Justin Ahn ’24 and Alex Fontecchio ’24, reflect on place and meaning, and what they hope to learn from this travel experience.
“Now I’m not so sure I believe in beginning and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life.” These lines conclude the opening sequence of Arrival, which we watched together on the bus ride to Washington D.C., and I think that they encapsulate why we’ve chosen to join this trip. The stories that we carry forth—the various components of what America means, what justice means, what belonging means—are defined by histories preceding our lifetimes by decades and centuries which I am incredibly excited to learn about on excursions to museums and landmarks. At the same time, we are not merely at an endpoint, visiting to look back on everything thus far; this ending is just as much a beginning. I hope to experience history in a dynamic way, which will be complemented by encounters with politicians and alumni directly involved in shaping the way our 18th-century political process evolves and functions today.
Every city has a palpable dynamism that permeates the atmosphere. I am most curious about Washington’s unique energy, more so than any particular learning, especially about how its historical tradition interacts with its contemporary preeminence. Another quote from Arrival is, “We are so bound by time—by its order.” If I am able to peel back the curtains of time, and see a society with its own conflicts, solutions, and ideas, that will be a priceless opportunity. My focus of inquiry for this trip is to discover what progress meant yesterday, and what reflection means today.
-Justin Ahn ’24
I’ve heard stories about Washington DC in addition to its dynamic history for years. A central subject of the media, it is easy to perceive DC as a city whose inhabitants are in perpetual motion. The beliefs of Washington DC and the activity in it are oftentimes associated with settings such as a table of well dressed officials, sitting poised and discussing national and international concerns. The city serves a far greater purpose, however, and it is that purpose that perks my interest of Washington DC. I see this trip as an opportunity to not only investigate the array of historical and modern information scattered throughout DC but also to understand the stories and perspectives of my fellow classmates.
This trip is both the catalyst of learning about ideas prominent in our capital as well as discovering my classmate’s ideas that I didn’t before know they had. I imagine that destinations of historical importance will not only provide invaluable knowledge about America and its government but will also spark conversation between individuals whose stories vary wildly from my own. I want my ideas to be supported, challenged, or anywhere in between by what I learn or the stories I hear. My focus of this trip is twofold: to achieve an understanding of the history and modern impact of our political systems as well as to broaden my perspective by integrating the views of the people around me with my own.
-Alex Fontecchio ’24