From the outside, it always seems like a cliché. The “all-nighters,” that chocolate store, the walks by the river. The long nights spent watching horror movies and talking about potential mating partners and life. Singing on the bus. Snacks. Room checks. Plays.

And then you enter what it really is. Your individual experience becomes very different from what you had anticipated. Different from what all the older people told you about. And it’s rarely close to perfect. There are marks of despair at points in the trip that are faded out of view from the photos and the sentimental Facebook statuses – when your friends go to that restaurant without you, or your roommates are all involved in something boring and you’re left to yourself. The list can go on. But it usually ends up being okay, if not a whole lot more.

And then it’s over. All you have left to hold onto are the photos and the videos, and whatever else you created in an attempt to encapsulate moments and thoughts, and feelings. And you realize that the battle between the anticipation of perfection and your own experience of euphoria and depression is that original cliché, and that you just became part of it. You then leave it to others to experience their own disappointment which eventually becomes a satisfying revelation. Stratford was never to be perfect.

There are a few people to thank. The teachers, who volunteered their time to make this happen. The person, or people, who first set this tradition off. The administration for their support of the trip. And finally, it wouldn’t hurt to thank ourselves, who at the same time created and took in what is now a memory.

Credits to Cathy Fu, Maša Jugović, and Sabrina Bertsch.