be one.

Another important event this week was my birthday. Who ever thought that I would turn 20 on a rooftop in Washington DC looking at the Washington Monument and the US Department of State? Being in DC for my 20th birthday was the best gift I could have had. When I went to the Philips Hall for the ExO Leaders’ presentation, all the international student wished me happy birthday and I thank every one of them for that great moment.

I went to Georgetown, an amazing neighborhood in DC that reminds me of Europe. The M Street is amazing. It has so many stores that are connected to each other. I felt that everyone knows everyone. It is such a great place for a walk on a Sunday.

We went to the baseball game and it was so interesting to discover a new side of the American culture. In fact, when we got to the stadium, the focus wasn’t only on the game but the atmosphere surrounding it was astonishing. People were eating, laughing, drinking and it was so great to see plenty of people having fun. Of course, I don’t understand baseball’s rules, but still, I had a very good time.


Fun fact of the week: I saw the vice-president of the USA on “The Beast”; He was just in my street.

Ultimately, this week has been fun and very rich and the credits go the amazing Exchange Orientation Leaders who did such an amazing job and the ISO!


Spoons Week


I’ve lived in Australia all my life. Even having moved around quite a lot, I’m used to things having a reliable price-range that I can work around and a stable ratio between one item and another. With the exception of seasonal fruits and cryptocurrencies, things generally retain a relative value.

Cue American pricing. High school econ taught me that consumers are supposed to actively choose, but the reality of it has been drastically different for me since I got here. That relative value I’ve been relying on just doesn’t seem to apply here. I set myself up with a spare week in New York prior to orientation at GW, and was shocked to find that things just didn’t line up at all—a food cart avocado can be $1, with the cheapest tortilla chips costing $4. I had no idea I was coming to a country where I can load up on guac but have to be stingy with the chips.

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I got this platter for $5 in New York―one block from where CVS charges $3 for a pint of milk

Australian supermarkets vary in price, but this is on another level. People will literally charge you double what the store down the road is charging like it’s nothing. If we had that, there’d be a city-wide run on one chain until the other had closed down or conceded to within ~10% of the competitors’ price—and they’d have to beat them on something else to stay in business. It was this variance that led most of us to Walmart; a decision I’m still on the fence about.

Having been to big-box stores throughout Australia I thought I knew what to expect, but their designers’ ability to construct lanes a half-inch wider than their trolleys is a piece of cost-cutting design that still makes me shiver. It didn’t help that we went a few days before start of semester, so basically every essential homewares item was sold out—culminating in some questionable communal cutlery calls.

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Something needs to be done about the spoon-to-bowl ratio

Putting that aside, O week has been extremely positive. The ExO leaders and the exchange staff each had useful stuff to bring to the table, so I didn’t resent the daily meetings. Gotta say we probably didn’t need an hour-long summary of every food option on campus though, particularly when the conclusion was “people like different food”.

Presentations and orientation are a necessary evil, and I’m glad we had an organised group to run it. The painful parts weren’t the fault of GW; The guy serving me at BOA definitely had a sly grin as he signed me up. The best parts were also particularly notable. This is a spectacularly aesthetic city; it seems like any picture taken on the mall comes out great by default.

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O week presentations are the gift that keeps on giving

Here’s to Syllabus week…

GWU, here I come!


Once I received my DS 2019 form, carried in a beautiful blue folder with the majestic name of the university on it, I knew my journey began. A beautiful journey that every student would have dreamed of. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on the adventures I’ll be living. So let’s get started, I think it’s time for you to get to know to me, my background, my thoughts, and to understand how much this means to me.

My name’s Yassine and I am that guy who fell in love with American culture in his childhood. In fact, the American movie industry, as well as the achievements of young Americans today, inculcated notions of the so-called “American Dream” within me.

Before getting to this, I was a simple kid born in Rabat, capital of Morocco- the most beautiful country in Africa famous for its cultural diversity, its colors, its beaches, old cities and its Californian weather. Since I was a kid, I never liked reading books. Instead, I was looking at the images which made more sense to me than black characters on white paper. Looking at images enhanced my observation skills and significantly improved my critical thinking. I also have played piano since I was 5. Although I was a Moroccan kid, I had a French education in the popular “Lycée Descartes”, a very symbolic French high school in Morocco.

Moving to the college that follows the American system in Morocco, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, choosing Computer Science as a major, hoping to create the next social network or something like that, boosted my desire to go to the US.

Okay, I guess you know who I am now. So I’m going on a journey, unfortunately, one limited to one semester but still, have you heard any student from a different university than GW saying “I live three blocks from the White House”? No, I don’t think so. I’m expected to discover every aspect of the American culture, making friends from all over the world, roadtripin’,  partying, studying, EATING!! Isn’t that a great motivation to come study here?

I believe that I have so much to learn from this great adventure that I will be living. Opportunities like this one are very rare and I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with you!

Stay tuned.



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My name is Angus Mackintosh, arriving in DC from Melbourne Australia. I’ve submitted my digital signature a dozen times, mastered the art of taking blank-faced headshots against a white background, and my last real obstacle is a 27-hour flight and a greyhound. This should be the easy part. The worst of the bureaucracy is behind me and I’m calling it a win.

I’ve only actually lived in Melbourne for a year-and-a-half. Perhaps it’s a little early to be abandoning ship for the states, but we live in historic times. Australia is fairly stagnant; our Prime Minister is neither good or bad enough to warrant much attention, and our biggest public crisis seems to be a handful of ball-tampering Cricket players—certainly not one for the history books. So long as Australian media is on autopilot echoing US news, I might as well be in the US.

Aus parliament 1The only royalty-free image of Australian parliament in session is from when Obama came to speak. Google it.

What better time to be a student in your nation’s capital? I saw one of the bloggers last semester got to sit-in on the Zuckerberg hearing; that’s the kind of historic stuff I’m looking for. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking to hope for too much, but one way or another I’ll make something memorable out of it.

In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter Thompson famously went in search of the American Dream—but that wasn’t really the point, was it? He didn’t really want or need to track the zeitgeist of the time. In fact, he spends most of the book describing the delusions of everyone around him; collectively failing to see it for what it was. Dozens of authors have written books on a similar premise—Everyone wants to know what America is, but none of them can agree. It’s this ambiguity that’s forced me to come and see for myself.


My college at home: perpetually under construction. Maybe it’ll be done when I get back.

I’ve experienced Australian colleges & boarding schools and my degree hasn’t yet reached peak difficulty; this might be the best chance I get. Aussie dollars aren’t worth as much as they could be, but I’ve got a tasty interest-free government loan to mop up the excess. Let’s see how it goes.




Preparing for Final Papers and Exams


  These few weeks might be the busiest weeks for all the university students because everyone starts to burn the midnight oil to prepare for the final exams and papers. Although it is an extremely exhausted period, I encourage myself to keep working hard until the end of the semester. While preparing for those finals, I discover that some teaching approaches professors take here are so different from those in Taiwan.

    For example, according to my own experience, what I really appreciate the professors in GWU is that they often provide study guides for students before quizzes and exams. By doing so, I can follow the guide and get prepared for all the materials that the professors want us to understand and memorize. Due to the study guide, I will not feel too nervous because I know I am on the right track. Providing a study guide is not so common in my home university. At least for my own experience, instead of a detailed study guide, in most cases, I was only informed of a rough range of page numbers that the professors might choose to make some questions.

    In addition, what I also appreciate is that professors here provide a clear description and rubric for the assigned papers. As a result, I have a clear understanding of what the professors expect me to write in my papers, and I know the grading standards in advance, so I can rearrange my paper as many times before I submit them in order to get a good grade. In my home university, it is also rare to get so detailed information about our assignments. Most of the time, professors just told us the title and the rough idea of what we should write. Therefore, I often feel anxious about whether I am doing right.

 I hope more professors in my home university can adopt the teaching methods that I just mentioned, for it is a win-win to both professors and students. By doing so, students can be more well prepared and submit rather high-quality papers; on the other hand, professors can grade the papers smoothly because the final papers have already been proofread by the students.

Getting Away from The Hustle and Bustle (2)


  In addition to Old Town Alexandria and the Botanical Garden, there are two more places in my pocket list where I recommend you to go if you want to get away from the city life for a while.

  1. Arlington National Cemetery:

  Arlington National Cemetery is a place to honor American soldiers who sacrificed their lives to save their nation. Instead of horror, I felt a sense of tranquility and also a bit of sadness when thinking of so many families that were torn apart during wars. If you go there, you are recommended either to climb up the mountain on foot to visit the famous spots like Tomb of the Unknowns or John F. Kennedy Grave Site, or hopping on a trolley and listen to the tour guide’s introduction of the cemetery’s history. Remember to be quite and pay respect to others because it is a place for people to honor the dead and memorize the past.

  1. Washington National Cathedral:

    Washington National Cathedral is the sixth largest in the world and it is a Gothic style Cathedral built of Indiana limestone. The gorgeous architecture, beautiful stained glasses, chapels, and many others are worth visiting. I was really amazed by how huge and beautiful it is when I stepped in the building. No matter you have a religious background or not, it is a great option to sign up in the tour and listen carefully to the history and stories of the Cathedral. Although I paid the admission fee to enter the Cathedral, I feel no regret because it is really a must visit. The breath-taking decorations and architecture along with the religious atmosphere gave me a sense of peacefulness. I felt it was a pity that I could not share more pictures with you because it is not allowed to take photos in the Cathedral.