Tag Archives: Study Abroad

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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Winter is finally here.

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After nearly three months of good weather winter has finally arrived, and this week has been freezing cold. With cold meaning that on Friday we got -4 degrees. However, I really love winter, and the cold too, so it has been a nice week for me.

As always, my week has been the same until the weekend. Friday was really a long day due to all the things I did. We decided that after three moths of being here it was time of visiting the Library of Congress, so despite of the cold we took a bike and went through the National Mall to the library. The National Mall, as always, was mesmerizing with the sundown. I think I will never get tired of taking pictures there. Sadly we didn’t arrive on time to the library, because it closes at 5 pm which is kind of early for me so I didn’t think about it. It seems we will have to go another day.

Later that afternoon, we went to the first basketball game of the season, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. In my university back at home we don’t have “university spirit” and I don’t even think there is an official basketball, or other sport, team. So, it was quite surprising for me seeing so many students there. Of course, the event started with free food, drinks and music on the entrance. The food lasted from 6 pm until 7:30, when the game started, which is pretty awesome.

I loved the game, seeing the cheerleaders, the band and everyone supporting the team. Everything was just like in the movies,  which is one of the things I have always envied of United States’ schools and universities. And to make everything even better we won the game. Needles to say, I’m planing on going to as many games as I can.

On Saturday we went to see the Archive. I have done many things in DC but I have been putting aside all museums and stuff like that, so it is time for me to start visiting all the museums I can. Most of them are free so no one has an excuse to not going. I really liked seeing the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, at the end of the day they are three of the most important documents of United States’ history, and being able to read such old documents is a privilege. In the door there was also an exhibition of army helicopters and you could even sit inside and take all the pictures you wanted. It was a really cool experience.

Sunday was a busy day. We woke up early to go to the Tanger Outlets, some of the other students had told us that thy had good sales, so if you like shopping there is no better place to go. There are lots of shops and most of them have lots of discounts on everything, which is amazing. Nevertheless, it is also bad, at least for me, because you are tempted to buy everything!

We had all the day planned because that was the day the National Harbor´s Christmas Tree was going to be lighted up. We walked from Tanger Outlets to the Harbor, and we stopped to have lunch in the MGM Hotel and Casino, and it was quite an amazing hotel, sadly also too expensive.

National Harbor is just beautiful. I really loved the place, it reminds me of the beach and its atmosphere, which are the best. The afternoon was full of events, with Christmas films playing out in a big screen, an orchestra singing Christmas songs and even fireworks. Sunday was one of my favorite days so far, which probably has something to do with me loving Christmas.

 

 

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Halloween is a huge thing here and last weekend wasn’t everything, not at all. On Monday the exchange leaders prepared an event in the rooftop of 1959 E Street with pumpkins, music, and candy. It had been a long time since all of us were together, now all of us have things to do and I only see some of the exchange students and leaders. So it was really great to meet with everyone again. We had a really good time carving pumpkins, it was my first time and I really had fun, now I have my little pumpkin as decoration in my room.

Tuesday was the real Halloween day, and of course we went to do trick or treat.  A group  from the university planned everything for us, and when we saw on Facebook it was going to be in the embassies we thought there was no better way to spend the day, and we did´t need costumes. So we met in Kogan Plaza and walked to Embassy Row where we started going from embassy to embassy. Some of them only gave  one candy per person because we were many people, but others gave us tons of candy. In most of them there were people disguised, and you could take photos with them. I wasn’t  that exited about trick or treat at first, because in Spain only the kids do that, but it was a good time to get to know more about Washington DC. What most surprised me was all the university students that were doing trick or treat on their own, dressed up with costumes, as I said, in Spain this is not something a university student would do.

 

During the night there was another event in 1959 E Street, with free pizza, cotton candy, and cupcakes. I really love when they do things like this, because is the only way we have to meet people in the hall as we don’t have a dinning room to meet with the rest. Another crazy thing about the United States is that they really have a thing with free food. There is always some type of event with free food in it. You won’t see that happening any time soon in Spain. I think that is probably because we don’t have clubs as they have here, so no one is up for preparing anything. After all, students are much more invested in university activities here.

The rest of the week was as any other, although we went to Georgetown on Thursday to buy clothes for winter as the weather is finally getting colder, the rest was all about writing all the papers I have for next week.

However, on Saturday we tried something different and went to a coffee shop to study. It is especially prepared for that, with books everywhere, and enough space for you to study. It is called Busboys and Poets, and you can also have lunch there. In the afternoon we went to Arlington National Cemetery. I had never been there before, and I have to say I was impressed. There were so many rows of tombs creating a beautiful picture, being autumn made everything even better with the beautiful colors of the trees. Visiting it is a must of the things you have to do in Washington DC.

On Sunday we went to have brunch. We went to a place called Ted’s Bulletin, and I love this place. The food was amazing. But it was crowded, so maybe you need to make a reservation beforehand. Anyways, it was one of the best brunch I have ever tried.

Other exchange students had told me about running in the National Mall, and how awesome it is. So to finish my week I decided to go for a run instead of going to the gym. I’m not used to running, but I enjoyed it anyway. Of course I had to stop to take some photos because the monuments at night are breathtaking. I’m definitely doing it again.

Being touristy in DC

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It has been more than two months that I’ve been in DC and I still feel like I didn’t visit all the parts of the city. Two months without visiting any museum made realize that I need to discover more places in Washington DC.

I started my week by going to the Embassy row trick or treat in Halloween. It’s one of the things that you can only do in DC, so I went for it. I really liked how each Embassy welcomed us with candies and got to present its country. I also enjoyed stacking a huge amount of candies that I still have now by the end of the week. If you’re in DC in Halloween, make sure to walk through the Embassy Row.

I also decided to finally visit some museums in the city. I started by visiting The National Museum of Natural History and it was really interesting. It got a diverse human, animals, and rocks collections. It showed different species of mammals, ocean creatures, insects and historical bones. It also exhibited the history of the human evolution and human origins. So, if you’re curious about the natural world and its discoveries, the National Museum of Natural History will be the best for you. I also visited the National Gallery of Art. Even if I don’t understand much about art, I would say that the pieces of art in the gallery were really beautiful. From paintings to sculptures, everything was so sophisticated and really beautiful. They represented the art in different centuries from different countries and artists. After visiting these two museums, I made a list of all the museums I want to visit before the semester ends (hopefully).

In addition to that, I visited the United Sates Botanic Garden. Basically, it’s a plants’ museum where you can find different species of plants. I really enjoyed walking through all the types of plants and get to know more of them. It also felt like a tropical jungle so it was nice to be there and forget the city’s cold weather that day. I also took the opportunity this weekend to ride a bike around the city. I really love the foliage of Washington DC’s and its colors during the Fall season. I really appreciate how good it was to visit the city in that beautiful scenery.

And the best way to finish this week was definitely attending the concert of Imagine Dragons in Capital One Arena. I feel really lucky to be in a city where there are many concerts happening. After Katy Perry, Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias, I had to experience more of US concerts. It’s true that the tickets are really expensive but the cheapest way to get them is waiting until the last minute. That concert gave me chills in many songs and hearing Imagine Dragon performing live was the best thing that happened to me this week.

IG: @sarajebbar

Halloween Week

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I know it’s not the Halloween week yet, but in the US they start celebrating it the whole month of October and especially this week. In Morocco, we celebrate many holidays during the year. So, coming from a cultural-rich region makes holidays my favorite period of the year. I was so excited to experience Halloween in the US since in my country we’re not used to celebrate it. We only have some parties going on the night of Halloween and that’s all. But here, it’s a whole new level.

During the week, there were many Pre-Halloween events organized by the university. Donuts, apple cider and candies were served everywhere for FREE. The scary Halloween decorations were all over the places on campus. They also organized a pumpkin carving event in which you can carve your pumpkin and take it with you for free. Me and my roommates decided to take 2 pumpkins home to get in the spooky vibe. There was also that event that I really loved in Kogan Plaza where they served popcorn, cotton candies, pizzas, burgers, and a lot of candies. Being the foodie person that I am, Halloween celebration was happiness for me and I wouldn’t tell you much candies I brought home with me to survive the next days. And to get more in the Halloween vibes, we also decided to bake ghost-themed brownies and share them with our friends.

Even if it’s not Halloween yet, there were a lot of parties organized this weekend. But I wasn’t very lost between my options since they were already limited because of my underage. I was so confused about my costume but at the end I went for the mainstream skeleton. We had so much fun and it was definitely much more better than the Halloween parties we have in my country. It was also really funny to see people in all types of costumes walking DC’s streets during all the nights of the weekend. I’d say that Halloween is definitely my favorite holiday and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next Tuesday in the actual day of Halloween.

Haloween weekend

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As all of you know halloween is a huge thing here in United States, in Spain we don’t even celebrate it. Maybe when you are a child you do trick or treat but that is all. Normally what I do with my friends is watch a  scary movie, that is how all of our halloweens are. But here everything is different.

We started our week by going to the cinema to watch a scary movie, Happy Death Day. Yes I know, I’m always going to the cinema but I love it so we have decided to go once a week. Anyway, the film wasn’t that scary, there were even funny parts in it, although some scenes really creeped me out. It wasn’t the best movie ever, but it wasn’t that bad either.

Halloween parties are also a huge thing here, and all the clubs had scary themes nights. I usually don’t tell you about parties because after all they are all the same, but I really wanted to talk to you about this place. That night, we didn’t get inside any club because it was too late, so we went searching for food, and we found Crepeaway. I have to tell you guys, this place is amazing, not only because they sell crepes, but because at night it was better than a club. Everyone was dancing on the tables like crazy, and you could ask for any song you wanted. They put every song we asked for, and we stayed there until it closed at 3.  On Fridays it closes at 4 so it is even better.

On Friday afternoon we went to see Georgetown university, I really liked it, but I think being in the center of the city is way better. However, I think our university is not that typical (film like) because of that, after all you can’t have a normal campus just three blocks from the White House.

After that, we came back to campus because there was an event in Kogan Plaza called Boo Bash. It was an event created by some students groups and it was awesome. There were lots of free food, pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, and cookies. Also they made a costume contest and other giveaways. They even had a photo booth with hats and things to put on for the photos. And two acappella groups sang a few songs making the evening even better. They also had planned a movie night outside, but we found out too late. We stay there chilling out for a while and then we went partying.

After that my whole weekend was about partying and painting my face because I didn’t have a proper custom. Overall I really have to say I like Halloween way better here than in Spain. Also I love seeing pumpkins everywhere and all the other decoration.

2 Months in DC

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Finally, I have finished all my midterms. I had all of them during this week so I could summarize my week with me being stressed out and studying all the time. Thankfully I finished on Friday and I didn’t do bad on my exams.

It has been already two months since I’m in Washington DC, and I love this city more and more each day. Although I spent all my week studying, the weekend has been eventful. On Saturday, I woke up at 7 am to go see The White House Gardens, they did a tour around the gardens for free so I couldn’t say no to a chance to take a closer look at the White House. We had to wait for a little bit, but it was completely worth it. We were so close it felt unreal, however I wish I could be able to get inside,  I know people that have been inside and they told me it is amazing. The gardens were huge, and there were photos all around showing President Trump having events in the gardens, they even had an orchestra playing in the garden. Also the views of the Washington Monument were breathtaking. I can’t imagine living in a house with those views.

During the afternoon, we went to the Blacklight Run, and it was so much fun. It was $25, but I would definitely pay again for it. It is basically a run in which you have powder and you can throw it to everyone, also during the race there are people throwing  powder at you. And in the end, when you finished there was a DJ, like a huge party with powder flying everywhere. It is really a experience I would recommend to anyone. You end up being a mess but that is the best part. It was a 5 kilometer race, but if you don’t like running you can do it walking, lots of people didn’t run and had fun anyways. There were also food trucks so you could also have dinner there, everything was perfectly prepared.

On Sunday we started by having an ice cream sandwich in Captain Cookie. I had never tried one before, and I loved it. It is like ice-cream but with cookie, the perfect combination. It costs 5 dollars but you won’t regret it, I swear.

Then we rented bikes to go around the National Mall, and to  see the Jefferson Monument. Half an hour is free and you have lots of stations everywhere to leave the bike and take it again. An hour is 2 dollars which is quite cheap in my opinion. The day was wonderful and I loved biking around DC. This was my first time seeing the Jefferson Monument, and it is my favorite one so far. I loved Lincoln’s too, but seeing Jefferson’s one from the other side of the water is simply beautiful.