Nicole Abrate Echezarreta ’20 was one of 18 European History students who traveled to Berlin from October 29–November 2 for Fall Academic Travel. Her poignant essay reflects upon the emotional highs and lows of the trip and the lasting effect it will have on her.
By Nicole Abrate Echezarreta '20
I am on the plane, coming back from Berlin, and all I can think about is everything I experienced. But unlike other trips in the past, here there are no what-ifs, there are no misunderstandings and regrets, nothing but a memory that is placed upon a comfortable pillow inside my head. And it is at this point I realize that coming back from this trip taught me so many lessons I relate to emotions.
First of all, this trip made me happy. It made me laugh. Seeing my friends and watching memories being born and letting them go was eye-opening and beautiful to observe. I learned that people offer more than what they say they do. Creating connections and meeting new people is what makes us move further. I learned that people are interesting, both from museums and from reality; there are countless ways in which people can surprise you both positively and negatively.
This relates to the next emotion I felt: sadness, escorted by its soulmate emptiness. As I was standing in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, all I could think about was why? As I was freezing inside and out, I learned that mankind can be deceiving, that men and women can reach the limit and draw it further. I learned that some people do not need excuses nor approval—they only need power. I felt empty because I felt unrelatably privileged and completely lacked any connection or source of empathy to what once had happened. I felt sad while closing my eyes as the wind was brushing my hair, and the tension rose as I was walking through the main opening gate. I felt pessimistic as I was gazing at the remains of what humanity can do to itself. I learned that the biggest enemy in the world is humanity because us humans can create but what we do best is destroy.
Moving on, I felt curious. I found myself interested in undressing Berlin and all its history. It was like meeting a new wonderful person full of surprises, and Berlin never failed to amaze me. It was not just the place or the food or the history—it was all of it together accompanied by a clear explanation that the guides served us on a silver plate. It was this combination of wows and ohs.
Watching the art on the wall, and standing in front of the reconstruction of the wall in a picture, was unexpectedly hard to digest. Watching and learning about how people used to escape through countless ways and seeing all the spy tricks and loopholes they used in their private missions was a unique experience. Entering a museum designed as an old typical East and West living room that seemed so real and authentic was like being able to travel in time.
See more photos from Fall Academic Travel 2018 on the TASIS SmugMug page.
All these events mingled together are what made this trip so lovely. I am convinced that after this trip I might forget little pieces that hold this entire experience together, but by writing my thoughts down and analyzing my feelings and memories I will be able to look back and refresh my memory by reliving those moments through all the words that bind this essay. Reliving what at the moment seemed so simple and casual but what now seems so precious and special. Reliving the sounds and the smells of what is a beautiful trip that I am now filing in an essay. Filing it with longingness. Filing it with a smile.
The European Capital of Spies
The Berlin trip’s faculty leaders—Mr. Eric White, Mr. Paul Diviani, and Ms. Natalie Philpot—challenged students to create an Adobe Spark based on the theme of changes and continuities to the use of espionage over time. This project idea was inspired by the group’s trip to the International Spy Museum, and the winning entry was submitted by Maria Mastronardi ’20 and Darya Voyush ’20. Have a look at their creative work here: Berlin Academic Travel: The European Capital of Spies.