My Study Abroad Experience: Washington DC, USA

Written by Wendy, a Religion, Politics & Society student.

At the end of this long academic year, I decided to finally de-clutter my email inbox. Initially, I thought this was going to be a boring task, going through countless notifications. Little did I know, that me scrolling through my inbox was a virtual trip down memory lane. I suddenly became nostalgic when I read the email from the Global Mobility Office which notified me of my successful application to study for in Washington DC for a semester.

Ever since I started studying here at King’s it never crossed my mind to study abroad. I already moved here from Italy, so going abroad felt redundant and unneeded. Now, in hindsight, I realise that it was an invaluable experience and I want to pass on how amazing my experience was.

I studied at the George Washington University for the Fall semester, which means from August until December since college (university) in the USA starts at the end of summer. The reason why I chose the George Washington University was because I like how immersed it is in the city of DC, literally 2-3 blocks away from the White House. I have always been fascinated by DC, as the pulsing hub of American politics, cosmopolitan, uniquely picturesque yet still retaining a hospitable small-town ambience.

Gadgets and souvenirs from my host University: The George Washington University.

The University perfectly mirrored the city’s vibe. Although prestigious and academically driven, it was also close-knit and neighbourly. During my stay I took four classes: Ethics: Theory and Application, Justice & The Legal System (Constitutional Law), History of Zionism and Media, Politics & Government.

The Study Abroad Office and my department required that I take modules related to my Religion, Politics & Society degree, yet I had considerable latitude in my module selections. For instance, in addition to the classes I mentioned, I took up a Cardio-Kick Boxing Class from the LSPA Department (Lifestyle, Sport and Physical Activity). It was a great incentive to have a non-academic module since it was graded.

Unlike most of my fellow exchange students, I did not live on campus, which is very unusual in the USA; in fact, most universities make it mandatory for students to live on campus. I lived with relatives in the DMV area (The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Area which includes DC and districts of Maryland and Virginia), in Dumfries, VA which is technically an hour commute from the main campus, but due to heavy traffic in the area, it sometimes took up to two hours.

There were pros and cons to not living on campus. The main advantage was that my US experience was not sheltered or limited to my status as exchange student. Living in a home with relatives did not make me feel like a visitor, I felt like a citizen. On the other hand, not being on campus meant that I could not always be readily available for impromptu activities happening on campus.

Since I wanted to have a more holistic view of the USA, I went on a nine-hour trip from Dumfries, Virginia, to Toronto, Canada. It has been one of the most tiring yet satisfying journeys. Through the road trip I saw the diversity of the American landscape, we passed through dangerous and run-down districts in Baltimore, peaceful country roads in Pennsylvania dotted with the simple living Amish Community, to lavish areas and finally the mesmerising and soothing presence of the Niagara Falls at the US-Canada border.

Me and my fellow exchange student Inés from Madrid at the Nationals Baseball Park in the bustling and colourful Navy Yard neighbourhood in South East DC.

It would be impossible for me to recount every single moment, it was such a fantastic experience.

Being in the heartland of political America, I also experienced the constant present of the media, studded with world impacting events: The Ford and Kavanaugh hearing, the death of Aretha Franklin, Kofi Annan, the passing of John McCain, former president George H. W. Bush, the letter pipe bombs to Robert De Niro and Joe Biden. Being in Washington DC while these events took place almost felt like being at the forefront or better, in the newsroom delivering the information.

My overall experience was amazing. I am pleased to know that my initial bias against studying abroad has been reversed and I am extremely glad of the network of people I have met and how my ideas and horizons have broadened. If you asked me if Study Abroad is worthwhile…with no hesitation I would say yes!

Check out the King’s website for more information on the Study Abroad programme, with tips on how to apply.

You can also read Aaran’s top tips for Study Abroad too.

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