The George Washington University, Washington D.C

Shweta George is a 3rd-year student studying a Bachelor of Commerce (International). She went to The George Washington University in Washington D.C, United States, from August 2018 – May 2019 as part of the exchange requirement in her degree.

Interviewed and edited by Isabella Benzie

Your exchange experience must have been unforgettable. For a quick recap, could you please explain the rationale behind choosing your exchange destination? What drew you to the university?

One of the main reasons I chose GWU was because of the Catholic Society. My faith is very important to me and I had wanted to grow in my faith as well as having a sense of community when I was on exchange and that’s just what I found with the GW Catholics. Everyone in the society was warm and welcoming and I made some really great friends while I was there. Additionally, the university is situated in the heart of the city and is only 4 blocks from the White House. Had I known that the main campus was urban, I possibly may not have gone there but now that I’ve been, I’m glad I tried something different.

What should current exchange applicants look for in an exchange destination?

I would say something to consider would be ease of travel, not just limited to the transport in the city but airports as well. Washington D.C. has three main airports within its vicinity. Ronald Reagan is the closest to the city and is easy to access by metro, whereas the other two are further away and access by public transport is a more of an effort. Secondly, consider activities in your exchange destination. DC has activities in the city all year round and many of them are free. A lot of the museums and the zoo are free and easily accessible.

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Jefferson Memorial during the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Where did you find accommodation for your exchange? How did you budget rent fees along with other expenses?

My accommodation was arranged by the university. All the exchange students who had arrived at the start of the academic year were housed together in the same building. The ones who had arrived in the second semester (Spring) were housed in another building. The rent was quite expensive because it was in the city but there are places off-campus that provide housing for a cheaper rate (but the location may not be as convenient). Thankfully, I got along well with my roommates but if you have a problem, the university housing system is not very helpful. However, speaking to the exchange coordinator is very useful.

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Inside the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land

Adding to that, do you have any tips on budgeting?

  • Shopping for groceries can be quite expensive. A good store was Trader Joe’s but it was still a 20-minute walk from where I was staying. Buying your groceries from Whole Foods regularly is not very reasonable.
  • DC is a really easy city in which you can get around on foot, so you can save money by walking to most places.
  • Taking a Pay-As-You-Go mobile plan is more practical and helps you save money.
  • Bank of America does not require a minimum balance for students and they also have ATMs on campus.
  • The gym and the pool is free for students to use and there is a new system where printing is available at a subsidy
  • You could also work on campus after your first semester and this is a great way to earn money (DC is generally more expensive than Sydney).

What subjects did you take? How were these classes different from classes at UNSW?

In my first semester, I took a few introductory electives like Italian and Introduction to Organisational Sciences as well as Consumer Behaviour and a course on the American Jewish Experience (Studies of the Region). In the second semester, I did International Marketing Management and Financial Statement Analysis. I also did American Contagions (Studies of the Region) and another Organisational Science course called Extreme Decisions. The classes were not too different from UNSW in terms of how were assessed. Although, the classes were much smaller and there were no tutorials but only lectures.

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Lafayette Square (in front of the Whitehouse)

Exchange must’ve have been so valuable for your personal growth. What skills on exchange would you say have prepared you for the rest of your university life? Any skills valuable for career development?

My time abroad gave me time to reflect and learn more about myself. It gave me time to introspect and recognise the things I am good at and things I had to work on, which I think is very important for personal growth but also for my future employment. I had also learned what it was like to handle changes and to learn how to live in a dynamic environment. By sharing a room, I learnt to be patient, considerate and cooperative as well. I also learned to be in a place and meet people who had different views, backgrounds, and upbringings. Spending time with different people helped me to learn more about myself and how I am in a group setting over a long period of time.

Useful links:

The George Washington University homepage: https://www.gwu.edu/

Washington D.C website with information on free events/activities: (updated for each season)  https://washington.org

Our previous post was about Keio University (Tokyo, Japan) – click here to read it. 

Also, take a read about the University of San Diego in America! 

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