Learning to Embrace It All

It’s been almost an entire semester of sophomore year since spending three and a half weeks in Europe with a few of the coolest people I will ever meet. Seriously these people are SO COOL. If they weren’t so darn encouraging, it would be really easy to feel like they’re all much cooler than me. But a fantastic dynamic of the CR10 familia is an attitude of encouragement, so naturally, by engaging with them, I’m reminded of what makes me special and super cool as well. All that being said, I am sad to admit I haven’t been able to spend quite as much time with all of these friends as I had hoped. The semester got busy for all of us, and as soon as rehearsals started for me at the beginning of October, my evenings were basically all occupied for the following two months. Thus, it has been quite the balancing act just trying to get homework done and be a healthy person. Regardless, the moments of hugging CRecaders at church, bumping into each other while crossing South University, or meeting up over a quick meal have been super sweet. From what I can tell, we’re all certainly experiencing the ups and downs of sophomore year and are probably ready for a nice, long break. I can say with confidence that many of the lessons I learned–and started to learn–during CR10 have stuck with me and are continuing to shape me this year.

I’m still discovering that it’s okay to not be okay. I struggle identifying and embracing my negative emotions. I love joy, relationships, confidence, and peace, but sometimes I’m stressed, tired, lonely, and anxious… and that’s okay. On CR, I experienced many moments of stress and felt some negative emotions surfacing, and I really did not want to deal with them. If I had it my way, I would have pounced through Europe with nothing but smiles and confidence, all the way from Berlin to Rome. But constant travel, heavy discussions, new friendships, and a lack of 8-hours-a-night of sleep didn’t necessarily cultivate in me a spirit of rest and confidence. This was a time of growth, and I knew that, but I don’t think I was full prepared for the growing pangs that were to accompany me on my journey. I remember one day in Munich, I told Audrey I was feeling stressed and tired and not fully myself, and she assured me that I was not alone and reminded me in her sweet, sincere way that it’s okay to feel these things. Since CR, I’ve been growing a lot in my ability to embrace and accept negative emotions, not as a part of who I am, but as an indicator that something is going on in my heart that deserves some attention. I’ve begun to acknowledge emotions as an entity separate from character; thus, I can handle the good, bad and ugly of my emotions without beating myself up about having them. Furthermore, I notice that the roughest of days often lead to the most joy on the other end because they cause me to lean harder into the Lord, my close friends, and family… I usually end up learning something valuable about myself, those around me, or just life in general. It says in the first chapter of James, trials produce perseverance, which leads to a strengthening of character. Praise the Lord, CR was a beautiful opportunity to embrace this character-building because I was surrounded by a family of fantastic, loving, genuine, encouraging, honest individuals. Our support system was–and still is–hard to match. To readers, my greatest encouragement post-CR is to surround yourself with a strong community of genuine and encouraging people and to embrace all aspects of the present moment, the good and bad, ups and downs. Thank you, CR10 familia, for your friendship and encouragement. Knowing you all is an incredible gift!

Joyfully, Indigo

Tougher Than The Rest

As we prepare for our Pecha Kucha presentations, reflecting on CR10 as a whole has been such an incredible process. Just like the experience in Europe, the time of reflection has been a roller coaster of emotions. Even looking at the picture above, team Alpha’s debut, is sentimental; I am so blessed to have grown close to the people on CR, and to think of the first real day we all had together is bittersweet.

At first glance, Cultural Routes is a fun, exciting, study abroad trip. While it is fun, exciting, and we did study abroad, it was certainly not “Eurotrip 2018,” as Dr. Pitcock put it. I think the hardest thing about telling people about CR is that it is way easier to talk about the novelties we experienced since that is what most people expect. Yes, we went skydiving in Switzerland. Yes, we saw the Colosseum. Yes, we ate gelato by the sea in Riomaggiore. Yes, we hiked to the top of the Swiss Alps in Chacos. However amazing and unique these experiences are, they are not what makes CR great, and they are not the focus.

John Mark McMillan, one of my favorite artists, put what I am trying to say very beautifully at one of his concerts when he was talking about his favorite love song, Tougher than the Rest. Though it was a love song from the 80’s, it differs from the other 99% of love in that it was not written about the novelty of love, but about the intimacy of love. He put it this way: “It’s fun to explore the mountains, to go to Brazil and see the big Jesus statue. Exploring new things is really exciting, but something that some people never understand is that intimacy is way better than novelty. The problem with intimacy is that it’s hard, and it takes work, and sometimes it’s a little painful, and sometimes to get from novelty to intimacy, you have to be tougher than the rest.”

Dr. Pitcock did a great job of picking people who are tougher than the rest. Jake Lynn and I were talking about how different the trip would have looked had the group been composed of people whose excitement was found in something like clubbing every night. The fact that everyone was present and invested in each other, excited to learn and grow as individuals and as a team made all of the difference, and it could not have been done by people who did not have the strength to endure days like the one after the night train, or to open up about our emotions after seeing a concentration camp. These days don’t really make for great pictures, but the significance far transcends that.

Cultural Routes is awesome, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience something like it, but the best part is definitely getting to spend time with people who are invested in each other and eager to learn; this is not unique to CR.. That is the amazing thing about college: I get to live with wonderful humans who are constantly pushing me to be my best self, while also encouraging me in my current state. CR just took that idea and dialed it up to a ten, and I’m so grateful for the experiences that I was able to share with all of those wonderful people. So why would I only think about this one month of my life, however great it was, and miss out on the amazing people around me right now?

I don’t want to live in the past and only think about what I got out of this honors exploration; I see it as our responsibility to be constantly reminded of all the tragedies we learned about in these cities and work to be inclusive, loving people so as to prevent those tragedies from happening again in the future. That’s the difference between novelty and intimacy. Novelty is always looking backward at the joy we had, whereas intimacy is taking that joy to the dark places of the world to show compassion. I thank everyone on CR10 for being tougher than the rest, as that is no easy task, but I’m confident that everyone who traveled with me can rise to that challenge.

Regards,

Kyle

A Year Ago

I really wish I weren’t writing this blog, because writing this blog means that CR is over. I realize that’s an absurd statement; CR has been over for nearly 6 months. Refusing to write a blog isn’t going to mean I’m suddenly back in Europe.

I know that. I think.

Being back at TCU after CR is much different than I expected. When we attended the meetings leading up to CR, everyone told me that these were going to be my best friends and my life was going to change. I generally nodded enthusiastically while looking around the room and remaining doubtful. I barely knew these people, there was no way all of them were going to be my best friends. Sure, some of them would be, but some of them I’d probably never talk to again. CR would be an experiencebut it wouldn’t change me as a person.

I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong about things, but yikes. I missed the mark there.

The 15 strangers I toured Europe with are all, unequivocally, my best friends. My day is automatically better when I see any of them around campus. They taught me to be myself, to love myself, to express myself. I can’t imagine not knowing any one of them, because it would be like not knowing myself.

CR gifted me with so many things, and for that I owe it so much.

A year ago, I was terrified of discomfort. Any time there was an uncomfortable situation, I blamed myself. But I’m no longer afraid of telling others how I feel. CR validated my emotions in a way that made it okay for me to be vulnerable. The discomfort I feel in many situations has all but vanished, and I feel okay opening up. I can thank CR and our deep, sometimes weird conversations for that.

A year ago, I didn’t know how to manage my time. (Ask Dr. P how long it took me to respond to his emails). I did everything at the last minute. I didn’t handle stress well, so I pretended it didn’t exist. But I no longer procrastinate until the very last minute (I realize I’m saying this after I procrastinated my blog, but I have the flu, give me a break). I don’t quite understand why, but I actually know how to manage my time now. It probably has something to do with fitting 13 things that were miles apart into 5 hours every day in a city that didn’t speak English with complete strangers from college.

A year ago, I didn’t know the people who now mean the most to me. I now have friends that I know I can go to with anything, because we’ve seen the world together. We experienced the highs and lows of Europe, and we learned how to lean on each other. I could go to any of them with a dead body and I know they’d help me bury it.

I owe everything to my 15 best friends, because they showed me who I am. And I owe even more to Dr. P for bringing us all together.

A year ago, if you’d have told me I’d have to go all the way to Europe to learn a group of people who all lived in the same building as me (+OC), I’d have thought you were crazy. But I’m not the same person I was a year ago. None of us are.

Goodbye CR, and thanks.

Abby

Gone Like The Wind

What seemed like only yesterday has flown by so fast; I can still clearly remember the couple of days leading up to Cultural Routes and the hectic flying day to Berlin, our very first city. In those few days leading up to my experience, I was feeling a range of emotions from excitement to anxiousness: excitement for what was to come and anxiousness for having to start over in getting to know an unfamiliar group of people. Although it is easy to say I’d like to go back and relive it, CR wouldn’t be the same twice and it’s never good to live in the past. I learned a lot and have even been able to see those lessons playing out well after CR concluded. As many others before me have said, I can’t even begin to describe my Cultural Routes experience.

One of the most important lessons I learned about while on CR is the need for rest. Often times, the most challenging part of CR was relaxing. Although a crucial cog of CR is being All-In 24/7, how can I be all in if I’m struggling to make it through each day?? You can’t. Part of being All-in 24/7 requires you to be making the most of the little time you are given to rest, so that you can be energized for all that the day holds. It was so tempting to stay up and chat every night in a guise of being of “All-in 24/7,” but then I would be short tempered and cranky, which would not be good for the team. The need for rest has translated to my college life as well. This semester, especially, has revealed a great desire in me to rest. Constant busyness has been the theme of my life this semester, along with any other sophomore I’m sure, and I don’t say that as a badge of honor towards my involvement. But rather, constant busyness with no rest has left me drained and made it harder for me to really be All-In towards the things I choose to involve myself in. With consistent rest in my life, I know that I would me more dedicated to being All-In towards all that I do. This seemingly insignificant lesson has been the one that has stuck with me the most; I hope to be able to find rest in the midst of busyness.

Another important lesson impressed upon me was the proper articulation of my thoughts. I can’t count the number of times I may have said something out of line, thinking my words were completely innocent, yet they were actually blunt and conveyed a message I didn’t mean to come across. Needless to say, it led to some tense moments that could have been avoided if I had been more tactful in my word choice. Nowadays, the thought of whether or not I might be saying something to someone that could come off as rude fills my mind each time I am interacting with another person. There have definitely been some moments that I may have struggled with that this year, yet it is something I have been painfully aware of. The proper use of rhetoric can define and shape how a conversation goes as well how someone views you.

Gone are the days when our group could be seen moseying around each city, laughing and enjoying each other’s presence like we’d known each other forever. Gone are the days where every moment spent together was filled with deep, meaningful conversations that could go on for hours without a strict agenda limiting our time. Although CR10 has been over for a while, the lessons learned will be permanently etched into my brain. So, thanks Dr. P and Lindsey, and all the others a part of the CR10 familia for making my time in Europe such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Farewell,

Marat

Anything Once

You only get one shot at saying your last goodbye. On CR, when we would say goodbye to a city, we would go to a spot that overlooked the entirety of it and spend time reflecting on all we had learned there. 

We said goodbye to Berlin from the top of the Reichstag, goodbye to Munich from the castles, goodbye to Interlaken as we fell from the plane (which provided a great aerial view of all the memories), goodbye to Cinque Terre from the roof of the hostel, goodbye to Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, and goodbye to Rome from the Trevi Fountain. I never knew you could say goodbye to a place, but each small goodbye felt like the closing of a chapter. As the wheels lifted off the ground in Rome, I looked down at the city. I missed the place already, but I also missed the person who I was there. I knew that I would never be that exact same person again. Life would move on and continue to shape me into someone a little different.

So here we are, six months later, and it feels weird saying goodbye to CR for the final time from my dorm room in Fort Worth. For the past few days, I’ve been wrestling with how to say goodbye and how to write the final chapter, looking back on the three and a half week experience that will affect me for the rest of my life.

To start processing how to say goodbye, I’ve been reading my journal just a little bit at a time, and looking at the pictures and videos that go with each entry. Every time I close my journal, my cheeks stuck in a permanent smile, laughing about that time the conductor threw us off the night train while Nishu was yelling that we were in Finland, or the time we cannonballed into the river in Munich, or when we couldn’t find the ausgang from the Residenz. I love to read my journal entries about the time we made a friend while touring the castles, laughed about the saxophone man in the bushes, and when I became Catholic. 

All of these stories remind me of one of Jake and Jacob’s favorite sayings on CR10- “We’ll do anything once.” This is within reason, of course, but it helped all of us get out of our comfort zones and try new things like eating schnitzel, laying out in the park, and going skydiving even when you’re terrified of heights. 

I’ll do anything once, but I wish I could go on CR twice. I really wish I was Dr. P and could go eleven times. I want to jump back in my journal and relive everything again. 

I can’t though. I’ve said my six, small goodbyes, and my one, big goodbye, and I’m still coming to terms with this blog post being another goodbye. 

However, the more I think about it, once is enough. CR changed me forever; I am not the same girl who boarded the plane in Arkansas with a 49.9 lb suitcase. CR10 gave me memories and stories that will last forever. CR10 gave me sixteen people who I call familia. I love these people and I have their back, always, as I know they have my back, always. Now that we’re back at TCU I don’t see my people nearly as much as I wish that I did. I wish we could be together all day every day, like CR, but the craziness of life happens. In the middle of life happening though, I know they’re always there for me, as I am always there for them. My people are leaders in all areas of campus, brilliant thinkers, and rays of sunshine that make my day so much brighter when I see them. They’re peace in the middle of chaos, and a steady reminder that I am known and loved by them. 

CR10, we did it once, but we’ll keep it with us forever. CR11, it’s all yours now and you can only do it once. 

Expression

Hello friends, it’s been a minute.

 

Since CR I have danced a lot, studied a lot, laughed a lot, and connected with my familia a lot.  CR has pushed me to make my life into one big adventure, and there’s no other 15 people I would rather adventure with.

This semester has been one whimsical blur, and we have all been finding that balance between dedicating ourselves to our majors/previous obligations and dedicating ourselves to each other.  The CRecade is a busy, over-achieving bunch!  It is always such a joy to run into each other while we sprint to classes, get some #caffeine in the library, or do that stressed-but-thriving smile when we see each other from across the bluu.  Fort Worth may not be Cinque Terre, but the familia is just as determined, spontaneous, and fun-lovin’ as we were 6 months ago.

About an hour ago, Lauren and I were working on our Pecha Kuchas together (our presentations are tomorrow, and somehow I am procrastinating a presentation for CR by writing a blog post for CR??).  We sat going through pictures from Rome together, and let me tell you, we were senti at the tabes.  It has been close to impossible to get all 16 of us in one place because of our insane schedules, so seeing the times where we ate, walked (or heel-clicked in Team Charlie’s case), and snagged Zzz’s together every day and night was a blast from the past.

One thing that struck me as we were flipping through Dr. P’s pictures on the blog (high quality stuff, he has a great camera) was the power of expression.  We have a Snapchat group called CRunk, and I was zooming in on faces that had stellar expressions and sending them into the group.  What started as laughing at everyone else’s unfortunate facial expressions soon became me turning into the nostalgic mess that I usually become when I lack adequate amounts of sleep (I blame Abby and Kyle for my sleep deprivation—we got 3 hours of sleep on Friday so that we could watch the sunrise together…no regrets though).

Facial expressions are wonderful.  My favorite expressions are the ones caught completely by surprise.  So many of us have learned to guard how we truly feel, but when you experience the things that we did on CR, some unguarded joy, introspection, connection, and fascination pop up, and Dr. P was always there to catch it.  On CR I learned the importance of truly expressing myself, and I also learned that preferred forms of expression are not the same for everyone.

Our ways of expressing ourselves are just as unique as we are.  Expression can range from facial expressions, to the way we carry ourselves, to our passion revealing our emotions.  Indigo sings with the voice of an angel (and literally brought me to tears in the Villa Aurora) and she can imitate anything and everything; Nishu whips up some fire beats and his laugh is almost as good as mine 😉; Lauren’s entire body radiates her joy, and she has the unique gift of making you feel valued and encouraged when you’re feeling down in the dumps (and her occasional “OH” is just plain amusing); Brooke can bounce between absolute goofiness and profound convo in a flash; Olivia pulls the funniest lines out of nowhere and makes you feel like the most appreciated and known person ever; Ryal can share his knowledge of the history of Florence (he actually enjoys reading nonfiction?!) and wiggle his eyebrows, which is just as cool as he is; Kyle’s eyes show his intense thoughtfulness, and he can go from deep theological talks to quoting Monty Python with me; Abby does a sick English accent and she can talk politics and cookies for dayz—that girl has opinions on everything and she can actually share them clearly!!; OC goes between saying the best quotes in the quote book to inspiring all of us with her writing—her animated stories draw the attention of the whole room; Jake says the darndest things, and they either make you crack up or question your whole life.  Just seeing him makes me laugh and think about quoting vines while we gallivanted across Berlin; Emma has the most reassuring advice and we can talk about everything from poop to the sweet, sweet Gospel; Jacob can hype up Catholicism and lip sync High School Musical like no other; Audrey’s honesty and insightfulness are revealed through her soothing voice, and she is one of the funniest people I know (and she is our A1 scribe with the quote book); Marat has the most calming presence, and his ability to see everyone’s perspective is so neat.  You could have a 3 hour convo with this dude and you would’ve thought it’s only been 15 minutes; and Taylor hands-down has the best facial expressions of anyone on planet earth and just the way she talks makes me happy.

We all express ourselves in different ways, and I am constantly shocked and thankful for everyone’s individuality and how much we have all come to own our quirks.  We’re all going to see each other’s presentational expression in tomorrow night’s Pecha Kuchas (don’t be mad if I mispronounce it please), and I can’t wait to see everyone and hear their insights once again.

 

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s just going to get better and better.

Peace & Blessings,

Brittany

Unapologetically Me

To start this blog post honestly, I thought writing a final reflection on CR would be much easier than this. I just can’t seem to find the words adequate enough to completely describe all that is Cultural Routes and how it changed me for the better. One thing I know for sure is that CR would not be the same had it not been for every single person chosen for CR10. I was a little nervous coming in because I didn’t know many people initially, only some slightly familiar faces from Milton. I was nervous I was going to have to put on a mask and change my personality in order to fit the group dynamic. But as early on as our very first meeting, I quickly realized that feeling out of place would never become an issue with these amazing individuals. After we all landed in Germany to embark on our 3.5 weeks together, I started to see glimpses of the “Familia” that those of CR past had gushed about. As we hit the ground running in Berlin, there were already connections being formed. I realized I was already letting my guard down and knew that I could fully be myself.

 
But it wasn’t until we reached Italy that I realized the true meaning of Familia. As we handed out our awards at our final dinner, I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be surrounding by the most genuine and caring people I had ever met. I realized that the next morning, we all would be flying home and our time on CR was coming to a close. But I had realized that these individuals were so much more than friends, they were family.

 
The experiences I had this past summer were only shared with my fellow CR10-ers and can never be replicated (as much as we all want to try to crash CR11). I would never trade these experiences for the world and I wouldn’t want to have experienced a single moment of it without my Familia by my side.

 
My CR family constantly laughs at my jokes, no matter how terrible or poorly timed. My CR family never fails to put a smile on my face or laugh until I cry. My CR family is there for me anytime I need to lean on them. My CR family never lets me take a single moment for granted.

 
CR wouldn’t have been the same without Lauren’s radiating joy and Brittany’s amazing vine references and the ability to always uplift someone’s mood. CR wouldn’t have been the same without Kyle’s contagious smile and laugh, Marat’s calming spirit, and Indigo’s amazing voice that left us all in tears. CR wouldn’t have been the same without Jake’s ability to grow deep relationships by always knowing exactly what to say or without Ryal’s ability to be an incredible fearless leader. CR wouldn’t have been the same without Abby allowing me to be fully myself or the Olivia’s being able to always leave everyone dying of laughter. CR wouldn’t have been the same without Emma’s inviting spirit, always having her arms wide open, or Brooke’s ability to allow us all to think deeper about the world around us. It wouldn’t have been the same without Jacob constantly having all of our backs or Nishu with his booming laugh that is enough to make anyone’s day. And CR would have not even happened had it not been for Dr. P and his constant dedication and support or Lindsey choosing to spend half of her summer with all of us.

 
Lauren, Brittany, Kyle, Marat, Indigo, Jake, Ryal, Abby, Olivia W, Olivia C, Emma, Brooke, Audrey, Nishu, Jacob, Lindsey, and Dr. P; Thank you for letting me be unapologetically me.
For the final time,
Taylor Long

Looking Back

It has been almost six months since we boarded a plane to leave the United States and begin our Cultural Routes experience, but I still struggle to find the words that can encapsulate everything CR means to me into a single blog post. Where do I even begin?

From the outside, Cultural Routes looks like a three and a half week vacation. Even though we were warned from the start that CR is so much more than a trip, it is impossible to understand CR before actually experiencing it. Dr. Pitcock calls CR an “experience” for a reason. I knew that CR was going to push me to grow and to connect with the rest of the familia, but I could not have foreseen how much CR10 was going to impact my life.

Looking back on those three and a half weeks feels like a dream because so much happened as we explored Europe together. I have no clue how we managed to pack so much into each day, but somehow we did. We experienced art, culture and history of each city in such a hands-on way that those places feel like a part of who I am. More than that, the people I experienced those cities with have become a part of me.

I am a firm believer that every person in this world is a teacher. No matter how big or small the lesson is, every person we interact with leaves their mark on our hearts. These are the lessons I learned from every person in the familia.

Abby, you taught me the power of the introvert. We bonded over both being introverts, but the way you handle friendship, group environments, and leadership is honestly inspiring. You impress me so much with your leadership abilities and presence. I love that we both love Audrey Hepburn and got to bond over that as well. You are classy, stylish, and beautiful.

Brittany, you taught me the immense joy that comes from laughter and the importance of not taking everything too seriously. Your love of puns and silly jokes had us rolling on the floor laughing so many times during CR. Your laugh still makes me smile, even when I hear it in the BLUU in passing. You brighten every life you touch, and I am awed by your ability to handle stress with a smile. You are the face of grace, beauty, and joy.

Brooke, you taught me the power of inner strength. I was awed by the stories of how you overcame the challenges you have faced in your life and those stories continue to inspire me to this day. You truly know how to rise to the occasion and thrive. You have so much courage and confidence, which are qualities I still struggle with. I hope that someday I can carry myself with the confidence and courage you possess.

Emma, you taught me the unconditional love of friendship. Even though we did not end up in small groups together, you made it a point to reach out to me and spend time with me whenever you could. You put tireless energy into developing genuine relationships with the people around you in a way I can only hope I’ll be able to match someday. I will always be impressed by your heartfelt interactions with everyone you meet.

Indigo, you taught me overwhelming positivity. I will never forget our quiet moments as we walked together in the back of the group, reflecting about how everyone needs to take a step back and take a breather sometimes. Your lovely singing voice warms my heart. You always knew what to say to cheer up the group, even when you were having a rough day. You handled more personal conversations with such maturity and grace.

Jacob, you taught me about the connection between humility and faith. You love God so much. I learned so much about my faith from your passion, which I appreciate so much. You also were so willing to admit your flaws and rely on God to show you how to make those changes in your life, which was honestly incredibly inspiring. Thank you for your life lessons and deep religious talks.

Jake, you taught me that behind every wild, rambunctious extrovert is a loving, gentle soul. You were the life of the party, yet you were so aware of everyone that you could always tell when I was feeling disconnected from the group and somehow got me involved. I connected with you so much during our discussions about the future. You are definitely going to achieve greatness with a twinkle in your eye and a skip in your step.

Kyle, you taught me what it means to have a passion and to chase after it. Despite your calm outward demeanor toward people you don’t know as well, you have a fire in your soul. You are so committed to your dream of ending childhood slavery, and your dedication to that dream turns heads wherever you go. I can only pray that I find my calling and chase after it in the way you do.

Lauren, you taught me the value of boundless enthusiasm. I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone as genuinely enthusiastic as you. It makes me smile every time I think of your “Oh my gosh, WOW” comments when you were told something exciting. Your enthusiasm and your tremendous faith make everyone want to be around you and experience your sunshine all the time.

Marat, you taught me the importance of being intentional. You are an introvert, like me, but when you open up to others, your beautiful true colors shine through. I learned so much from how you went at your own pace to open up to everyone on CR. You were so intentional with how you established connections with others, and that allowed you to form some of the strongest bonds with others on CR.

Nishu, you taught me that it’s good to laugh at yourself every once in a while. I love looking back on the night in Munich where we all watched the video of you getting out of the river. You were embarrassed, but you took it well. So many of your jokes involved not taking yourself too seriously, and I firmly believe that being able to laugh at yourself is a necessary life skill. You are hilarious and you make us all smile.

OC, you taught me to expect the unexpected. You are the master of surprises. I was worried that our personalities would be so different that it would be difficult for us to connect, but I was proven so wrong. You are one of the smartest, most fun-loving people I have ever met. I loved talking to you about books at dinner. I definitely think that you are going to change the world someday.

Olivia, you taught me awareness. I was fortunate enough to be in every single small group with you, and I am so grateful for the amount of time we got to spend together. You have so much charisma. You have an eye for photography and for noticing how other people are feeling. You are so aware of the people around you and always take care to make sure everyone is doing well. That care for others is going to take you far in life.

Ryal, you taught me fierce loyalty. You are so aware of how people perceive you and are so determined to make sure that you leave a positive, lasting impression in other peoples’ lives. Our talks taught me so much about the strength of true friendship and the importance of knowing your flaws and working hard to make a change. I know that you would do anything to protect those you love, and that is a truly impressive virtue.

Taylor, you taught me the joys of storytelling. You are so good at telling stories. You had us crying we were laughing so hard at some dinners. You express your experiences with such joy and wonder that it is impossible not to smile when you share your stories. I hope someday to be able to put a smile on faces as easily as you can.

Lindsey, you taught me kindness. You have already helped me so much as my Honors advisor, but on top of that, you looked out for every single one of us on CR. We felt so safe in your hands because you did so much to ensure we were safe and happy. You give so much of yourself to help others. You are truly an angel.

Dr. Pitcock, you taught me how to challenge myself while still accepting the characteristics that make me who I am. I was ashamed of being an introvert before CR and I felt like it was something I needed to fix about myself. While you challenged me to participate in dinner conversations more and step outside my comfort zone, you still encouraged me to take breaks and allow myself to recharge. You made me a much more balanced individual and made me grow so much as a student and as a person.

These are my teachers. I learned so much more than history or culture in Europe – I learned about life, love, and friendships. I am a completely different person than I was before taking my first steps in Berlin, and I could not be more thankful for who I have become. Thank you CR10. You will forever be a part of me, and I can’t wait to continue CR through our relationships for the rest of our lives.

 

Dichotomy of Life

My life is now cut into a clear dichotomy–before CR and after CR.

OK, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but there is a distinct difference in who I was before my familia and who I am after my familia. I look back on CR and still am trying to fully comprehend everything that we did in those three and a half weeks. And as cliche as it is to say, the one thing I remember so prominently isn’t the places or the events, but the people, my familia. They change me for the better, they help me reach my greatest potential. They are a rock in my storms even though I don’t tell them that nearly enough.

You may be asking now, so how are you actually different as a person before CR versus after. Let me tell you.

First and foremost, I am now more intentional about being open to cultivating friendships with people who seem to be so different from me. This is our familia in a nut shell! We are all so different, coming from different backgrounds, home lives, majors, yet when it comes down to it, we all work together as a unit, so cohesively. I was never expecting to engage on such a deep level with some people in our familia; I was close-minded, living in my tunnel-visioned social bubble. Yet, on the experience, I made deep relationships with people I never envisioned having a deep relationship with. The familia is a beautiful thing because we all bring something special and unique. The same goes for friendships in our day to day life, everyone brings something fresh and individual, I no longer seek friends who are just like me, I seek friends who will bring a positive newness to life.

Secondly, my once long, flowing hair that I had my whole life was cut short after CR. Big changes, I know. Pre-CR Olivia was scared of the smallest, most minute things, cringing at the thought of her long hair being vandalized. I was terrified to bring change in fear that I would miss the old. What CR taught me is to welcome change, not run from it; on CR we pushed our comfort zones everyday. By welcoming change and pushing my comfort zones, I have learned to light-heartedly look at life. I no longer fear small, trivial things (like a haircut). I excitingly chopped my hair after CR, laughing at the scissors swishing across my once-prized possession, this was my big risk taking. CR taught me to just do it, just cut the hair.

Lastly, my value set changed singlehandedly because of Cultural Routes and my familia. I accredit so many of who I am today to this experience. Before CR, I was stuck in the college mindset, going out, having fun, cultivating a myriad of meaningless relationships. CR showed me something so much different. It showed me love in its purest form. It showed me people who genuinely care about my personhood. It showed me mentors who see the good in me even when it may be so hard to find. It showed me adventure and excitement juxtaposed with knowledge and learning. It showed me hands-on learning that brings words on paper to life. It realigned my values, it realigned my life.

As CR fades into a memory, I will always look back and see pre-CR and post-CR as two different eras in my life. The dichotomy of Olivia Chambers lies in this: Culture Routes 10, I will never forget you.

 

 

 

It’s About the People

It’s been almost 6 months since I said goodbye to my mom at DFW International Airport to catch a flight to London Heathrow to hop on a connecting to Berlin. 6 months ago, I never would have told anyone that I could be the person I am today, and I owe that to CR. CR10 changed me in ways that I never could have imagined. To Dr. P and Lindsey, I am eternally grateful for all the hard work and sacrifices you both made to make CR10 as amazing as it was. Every single person on this experience made an impact on me, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway from all of this: CR, and life in general, is about the people.

The Jacob that boarded that plane 6 months ago is no longer here, and thank goodness. I still show some flashes of the selfishness that consumed me, and I still fight the battle of having a large ego every day of my life. God showed me the ugliest parts of myself on this experience, but even more importantly, He showed me that there was hope, and that nobody is beyond broken and every person can change. I could tell you about how every place we visited had an impact on me and changed me for the better, but that simply would not be the whole story. The places themselves do not make the places, the people make the places. Without people, the places would be an empty shell of the brilliance – or the misguidedness – of the people. I could have visited Berlin, Munich, Interlaken, Riomaggiore, Florence, and Rome by myself, but I guarantee you I would still be the same jerk that boarded that flight in May if I had. Without the people of CR, I would not have known the love that I know now.

The people of CR showed me a new kind of love. A love that I know I hadn’t experienced before. I used to think that love was something that had a limit; love was something that I had to constrain to specific people instead of something that is freely given to everyone at all times. The people of CR changed that. I saw God move through people in the most special ways, highlighting their strengths and allowing them to do some amazing things in love. I also saw God break people – myself included – and highlight their biggest weaknesses, which only in retrospect I realize how special it is to see people at their weakest. It is only at our weakest that we see how strong God is, because our greatest weaknesses are His greatest strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Seeing God work in people at their weakest, and seeing them rise above it and grow because of it, is truly a joy and a blessing. I love every single one of the CRecade because we grew in the same way, allowing ourselves to be broken and built up, but helping each other in every step of the process by loving each other recklessly. I saw a new kind of resilience in this group that I carry with me every day as I strive to be the best I can be and grow into the man I am called to be. The unconditional, unwavering, all-pursuing love that each one of these people showed me broke so many barriers inside my heart and remade me into a better version of myself.

When I think back on this summer of growth, I look at these 3.5 weeks spent in Europe. My heart sinks knowing I can never go back, and that my time on CR10 is over. But there is always hope. Today most of met up to work on our Pecha Kucha presentations. While I sat there for 3 hours and struggled as to how this short 20-slide presentation could contain how amazing CR was, I realized something. My time on CR10 is over. The time was finite and will be forever etched into history as the most amazing 3.5 weeks of my life. My time with CR10 began on May 15, 2018 and continues today. The experience I have with these people – the most brilliant group of 18 people – will forever endure. My time with CR10 will never end, because no matter where we are – Germany, Texas, Canada, Australia, or the freaking moon – we are CR10, and the love I feel for these people will not be constrained by time or geography. No matter where we are or what we are doing, when we’re together, it’s a life-changing experience.

Abby, Audrey, Brittany, Brooke, Emma, Indigo, Jake, Kyle, Lauren, Marat, Nishu, Olivia, Olivia, Ryal, Taylor, Lindsey, and Dr. P: Thank you for being you. You changed me. You made me a better person than I ever could have hoped to be, and I hope you all know how special you are to me. I love each of you so much. CR10 Forever.

 

– Triple J

Connections

It has been almost a year since I found out that I would be a member of CR 10. It feels like just yesterday but I know I am a different person now then I was back then. It has been a while since I’ve returned to this blog so forgive me for I may be a bit rusty. I find it difficult to return to the experiences of this past summer on CR with the hustle and bustle of sophomore year but I will do my best without getting too sentimental. Here goes nothing…

Coming back from Europe, I felt as if the whole experience was a dream. We packed so much into each day it was truly difficult for me at the time to fully appreciate what we had the opportunity to witness. Family and friends wanted to know every detail of the trip: where we went, what we did, what my favorite city was, who my familia was. Every time I tried to answer, I could only think how my words could never accurately relay the sensory overload I had gone through. How could random facts and anecdotes fully describe this experience to an outsider? How can I introduce to you every member of my familia and explain every experience we had shared together: the laughter, the frustrations, the tears, the awe, the struggles, and the goodbyes? The truth is, I definitely did a poor job of explaining CR to everyone, but I think that is ok. In fact I think that is the point. We call ourselves a family because only we can truly understand what happened in Europe those famed 3 and a half weeks. The weeks where a group of essentially strangers became family.

Connections, this entire experience revolves around them: connecting flights to arrive in Berlin, connecting trains in between countries and cities, and connections that Dr. Pitcock has cultivated so that we may have this experience.  One particular connection that has stuck out to me is the relationship with Dr. Pitcock. Fabio, owner of the restaurant Francesco Vini. It is a friendship that has grown from opposite ends of the world. It spans across two completely different cultures and yet it still flourishes, so much so that we, the students, can benefit from this connection. When we first ventured out into the strange and unknown world of Europe, we 16 were awkward, nervous, and excited around each other all at once. From my experience, there were times that I thought for sure it was a mistake for Dr. P. to choose me to come along for this journey. I couldn’t see how I fit in with the group. But as we all endured the same travels, laughs, tears, and joys, I felt connected with my group in a way I could never be connected with anyone else. While we were all on our own personal journeys, the fact that we journeyed together connected us in ways we never thought were possible.

Since school started, I have been so swamped with classes and extracurriculars that I have found it tough to find time to simply reminisce about our experiences. I found myself so lost in my academics that I was missing the relationships that I had built over CR without even realizing I was missing them. I missed quoting vines and laughing till I cried with Brittany. Her insightfulness kept me on my toes as I would never miss a moment to hear what she had to say. I missed navigating and kayaking with Marat. His compassion and thoughtfulness to consider every member of the group taught me to better consider other’s needs above my own. I missed the joy and smiles from Lauren that I relied on to keep me going when times got tough. The open love she exudes for everyone taught me to care and love more deeply than I thought I ever could. I missed practicing my terrible Australian accent with Indigo and her head turning, bubbly laugh that made my day whenever I heard it. When hearing her voice, whether she was singing or participating in conversation, you couldn’t help but give her your full attention. I missed having intellectual conversations with Ryal where I felt like I was learning more than I was teaching. His ability to be astoundingly intelligent yet his determination to make sure everyone in the group had a voice helped me realize what kind of leader I should aspire to be.  I missed having Brooke as a clear and decisive leader whose judgement I could rely on and who I would follow anywhere with no question. She was the shoulder I could lean on when I was too tired to carry on and she taught me how to lead by example. I missed Audrey’s calmness in the most frustrating circumstances and her ability to mediate differences without ever losing her cool. I also missed her surprising humor and her well timed jokes that could lighten the hearts of anyone within ears reach. I missed having Emma as a confidant for anything. No topic was too personal nor too difficult to share with her as she would open up just as much as you opened up to her. I missed Jake and his never-ending quotability and his voice that commanded the attention of a room whenever you heard it. His smile can light up a room and I can never forget the pure, deep friendship he pursues with everyone. I missed talking about literally anything with Abby. From politics to music, I found out we were essentially the same and I could always turn to her when I needed reassurance in my thoughts. I missed the discussions about religion with Jacob and his ability to teach me about traditions that I had no experience in. He pushed me to become more versed in other traditions. I missed the unapologetically deep questions that Kyle would ask to genuinely get to know each person. He was the catalyst for which I could analyze my own experiences and introspect on how that made me the person I am today. I missed learning about art and music and culture in general from Olivia Chambers. Easily the most well informed person in the group, she taught me to have a more global vision and how to enjoy life’s every moment at the same time. I missed Olivia Wales’s ability to capture every moment in its disastrous perfection. To spend any moment with her is to know pure joy and she taught me to look for special moments in the most unsuspecting of times. I missed shopping with Taylor and her never-ending adventurous spirit. She taught me to love myself and everyone around me without hesitation. I missed Lindsey and her ability to build relationships with each of us. She never shied away from difficult conversations as she sought to teach with humor and experience. She taught me to listen with a clear mind and a full heart. And of course, I missed Dr. Pitcock. Man, if I could write everything down that he has done for me and all of CR, this post would never end. I don’t know where I would be today without his guidance. He guided us through Europe, through hard days, through good days, through tough conversations, through forgotten memories, and essentially, he guided us to finding ourselves. I could not possibly thank him enough for all he has invested in us. I truly believe in his ability to form a team, no, a family.

I know it might seem like I am rambling, but this is honestly what CR is about. It’s not about the places or the cities. It’s not about the food or even the beauty of our surroundings. It’s about the people. The memory of people in history, forgotten and infamous, and it’s about the people who I got to experience it all with. Thank you, each and everyone of you for being a part of my life. Mia familia.

Signing off,

Nishanth Sadagopan

 

CR10 – Leaders

Dear Familia,

Wow! Thank you. You guys are incredible and I could not describe each and every one of you without feeling wonder and awe. Summer 2018 was an absolute blast and nothing will compare to CR. A month adventuring around Germany, Switzerland, and Italy while learning so much about each of you was a dream come true. Thank you for challenging me, inspiring me, and being constant friends.

San Gimignano group

Life gets busy and oh man did I not anticipate how busy sophomore year would get so fast. Coordinating a night for us all to get together is so hard, but it just makes our moments together all the sweeter! And looking back, I’m so thankful for every second of our time together on CR (and gosh how we used every possible moment for incredible adventures!).

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I love each of you from the bottom of my heart so very much. Thinking about this summer, of course I will never forget the views from hiking in Cinque Terre or riding in that gondola on the Arno, but more than that, I will never forget you – the people who inspire me – how each of us grew, and the bond of familia that ties us together.

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Abby, gosh darn, you are so resilient and such a leader. On CR I gained such an appreciation for you, your eloquence, and your ability to make decisions when necessary. You stand for what you believe in, and that is incredible. This year, you’ve just blown me away. You are so refreshing to hang out with and I feel like you have endless love to give. And you have an amazing talent to be succinct, giving your words such power. Thank you for sharing life with me. (also sorry this is a little similar to your last blog, it was just so good!). You are a loving, resilient, strategic leader.

Taylor, you are SO funny!! You carry so much knowledge and know how to use your perfect balance of fun and wisdom. You just have this sense of ‘let’s have fun because everything will be ok’ and when needed, ‘let’s get what we need to done’. You are just so fun to do life with! Team Bravo would’ve never been the same without you! And this semester oh my gosh. On top of sophomore year ramping up the academics, you have been such a key influence in so many freshmen girls’ lives. You are a wise, funny, valued leader.

Nishu, those beats tho. You just blow me away with your talent. One day you’ll be the best music creator and doctor, known all over, and I’ll think back to you making music on the trains while most of us were just trying to catch up on some sleep or journaling. You have such an ability to be intense and give your all. Just okay is never an answer for you and I so respect you for that. Our random run-ins with each other this year have been so sweet, and I’m so thankful to know you. You are an intense, dedicated, extremely intelligent leader.

Jake Lynn! Or should I say Mr. Lynn? Lol, you are such a light of joy! You light up literally any room you’re in. You amaze me by how you treat every single person you talk with like they’re the only person in the room. You’re the best listener, and wow are you a funny person! Always a joy to be around, no moment with you is ever boring Jake. This semester you’ve inspired me in how you roll with what life gives you. You turn everything into a joke, and everyone wants to be around you. You are a funny, inspiring, hardworking leader.

Audrey, yes girl! I’m so thankful we got time together on CR. You taught me so much about how each of us recharge differently and how to have grace for myself when the I seem to be feeling so different than the group. You pushed yourself big time, and grew so much! Thank you for giving us your whole self and showing us every incredible, funny, loving, intentional part of you! You play such a huge role on campus! You are a huge leader in marching band and man are you invested in that! I love your passion which will carry you so far in life! You are an impactful, intentional leader.

Olivia, oh my gosh you are so fun to be around! Getting to know you is such a treat and I’m especially thankful for Rome together! You bring fun to every situation, and we know you can insta story so well! You’re such a joy to be around, and getting to know you deeper is awesome. I never thought we would’ve talked before, and CR allowed me to see how incredibly your drive, motivation and competitive nature pair with your deep love for others. Life is truly an honor with you, and the impact you’ve had on freshmen this year is awesome! I’ll randomly be talking to a freshman and she knows you and loves you! You are a loving, driven, fun leader.

Ryal! We definitely learned a lot about each other, and I’m very thankful for all the time we got to spend together in Europe! In the same group in almost every city, adventuring is so fun with you, and you helped reveal so much about myself. You have such a big heart for those you love, and I would honestly trust you with my life. You are incredibly loyal and hardworking. Fellows has been amazing with you, and you’re just killing it at life! I’m so impressed by how you balance all aspects of your life from Beta, to friends, to fun, and of course studying! Thank you for being so honest with me and showing me how I need to be more flexible. That reminder has been so helpful and necessary this year. You are an awesome friend, and I’m so thankful for you! Ryal, you are a talented, caring, dedicated leader.

Indigo! Wow girl, you are full of so much joy and you radiate light! You are such an incredible lover of life, and you amaze me in how you are blessed with joy. There were definitely some hard days on CR, but you brought your best at every moment even when it was not easy I’m sure. You have been so hard to catch this year, but occasionally running into you at church or seeing you on campus are moments I treasure because you are all-in all the time. Also, remember that time you and Marat went to Istanbul? You handled that SO well. I love you so much, and life is so sweet and powerful with you! Everyone you interact with is so lucky to do life with you. You are a joyful, all-in leader.

Brooke, I can’t help but think back to a train ride when we sat next to each other and had an awesome conversation. You are so open and willing to share your life and get to know others well. You had so many awesome moments on CR. From sharing your story with a bunch of us on random boats in the little man-made lake in Berlin to getting us all back to Florence safely and sanely from the best gelato ever, you are an awesome team member because you can confidently lead, but also take a step back and let others lead, you also bring people together very well, making sure voices are heard. I’m so impressed by you Brooke, and just want more time with you! Love you lots! You are a confident, caring, motivated leader.

Jacob James. Oh man, you surprised me. Sitting next to you in the Rickel for class last year, I truly had no idea how much energy or confidence you had, not to mention that you’re so outgoing. You kept everyone laughing the entire experience, and you brought life to CR. Your insta moments will forever be memorable, as will the endless amount of Disney you and team Charlie brought to the group. You honestly make an effort to get to know those around you, and I’m truly appreciative of that, as I’m sure so many others are as well. BYX is lucky to have you as a leader, and I know you’re inspiring those around you! You are a fun, talented, outgoing leader.

Brittany, bestie gal! You make such an impact on everyone around you! You somehow are so fun, bringing dance parties anywhere you go, but also love getting to know people deeply. This combination is so rare, and you are such a gem. You and Taylor are so funny together, seriously so funny! And how cool we got to experience Europe together with literally the best group of people at TCU!? I’m so thankful that people got to experience your love and radiance, because you are truly special. You bring people together like no one else I know. I love you endlessly, and seeing your impact on others this year has been awesome! I’m blown away at how you accept people where they are and run with them. You’ve made an impact on so many people at TCU and beyond already, I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. You are an invested, whimsical, loving leader.

Emma, oh how I love you! You are one of the most selfless, giving, helpful people I have ever encountered. You constantly put others before yourself – constantly. Sometimes even to the point of where putting others ahead of you may hurt you. But you think it’s worth it, and I so admire you for that. Can you believe you jumped out of a plane in Interlaken!? Insane!! You rock, and you bring so much fun energy to a room, but you also know when it’s time to get to work. You lead SO well. You listen to people’s needs (even when they aren’t telling you, because you just see it), and you bring people together. I will never forget day 1 in Munich, where we were all having a rough time, but you helped lead the group to an Italian restaurant (Italian in Germany, interesting lol now that I think about it) but we were so hungry and our group was about to collapse in on each other. You again put others above yourself and saved the team. And later that day, I remember you letting a lady go in front of you for gelato, super simple things, but you consistently are selfless. You are so admirable Emma. You are a selfless, driven, fun leader.

OC! Nothing but fun things to say about you! Europe was SO FUN with you! Queen of pivots, you keep us all on our toes while having fun. You never let anything get in between you, your friends and fun! You were one of the people I had no idea who you were when we all first met, but girl you have so much depth. You are really good at bringing the fun, but also sharing with others. Thank you for getting real with me, because you are so cool and have so much to share. You love others so well, and you have such a caring heart within you. I wanted to go to summer camp with you after CR just to hang more with you! In addition to your depth, you are so talented with pictures! Like, world watch out because you can Insta-story like no one else. I love you endlessly, and it’s been so fun being in foundations with you this semester and seeing your love for your friends and how much fun you have at school too! It’s always a party with you OC! You are a pivoting, fun-loving, real leader.

Kyle, you are so incredible. When you describe yourself, you make it known that your goal is to end human trafficking. You are so committed to everything you’re involved in which is truly honorable. You get invested in those you do life with, and want to know them well, and you completely brought that to CR. I love sitting next to you in accounting, and sometimes I can’t help but think about our really awesome conversations we had in Florence and on our way to the Hard Rock Cafe in Munich. You have so much depth, and you’ve overcome a lot in your life. You have so much to be proud of. Doing life with you this semester has been awesome. It’s definitely been a lot, but watching you pick what you’re really wanting to be invested in is a gift because it’s forcing you to choose, and you’re still making such an impact on all those around you. Not to forget, you are so funny Kyle! You are an invested, impactful, driven leader.

Marat! Last, but certainly not least, getting to know you so well on CR was such a gift. You have this ability to critically think about issues and internally process then share your findings with others. Every moment with you was  such a gift on CR because you are always real, never wanting to be fake in any way. You let people know exactly how you feel, and always want to make a better impact, just making sure it’s logical too. We got to hang out a lot in Europe and discover we have some similarities that I would have never known without traveling with you! Thank you for adventuring together and making an effort to enjoy every single aspect, even if they weren’t the most logical routes to take. You are such a blessing of a friend, and I would trust you with my life if I had to make a super hard decision. Also, you’ve made such an impact in Milton already! Your guys love you and watching you go out of your way to make time for you friends has been awesome! You truly cherish those you’re around! You are a motivated, impactful leader.

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CR10 is not a trip, and not just any experience, but the best experience on TCU’s campus, because Dr. Pitcock invests in each of us so heavily. Reflecting on my relationships with each member of the familia, I’m blown away. Each of you rock and are incredible leaders, but a good bunch of us would not know each other and certainly not to this depth if it wasn’t for CR and the groups we were specifically put in. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie were so well thought-out and same with the groups going forward. We were put in challenging, but incredible scenarios that we will never forget, and I will never forget the impact each of you has on me. I love you guys and will love each of you forever.

A huge thank you and appreciation is due to both Dr. P and Lindsey for this experience. The amount of work they put into us is astonishing. Every moment they were, and always will be, there to help us, and that’s amazing; but especially on CR, because we can be some pretty difficult people – traveling with 16 college students for a month is a feat in itself, but even more than that, every single moment we were being poured into whether it be by Dr. P and Lindsey or the situations they specifically placed us in. You guys are incredible, and we have so much to thank you for.

Much love familia!

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With so much love,

Lauren