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.