I have to admit, I did not truly believe I would ever make it to America. It was only once the
wheels hit the tarmac at Dulles International Airport and as we entered through the customs
hall, covered in the star-spangled banner, that it truly sank in. I was finally here.
In the deep dark midst of the winter lockdown, the idea of traveling abroad seemed
completely out of the picture. After months of cautious optimism, in putting down a
deposit on housing, beginning the visa process and attending the visa interview, it ended in finally booking the flights.
We made it, and I have to say living in a different country whilst the pandemic continues,
is an interesting experience. Not only do we have to adapt to a different learning style but
different restrictions too. Washington D.C still views the pandemic as an ongoing threat,
masks are mandatory inside and vaccine ‘passports’ are vital to going anywhere in the city.
George Washington University also has the same cautious mindset: masks are worn
everywhere, from the gym (which is free by the way), the library, and in classrooms. All
students, staff, and visitors must be vaccinated, or tested weekly if not, and everyone must
have a PCR test every two weeks, if not your ‘G-World Card’, the card you need to enter any
building, will stop working. Only once you’re given ‘green clearance’ are you free to
This may seem intense, after all, restrictions in the UK have been largely lifted, however
here, or at least in D.C, people seem to get on with it. It’s very comforting to know that even
in packed concerts or nightclubs everyone is tested and vaccinated, otherwise, you wouldn’t
Life continues, just with a vaccine, test, and mask. As a result, I and the other exchange
students have been able to do so many exciting things. From traveling up the east coast to
Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, a personal highlight for me was to get back
into concert venues, and I have to admit a single tear did appear behind my masked face as
the lights dimmed and Mr. Harry Styles took to the stage.
Besides the ongoing pandemic, the university experience here is different, and is more than I
expected. School spirit is in abundance, the store on campus offers GW hoodies, gilets,
scarfs, hats, teddy bears, even a charcuterie board! And people wear the school’s merch
everywhere…I resisted, yet two weeks later there I was in a lecture in my GW hoodie. I even
dusted off my QM t-shirt and 2020 merger t-shirt (rip merger) to go to the gym, ‘London
Review of Books’ tote bag in hand.
Living in London for the past three years, I was used to living amongst famous landmarks,
and in a way, Washington D.C holds a similar feeling. On my first full day in D.C., in my
jet-lagged daze, I wandered along to the White House, famously only four blocks from GW’s
campus. On the way I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, passing the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and countless ‘Secret Service’ cars, not so secret as it’s
plastered all over their uniforms and cars, as my Dad would joke.
The absence of travel only makes this experience more rewarding. There’s greater time to
reflect on the amazing opportunity studying abroad offers. I feel like this year I’ve gone from
0 to 100. From January to May, I only really saw my two other housemates and possibly 6
other friends. To traveling across the world, getting a roommate, and being the only Brit in
the classroom, which, I have to admit the double-take and ‘Omg are you British??’ when I
first spoke in class was quite amusing. Asking for ‘arugula’ instead of ‘rocket’, however, still
pains me, even after three months.
Studying abroad during a pandemic is an interesting experience, to say the least. However,
the lack of social interaction in the past year only makes the experience more fulfilling and
exciting. After only a couple of months, my confidence has increased massively, in academic
and in social settings. I would highly recommend anyone to take the plunge and make an
application to study abroad!