Tag Archives: sightseeing

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)

Into History and Nature

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I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.

So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.

Harper’s Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where  Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour’s drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.

While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.

Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park’s map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you’re an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).

Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather – I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn’t do it justice.

Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!

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!

DC – Cologne Fusion

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After my quite serious and long blog entry last week, this week will be much lighter – I promise. In fact, this will probably be the first time, where I report from my time in DC and at GW from as a proper tourist. The reason? It is simple, I am actually spending all my time with two tourists right now – my friends from Germany. The day of the 25th anniversary of German reunification (10/03/2015) was chosen to have very own little reunion. Well, okay, them being here on such a symbolic day is only a coincidence, but still a very ironic one. Their timing was great or maybe not so much considering that they are here during my Midterm week. We will see how that plays out.

Since they will only stay in DC for a couple of days before we take off to the Big Apple aka New York City, I felt huge pressure on me to show them everything. Initially my goal was to be the best tour guide they ever had. However, my wish was crushed after I noticed that myself is still a bit of a tourist in this city after we jumped into the Red Line going into the opposite direction of our destination twice. I also forgot the way to Shake Shack so that we ended up walking the biggest detour ever shake shack
I like to be positive though, so to look for the silver lining at least they saw much of DC that way. Plus, we had a lot of time to talk.

It is a strange feeling; I’m not going to lie, to walk around with friends from my hometown back in Germany in DC. Walking around with people from Maastricht is different. I just share a different connection to them. My friends from Cologne are people I grew up with. They have witnessed all my good and bad days, have gone through crazy times with me and seen me change and grow. People from Maastricht only know the Bahar of the last two years. They do not know all of me. So having my friends from Cologne here is a strange feeling, because it creates an even stronger bond between us. Now they witness me being here. They can experience some of the things I encounter during my time in DC themselves now. It is not only me telling them about all my experiences as it was the case after my exchange year 6 years ago. They understand me better now and it makes us feel even closer to each other.

Hurricane Joaquin or lets rather say what one could feel from Hurricane Joaquin in DC was not the best sightseeing weather. We still did not let go of the chance to walk passed Obama’s little cabin and take a typical tourist selfie in front of it white house touris.

If shopping counts as some form of sightseeing, too, then we also did a lot of that in Georgetown– according to my friends even too much since they might be broke by now. The bucket list for places my friends have to see has still some important things on it:

 

The National Mall.

Eastern Market and H Street.

U Street with dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The Pentagon.

Georgetown Cupcakes & the Waterfront.

El Chuco.

 

We also walked around the GW campus, which apparently has inspired my friends a lot. They really want to buy a GW sweater now. They are showing full on college spirit.

It is great to have them here. Now I can share my enthusiasm about DC and GW with them directly instead of only awkwardly talking to them via Skype, which 90% of the time consists only of me asking: “Do you guys hear me?”

Being here they hear me clearly and they can see and experience for themselves. They like DC and are very happy. We all are. The major reason is probably that we are together with DC being the icing on the cake.