Tag Archives: sightseeing

Fall break adventures

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Fall Break is coming! Whoaaa! As students, breaks are always the best thing that can happen in school. But before talking about Fall Break adventures, I would like to talk about my recent activities and discoveries in Washington DC. The highlight of my week here in DC is going to Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias’ concert. In Morocco, we don’t usually have such big concerts with famous stars. So, I have always dreamt of going to a big concert like the ones in America. But having my two favorite male singers in one concert was the perfect realization of my dream. The tickets were expensive, but it was so worth it. The concert was insane and I’m so grateful for being here and having the chance to see them singing live.

 

As you may know, midterms are coming. And since I’m so lazy to start studying, I figured out that I need an extra motivation to do so. There was no better place than the Library of Congress. As GWU students, we can register easily and for free to get a library card and have access to the library facilities. Finally, it was a good decision to come here. The library is so beautiful from the inside and it has a very sophisticated style. It is true that the fascinating architecture distracted me from time to time, but it’s such a nice place to study in while keeping playing the tourist.

 

Even the 2 midterms that I have right after the Fall Break wouldn’t stop me to have a nice vacation. The destination for this break was Florida. I spent two days in Orlando and two days in Miami. If you go to Orlando, you’re probably going there for the amusement parks. The main ones are Walt Disney World and Universals Studios. We chose 2 parks in one day option in Universal since we wanted more thrill rides and to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d say that this day was the one in which I had the most fun in the US. It was a really unique experience that you can only get in Orlando. That was one item checked off from my world bucket list.

We ended our trip in Miami. I rented a bed in a hostel in front of the beach. The location was amazing for such a cheap price. I fell in love with that city. The weather is warm and nice and the beaches are beautiful. In general, the city has a chill and vacation vibe. It also has a vibrant nightlife. Once the sky starts to darken, you can hear music everywhere in the streets. Miami reminded me a lot of my hometown Agadir, which is actually located right across the ocean. And since I lived almost all my life in a coast city, going to the beach for Fall Break was the best way to relax and forget about studies. As an exchange student, I feel like studies are not the number one priority but after this, I believe it’s time for me to settle down for a while and start working for my midterms. Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

 

IG: @Sarajebbar

 

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Fall Break

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The Fall Break has been simply awesome. In a short period of time I have done so many things I don’t know even how to start. Me and four other friends decided to go to Florida, but not only to one place, we wanted to go to Miami and Orlando, so that’s what we did.

We started in Orlando, everyone knows that the outlets there are amazing and who does not love shopping? I completely do, so we spent the first day shopping. The outlet was huge, you would need more than a day if you want to go inside every shop, and there were so many sales that the temptation to buy was really big, at least for me and my friends. I bought five pairs of shoes, and I didn’t spend that much. In Spain, brands such as Nike and Adidas are very expensive, but in Orlando I bought a pair of Adidas for 25 dollars when in Spain they cost 80 euros. You can imagine how happy I was that I had found such a bargain.

Other thing everyone know that you have to do if you visit Orlando is going to one of the parks. I am a fan of Harry Potter, so I didn’t have to think about which park we should go, I chose both that have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Island of Adventure, and Universal Studios of Florida. It was quite expensive, 175 dollars for both parks, but as I said, I’m crazy about Harry Potter so I didn’t really mind paying that much. We were kind of scared because it was supposed to rain during the whole fall break, but we were lucky and it only rained when we were finishing the Park, so we could do most of the things we wanted to.

Although both parks were amazing, the main attraction was The Wizarding World. They had all the places from the movies there, from the Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, and everyone was wearing shirts and clothes from Harry Potter. There were many rides and restaurants to eat, everything imitating the films. My favorite ride was the one inside of the castle, it was like you were playing a Quidditch game, and the 3D was amazing. It was like if you were really there.  Even the waiting was good because while you waited you were walking inside the castle. The other thing I loved was that you could take the Hogwarts Express from one park to the other, and it was identical even in the inside. Clearly if you like Harry Potter this is your place. If you don’t like it you would also have a great time. Two of my friend haven’t seen the movies, and they loved it, so I think you should go either way.

 

It has much more things to do than the Wizarding World, two amazing roller coasters for example, water rides, 3D rides, Springfield,  etc. The other ride I loved  was the Jimmy Fallon Show one, it was like if you were racing through New York in a Ferrari and it really felt like it. I was in New York last weekend, and I can say that it felt really close to being actually there,  it was really impressive.

We finished our Sunday going to Disney Springs to walk around and have dinner, there were many restaurants there and it was beautiful to see it at night. Unfortunately we were so tired we didn’t go downtown, I have heard it is really nice but we didn’t have enough time to see it.

 

 

Monday morning we took a bus to Miami. We had the apartment in Ocean Drive, just in front of the beach, so we walked around and took some pictures at the beach.  Then we went to one of my favorite places there, Wynwood Walls. The whole neighborhood has painted walls, and the place where the famous ones are is amazing. I really loved the art, some painted walls were really special and they change some of them during the year. There are only few ones that always stay there.

 

 

We also went to Bayside where we took a cruise to see everything, I loved it, you could see all Miami and the islands from the boat, and the views at night were stunning. They even showed us the millionaires’ houses and a few yachts, it really makes you feel jealous, at the end of the day  everyone wants to be rich. The tour lasted one hour and a half and it cost 25 dollars, which I think is worth it, although it would be better if it was free.

 

 

Our last day was sunny, so we spent it chilling on the beach and enjoying the sun. The beach in Miami is a really good one, and there weren’t many people because it was Tuesday morning, so it was really nice. Then we finished our trip walking down Lincoln Road and visiting some souvenirs shops there.

I really loved Florida and I am planning on coming back,  even if we visited many things, four days is not enough to see everything. The good thing is now I have an excuse to go back.

The city that Never Sleeps

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Do you want to know how last year I was choosing which university to go to during my exchange program? Well, each time I put the name of the university in Google maps, and checked how far it is from New York City since we didn’t have universities in New York offered. It has been always my dream to visit New York City. And I was always intrigued by this city from what I watched in American movies, Tv-shows, pictures… And I finally got the chance to visit it this weekend.

I booked my bus tickets from Wanderu website for 30$ roundtrip and it was 4 hours and a half trip. This weekend was hectic since we wanted to visit all the touristy attractions in such a short period. New York is actually super expensive so we booked our apartment in Brooklyn to save money on accommodation. New York went beyond my expectations.

The highlights of this trip are: Times Square, Wall street, Brooklyn Bridge, Ferry to the statue of Liberty, World trade  Chinatown, Central Park, Top of the Rock view, World trade center, 9/11 memorial…

Times Square was such a terrific place. Now I understand why thousands of people walk through it every day. The flashing neon lights, the street performers, the giant billboards and the tall buildings were simply fascinating. For me, Times Square is the place where you can spend hours without getting bored.

After that, we went to Wall Street. As a finance student, I’ve always wanted to visit Wall Street, the heart of investments and business. I’ve always studied in my finance classes how the financial crisis started in wall street and being able to visit this place along with all the financial attractions (New York Stock Exchange, the charging bull…) meant a lot to me. From there we visited the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.

One activity that I liked a lot was the Staten Island ferry. Basically, it’s a ferry that takes you around the Statue of Liberty and it’s FREE. I really recommend going during sunset. The silhouettes of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline in the golden sky were magical and fascinating. We ended the first day by a dinner in Chinatown and a long walk in the Brooklyn Bridge.

The other activity that I really loved was biking in Central Park. It was one a thing that I had in my US bucket list. For me, Central Park was where the nature meets the city and it was huge. So, riding a bike there was actually really convenient to visit all the popular spots in the park. We also went to the Rockefeller center to get a city view from the Top of the Rock. And again, sunset time was the perfect time to get to see the city during the day, the golden hour and the night. It was 34$ but the view from there was worth every dollar and more. Coming from a country where buildings are relatively short, New York city looked amazing like every postcard picture.

 

A blog post will never describe enough how magical New York was and all the places in there. I would definitely comeback again to visit this city. They were right when they said “In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”

IG:@SaraJebbar

University systems, new cultures and Kayaking

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Time flies, and being here for a month feels like it has been only a week. Thankfully I’m here for the whole year so I have time to experience everything without being in a rush.

This week has been a relaxed one in the new experiences field, so I haven’t done many things, but I had a lot of work to do for class.

I had my first exam on Wednesday and it was easier than I thought it would be. The system here is quite different from the one at home. Here they focus on practice and readings during the year, and the exams are not so difficult. Meanwhile, in Spain you don’t have much work to do during the semester but you’ll have to do well in hard exams in order to get good grades or pass. Normally I barely touch a book until the week before the exams, so in one hand it is better for me in Spain because I have much more free time, but in the other hand I think you don’t learn as much. Here, as you practice every week, you became more familiar with the topics and you acquire permanent knowledge.

I particularly prefer this system because, although I have many things to work on during the week, in the end I feel like I am  benefiting much more.

Even if I didn’t do as many exciting  things as the weeks before, I sure did three that I highly recommend.

First of all,  on Friday morning, we went to Walmart. Yeah, I know, not such an experience. But I recommend you guys go there to buy groceries because is way cheaper than Whole Foods. You can get there by uber and it’s 8$ more or less, so if you’re four it’s perfect. We bought nearly the whole market and it didn’t cost me that much, so if you have to buy many things Walmart is your place.

On Friday evening  it was Starry Night Eid Mela, an event the GW Pakistani Students’ Association organized.  It was at the  Marvin Center at 7:30, there were different dance performances, some of them were typical from Pakistan so I had the chance to get to know the culture better. I did that not only with the dances but also with the food. At the end of the day food is part of our cultures, and the food was amazing. Of course, the whole event was for free so I couldn’t miss it.

 

On Saturday I went to do kayaking to the Georgetown Waterfront. It was one of the best experiences I have had in DC so far. The tickets were 16$ for a one person kayak and 22$ for a double one, so it was quite cheap, and so much worth it. The weather was perfect, it’s better to go when it’s hot and sunny because you get wet while doing it, but don’t worry falling is nearly impossible. We had so much fun racing each other and then chilling. Just being there, without moving, enjoying the atmosphere, relaxing made me feel in peace. We even put some music on while we were rowing along the Potomac river. We ended up having  cupcakes and coffee in Baked and Wired, my favorite place in Georgetown.

I’m definitely doing everything  again, all of you should.

Gym, Kayak, Baltimore trip…

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It’s just the second week of classes and I can tell that studies in GWU are SO intense. We’ve already had a quiz, assignments, case studies, and tons of readings. What’s different in classes in GWU is that I feel like everyone is so passionate about what they’re studying and everyone is participating. Maybe I should consider participating as well if I want to pass my classes T.T. I feel like time is running here in GWU because of the many activities that we’re doing and intense classes that I have.

Since everything is so large in the US especially the food, I decided to subscribe for the fitness classes that the university is offering. It was 80$ a semester but it was totally worth it. I have a variety of classes which I can attend from Zumba, to yoga to bodypump… and a lot of other classes. I think these were the best fitness classes I’ve ever attended thanks to the professionalism of the instructors. For me, it was like one of the famous Youtube fitness classes. In general, it’s a good investment to have fun, relieve stress and prevent from gaining the extra-kilograms.

One of the “must-do’s” in Washington DC is kayaking in the Potomac river. It was one of the most fun activities I’ve done here in Washington. It was 16$/hour for single kayaks. I loved how the scenery in the river is so different from side to side. You can take a shot with the bridge, with the green forest or with the skyscrapers. It felt so peaceful inside the river, away from the city hustle and I would definitely try it one more time.

 

I ended the weekend with a one-day trip to Baltimore with some friends. We used Wanderu website to find the best deals of buses and it costed us 27.5$ round trip. Baltimore is the major city in Maryland known by its seaport. And it’s 1 hour only away from Washington DC so we arrived at 11am. The main place to visit there is the Inner Harbor. It reminded me a lot of my hometown’s harbor. What I loved the most is walking around the waterfront of the harbor and discovering its different sides. We also visited Little Italy which is the Italian neighborhood of Baltimore. It had the cute European style buildings and Italian music and food. Concerning the food, we went to Hard Rock Café. It was my first time and I loved the hard rock vibe that the restaurant was giving and I recommend it 100%. The lunch was really good and I enjoyed: staring at all the guitars hanged in the walls and the hard rock decoration. Our return bus was until 8:25pm so by the end of the day we got really tired from the 18km that we walked around the city and we stayed chilling in front of the water. Baltimore is definitely a must-visit city but I think couple of hours are enough to tour the main places in the city. It reminded me of my childhood with the “Good Morning Baltimore” song in the Hair Spray movie.

 

 

IG:@sarajebbar

Time to Say Goodbye!

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   It has been such an eventful fours months that it seems crazy that it’s all over! It has been a week of last celebrations, reminiscing and goodbyes. As some people head home and others move on to their next
adventures, it’s hard to accept that you’re not going to be spending every day with the same bunch of people that you have come to know and love.

Luckily, it’s not a final goodbye! People may live on opposite sides of the planet but its definitely not the last time you get to see each other. The experiences you share don’t disappear and the bonds you make last a lifetime. That’s the thing about studying abroad – yes you study and yes you are abroad. But it is the people that you share it all with that really make the difference.

Looking back on the semester, it has been packed with protests, parties, food, travel, learning, sport and friends! I got the opportunity to cross so many things off my bucket list! From witnessing the inauguration to participating in the Women’s March and Muslim Ban Protest. Spring Break in Miami to road tripping down South! Watching the Wizards, Tar Heels and Colonials win! Being in central park during a blizzard with no one else around. Pedal boating on the Potomac surrounded by the cherry blossoms. The countless nights spent down at the Lincoln Memorial. And not to forget the more mundane nights (which are also some of the best) of cooking all together in Shenkman Hall.

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn new things (both in and especially out of the classroom), try new things, learn what you like and don’t like, travel, meet people from all over the world! It is six months that you get to attempt anything and everything – fail at some and succeed at others.

It truly has been a great time at GWU, in DC and in the US. Foggy Bottom very quickly became our home that it feels genuinely weird to be leaving. To all those that made the past semester possible – a massive thank-you! And to all those who are about to arrive – enjoy!!!!

Goodbye America – it’s been fun!

 

DistriCt farewell

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 It sounds cliche, but it seriously seemed like last week when we were walking around with our group leaders around DC, taking in the sights and making multiple trips to Target for groceries. Three days ago, I sat for my last final and yesterday, I bade farewell to my home of five months – DC.

The final week was a whirl of meeting up with different groups of friends, trying out new restaurants and revisiting ones we’ve been before. Parties were held, apartments were cleaned and emptied. Sleepless nights weren’t because of cramming for finals, but rather the rush to pack to hit the move-out deadline.

In retrospect, choosing to do my exchange in DC was probably one of the best choices I’ve ever made. From the election rush and the slew of protests in January and February to the proximity of popular spots like Florida that came in really handy during spring break and finally to the host of lawn festivals and restaurant week when warmer weather rolled around in April and May – I constantly found ways to entertain myself regardless of the seasons. GWU presented me with an endless string of opportunities – from joining hikes with student group GW TRAILS to being accepted as a member of a co-ed fraternity to experience Greek Life to attending career fairs and related events, I had reaped immense knowledge and managed to immerse myself in a whole new experience this semester.

Perhaps one of my best memories from DC is visiting the
monuments at practically any time of day. From having picnics on the national mall and reading a book on the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial – these are experiences unique to DC/GWU students (to the envy of many). Bored at night? No problem, round up a few friends and go for a walk of the national monuments basking in moonlight. Feel like you’ve been eating too much recently? The scenic views of your running route along the national mall provide the definitive motivation.

I am grateful for the friendships forged, the memories created and the help I’ve received in navigating these 5 months of independent living. Thank you to everyone who’s made a difference!

Audrey out. (Mic drop)