For The Nature Conservancy’s Huffington Post Blog, August 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-nature-conservancy/natural-la-ill-show-you_b_1789810.html
I’m convinced people who claim the greater Los Angeles area is just a smog-filled metropolis haven’t done their homework. It’s true, Los Angeles is a large, busy city, but it is also one of the few cities in the United States with so many biodiverse, natural places to see within 100 miles of the downtown area — that is, if you’re willing to brave the traffic.
This summer was my first time in Southern California and I set out on a mission to experience and see as many of the local natural wonders as possible. I even made a videodocumenting what I saw, and just how easy it is to explore the mountains, beaches and amazing nature in the surrounding areas.
So where did I go? Watch the video and read below for my tips on exploring four unique and beautiful places right outside your doorstep.
Aliso Summit Hiking Trail, Laguna Niguel, Orange County:
This is a great hiking trail perfect for beginners. The trailhead is in a neighborhood and the entire path runs for roughly three miles. There are no difficult parts of the trail and nearly every spot along the way has expansive canyon views of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. I would recommend bringing plenty of water, sunglasses and a hat, as there is absolutely no shade anywhere on the trail. It’s a perfect way to spend a bright sunny day! More on the Aliso Summit Hiking Trail.
Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles County:
I was fortunate to have an awesome pair of roommates this summer who loved to go to the beach almost every weekend, and Hermosa Beach quickly became one of our favorites. The trip from downtown Los Angeles to Hermosa Beach is only 30 minutes and the beach itself is wonderful. There are volleyball nets, great boogey boarding waves and a restaurant scene near the pier. Plus, it’s never as packed as Santa Monica or some of the other, more popular beaches near the city.
Santa Cruz Island, Ventura County:
Santa Cruz Island is one of the most biodiverse places in California and the world, so it was a special treat to be invited out to the island for a day to take pictures for The Nature Conservancy. From downtown Los Angeles, the trip to Santa Cruz Island’s Prisoner’s Harbor (without L.A. traffic!) is about a 45-minute drive and a two-hour boat ride. Even though I was only on the island for a few hours, I snapped shots from the grass-covered peaks, hiked to a waterfall and even caught a glimpse of the famous Santa Cruz Island Fox! I would love to go back and spend a day kayaking and exploring some of Santa Cruz Island’s many sea caves. TIP: Make sure to plan your trip ahead of time.
Escondido Falls Hiking Trail, Malibu, Los Angeles County:
This was probably my favorite hike I did in Southern California this summer. The Escondido Falls Trails is one of the more popular hiking spots in the Malibu area, and there is always a fair amount of people on the trail, especially on summer weekends. From the trailhead to the bottom of the first waterfall is about a 30-minute hike. For more adventurous hikers, I highly recommend braving another 20 minutes of rock-climbing and rope-holding to trek up to the second, moss-covered waterfall. There is a fantastic cave behind this second waterfall that people can climb up into and sit behind the falls.
Even though I was able to see a lot of California’s natural biodiversity during my time in Los Angeles, I didn’t make it to Joshua Tree National Park or Sequoia National Forest. Every time I stumble across a friend’s Facebook photo of the unique looking Joshua trees or their camping trip to the giant sequoia trees, I can’t help but wish I had just a little bit more time in California to experience all the golden state has to offer!
As I pack my bags for the East Coast to finish my last semester, I have one thought for you Angelenos: What’s your next adventure in nature? With so many options, it must be hard to choose! I’ll take any recommendations you have, since I know I’ll be back. Oh and I still need to learn how to surf!
The Nature Conservancy is working in California to protect nearly 1.5 million acres of spectacular California landscape, as well as 3.8 million acres of sea floor. See where we work and plan your next trip.
Sandi Moynihan is the social media intern for The Nature Conservancy in California and is interested in a career in digital communications. She’s a graduating senior at The George Washington University majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Follow The Nature Conservancy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Conserve_CA
As summer rolls around and the District begins to fill up with busy interns and excited tourists, both transient visitors and native Washingtonians are looking for new places to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the warm summer weather.
While every D.C. neighborhood boasts a variety of worthy establishments, here are some of the best, affordable restaurants worth stopping by this summer for breakfast and lunch.
Located in the Downtown/Foggy Bottom neighborhood, Founding Farmers is home to one of the city’s award winning (and popular) breakfast menus. You’ll need a reservation, but waking up to a fresh, organic cup of coffee and a cheery wait staff is well worth the trouble. All of the food is organic and locally grown, but the prices are surprisingly affordable, even for college students. Try the Stuffed French Toast or the Chicken and Waffles.
Located in the West End, this local chain has a weekend brunch special that will keep your stomach and your wallet full. The fresh muffins and pastries are also worth the occasional weekday morning rendezvous. Try the Chocolate French Toast or Goat Cheese Omelet for a savory start to the day.
Although this Foggy Bottom favorite is known for its burgers and tots, almost every table is full of hungry students and locals on weekend mornings. If the French Toast isn’t enough to lure your out of bed, fresh made donuts will make you come running! Call for reservations during the school year.
With locations scattered throughout D.C., this salad and wrap joint, founded by a Georgetown University graduate, has become a city-wide staple. Try the popular Guac and Greens Salad or get creative and make your own!
Whether you want a burger, fries or an ice-cream cone on the go, this NYC chain, new to the District, is the place to go. The shakes and ice-cream are made from homemade custard flavors that change on a regular basis, so be sure to stop in more than once to try them all if you plan on visiting for more than a few days.
This basement-hidden gem is a favorite for college students and professors looking for a gourmet sandwich without breaking the bank. Owned by a George Washington University graduate, the 2-year old sandwich shop has quickly become a local favorite. Try The Wellsley, The Big Paulie or the PBJB if you want a taste of home.
In December 2011, Sandi created this awesome interactive page analyzing the #OccupyDC movement. Click here or on the image to check it out!
Jan 13, 2012
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3607-crazy-canadian-skiing-in-the-rockies
As a native Canadian, my annual visit to the Banff area (located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada) is one of the highlights of winter vacation for three simple reasons:
1. The mountains are drop-dead gorgeous.
2. There are moose (Mooses? Meese?).
3. The skiing is out of this world.
Now, to ski in style in the Calgary/Banff area, there are three big resorts that I think are worth visiting, each with its own pros and cons. All of these are within driving distance of Banff (located inside the National Park), which itself is about 1.5 hours from Calgary.
(There’s a great airport shuttle that runs between the Calgary Airport and Banff, called the Banff Airporter. It costs about $50CDN per person, one-way.)
Now, about the snow. Here’s a breakdown of the slopes:
It’s high up in the mountains and usually has the best snow consistently, even when there isn’t any fresh powder. You need to take a gondola up to get to both the main lodge and the Goat’s Eye Mountain lodge. There are two mountains to ski, plenty of runs to enjoy, and even a ski-out option at the end of the day. It’s best to get there early, around 8am when the gondola opens, to avoid the long lines, especially during the holidays. Plan for 30 to 45 minutes minimum travel time from Banff. Costs about $70CDN per adult for a full-day lift pass.
On a good snow day, this is hands down the best skiing in the Banff area. It has two lodges, one on the front side and one on the back side of the mountain. I would start the day on the back side, while the light is best, and move your way to the front side. There are plenty of long runs, but the popular blue and green runs can get quite icy if there is no fresh snow. Plan for minimum one hour of travel time from Banff. Costs about $70CDN per adult for a full-day lift pass.
This is the closest resort to Banff. It offers pay-by-the-hour rates, which can be nice if you’re looking to ski only for a morning or an afternoon. There are some great blue and black runs, but not a lot of green runs—beginners, don’t waste your money, and go somewhere else. Usually, the snow is pretty good, but like Lake Louise, it can be a bit icy at times.
Whichever mountain you choose, get ready for a great ski day, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Dec 15, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3587-capital-adventures-the-national-christmas-tree
During this festive season, I always try to make it down to the White House front lawn to pay my annual visit to the National Christmas Tree.
The tree itself, I must admit, is a bit disappointing, especially if you’ve been to the one at Rockefeller Center. But for Washingtonians like myself, the tree is all we’ve got… and it’s pretty darn good.
Here’s what the setup looks like almost every year: there is the large tree in the middle, the “national” tree (which is actually in place there all year long), and over 50 smaller trees, one for each of the states and territories. The cool thing is that each smaller tree is decorated with ornaments designed by school kids from its respective state or territory. Also, surrounding all this Christmas tree goodness is probably the coolest display of trains that you’ll ever see.
Every year, I always pay a visit to the Texas tree to represent my home state and snap a picture. This year, the ornaments were from The High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, which is in my hometown!
Sick nasty sweet!
If you’re visiting the District between now and the New Year, you should swing by the tree one evening when it’s all lit up. Entrance is free, there is Christmas music, and everyone is generally in a good mood. It’s located on the front lawn side of the White House, and generally closes around 11pm.
Sep 9, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3560-yanki-in-buenos-aires-the-art-of-caf%C3%A9
The café culture in Buenos Aires, although not nearly as prevalent as it is in Paris, is an essential part of the daily routine of porteños of all ages.
From early in the morning until late at night, roadside cafeterías are crammed with old ladies gossiping, businessmen reading the newspaper, and students, like myself, chipping away at their latest assignments.
If you go to Buenos Aires, go to the nearest street corner, find any café, and just sit. My idea of a perfect afternoon is a book, a café con leche, and three medialunas (sweet croissants).
Most cafés open early and stay open late—some are even 24hr. cafés.
If you want to get the traditional café experience, I recommend having tea or coffee at Las Violetas, a famous confitería located in the Almagro barrio. You can get to Las Violetas right off of the Castro Barros subte stop on the A línea.
A couple of my girlfriends and I went to tea and shared the María Cala plate, which managed to fill the stomachs of three ravenous girls and then some. Plus, divided among three people, the excellent treat cost only about AR$15 a person.
Crazy good price and crazy delicious—just the way I like it.
Sep 7, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3558-yanki-in-buenos-aires-getting-around
Like any large city, Buenos Aires can at times be a bit difficult to navigate, especially if you don’t speak the language.
It’s true that the colectivo (bus) system is confusing, and the subte (subway) is less than well designed, but the public transit system isn’t impossible to navigate with a bit of practice. Plus, public transit is a lot cheaper than taking a cab everywhere, although the occasional cab ride won’t break the bank.
Here’s a breakdown of different options for navigating Buenos Aires.
Subte: Buenos Aires’s version of a subway. There are four different parallel lines, and one vertical perpendicular line connecting the parallel horizontal four. The parallel lines branch out and away somewhat from the center. Each line corresponds to a color and letter, and stations are clearly marked with the line letter and color. Subte maps are easy to understand, no Spanish necessary.
A one-way ticket costs AR$1, making it a a relatively cheap way to get around.
The only problem with the subte is that it doesn’t always go exactly where you need to be. Sometimes, I’ve found myself going all the way into the Microcentro where the lines meet, switching lines, and then heading back out away from Microcentro in a different direction. This can be a bit annoying, but for only AR$1, I recommend doing it if you have more travel time.
Colectivos: Unless you are going to spend more than a week in Argentina, I wouldn’t recommend trying to tackle the bus system. It is not worth the effort by far.
If you are a brave soul, go buy a Guía T (bus guide) and get down to studying it. Argentina has literally hundreds of bus lines going to every nook and cranny of the city. The routes are not in a circle, though, and bus stops are not marked in the Guía T, which can be a bit frustrating if you are not used to navigating a public bus system.
The bus costs between AR$1.20 and AR$1.25, depending on where you are going. Just hop on the bus, say “uno y veinte,” put your coins in (the bus takes only monedas), and off you go.
If you are trying to find a stop for a certain línea (line), you can always ask a kiosco (worker in one of the many kiosks around the city) where the nearest stop is in the direction you wish to go. Generally, people are pretty accommodating in helping extranjeros (foreigners) navigate the crazy bus system. I haven’t had many problems asking for help during my time in the city.
Taxi: Generally speaking, taxis aren’t too pricey. Be careful not to get ripped off and charged the wrong price or handed a fake AR$100 bill, especially if you are coming from the airport.
As a general rule, don’t hail a taxi from the street if you don’t know the company well. I always call a radio taxi company, just to be safe. Premium Radio Taxi is a great company, always safe and reliable.
Best of luck navigating Buenos Aires, and happy travels!
Sep 2, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3557-yanki-in-buenos-aires-la-boca
If there’s one place that tourists flock to more than any other place in Buenos Aires, its La Boca. And for a good reason. The colorful buildings, riverside location and countless souviener shops make for a lovely afternoon or weekend outing.
Now, as much as I love to trek off the beaten path and stray away from touristy things, I love La Boca. There’s something about the colors, the crowds of people and the echo of tango music in the air that makes it quite… magical.
La Boca is located near the River del Plata, sort of near the port area. Originally, it was the neighborhood where fishermen lived, and (according to my tour guide) the fishermen painted their houses to distinquish whose house was whose, much like they do with their fishing boats.
Today La Boca is still a blue-collar neighborhood, and can be a bit rough, especially at night. Women, its just not a good idea for you to wander from the touristy street (called el caminito) alone. During the day, the neighborhood is fine, just keep your wits about you. At night, find another place to be. All the shops and restaurants close by 5pm anyway.
Artists, artisans and street performers are here daily, but more so on the weekends. There’s a little market with handicrafts and souvenirs during the weekends, but there’s always shops open and ready for tourists from 10am-5pm during the week.
Tips for La Boca:
- Don’t forget your camera, or you will be sorry!
- Try some of the food– I had the best pizza of my life here.
- Plan 1-2 hours to bum around and enjoy. Don’t rush. Enjoy the colors.
The easiest way to get there is either by bus or cab. You can take colectivo #152 all the way to La Boca.
Aug 31, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3555-yanki-in-buenos-aires-piropos
¡Bonita! ¡Hermosa! ¡Chica, veni acá!
If there’s one thing Argentinian men know how to do, it’s tell a woman that she’s a bombshell. Ladies, don’t be frightened by these seemingly random and unearned compliments.
If an Argentinian man says bonita, hermosa, or mirá vos when you walk by wearing sweatpants, just accept it. Embrace it. Revel in the fact that someone thinks that you are pretty, even when you are wearing gym clothes and reek slightly of wet dog.
These lovely little side comments are called piropos, and are a part of not only Argentinian culture, but South American and Latin culture in general. Honestly, I kind of like them.
In Argentina, people say I’m pretty basically because I have two X chromosomes. In the States, boys don’t even tell me I look pretty when I’m dolled up and doing my best Kim Kardashian impression.
Obviously, the solution here is to move to South America, find an Argentinian husband, and never come back. Obviously.
Aug 29, 2011
For Letsgo.com; Original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3552-yanki-in-buenos-aires-on-mate#ixzz1jx4K9kAV
I have discovered why Argentines can stay up so late and wake up so early: the secret, my friends, is mate. A rival of dulce de leche as the national obsession, mate is a tea-like beverage that one can drink cold or hot, although drinking it hot is more common.
The thing about mate is that you cannot go to a restaurant and ask for it; if you do, you won’t get the real mate, but instead mate cocido, which just isn’t the same. The only way to really taste mate is to make friends with an Argentine and let them show you the ropes. And trust me, you want to try it. It is delicious. I am obsessed.
The basic idea of mate is this: first, you put hot water into a cup already filled with tea leaves. Then, you drink the mixture through a metal filter straw called a bombilla. After you drink all the water that is poured in the cup, you reach for your thermo and pour more water in. Eventually, you will need to change out the leaves, but usually you can drink a thermo full of water before you need to make a switcheroo.
Now, there is a bit of mate etiquette that you should keep in mind. Usually, if you are with a group of people and you are all drinking mate together, everyone drinks from the same cup. One person, el hacedor, prepares the cup for the everyone else. Each person drinks from the filled cup until the water runs out and then passes it back to the hacedor, who adds more water and passes it the next person. And yes, everyone uses the same metal straw.
Everyone has his or her own mate preferences, whether that means adding sugar, using cold water instead of hot water, or even using juice instead of water. There are a million different brands and types of yerba, the tea-like herb that is used in the drink, and everyone has his or her own favorite. My favorite mate? No sugar, super hot water, and plain old Nobleza Gaucha (it comes in a blue bag with a red label).
To get the full experience, you should also check out the mate museum in Tigre, a town about 1.5 hr. outside of Buenos Aires. They have anything and everything you could ever want to know about mate, yerba and this wonderful Argentine tradition. Just hop on the colectivo 60 (AR$2, all in monedas!), but expect to be traveling for a while. It’s a pretty drive, though!
So, if you’re feeling adventurous, buy yourself mate, some yerba, a bombilla and a thermo—they’re not expensive at all, about AR$50 for everything. Experiment. Experience. Just don’t burn yourself by spilling. Been there. It hurts.
Aug 28, 2011
For Letsgo.com; original link: http://www.letsgo.com/article/3551-yanki-in-buenos-aires-eat-your-way-through-argentina#ixzz1jx3GOCav
To be completely honest, this is a bit of a revision of a blog I wrote this summer while studying abroad in Argentina. Its about everything from food to understanding the crazy things that argentines do. Needless to say, I felt like putting my words of wisdom up here for you all to enjoy. So enjoy. Or, as the argentines say, “distfruta.”
This summer, I decided to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina to study, to speak… and to eat! Food is definitely the easiest way to experience a culture and bond with fellow travelers as well as the locals, and in Argentina, they KNOW how to EAT. After spending only two weeks in Argentina, I can already say, I’m going to gain a lot of weight here… the food is just so… good!
Here’s a basic food “guide” to items that tend to pop up on menus around Buenos Aires and, actually, throughout the whole country.
Empanadas- Meat, cheese or vegetable filled pockets. They can be baked, or fried. My favorite is carne picante!
Locro- An amazing traditional stew of beef, corn and other vegetables, served with bread.
Choripan- Sausage on a bun… but better. Try it with choripan sauce.
Asado- Argentina’s version of BBQ. Watch out for cuts of meat that you’ve never tried before.
Dulce de Leche- Argentina’s obsession. They eat it with breakfast, ice cream or all by itself. Magically delicious.
Alfajores- A shortbread cookie sandwich, filled with dulce de leche. There’s a whole variety of options and brands, although I think the best brands are Cachafaz and Havana (Argentina’s version of Starbucks).
Tostadas- It’s just a ham and cheese sandwich, but trust me, in Argentina, they just taste better.
I could go on talking about food all day long, but I’d rather be out tasting it than writing about it!
And with that, me voy!
For my Online Journalism Workshop class, April 2011, with Ash McDaniel
Tommy Bennett fell into homelessness for the first time in 1991. The 53 year-old Washington, D.C. native said he was into “troubling stuff” that eventually spiraled into into homelessness and a life on the streets.
“I used to be a big time hustler, but I stopped. I used to sell drugs,” Bennett said.
Twenty years later, Bennett is still in the business of buying and selling but this time, he’s hawking newspapers. Every day, at the corner of 14th and G, he sets up to sell Street Sense, the District’s street newspaper that is written and sold by members of the D.C. homeless population. When Bennett got off parole seven years ago, he found out about the paper and has been selling papers ever since.
“These people kept me doing something,” he said. “I’m going to school now, getting my GED.”
Street Sense started after Laura Thompson Osuri and Ted Henson, the co-founders of the paper, approached the National Coalition for the Homeless with thier idea. They wanted to create a street newspaper that would give a voice to the homeless population in the District.
In November 2003 a handful of vendors hit the streets to sell Street Sense. Since then, the paper has grown to include nearly 35 different vendors who sell the bi-monthly newspaper at different locations throughout the city.
According to Doug Knight, the executive director of Street Sense, the paper hires vendors as independent contractors, giving them the freedom to chose when and where they wish to sell.
Every other Wednesday, the vendors stop by the Street Sense headquarters to purchase papers to sell. Although the vendors pay 30 cents for every paper for purchase, they sell them for a dollar and take in all the profits.
Vendors can also choose to write for the paper and earn ten free papers for every article they have published. While most writers write periodically, some, like Jeffery McNeil, write for every issue.
Gaining a Voice
McNeil was living on park benches throughout the District when he found out about Street Sense. He decided to join the paper’s staff as a vendor in 2006 to earn some extra cash. McNeil later decided to try writing for the paper, a decision that inadvertently changed his life.
“I ended up getting an editorial in the New York Times,” said McNeil. “I got another one printed in the Washingtonian.”
McNeil said initially writing was never his aspiration.
“I was homeless and unemployed. It was just something to do,” McNeil said.
But after working as a vendor and spending time around the Street Sense office, McNeil began to take an interest and write his own articles to be published in the paper. He said that writing in the paper gives him a forum to talk about politics or even his own experiences about being homeless.
“You can express what’s going on,” McNeil said. “There’s people that read your writing and it’s a good thing.”
More than selling papers
McNeil added that Street Sense helps all types of people, not just writers.
“I see a lot of people who would like to work but who don’t have the proper credentials to get a job,” McNeil said. “This is a paper where with a little bit of ingenuity and hard work you can accomplish something.”
In the past few weeks I’ve discovered D.C.’s springtime guarantees: cherry blossoms and tourists.
Tourists have flooded the Mall with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Even when they get in the way, put on a smile and be a friendly local. Photo: Sandi Moynihan.
While the blue skies and pink cherry blossoms are a welcomed change from the gloominess of winter, most GW students aren’t particularity thrilled to share their city with the thousands of tourists that are beginning to invade Foggy Bottom and the surrounding areas.
“They need to go home,” said Kara Clauss ’12. “I think there’s so many of them it gets slightly overwhelming when you need to go to class and they get in the way.”
Yes, tourism is one of the vital industries in Washington, D.C., and yes, I want people to learn about their nation’s capital, but there is such a thing as “too many” people.
This past week my friends and I decided to trek up to the National Mall to enjoy the beautiful weather, play a game of kickball, and bask in the shadow of the Washington monument. We didn’t anticipate to find dozens of tour groups, obnoxious school children, and fanny-pack toting families walking in every direction. Needless to say, our “perfect” afternoon included a few more people than we had originally planned for.
While the tourism season can get a bit overwhelming at times, GW students shouldn’t forget that most Americans aren’t as fortunate to live 10 minutes from the White House’s front door.
“I think tourism is good for D.C. and it brings some money, but I don’t like it when the tourists get in my way,” said Elisa Van Kirk ’10. “Other than that, I think everyone should be able to enjoy this wonderful city.”
I can’t say that I have an actual problem with tourists being in D.C. (I love getting asked for directions.) But sometimes the out-of-towners just don’t understand how this city operates, and the locals are a fast-paced breed.
“They’re everywhere,” said Elaine Nescio ’13, “I wish they knew how to work the Metro better. They need to read the signs that say they need a ticket to get in and out.”
Maybe the guidebooks should better explain how to use the D.C. Metro or tell wandering tourists that looking at a map in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue is a terrible idea. That way people can understand a bit about D.C. street smarts before they come to visit. Just saying.
At the end of the day, anti-tourism or not, it’s always a good idea to be as helpful as possible. Taking ten seconds to explain to a lost family that Lincoln is right down 23rd Street won’t kill you. The sooner you help them out, the sooner they will be on their way and out of your hair.
Half the fun of being a rising sophomore is having the privilege of choosing where and with whom you will live in the fall semester, but at GW it seems like nothing ever goes quite as planned.
This past Tuesday, GW’s housing assignment system, iHousing, released the initial fall 2010 housing assignments for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
While some lucky students snagged an Ivory Tower quad or a Dakota triple, an overwhelmingly large number of students were either split from their roommates or waitlisted from GW housing all together.
Considering that iHousing released rooming assignments a week early, upperclassmen (who are not guaranteed GW housing) have more than enough time to search for off-campus options for next year. However, freshmen that have been shafted by iHousing are in a little more of a predicament.
“Housing is absolutely absurd. I applied for a double with my friend and we both ended up in doubles on the same floor but not with each other,” said Rachel Obenschain ‘13. “When I called housing to ask why this happened, they said that they could not accommodate us as a double. You tell me how that even makes the slightest bit of sense.”
After living a year with a randomly assigned roommate, in a room that they probably didn’t pick, many freshmen looked to sophomore housing with excitement, only to be disappointed by their 2010-2011 housing assignments. Is it really that hard to keep two roommates together, iHousing?
“Not only did I get placed in a dorm that I never put on my list of preferences, but none of my three friends that I had put down as roommates are placed together,” said Christine Skarulis ‘13. “We’re all shocked and annoyed because we had called a few weeks ago to make sure that we filled out the application correctly. Tuition is way too much to have to deal with this.”
Even worse, many rising sophomores, who are guaranteed housing, have been waitlisted from housing all together. “Well, iHousing broke up me and my roommate, put her in a single and left me without a room,” said Autumn Taylor ‘13.
Apart from the students living in Townhouse Row or International House, only a handful of freshmen are actually happy about their housing assignments for next year. I can understand roommate pairs will be broken up occasionally in any housing assignment system, but there is no reason why students who are guaranteed housing should ever be waitlisted.
Apparently, GW housing is trying to fix all of these problems before the end of the spring semester, but who knows how long that will take. If worst comes to worst, maybe they’ll just start assigning people to the Vern—like that will go over well.
With spring break just around the corner, the majority students would rather be sitting on the beach than studying for another round of midterms. But for the over-achieving GW population, a last minute study session is the key to success.
Although most Foggy Bottom freshmen opt to spend their late night study hours locked in the fourth or fifth floors of the Gelmen Library, others have discovered the best kept secret on the Mount Vernon Campus: Eckles Library.
Before finals last semester, I hadn’t even stepped foot inside Eckles Library- I probably couldn’t even have told you where it was. Just before my Astronomy final, in the hopes to find a quiet study space (and all-you-can-eat brunch), I packed my bag, charged my MacBook and trekked up to the Vern to see if Eckles gave Gelmen a run for its money.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Unlike the low-ceiling, prisonesque study rooms in Gelmen, Eckles was spacious, inviting and quiet. Instead of spending part of my study session playing find-a-chair, like I do at Gelmen, I was immediately able to find an open table and get to work.
Compared to Gelmen, Eckles is a close second. Besides the Vern campus location, Eckles offers most of the same services that Gelmen has: books, photocopying, computer labs. This includes study space and computers available twenty-four hours a day.
Eckles even has Eckles Flix, a movie rental service that allows Vern residents to rent DVDs for up to two days for free.
Some freshmen from the Foggy Bottom campus actually prefer to study in Eckles rather than in the closer Gelmen library.
“I just like that [Eckles] is a lot quieter, it’s a nice break to get out of the city and go into a place that’s a little bit quieter,” said Coco O’Donnell, ’13. “The staff is really friendly… and it’s kind of like one of those ‘undiscovered treasures’ so a lot of people don’t know about it.”
Although GW offers both the Gelmen and Eckles Libraries as study space for its students, some prefer to study in the comfort of their own room.
“I chose to study in my dorm, its pretty quiet, and if I need to focus, I will go to Gelmen or the basement of Madison,” said Chris Longman ’13. “Eckles is a bit of a commute, I have heard that its really nice up there, and that you do focus, but I’ve never really considered going up to the Vern.”
Although I do make the daily commute to the Vern for extracurricular activities, I’ll admit, making time in my study schedule to ride up to Eckles isn’t ideal. During the week, Gelmen is the only option for my late-night endeavors, but on Sunday nights Eckles is definitely within the realm of possibility.
So, as spring break comes closer and this round of midterms comes to an end, consider Eckles when you need to get some serious work done. It’s the alternative to being surrounded by the bleary-eyed procrastinators that hole up in Gelman with Starbucks and Facebook as their only saving grace.
Nothing can ease the sting of a poor quiz grade or the onslaught of pre-midterm hell week better than the delectable taste of a cupcake… or crepe, or ice cream, or cookie for that matter. Like any college with changing quirks and fads, GW is currently amidst a confection craze for anything hand-held, sweet, and delicious. Considering that I am a self-proclaimed dessert expert, I’ve attempted to discover all the ways GW students satisfy their cravings for sweets in and around campus.
While some students prefer ice cream or fruit for these cravings, the most popular dessert of choice on campus has to be the simple and quaint cupcake. One of the first places I visited off-campus this past fall was Georgetown Cupcake, and after one bite I fell in love.
Originally opening in 2008 on M Street, Georgetown Cupcake is one of GW’s favorite cupcake destinations. “I like Georgetown Cupcakes because the shop is a really cute little place,” said Julie Orlandi, ’13. “Not to mention, the cupcakes are delicious.”
Baked and Wired is located on Thomas Jefferson St in Georgetown. Photo by Henry Miller.
Despite Georgetown Cupcake’s popularity among the student body, one of the best-kept secrets in the D.C. cupcake world is Baked and Wired, located on Thomas Jefferson St., just a short walk from the AMC Movie Theater. “Baked and Wired is my favorite dessert place because you get the most cupcake for the price,” said Rachel Obenchain, ’13.
Besides being closer to campus, Baked and Wired’s shop is a two-in-one bakery and coffee shop that offers its customers a variety of freshly prepared coffee and tea beverages in addition to baked goods. Baked and Wired is one of my favorite places to spend a lazy afternoon; I just bring my laptop (they offer free wireless internet!), grab a cupcake and a cozy armchair and waste the afternoon away in sugary bliss.
Despite GW’s current infatuation with cupcakes, some GW students have opted for a healthier way to get their daily dose of sugar.
“I love the froyo at Campus Fresh,” said Courtney Hindle, ’13. “It’s the one place I can get a dessert complete with delicious toppings and not feel like I am going to pack on the freshman fifteen, plus its just a hop and a skip from my dorm so I can still get my dessert fix in a timely fashion.”
Whether students want something healthy or decadent, there are plenty of on-campus dessert destinations to keep even the most adamant confectionery connoisseurs satisfied. Coney Island, which offers a variety of frozen yogurt, ice cream and sundae options, is a staple in many GW students’ diets.
“Well I don’t like cupcakes and I love frozen yogurt,” said Molly Bruh. “I normally get either the fantasy bar or brownie in a frozen yogurt sundae with chocolate chips on top. That’s my favorite.”
If there’s one thing to try at Coney’s it’s, hands-down, the fantasy bar. Mix a warm fantasy bar, which is essentially a combination of a blondie brownie and a chocolate chip cookie, with a scoop of ice cream or a swirl of Skinny-Mini frozen yogurt. It is my absolute favorite ice cream treat. Watch out though—the ice cream can be a bit pricey: sundaes cost between $5 and $6.
Besides cupcakes and ice cream, GW students can order take out crepes from Crepeaway or grab a piece of pie from Kramer’s bookstore/restaurant in Dupont. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about GW’s dessert culture in the past few months, it’s that if you can’t find some way to please your taste buds around campus, well, then what you’re seeking probably just doesn’t exist. Happy eating!
Like any over-achieving student, I decided to be proactive and do a little background research about the SA before I cast my ballot on Thursday afternoon. For those who were previously unaware, the Student Association is GW’s form of student government—a.k.a. student council for the collegiate world. The SA has three different branches (Executive, Senate, and Student Court) that all work in conjunction as the student body’s liaison to GW’s administration.
In this election, students can vote for candidates to represent them in both the Executive and Senate branches, as well as in Program Board or the Marvin Center Governing Board.
Does all this sound new to you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It took some flashy posters and aggressive campaigners for me care enough to figure out what SA even means.
As democratic and effective as it sounds in writing, many freshmen seem indifferent to voting in the SA elections and express skepticism at the candidates’ claims to change life at GW.
“My main concern is that most candidates who are running spend most of their time simply asking you to vote for them and handing out flyers,” said Rachel Kenny ‘13. “If their flyers or visits to dorms would focus more on what they actually want to do and why they want to run, I would be more likely to care and to vote.”
My biggest complaint about the SA election is the lack of information provided to the freshman class. How can candidates expect freshmen to vote for them when part of the class of 2013 isn’t aware the SA even exists, let alone what it does on campus?
If candidates really want the support of the freshman class, I suggest letting freshman know exactly what they are voting for before they actually cast a ballot. A little background information about the SA isn’t too much to ask.
“Although candidates attempt to lure our votes, many students remain ill-informed about the issues and platforms,” said Holly Caesar ’13. “There is almost an unspoken sense that the candidates are campaigning in a rat race that results in unfulfilled promises.”
Honestly, if I’m going to take the time out of my day to cast a ballot, I want to make sure my vote is going towards something that will actually have the power to cause change at GW; otherwise, what’s the point of even voting?
Some freshmen didnt take the time to vote, and many who wanted to do so didn’t know where or how to cast their ballots.
“I don’t really care,” said Seth Rudolph, ‘13. “I’m not voting, I don’t even know where to do that if I wanted to. I mean, I don’t really know much about the whole thing.”
Considering GW has a reputation as a politically active campus, I was shocked that I didn’t receive any information on how to cast my ballot until the morning of the last day of the election.
At this point, I actually consider myself more informed about the Student Association’s election process at GW than the average freshman. I collected a cornucopia of campaign flyers, listened to various candidates pitch their platform and even read a few of the candidates’ biographies via my sorority’s e-mail listserv. But most of my classmates can’t even name one of the two candidates running for SA President, let alone any other candidates who are vying for votes.
I often describe GW as “the overachieving school for overachievers.” Think about it. GW boasts competitive A-10 athletics, Greek Life, and over 350 student organizations in addition to its superior academic curriculum. Most universities are known for certain programs or athletic achievements, but to me, GW seems to have everything a prospective student could desire in a school… except spirit.
Students in Colonial Army cheer on the men’s basketball team in a game against Xavier. Photos by Jordan Teller.
Although GW’s immense diversity and urban location are an asset to students, I’ve realized in the past few months that GW lacks the type of school spirit stereotypical of most college campuses in the U.S. At large state schools, like the University of Texas, or even more medium-sized schools like Notre Dame, school spirit is an unwritten requirement for attendance, but at GW, students don’t seem to care as much, or even at all, about being proud of their school. So far this year, the only GW-proud students I’ve seen were the few loyal fans cheering loudly at the men’s basketball games.
When I walked into the Smith Center for the home opener in November, and saw the Colonial Army and heard Colonial Brass playing, I finally felt like GW had some sort of school spirit that’s synonymous with college campuses. As I sang the fight song and watched the First Ladies and cheer squad at time-outs, I was both pleased and disappointed by GW’s showing of school pride.
Sure, we have a fight song, but students only half-know the actual words and hand motions that go along with the music. Yes, the Colonial Army has cheers and ridiculous yellow hats, but only a portion of the students in attendance actually participate in the calls and even fewer sport the colonial-era foam hats.
Still, game attendance isn’t completely terrible. In 2009, an average of 2,358 fans attended a home men’s basketball game at the Smith Center, which seats 5,000 people, according to Brad Bower of GWU Sports Information. However, even fewer attend other GW sporting events: the average attendance for a women’s basketball game this year is 499 and for a volleyball game, 186.
A basketball player sports his GW pride all the way down to his ankles.
But because of GW’s urban location and diverse student population, can GW really be compared to other universities on any level, including spirit? I’m sure that if I chose to go my second choice school, Villanova, instead of GW, I would have experienced a whole different level of school spirit. Students who attend non-urban campuses or big state schools don’t have the nation’s capital outside their dorm room walls as we do. GW’s students have more ways to spend their time than going to Saturday night’s big game.
Maybe GW’s school sprit isn’t nonexistent, but rather, multifaceted, like most of GW’s students. Besides, we have the Hippo. Spiritful or spiritless, I haven’t heard anyone say that they hate the hippo.
The 2010 blizzard, affectionately known as “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse”, has transformed GW’s campus from a sprawling academia to a winter wonderland. Starting last Friday and lasting through Thursday afternoon, students stocked up on food, stayed indoors, and braced themselves for D.C.’s snowstorm of the century.
After waiting out two storms, being pelted by snowballs, and coping with a severe case of cabin fever, I consider myself a Snowmaggedon survivor. As a displaced Texan spending her first winter in the Washington, D.C. area, this has been the first time I’ve experienced blizzard conditions. All I knew going into the storm last Friday evening were two facts:
One: D.C. is ill-equipped to deal with snow.
Two: Multiple storms were coming my way, not just one.
When the snow subsided for the first time on Saturday morning, I was surprised to see the GW cleaning staff busily emptying the overflowing, smelly trash cans in my Madison hallway. The university maintenance crew laid down cardboard along the entry way and in the foyer, the walkway up to my dorm having been completely shoveled and salted. I’m impressed that GW was prepared to make sure campus was halfway functional immediately after the storm, even paying attention to freshman dorms like mine. Although walking on the sidewalk was a bit treacherous at times, I always saw someone from the maintenance crew shoveling or salting a sidewalk every time I ventured outside.
GW had nearly 100 employees working at any of the three campuses to ensure students’ safety in the inclement weather at any given point from the beginning of the storm, said Alicia O’Neil, senior associate vice president for operations. Even more surprising, I learned during a trip to Ames Dining hall that many of the employees, in addition to being paid overtime, were given a place to stay during the storm away from their families, so that they could make sure kitchen-less freshman like me had something to eat during the storm. Sure, D.C. has no plows, and the Metro still isn’t running normally, but I can’t say I’ve felt the university abandoned its students at any point during the storm.
But with GW, nothing’s ever perfect. I wish someone could explain to me why University Police spent their time on Friday evening cracking down on snowball throwers when they could have been controlling the constant party that rages in Thurston’s halls. People in my dorm were hiding from UPD, not because of drugs and alcohol, but because of snowballs. Isn’t the bliss of pelting unexpected pedestrians with snow a perk of being stuck in blizzard? Aren’t there worse things going on around campus that UPD should address? Really, UPD needs to find better things to do with its time than interfere with never-ending snowball fights.
Now, one week after the first snowflake fell, with four official snow days checked off the calendar and half of my entire chocolate bar collection sitting happily in my stomach, I saw a whole new side of GW and college life. My friends and I have spent time skating along the reflecting pool at the National Mall, cooking meals in the sketchy freshman kitchen areas, and watching at least seven of our favorite movies. I’ve discovered that ice cream is the first thing to go at Safeway during a snowstorm (makes sense right?), your friendly House Proctor always has free food, and waterproof socks just don’t exist. As the snow subsides, and things turn back to normal, there is one hope… its supposed to snow on Monday.