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

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We didn’t start the Firenze

I do not know how to sum up the last two cities we went to except to say that they made an incredible impact on my relationships with the people I am now proud to call mi familia. Time seemed to fly by, but the unique culture of each city impacted each of us differently and ultimately brought us much closer together.

I will always look back and miss the art and the views and the food, but all of that pales in comparison to what I will miss most, what I think most of us will miss most: being in these incredible places with each other. Never have I so quickly bonded with 15 strangers on such a deep level in my life, and I sincerely miss each and every one every day.

I will do the briefest summary I can muster of the impact these people have had on my life, because they are all too incredible and unique to not be celebrated individually.

Emma

Emma lived two doors down from me and we hardly spoke a word together until we reached Berlin. This is probably one of my biggest regrets of freshman year, because Emma is a wonderful person. Through CR I learned how incredibly kind and devoted Emma is. Her openness about her struggles inspired me to be more open about my own, and her incredible prevailing faith radiated from her in her amazingly positive attitude. She is hilarious, she is strong, and she stands firm in her beliefs. She has direction; she knows what she’s doing and she guides others through everything; from failure to joy, she’s there for it all.

Audrey

Audrey seriously surprised me when it came to CR. I had been in a class with her and knew her to be quiet and introverted; I didn’t mind that, I consider myself to be an introvert as well so I know how taxing it can be to constantly be around people for 3 and a half weeks. But Audrey never had a moment where she looked like she was struggling; she embraced her struggles and made them clear to us so we could help her through them and in doing so, I think they became less of a burden to her. Audrey taught me that it’s okay to admit you’re introverted so maybe you want to observe and don’t wanna scream on the train all the time, but it’s also okay to get outside your comfort zone and explore as much as possible. She taught me it’s okay to express who I am, because everyone loves you regardless. I am so thankful to her for that, as well as the incredible quote book she kept for all of CR. May the Crecade always live on through those memories.

OC

OC is a wordsmith, and she’s a lot smarter than most people give her credit for. She knows what she’s saying; there’s a reason the quote book is 90% OC quotes, and it’s because she’s hilarious. She says whatever she is thinking, and most of the time it’s funny. When it comes to actually writing, OC is one of the best writers I’ve ever actually met. She can articulate feelings and encapsulate moments in words in a way I don’t understand and honestly, I envy. OC taught me to never be afraid to say a dumb thing out loud, because who cares what other people think? She also taught me the importance of humility; she is absolutely brilliant, but she doesn’t constantly talk about it or brag about her accomplishments. She makes self-deprecating jokes and is always a good sport, but is genuinely one of the smartest and most humble people I know.

Wales

Ahhh, Olivia Wales. You could say we knew each other coming into CR (go Chi-O), but that didn’t stop me from learning more about her as the experience went on. She is enthusiastic about everything and will put 110% effort into everything that she’s doing, which is such an important quality to have. Her energy lifted others up when we were all exhausted and I’m sure she was exhausted too, but she always had a smile on her face and was ready to go to the next thing. Her incredible spirit and love for life inspired me to be more energetic and enthusiastic and made me realize what an impact my own energy and actions could have on the people around me. Olivia also taught me that it’s okay not to be too open; she showed me that there is power and nobility in keeping some things to yourself.

Lauren

Lauren filled every day with more love than I have ever seen in my life. She is a constant light to everyone around her; she is always smiling and always reminding everyone how truly loved they are, not only spiritually but also by those around them. Lauren was open to every conversation and every time I talked to her I came out feeling a thousand percent more loved than when I went in. She has a way of inspiring the best in people, and though I know she struggles with it, I so admire her wonderfully positive outlook on everyday life. Lauren taught me how to start difficult but necessary conversations and make others feel so incredibly loved.

Brittany

I honestly wonder how I made it all year without Brittany Harano. She is goofy, she is caring, she is graceful, and she is my soul sister on about 1000 levels. She spent an entire day doing horrible British accents with me, trying to teach me ballet, and coming up with the weirdest possible poses for the camera, most of which involved both of us almost breaking our backs. She taught me to be unashamedly myself; who cares if German people are staring at how weird you look? You’re never going to see them again. Like, actually never. She also taught me what to do when I felt uncomfortable; there were days when everyone felt stressed and were getting frustrated and it would start to make me panic, but Brittany would just remain at the back of the group with me and goof off, doing ballet in inconvenient places or posing like statues. I’m so very grateful for Brittany Harano and the lessons she taught me.

Brooke

Brooke and I sat right next to each other for an entire semester of Spanish and spoke maybe 10 words to each other the whole time and I am so mad at myself for that. I was mainly embarrassed at how bad I was at Spanish and didn’t want the pretty nice girl sitting next to me to think I was a complete idiot because she was, like, a genius. But Brooke is so much more than an incredibly beautiful genius; she is also kind, and independent, and a leader, and one of the strongest people I’ve come to know. I think I learned the most from Brooke the day we went to San G; I don’t deal with stress well, so when our plans completely fell apart I checked out and just tried my hardest not to have a panic attack. But Brooke thrived under the pressure; she helped people calm down, dictated who needed to call who and when, and got our schedule back on track so that we would make it back on time. It was like watching Wonder Woman work. She didn’t even bat an eye, she just leapt into action, thinking only of how to solve the problem and how to keep everyone as calm as possible and make sure our experience was still enjoyable. Brooke always puts others first and is never afraid of a challenge. She has worked incredibly hard to get where she is and she will continue working incredibly hard to get where she wants to go, and that dedication and work ethic inspires me.

Indigo

Indigo is joy. I don’t know how to describe her other than that. She literally oozes joy wherever she goes; I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s nearly impossible to not smile in Indigo’s presence. She sings everywhere she goes, and her voice sounds like an angel; Kyle was right when he gave her the award most likely to sing in the shower and not annoy anyone. Indigo has passion for musical theatre, for bringing joy to the world, and for life. It was amazing to observe her constantly positive attitude; no matter what had happened that day, Indigo would pop in the shower and sing her heart out, and the spirits of the entire room were lifted. She taught me how to bring joy to those around me, and most importantly, she taught me what it looks like when you’re truly in love with what you do. I aspire to love what I do as much as Indigo loves singing, and to do as much good as she does through it.

Taylor

Taylor taught me how to get rid of my discomfort, and as someone who is uncomfortable a lot, I am eternally grateful. Any time there was a lull in conversation, or just quite frankly a really awkward conversation arose, Taylor was there with a hilarious remark or an “Anyways…”. She was never afraid to admit that a situation was awkward, and would always laugh it off or pull me to the side to get out of it. And she wasn’t just funny when things got weird; she was positively hilarious 100% of the time. I believe the quote of the trip comes from when Ryal was flexing and Taylor blurted out “is that the statue of David?!” It’s not just her comments, but her comedic timing, her inflection, her facial expressions; Taylor can have everyone on the floor clutching at their sides within seconds. I loved Taylor’s jokes, her honesty, and her willingness to be open. She inspired me to admit when I was uncomfortable and maybe even find a joke out of it. I’m so glad to have found a friend in Taylor, because she truly is a genuine, sweet, comedic genius and I miss her already.

Ryal

Ahhh, Ryal Reddick. Did someone say high school hero? No? Must’ve been the connotation subconsciously attached to his name. No, but all jokes aside, Ryal might just be one of the best friends I’ve ever found, which was definitely one of the biggest surprises that came out of CR. Sure, I may make fun of him a lot, but that’s just because I’m mean. He inspires me in how much and how deeply he cares for everyone around him. Anytime someone found themselves having an off day, or struggling with something, Ryal was there for them, walking alongside them and helping them find the path to get better. I had my fair share of bad days and he was never impatient; instead, he listened and did his best to tell me what I needed to hear. He truly was Superman on our experience, always being everywhere and taking care of everyone who needed it, and I appreciate it so much. I learned from him how to put others before myself and watched in admiration for his love of all those around him and his need to protect them at all costs. I never expected to come out of CR with Ryal Reddick as one of my role models, but then again I never expected half of what happened on CR to happen. So here we are.

Jacob

Jacob (triple J) is one of the kindest people I know, and watching him interact with everyone was truly a great. He has admirably strong faith and is willing to have an open discussion about it with anyone and he is very comfortable with where he is in his faith and his life. He is not afraid to ask questions that may not go over well or to question aspects of his own life when valid points are made; overall, he remained an open-minded person for the duration of CR. He didn’t know nearly anyone coming in, but his infectious charisma and genuine kindness made him somewhat automatically grow very close to nearly everyone. He cared about everyone on the experience and it showed through his actions and words. I was inspired by his openness, rawness, and overall kindness.

Jake

Sorry, I meant Mr. Lynn*. Mr. Lynn is absolutely one of a kind. He is the man who makes sure everyone is having fun at every event while also being the life of the party, he is the guy who will ask you the most serious question about life very lightly on the way to dinner and then stare you down with his icicle blue dagger eyes, he is simultaneously a dad and in love with Dr. P. He is so constantly happy, and seeing his smile makes it almost impossible to smile back. Mr. Lynn taught me how to balance fun and serious, joking and thought-provoking. He was always down to do whatever spontaneous activity whenever, be it laying in his boxers in the park or buying Amplemann socks, and he was always practically giggling as he did so. But he was also not afraid to ask questions that other people might not, and he would always find a way to get people outside their comfort zone (in a good way). Jake brought so much happiness and so much discussion to the experience, and I’m so glad I could learn from his kindness.

Marat

Marat taught me how to be a true and genuine friend, and I am incredibly grateful. He was often a silent observer, but it was never without reason; he was always looking out for everyone and making sure they were okay. There were several instances in which Marat noticed that I was not having a great day, or that I was thrown off, and he would quietly pull me aside and make sure I was alright. Marat would keep an eye on the men in the streets of Italy to ensure all of our safety, and he pulled me out of the way of moving cars many times. He was a listening ear when I needed one many times and I rarely heard him complain. I aspire to be as true and genuine a friend as Marat.

Nishu

Nishu is a DJ, a doctor, and a great friend rolled into one. He has an infectious laugh, an amazing music taste, and a caring heart. Nishu would thrive every day on 3 hours of sleep and I rarely heard him complain about it. Instead, he’d use the time to work on his music, or journal, or blog, or shower, or do anything productive. Nishu was an expert on not wasting the day; I was getting 7 hours of sleep a night and I was exhausted, he was getting half that and he still managed to produce music. But Nishu is more than a machine; he has an incredible, infectious laugh that makes everyone in the room stare incredulously, and he has a kind and caring heart. I learned so much from Nishu, and I’m so excited for how much more he can teach me.

Kyle

Kyle, or as I prefer to call him, Lentil, is my brother who I was tragically separated at birth from and no one can convince me otherwise. Kyle learned how to push my buttons on this experience; both emotionally and physically. Whether it was calling me “Gail” or getting into elbow fights in the streets of Rome, I found myself resorting to my old sibling rivalry tactics to attempt to win our apparent battle. But Kyle (Lentil) didn’t just push my buttons on a sibling level; he also asked me questions I was in no way prepared to answer. We would be walking down the street, and all of a sudden he would ask one of the most difficult, personal, thought-provoking questions ever, and I would find myself learning more about myself as I answered him. He would always listen carefully and comment and thank me for being so open, and then if there was an awkward lull he would go right back to elbowing me in the side. I admire his deep-thinking, his vulnerability, and his observational skills. Most of all, I’m glad I found out that I have a brother at college.

These 15 strangers lifted me up and helped me through things, be it an emotional breakdown or physically canyoning through the Swiss Alps. What’s truly amazing is they didn’t know they were teaching me these amazing lessons as they did it; they just carried on as they normally would and I learned from the incredible ways they lead their lives. I am proud to call them my best friends and I love them all so much.

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot,” -Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

These people gave me so many wonderful things, and confidence may just be the top one. I owe them my whole heart and soul.

Thank you all for the wonderful impact you have had on my life. I will cherish CR10 forever.

Stairway to Jesus, Ghandi, and Abby Souder

If I could mark my time in Riomaggiore by something, I would say it was the beauty and nature, the amazing culture and closeness of the people, the incredible number of flowers, and the delectable food.

If I could mark it by only one thing, it would be stairs.

I consider myself a relatively in shape person. However, there was scarcely a moment in Riomaggiore where I was not panting or keeled over, begging for water.

Perhaps it’s due to the absurd amount of gelato I consumed in our mere two day stay, or perhaps it’s because climbing directly uphill for 8 miles is kind of difficult, but I’m currently doubting my physical state. There was more sweat on my body than I thought was humanly possible.

That being said, Riomaggiore was also marked by a much more important word for me: peace.

Watching the city operate in harmony every morning through evening, hanging their laundry out on their patios and walking to each other’s markets, I felt a great sense of inner peace. Riomaggiore was unburdened by the stress of modern technology, and I found myself enjoying the nature and beauty that surrounded me rather than needing to constantly check the screens around me.

The sheer number of flowers that surrounded and seemed to enclose us on our hike astonished me; they were indigenous to that region, no one had to plant them there. The city was just filled with natural, unfiltered beauty, and no one tried to force it, and that’s how they found peace. I admired the respect they had towards their city and their culture.

Riomaggiore was different because it felt like a screeching halt in the middle of a high speed train. For the past few weeks on CR, we’ve been going going going all day every day, and any time there’s a chance for rest I found myself collapsing, even for a 15 minute nap. But Riomaggiore wasn’t about seeing everything or going to all the places we could; it was about admiring the beauty that surrounded us and understanding what made it so special. It wouldn’t have made sense to speed around Riomaggiore, because that wouldn’t fit the culture of the place we were in.

I spent the time in Riomaggiore getting to know not only the culture and beauty of my surroundings, but the wonderful people that accompanied me on this experience. Being in an environment where we could relax and talk about what we were feeling without being in a rush helped to get to know my friends on a much deeper level, and I am incredibly grateful for it. I am also so grateful for the role they played in my growth and how they helped me through my struggles. I don’t know what I did to deserve such amazing people, but I love them more than anything.

Emma Hoffmeister talked to me about Christianity as we walked through the beautiful hills of Riomaggiore and as I was telling her my story and listening to her own, I felt as if a part of my tale was being built through the conversation. Her openness, empathy, and encouragement inspired me so greatly in not only my faith, but my life.

Nishu and I discussed a variety of topics, from amazing music to what bothered us the most to a stream of consciousness of what was running through our minds in that moment, surrounded by such beauty. We were having a conversation that could’ve been had anywhere, but it happened in the hills of Riomaggiore and that made it so much more memorable. Nishu’s passion for music and justice and family and life is something I admire so wholeheartedly and hope to bring into my own life.

Kyle Hepting challenged me and my beliefs in many ways. I had fun teasing him and saying I was a superior being, and when he challenged that notion by saying Jesus and Ghandi were better than I was, I admitted to being okay with being third. Third place is alright on that list. But Kyle also uses vocabulary very carefully, and I can see him fully thinking through an argument before he starts it. I’m astonished by his intelligence, his patience, and his willingness to walk alongside others.

I learned so much about the people around me and what values I hold closest all the way up in the hills of Cinque terre just by admiring the beauty of nature and feeling my spirit settle in peace.

Riomaggiore, thank you for your peace. I’ll miss all that you taught me, but I’ll never forget it.

Peanut Butter and the Path to Mordor

Interlaken, Switzerland was exactly what I imagined the Shire to be like when reading Lord of the Rings. Everything was lush and green and mountainous and you couldn’t escape the natural beauty of the town no matter how hard you tried. The water that came out of the tap was directly from the MOUNTAINS, for God’s sake. I felt like God, or Tolkien, had sent me here for a specific reason.

That suspicion was only furthered when the day after we arrived, I joined a group of fellow CRecader’s to go canyoning. I had no idea what canyoning was, but it sounded terrifying. The way it was explained to me was that you jumped off of CLIFFS into RAPIDS and tried not to drown for, like, the thrill of it? I’m not gonna lie, I signed up because everyone else was doing it and I wanted a cool wetsuit picture, but I don’t regret it by any means. It was challenging and spectacular all in one.

Anyway, when we got to the canyoning base camp, we got to pick out our helmets, and this is where I felt Tolkien reaching out to me from beyond the grave. I went with the classic Peanut butter (an amazing substance, which I believe should be classified as it’s own food group, but I digress), and my friend Kyle (who also goes by Lentil, but that’s a story for another time), chose the helmet….wait for it….Frodo. It was at this moment I knew a white wizard was about to appear before me and tell me I needed to join him on an adventure. That wasn’t exactly what happened, but it was kind of close.

Our tour guide did appear and tell us it was time for an adventure (oh, and did I mention he was from New Zealand? As in, where lord of the rings was filmed? The coincidences don’t stop here folks). After a ROCKY bus ride and a hike through some beautiful woods that looked quite literally exactly like Fangorn Forest, minus the talking trees, we arrived at the falls and rapids we would be delving into. Here, I felt like I was in Rivendell, and all the nerves that had been building inside of me immediately calmed. If this place was as beautiful as the home of the majestic elves, what could go wrong?

Well, quite a lot could go wrong if I’m going to be honest. I tried to embrace the spirit of Arwen and be as graceful as I could, but repelling down the first rock I managed to slip and plummet straight into the water. See, the difference between Arwen and I is, she’s an elf. So, she can kind of control water. I, however, cannot. This was a bit of a disadvantage. The rapids were harsh and unrelenting, but I did my best to combat them. It was only when we were Tarzan swinging from one rock to another that I finally felt powerful, and even though I’m sure I looked like a raggedy Ann doll flying through the air, the feeling of freedom I felt from flying in that moment was incredible.

My comrades went on to jump from a plane later that afternoon, and I applaud them for that, but I tempted fate quite enough jumping into jagged rocky water. It was uncomfortable, it was freezing, and I was scared the entire time. But once I stopped and looked at the beauty that surrounded me, I realized just how incredible what I was doing was. I was canyoning in the Swiss Alps. I don’t know how many people get to do that in their lifetime, but I can’t imagine it’s many. So I decided that instead of spending the entire time terrified, I was going to be Arwen, and I was going to love every minute of it, being flimsy and not graceful and having fun with my friends. And I did.

Interlaken, you were beautiful. Thank you for all that you taught me.

Goodnight (Moon)ich

“You are without rights, dishonorable and defenseless. You’re a pile of shit and that is how you’re going to be treated.” -Josef Jarolin, 1941

This was the first quote that I saw in the museum on the grounds of the Dachau concentration camp, and as I read it I felt something inside of myself that I had never felt before. I was not mentally prepared for the horrors that Dachau had in store, and that quote just affirmed what I already new in my heart; this experience would be difficult.

“What really stirs up in our hearts is the helplessness, the complete impotence, the feeling of being at the mercy of anyone who comes along. To be a plaything of his mood, and without having the primitive right of being considered human.” -prisoner account of Rudolf Kalmar

It was easy in Berlin and earlier in Munich to attempt to rationalize the things we were seeing. But when faced with the overwhelming imagery and quotes and videos and standing on the ground where tens of thousands of people died, my need for rationalization went out the window and I just felt empty. People were murdered where I stood, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I saw where they slept, where they ate, where they walked, and where they died.

Looking at images of people who were denied their most basic human rights struck a cord within me. They were victims to whoever wanted to exert power over them, and they couldn’t resist. I have a strong moral compass, sometimes to a fault, and looking at that people being deprived of something as basic as being considered human made me feel weak. 

Walking out of Dachau, I didn’t feel right. I wanted to cry, or be angry, but more than anything, I wanted to be able to do something about what I had just seen. I didn’t want to feel helpless against the crimes against humanity I had just witnessed.

I went back to my journal from a few days before and found what I was looking for. It came from the Documentation Center in Munich:

“Where is the guilt of the

innocent-

Where does it begin?

It begins there,

Where he stands to one side

Unperturbed, with arms relaxed

and shoulders shrugged,

Buttoning his coat,

Lighting a cigarette and saying:

There’s nothing we can do.

Look here, that’s where the guilt

of the innocent begins.”

-Gerty Spies

In reading this, I realized what had made me so uncomfortable in Dachau— the feeling of helplessness. The feeling that the worst of crimes had been committed here, and I was just a witness to the aftermath. Seeing all of the people who perished in such an unjust way, I felt guilty. I wanted to bring them justice, I wanted to fight for them, I wanted to have had their back.

The Documentation Center brought me great joy for this reason. It showed me the people who resisted, to the best of their ability, and took action against the injustice they saw. I felt filled with pride when learning about the incredible things Anita Augspurg and Lida Heymann, along with many other women, did to fight for women’s rights and pacifism. Toni Pfülf and the Social Democratic Party’s work to call upon people to fight the Nazi party was admirable.

The feeling that I had in Dachau of helplessness stemmed from feeling as if these tens of thousands of people had no help. I saw victims, I saw injustice, and I wanted to fight it. But remembering the documentation center was vital— it showed me that there was resistance, there were fighters for justice and righteousness. I felt proud to see people standing up and facing almost certain death because they knew what was going on was wrong.

I’ve always stuck to my convictions and called out anything I don’t agree with. It’s something I would consider both a strength and a flaw. I realize now what I couldn’t wrap my mind around—the idea that no one saw what was happening and thought it was wrong. But after going back and seeing that there were people who stuck to their beliefs, I felt hope. There’s a reason the Nazi’s lost, and it’s because of those people. Be it the small acts of resistance or the large ones, they all made an impact and they all helped in the end. And while many of those protesters died, they died knowing they were doing what was right. They died on the right side of history. These people give me hope, they give me inspiration, and they give me purpose. I strive to be like these passionate leaders, and I will never forget the good things they did.

“Engage in passive resistance. Resistance wherever you are. Disrupt the running of the atheistic war machine before it’s too late. Before the last of our cities live in ruins, like Cologne, before the last of our youth had bled to death for the hubris of a subhuman. Do not forget: Every people deserves the government it tolerates!”

-excerpt from White Rose flyer, 1942

Thank you, Dachau, and thank you to the documentation center, for showing me that there were good people doing what was right and standing up to the evil taking over. And thank you for reminding me to never stand to the side when I see injustice. The guilt of the innocent will remain in my mind and my soul forever.

There’s always something we can do.

Goodbye, Munich. You are one I won’t forget.

Berlin There, Done That

I had some expectations going into Berlin, and now that it’s over it’s safe to say that none of them were correct. My time in Berlin was marked by a stunning growth in knowledge not only about the culture surrounding me, but also about the people that have lived in the same building as me all year. I felt myself learning about my friends and myself through the various sites we explored, the food that we ate, and the trains we got lost on; needless to say, it was an incredible experience.

I wish I could write about every single thing that impacted me, but it’s nearly impossible to put into words the impact that just being in Berlin, surrounded by incredible history can have on a person. So I’ll try to keep it short.

There was one night excursion that stood out to me in particular, and it was the women’s memorial. To see a memorial celebrating German women who peacefully protested for the release of their husbands was a beautiful and moving thing; I felt myself being filled with pride for the strength that these women had to show. Not only that, but they were successful, which I believe is the only time the Nazi’s gave up to a protest. Seeing a memorial dedicated to such powerful women who didn’t back down in the face of such horror because they were dedicated to the ones they loved was inspiring.

The miles of the Berlin Wall that were covered in art was truly one of my favorite places in the whole city, and if I could’ve stayed there all day, believe me, I would’ve. Every piece was different and incredibly detailed, and the ones that paid homage to the victims of the holocaust were truly moving. Hearing and seeing different people’s interpretations of the works was a great glimpse into not only our similarities, but our unique differences. While it was fun to pose in front of the wall and take wonderful photos, it was also amazing to see the amount of history the pieces carried and the respect that some people paid to it. It was a great connecting point for team Bravo, as it was a place where we could be ourselves and talk and take some pretty great photographs. Did I mention I’m apparently good at posing people? Didn’t even know it was a thing. I made a joke and now here I am, posing everyone for every photograph. I feel like a fraud. Regardless, it was a wonderful thing to see so many different interpretations and artwork dedicated to preserving something that once stood for something so awful.

The next experience was slightly more difficult. The journey through Treptower was beautiful, and in true team Bravo fashion we took the road less traveled and entered the Soviet memorial through a back alley gate. However, that didn’t hinder us from standing in awe of the incredible memorial that stood before us. Everything about the Soviet memorial was beautiful, from the symmetry of the trees to the wreaths right down to the intricacies on the marble carvings. Thankfully, Dr. P was there to walk us through it and pointed out things in the sculptures that I otherwise would have never noticed. The other members of my team also contributed insight into things that hadn’t even crossed my mind, and I found myself astonished at how much I was learning not just from the memorial, but from my friends. Some of the carvings were difficult to look at, despite their beauty, because of the harshness of the images, and parts of the experience felt very heavy. However, there were also parts that felt filled with hope; such as the wreaths and the Soviet man holding the German woman’s baby on top of a broken swastika. The Park was filled with beauty and tragedy, and the uniformity of it all made the balance feel natural.

The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe was without a doubt one of the toughest things about Berlin. Staring at roughly 2,000 grey slabs of concrete that represented the murdered Jews of Europe, and each slab felt like an unmarked grave; the memorial was nothing short of blunt. Actually walking through it was surreal; it made me feel completely alone and isolated, even though I knew my friends were in there with me. At one point, Dr. P and I were walking side by side at the same pace, just in different columns, and I had no awareness of his presence except for when there was a gap between the slabs. When we went back at night, the experience felt even more ominous; I felt as if I didn’t have control over where I was going, I was just blindly being lead in the dark. We never knew who or what was around any corner, and I believe that was the intention; to make us feel as the Jews of Europe felt. Isolated, alone, scared to make any movements whatsoever, scared to trust anyone. The memorial beautifully and horrifically attempted to capture the feelings of the Jews in Europe at the time of the holocaust, and based on the range of emotions I felt while walking through it, I believe it succeeded.

Not only did I get to experience all of these incredible places, but I got to make deep connections with people I’d never talked to, (attempt) to navigate a foreign train station, eat a considerable amount of schnitzel, sprint to the president of Berlin’s house, and so much more. The experience has only just begun and already I can tell that it is truly unique and incredibly powerful.

Team Bravo, you were a dream.

Goodbye, Berlin. I already miss you.

Filled to the Brim

I have a lot of feelings as I head to the airport to begin the experience that is CR10. First, how on earth is freshman year already over? And how did I make it out with my head held high and not stumbling around like a newborn deer, the way I usually do?

Second, my bag is definitely over 50 pounds. I did my best, but I couldn’t make it under. There was just no way. Okay maybe there was a way, but I couldn’t find it, so here we are. So I’m praying I get a nice baggage check lady who will let it slide, or else I’ll be wandering around the airport with three pairs of shoes on and a rain jacket when it’s 80 degrees and sunny. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Speaking of that definitely-overweight-bag, I’m concerned already about my ability to carry it around. It’s massive and I am notoriously weak. My arms are pool noodles. I didn’t prepare well for this.

However, while there may be an ocean of concern crashing through my head about my suitcase and my passport and whether I brought enough socks (I don’t think I did), it is all drowned out by the excitement I have for the experience I am about to take part in. The anticipation has been building for weeks, and now that it’s finally here I can hardly believe it. I thought I’d be more freaked out, but I’m mainly just excited to reunite with everyone and set out on our adventure in the most ncredible cities.

I’m anxious, terrified, and completely blind, and yet for some reason I’m not panicking. I think the reason may be Dr. P and the amazing foundation he has laid with past CR alums. Or the anti-anxiety meds I’m taking so I don’t freak out on the flight. I hate flying over water. Remember that Malaysian flight? Where the heck is it?

Anyway, I’m filled to the brim with excitement and I truly can’t wait to begin this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everyone keeps telling me it’ll be life-changing; with Dr. P, I have no doubt it will be.

See you later, America. I’ll bring back

some good stories to tell you.