After a three-month postponement of its trip due to ISIS-related concerns, the junior class finally embarked on its retreat to Washington, D.C. The juniors departed school on Sunday, February 28th around 6:00 am and returned Tuesday, March 1st at 3:30 pm. The three-day, packed itinerary included a gamut of museums, memorials, monuments, and other sites intended to supplement students’ learning in their American History courses. Highlights included the National Archives, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the Newseum, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian museums, and the nighttime memorial tour. But the trip also was meant to serve as a bonding experience. Students across the board responded mostly positively to the trip.
Juniors Mishie Macy and Amelia Cardone expressed their enthusiasm for the various attractions. “Mount Vernon had a beautiful sight and a really nice view of the Potomac River. It was truly beautiful,” said Macy, giving it “a 5/5 rating.” Cardone remarked: “I really liked the monuments tour because I liked seeing how all the different world war monuments differed from other war monuments. Other things that I liked were the pizza place and the Newseum.”
Jacqueline Walzer similarly loved the monument tour: “The monument tour at night was really cool in a depressing way… The fact that it was at night made it a more powerful experience.” She noted that the students received more freedoms throughout the trip than she was expecting, something junior Freyja Goldstein also conveyed: “I thought it was a really well organized trip. I liked that there was a good amount of choice. We were able to go to the museums we wanted to and weren’t forced to go to museums we didn’t want to go to.”
However, for some students, the fast-paced and jam-packed itinerary may have worked against the trip’s overall success. In reference to the late nights and early wake-up calls, student Brooke Juhel said, “DC was a good experience but there should have been more time to sleep… Everyone got sick after and was too tired to appreciate everything the entire time.” Walzer, other juniors, and even faculty members echoed similar sentiments regarding the lack of enough sleep and rest time. Overexertion removed from the trip’s appeal for many who found the extensive amounts of walking required physically straining. Juniors who utilized health apps to monitor their steps found that they averaged eight miles of walking per day, which some students found difficult.
Cardone pointed to an imbalance in allotted museum time as a possible area to address that could improve the flow of the schedule: “I didn’t like how much time we had at some museums, because we’d have two and a half hours at some museums and not enough time at other museums. For example, we didn’t have enough time at Mount Vernon.” While students spent roughly the same amount of time at all the museums, perhaps it would have been more effective to allocate more time to the more important or interesting attractions.
Junior Freyja Goldstein dismissed the complaints regarding the lack of rest, busy itinerary, and walking with criticism: “I don’t understand why people are complaining so much that the walking was too tiring, or that they wanted to spend more time in the hotel… We didn’t go to D.C. just to sit in a hotel all day. Of course after travelling so far we’re going to try to see as much as we can. That’s the point of a trip, and sometimes you just have to suck it up for a few days in order to make the most of it.”
The juniors’ retreat to D.C. received a lot of positive feedback as a memorable, engaging experience, despite its sparking conflicting reactions in regards to its hectic nature. Ultimately, these views reflect differing objectives students had for the trip –whether students preferred to bond more with peers, or learn and see as much as possible.