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.



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.


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. 


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,


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.