At first glance, Sameera Al Bitar looks like your average freshman.
She takes classes in the School of Business, does her homework and likes to relax with her friends. This summer, though, Al Bitar did something that no other freshman can say they did - she swam in the Olympic Games for Bahrain.
But the Beijing games were not a new concept to Al Bitar. She first competed for her country back in 2004 - and was the only female Bahraini athlete each time.
"I started swimming when I was six," Al Bitar said. "There isn't really a swimming pool in Bahrain, so it was hard to train. I got very lucky."
She almost didn't make it to Beijing this year. Originally, Bahrain only wanted to send athletes who would medal, Al Bitar said, so she didn't find out she was going until April.
"I started training three weeks before the Olympics," she said.
Four years older and wiser than she was in Athens, Al Bitar said the fun in China started right from the get-go. She describes the opening ceremonies with one word: "flashes."
"You know when you play a PlayStation game like soccer or something, and all you can see in the background are flashes? That's what it's like walking into the stadium. It makes you feel proud of yourself."
Al Bitar also got to experience something many people only dream about - swimming with Michael Phelps in the warm-up pool.
"I was scared I was going to mess up (his) workout," she said.
When it came to her actual event, the women's 50-meter freestyle, Al Bitar was even more nervous. Her greatest fear was getting disqualified - the female swimmer from Bahrain had been disqualified in 2000, and Al Bitar didn't want to follow in her footsteps. But she didn't disappoint. She won her heat, though her time wasn't fast enough to make it any further.
Even with two Olympic Games under her belt, Al Bitar still struggles with things that a lot of GW students take for granted. She had to adjust to American culture, something she said was difficult coming from a foreign country. The biggest thing she misses about home? The food.
"There is too much junk food here. I eat too much of it," Al Bitar said.
Surprisingly, Al Bitar isn't competing for GW's swim team. She was too late to join the varsity squad this year, so she is swimming for the club team, she said. She does plan to swim for the Colonials next year.
And what about 2012? Al Bitar said she wants to earn a trip to the London games.
"My goal is to make a qualifying time for the 2012 games," she said. "I definitely want to go."
-Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.