FRESHMAN FOCUS: Nico Burns, ’18, enjoys ‘urban setting’ of George Washington University

Nico Burns, ‘18, attends George Washington University (GW) in Washington D.C. He is majoring in political science.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m taking General Psychology, Intro to World Religions, Intro to Bollywood Cinema, and Astronomy.

Q: Which class is your favorite?

A: Probably the Bollywood cinema class, just because it is so different from the others.

We meet once a week on Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6, so it’s a really long class. When I saw that, I thought we would be watching movies the whole time in class, but we actually have to watch the movies outside of class and then discuss them for two-and-a-half hours, which is kind of intimidating.

But (the teacher) makes it interesting because she does different ways of discussion. We pick scenes and analyze them, have debates.

We also learn a lot about Indian culture, society and history, and apply the knowledge to the films we watch.

It’s very different from my other three (classes), which are very lecture based.

Q: Which class is your least favorite?

A: Astronomy. I’ve never been a STEM person, and the lecture is very dry. I learn more from the textbook than going to the actual class.

Burns (bottom left) and friends at the National Gallery of Art. Most of the museums near George Washington University are free, Burns said, so lots of students frequently visit museums on weekends. (Photo used by permission of Burns)

Q: How big are your classes?

A: The intro-level classes are big lectures, like 100 kids in a classroom. The big lectures are very different from how Country Day was with (its) teaching style because all those were (in) 15-person classrooms. I even had a class with four people in senior year, AP Euro. It’s just a big change going from four people to 100 people in a lecture hall.

Q: Are you participating in any clubs or extracurriculars?

A: I’m on the club tennis team, and I’m in the College Democrats Organization.

Q: What is the tennis team like?

A: Club tennis meets four days a week, Monday through Thursday, for two hours.

I’ve only been to one practice because it just started. It’s been really fun, and it’s really cool because there are so many different age ranges on the team. There are grad students, so I’ll be meeting with people who have already graduated, who are in grad school, so it’s interesting to play with different people I haven’t met before.

Q: What do you do in the College Democrats Organization?

A:  I’ve been to two meetings. I haven’t paid my dues, so I’m not a full member yet. But what they do seems to be pretty important.

They’re very focused on getting people going and registering to vote and becoming more politically active.

Q: How was the transition to college?

A: The transition was actually a lot easier than I expected.

At first, I was kind of worried to live with three random people because I have three roomates. But the people on my floor – and in my dorm – right away ended up becoming my really close friends.

We spend a lot of time together. I got lucky with that. I had a very welcoming environment, so it made the transition a lot easier.

The hardest part was probably spending money, because GW doesn’t have a dining hall. We just have dining cafes. We pretty much have to go to restaurants around us in the area, so it drains your money pretty quick.

Other than that, the transition was fine. I feel pretty at home here. I like it a lot.

Q: Do you think Country Day prepared you well for college?

A: Definitely. Country Day is good preparation for college because at Country Day you learn really good skills about how to keep on top of your work. When I have lectures where there’s 100 kids and the professor doesn’t really interact with you, it’s a lot easier because (of the skills) I learned at Country Day. If I have to communicate with a teacher, it’s also so much easier.

Q: What’s your favorite part about GW?

A: My favorite part is the urban setting. It’s right in Foggy Bottom (a neighborhood along the Potomac River west of the White House) in downtown (Washington), D.C. When you step outside, you’re in the city.

There’s no real campus. Pretty much everything in Foggy Bottom is owned by GW, so everything around you is a GW building, and everyone around you goes to GW.

It’s a unique experience because most kids are confined to a campus. But here, it’s so easy to be right in the heart of things.

Q: What’s your least favorite part?

A: The meal plan, because it’s hard to manage money when you don’t have much of a dining hall, and you have to eat out for food.

Burns and friends outside his dorm at GW. (Photo used by permission of Burns)

Q: Is college what you expected?

A: It’s pretty similar to what I expected. I think I wasn’t expecting to have so much free time. It’s hard to balance the work and having fun. I’m getting used to it more as the year goes on.

Q: What’s the weather like? Have you been able to adjust?

A: The weather might be the worst part. Right now, it’s really nice. It’s finally cooling down. It’s 60 degrees (and) cloudy. For about a month, it was really humid (and) warm, (which) I’m not used to because Sacramento has such dry heat. The humidity hits you hard. But the fall weather here is supposed to be really nice.

Q: Have you participated in any school traditions?

A: The first weekend we had Freshman Day of Service, which is where all GW freshmen go out to different places in D.C. for different community service organizations. I worked at an organization where they bring together donations – anything from clothes to furniture, or anything that you can think of – and it’s in this warehouse. (It’s called) a Wider Circle.

People living in poverty come in. They can choose things and take them with them to their home.

That was a cool thing to do for a few hours on the first Saturday, and I got to bond with a lot of my freshman classmates.

Other than that, there aren’t many traditions. We don’t have a football team, so there aren’t any football games or tailgates or things like that.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: I have not been getting enough sleep. That’s my big freshman mistake. I’ve had many days where I’ve gotten no sleep, and I’ve had to wake up for a nine o’clock class. You don’t realize how bad it is until you’ve been doing it over and over.

And also the food. I spend too much money on food. I’m working on it.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2019?

A: As far as applying for schools, my biggest advice is to apply broadly and to apply to a bunch of different types school you actually like because you don’t want to end up going to a school you don’t want to go to. Make sure you like the school.

As for at college, my biggest advice is to branch out and try to meet people. The first week, I went around the hall and knocked on every door and tried to meet everybody. If you’re sitting in a class and somebody’s next to you, say hi to them. That’s definitely the easiest way to get to know people. Especially the first week. Everybody’s so nervous and eager to make friends.

Just be as outgoing as you can and you’ll be fine.

Five star or subpar?

Food: ☆☆☆

School Spirit: ☆☆☆

Location: ☆☆☆☆☆

Clubs: ☆☆☆☆

Student/Teacher Interaction: ☆☆☆☆

—By Ethan Monasa

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