Tag Archives: Study Abroad

A good week for walking

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It’s been another good week for walking around.

The media department at GW allows students in set film classes to rent out equipment for free, which you might remember I took advantage of a few weeks ago to film my roommate Javier buying and eating the first bagel of his life.

Honestly hours of editing for this.

While it was definitely a good time, the film camera I used for that video was impractically large for my purposes this week, so I went for a more compact Nikon DSLR —a D3300 for any camera-nerd readers. After an hour-or-so of YouTube tutorials I was ready to take it out to test, and opted to do so on one of my late-night monument walks. I’ve been in the habit of walking around the mall at night once or twice a week, usually when I can’t justify spending money, and I got a kick out of learning the tricks of the camera on the quiet streets of DC.

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Game for the more observant readers: spot the rat.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to go out and do it again on Saturday night. This was the surprising one for me, because I’d unknowingly walked right into the middle of a hippie festival camped out beside the Washington Monument. Literally camped out; they’d set up tents, art installations, a couple of dance floors, and a whole bunch of weed and LGBT flags. This was exactly the kind of weird stuff I enjoy finding, and a great opportunity to test my ability to snap pics in a bizarre low/high light environment. I even took the camera settings off auto for some of them.

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If 8th-grade English taught me anything, it’s that juxtaposition is the name of the game.

Of course after leaving my hippie comrades at about 3 a.m. I had to try and sleep, because I’d naively signed myself up for rock climbing with TRAiLS on Sunday—It was actually the reason I loaned the camera in the first place. I managed to get up on time to make the trip, and the climbing itself was a bunch of fun. After the trips I’ve taken with those guys this semester I’ve got to say that TRAiLS deserves every bit of funding they get; they never disappoint.

I’ve also got to conclude that, for a student, there’s no need to use a bulky film camera when the college has the Nikons available. My one was easier to use, less than half the size and weight, and it could take decent photos as well as video. My professor never even mentioned it was an option, but I’d be willing to bet he won’t be able to tell the difference from the footage. If you’re at GW now or you’re heading over for exchange, do yourself a favor and take a film class. The workload is manageable and you get access to a bunch of cool stuff for free. What’s not to love about that?

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The end is right there!

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“The end is right there!” Every professor said this phrase this week, thinking that it would make students happy… The idea of me leaving scares me. I just got used to this new way of life, this American lifestyle which helps you to define yourself, allows you to discover great opportunity and much more. Me leaving this and being happy? No!

Anyways, I can remember every detail of my last post which shows how fast time is flying. More changes have come to my new way of life. In fact, I believe there is a strong correlation between the amount of time left in the US and the amount of cash in my wallet. Therefore, I can say goodbye to my Vanilla Latte every morning. Instead, I started cooking nice omelets thanks to the $1,12 egg box at Trader Joe’s. Also, I never knew why we associate students’ diet to pasta, now I know. I make pasta every day. First, it was tedious because it took me a lot of time and the end result wasn’t very good. Now, in my humble opinion, I’m a chef. Room 602 is now officially Ristorante Marrochino!

This week has been one of the most important weeks of this American political year. Although I don’t understand much the American political landscape, I went to an event organized by Prof. Porter where we enjoyed discussing the outcomes of these elections while savoring some pizza slices. I knew that the Democrats had to win a lot of seats to take control of the Senate but it wasn’t the case. In fact, it was a win-win situation for both parties. One of the good news of these elections is the number of women elected to the House of Representatives.

As I have a couple of exams next week, I went to several tutoring sessions at Gelman. It was particularly interesting to have someone else than the professor who re-explains the lecture in a way that I can understand. It’s free, efficient and very helpful.

This weekend, I went shopping and I bought some gifts for my relatives. Finally, the good news of the week is that I am invited to Mr. Leblanc’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving. Cant’ wait to eat that turkey tight!

Also, what’s going on with the weather? Anyways, I have my solution for it:

PS: 0°C= 32°F 🙂

 

Halloween

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After long weeks of hot and humid weather, the beautiful Washington D.C. is getting ready for the cold weather. It embellished with the colors of Fall, making the National Mall even more amazing. Everything turned to red, yellow and orange. In fact, most of the grocery stores are selling pumpkins because guess what? It is Halloween!

Being in the US for Halloween is an incredible and joyful opportunity. This special day represents so much for me since it is reminiscent of my childhood. I have always wished to ask candies to people and wearing scary costumes but unfortunately, in Morocco, it is not a big day. Halloween reminds me of those nights where we organized pyjama parties and we get scared the whole night, it was fun but we were 8. Being 20 for Halloween suggests another atmosphere. First of all, no more scary costumes. I was told that in the US, you can wear any costume as long as it’s not your normal clothes. I saw doctors, soldiers, dogs… Mine was basic but I liked it. I bought it on the 31st and I was pretty nervous because I was afraid that I couldn’t find any so I went to Crystal City in a shop called Total Fright where I got a Phantom of the Opera mask and a sort of skull necklace.

Wearing the Phantom of the Opera mask I could only go to Opera that night. It was an unforgettable night.

This week, I was very happy that I could finally make my own app! It was a hard work but it paid off. The app I made is nothing lucrative or exceptional. It is a tool for DC and Arlington inhabitants to use the metro easily. Basically, given two inputs, origin and destination, it tells you which line you should take, the station you should enter and leave. I am really using it sometimes but still don’t know how to include ads in it…

As usual, I always take my Sundays easy. I always go to the Mall to observe nature and have conversations with my friends and family on the phone. It was a great Sunday this week, a calm and sunny day that makes us prepare for the big event of the year: the Midterms elections.

Until then enjoy these beautiful pictures of the Mall’s trees and see you next week.

Rocky Appalachian Spooks

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Halloween 2.0 was a strange week for sure; it proved to me how valuable it can be to improvise and make an effort to seek out new experiences. Halloween on Wednesday went more-or-less as expected. The costumes and the partying were great fun, but it wasn’t til a late decision to go to the Rocky Horror showing on Thursday that things became genuinely memorable.

People that’ve been doing Rocky for years know what it’s all about, but I was going off hearsay and vague recollections of the movie when I asked some friends to go to the show. The $5 investment was low enough for us not to mind the ambiguity, and it’s a good thing we didn’t—It really is as weird as people say. My roommate Javier thought he was going into some run-of-the-mill amateur theater production, so he was even more surprised than I was when 20 students ran out in lingerie to dance on random members of the audience. I was unlucky enough to get picked out at the start. It’s definitely something worth seeing for yourself: $5 well spent.

Friday was a second Halloween party, relatively similar to the first. I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the National Archives that afternoon, which was more memorable for the number of middle-schoolers wearing MAGA hats than it was for the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Of the 30-ish students in the museum, about 10 had some sort of Trump-brand headwear. One kid had gone the extra mile with a matching MAGA hoodie. If it weren’t for the ban on photography in the Archives or the creepiness of photographing 12-year-olds I’d have snapped a pic to prove it.

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Little did I realize I’d be more offended by the gift shop

Before arriving at the the Archives we were held up getting past the White House. The entire north wing of the Mall was closed off and a crowd had formed at the south end. When we asked what was happening we were shown a huge helicopter parked on the lawn outside the White House. Turns out it was Marine One; Trump was flying out that afternoon to rallies in some midterm battleground states. We hung around long enough to see him step inside and fly off from a distance. That’s probably the closest I’ll get to the president while I’m in the US—excluding that time his convoy held up my Uber for 5 minutes.

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$10 says he brought golf clubs for the trip

The final big event for the week, and the one that exceeded my expectations the most, has to be the Sunday TRAiLS trip I took to go caving in West Virginia. I’d snagged the last spot in the van when I applied on Tuesday and was hesitant on whether it’d be worth the $45 and the 3-hour drive. It absolutely was.

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Wholesome GW activities

We were told to pack clothes we didn’t mind losing in the mud, but I had no idea the sheer quantities of it we’d be exposed to. It makes sense when you think about it; caves are formed from water flow, but the way the rocks transitioned from damp to slick to grimey to pure mud was a lot more than I was expecting. Thankfully I’d chosen to go with a Walmart flannel and $15 jeans, anything else would’ve been painful to lose. By the time we got out 3 hours later we were all caked in it. The tiny gaps in the rocks you have to get through down there don’t allow for being precious with your clothes. You either slide along your stomach and brace your ass against muddy walls for support, or you don’t get to go deeper. 

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Not the tightest gap we squeezed through, but the best facial expression

Halloweekend

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Bernie Sanders’ book tour is coming through GW next month, and the news of free tickets brought students out in droves. The box office was set to open at 12:00 on Thursday last week, but when my roommate and I arrived at 10:40 there were already over 100 people there. By noon there were closer to 1000. It’s not hard to see why people are so enthusiastic about it here, my media classes are understandably packed with political discussions and the I’ve met several people involved with explicitly or tangentially political associations.

In my first blog post this semester I said that I was looking for exciting and unique experiences from DC, and after two months I’m confident in saying that GW has delivered. While I still think Hasan Minhaj underperformed as a comedian, I can’t fault his drive to send a message. He filled a basketball arena with close to 1000 students and kept them engaged through what was essentially an hour-long anti-Trump pro-refugee lecture. A free ticket to Bernie was well worth the two hour wait for me, I look forward to writing about it.

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Damn socialists at it again

This week has also been my first real experience of Halloween. Most Americans don’t know this, but Halloween basically doesn’t exist for most of the world. At home in Australia there might be a handful of parties and a few kids trick-or-treating each year, but we’re talking tiny numbers. It’s not a national holiday by any stretch; seeing a carved pumpkin would be a bizarre novelty to most Aussies.

A handful of exchange leaders took charge and organised some stuff at 1959 last weekend. It was my first taste of a Halloween being taken seriously, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. Most of the exchange students there hadn’t ever experienced it before either, so it did take a while for us to work out what the deal was. The smell of freshly-carved pumpkin is a strange thing to the uninitiated.

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Solid first attempt

I’m looking forward to more Halloween fun this week. I’ve still got a bunch of assignments to soldier through, but I’m confident that they won’t stop me getting the cultural experience I came here for. Still have to wait almost a month for Bernie though.

Fall in D.C.

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This is it, fall arrived. The nice weather we knew when we came here is gone now. I can’t realize how fast time is flying, and I can’t believe that I’m leaving the US in almost two months. It’s time to review what I did so far and to make a quick assessment of my experience abroad.

From my window, I can see the leaves of the trees turning from green to a kind of yellow. But leaves aren’t the only one who changed. In fact, since I am here, I noticed that a lot of things changed in my way of life. I think that living in the heart of the nation’s capital and going from time to time to NYC, makes you become “American” quicker than living in any other American city. If we talk about food, I can say that food here really changed me, literally. I gained 4 pounds since I came here. Well, it’s sort of understandable when you have Chick-Fil-A on campus and a Subway downstairs. Also, I have a new habit now, I can’t go to class without a Vanilla Latte in my hands. Back in Morocco, I used to drink only strong coffees but here… I got Starbucksized.

From the study perspective, I am very happy that I took such great courses. On the first hand, my psychology class is really interesting and fascinating. Although the exams are not always easy, the content of the chapters allows me, now, to understand better my behavior and some of my actions. On the other hand, my computer science class, a more pragmatic approach, is by far my best class here. I get along with my classmates and my superb professor. A good thing about American people and mentality, that I noticed especially in NYC, is that they hate wasting time. They are always to the point. Even when they speak, their phrases are a sequence of shortcuts, and they love approximations. “I was like…”, “sort of”, “kind of”, “for some reasons”, “a bunch of stuff” How much is a bunch? What’s a stuff? I don’t know… (Gad El Maleh, American Dream)

In a nutshell, my experience is not done yet, and yet, I have learned so many things, made so many acquaintances and seen great things. I’m looking forward to knowing more about the American culture especially with the upcoming events (Halloween, the Midterms, Thanksgiving…)

P.S: Don’t be surprised if I write another post about NYC, we never get tired of this city…

Midterminal

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Exciting times continue at GW with another extremely busy week. Assignments are coming and going really quickly now; I’ve got to knock up an obituary for newswriting, a 30-second ad for video production, and an interactive digital timeline for web design by the end of this week. Don’t think that’ll keep me from doing this blog though—I know my priorities.

The video production one has been the most fun so far. Aside from being significantly less morbid than the obituary and less technical than the webpage, I’ve been having a blast messing around with the expensive cameras at the media department here. As a student there I’m entitled to loan the equipment out for free, and this is the kinda stuff I’m never getting my hands on otherwise. The Sony film cameras they use retail for about $3500 (despite the replacement cost being closer to $5000 if we break one) so it’s a definite improvement over my beaten up iPhone 6 camera.

I elected to make the ad about GW’s own Leo’s Deli, my go-to bagel destination for early-morning classes. I discovered my roommate Javier had never had a bagel in his life, so his pilgrimage to G Street made for an easy narrative. Not to mention I consider it my civic duty to make sure everyone knows the joy of a deli bagel.

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Look at the Spaniard go. No more paellas for you pal—you’re in America now.

It’s also been another big week for events. I got tickets to the Brockhampton concert on Tuesday and it was a riot. People were getting panic attacks in the mosh, losing shoes and shirts and sweating like pigs. Trying to reach the front at a gig like that is a futile task. Once I gave up on the mosh about half way I was able to appreciate the music a bit more, and it was worth hearing the tracks in their full glory. They really are the hardest working boyband in the world today. Get around it.

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Keep up the good work Kevin

Got a Formula1 viewing party with my friends at AU later today. More European than American I know, but there aren’t exactly any NASCAR events going on near DC—I gotta take what I can get. If it’s eventful I’ll be sure to put a rundown in next week’s update, but right now I’ve got 45 minutes to bang out an obituary. Know any fun dead people?

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This well-bearded chap can be found at the National Portrait Gallery. I feel you, man.