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

 

Veni. Vidi. Vici

Rome. A city rebuilt upon itself. Layer upon layer of ancient history, stacked on top of more ancient ruins. Not to be too stereotypically Italian, but it really is like a homemade lasagna with its layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, layered again and again over hundreds of years. Walking through Rome, it is so easy to just stumble upon old ruins. What I found to be most interesting was that some of those ruins didn’t even have a plaque explaining its significance. It is simply an uncovered piece of history laying between a few contemporary buildings. Its beauty was almost too much to comprehend. On our final day in Rome, my small group stopped to take a look around a church. On our walk back, Brittany said to me, “I love how we are just taking a casual stroll by the Colosseum.” She was so right! It almost becomes too easy to take all of this majestic history for granted after all that we have seen and done in the last 3.5 weeks.

As our time in Rome comes to a close, I realize how much I will miss this city. I will miss strolling through the ancient Forum where an entire civilization used to “hang”. I will miss making wishes in the Trevi Fountain. I will miss learning so much within the walls of Vatican City. I will miss standing outside Russell Crowe’s hotel, waiting for a gladiator sighting. But most importantly, I will miss our evening walks past the Pantheon headed straight for Giolitti’s.

More than missing Rome and the gelato, I will miss Europe as a whole. Traveling has allowed me to examine the American culture from a distance. I found plenty of differences between our culture versus the Europeans, some negative and some positive. One thing I certainly appreciate about the Europeans, especially Italians, is the way they take a nice long time to sit and enjoy their dinner. So often in America, we barely sit down to scarf down our food before we run off to our next task. Forget having time to converse with family or friends. The dinners of CR were one of my favorite parts of the day. They would often linger on for 2-3 hours. During this time, we would share with each other every aspect of our day and the interesting things we learned about the city and ourselves. I think Americans could learn a great lesson on the tradition of coming together at the end of the day and having great conversations over a meal.

But what I will miss most is not spending every waking minute with the CR familia. I could probably write an entire blog post over each individual on CR and how they impacted my experience and how much their friendship means to me. Writing this blog now, I am suddenly aware of how close we have all become. We could laugh, cry, or make the silliest jokes, all with full confidence that another person would be right there in the moment with us. While CR has come to a close, I am so eager to see what the future holds for CR10. But what is most exciting is that we still have three years together to strengthen our relationships and build on top of what we have started.

CR10… We came. We saw. We conquered.

Veni. Vidi. Vici.

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One Last time

I am unsure of where to even begin when it comes to describing my experience at CR. Usually my first sentence when talking to people goes “We just did so much in 3.5 weeks, I can’t wrap my head around it”. I am going to stand by that statement, but I will do the best I can to sum it up, even though thats not entirely possible.

There is nothing like CR. From the cities of Germany, to the mountain tops of Switzerland, then to seaside Rio Maggiore, to finish back in the cities of Rome, we truly covered it all. My abroad experience beforehand was brief and involved a lot of handholding, this however, was far from handholding. We dissected each city with our team members and gained more knowledge than could ever be done in a classroom setting. We had the opportunity to dive into each culture and make the city our own as we grew together as a group. I did things on this experience that I did not think I would ever do. I am pretty positive that I conquered my fear of heights after jumping off rocks, hurling myself out of a plane, and being tricked into doing the thrill walk in the Swiss Alps. I could not have done any of it without the support of my friends. They made every aspect of the trip so fun and I know that I can trust them and count on them to support me for the rest of my life.

As amazing as all the things we did are, what CR really boils down to is the people. I cannot thank Dr. P enough for finding such genuine, supportive, and caring people to go on CR and then somehow deciding to put me with them ;). For three and a half weeks I talked to and experienced life with the same 17 people and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It becomes pretty clear how amazing the people you are with are when you are constantly asking yourself how on earth you did life without them before. I am so grateful that from this point forward, I don’t ever have to do life without them again. Each and every one of them has impacted me greatly and my love for them runs so incredibly deep. Thank you all for showing me what makes you, you, and I am beyond grateful for you.  Thank you for the memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Looking back on my experience, words cannot describe how much I miss it and how badly I want to go back a do it again. As sad as I sound, there is an upside. I now have 15 best friends that I get to do life with for the rest of college and for the rest of my life. Now that, that makes me happy.

A special thank you to Dr. P and Lindsey. They are remarkable. This experience is planned so perfectly, every moment of everyday has been thought out and it is out of them love that they have for their students. Dr. P left his wife and kids, Lindsey left her husband, to spend 3.5 weeks with 16 super loud, always hungry college kids. I am not sure why they wanted to do that but they just love us that much and want to invest in students and I cannot thank them enough for that. I have grown in numerous ways through this experience and none of that could have happened without the help of CR. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and learned how to live in the uncomfortable, its pretty fun I have to admit.

I also want to thank my wonderful parents for allowing me to start off my summer away from them and allowing me to go see the world. I love you and I can’t thank you enough for all you do for me, I am truly blessed to have you as parents.

Thank you CR!

Unexplainable Beauty

I have been home for three days and have yet to find the right words to explain CR. As I read back through my journal, the word beautiful is written all over it. 

I feel like my words don’t do it justice. My words can’t capture the breathtaking feeling looking out over the Swiss Alps from the top of Europe, or the laughs shared by everyone when Jake Lynn wouldn’t move from the path of Russell Crowe’s car after being yelled at in three different languages. My words can’t capture the feeling of skydiving, or the chaos of the trains, or how hard my head hit the pillow each night. My words can’t fully explain how much each of these people mean to me. 

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I have used pictures and videos to explain. They have the laughter of the group, the background noises of the cities, and the scenery of each place. However, my video of the first night in Florence will never recreate the exact feeling that I had. We were floating down the Arno River in a gondola, eating fruit, and laughing. The sun was setting, and the lights were sparkling on the river. This was a beautiful introduction to Florence. We were the only ones on the river, and this moment was pristine. It was beautiful.

 

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Beauty took many different forms throughout the past three and a half weeks. I saw beauty in Germany. Their remembrance of their dark, complicated history is beautiful. I first saw the beauty in the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. It was beautiful how the people came together after the Holocaust to remember the people who were senselessly murdered, and give a voice to prevent anything of this nature to occur ever again. I also saw beauty in the people who stood up for the injustice. In Bayern Munchen, the soccer team who refused to align with the Nazis because there were Jews on their team. Also, in Otto Weidt who employed blind and deaf Jews and saved hundreds of lives. 

Seeing the beauty in Interlaken was easy. The moment the train turned the corner to overlook the scenery of Interlaken, I decided that was what heaven might look like. The sparkling, blue lakes surrounded by fresh green grass with the Swiss Alps touching the sky behind them. It was beautiful to see people overcome their fear of heights, to sing together in the bus, to celebrate together after we touched the ground. It was beautiful to rest and soak in the scenery. 

In Riomaggiore, we saw beauty in the simplicity of life. In every day routines by locals, small shops, and long dinners. We saw beauty in the bright colors that dotted the mountainside, and the small alleys winding down to the sea. I saw beauty in the expanse of the sea stretching as far as the eye could see, and in the water splashing against the rocks. I saw beauty at the top of the mountain, and within the conversations during the climb. There was beauty in gelato, in laughs, in the youth in Asia, and even in the crowded hostel. 

Florence brought beauty in many forms. In art: the David, Birth of Venus, the Duomo, and in street artists who played for us in the Uffitzi courtyard each night. In the gondola ride the first night that I could relive over and over again. We also saw beauty in long dinners full of belly-aching laughter, carousels, and mine and Olivia Chambers’ duet with a random couple. However, the real beauty in Florence was Ryal Reddick’s dinner attire, due to which he became known as scarf boy. 

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In Rome, we saw beauty in the Trevi Fountain as we attempted to be Lizzie McGuire, the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica and the incredible history behind each place. Also, we saw lots of beauty in Giolitti’s each night, and I’m sure Jacob James saw the beauty of success in eating 25 scoops of gelato to break Matt Williams’ record. Rome also held bittersweet emotional beauty. Each day was exciting in the discoveries that it held, but brought the impending end to CR even closer. I saw beauty in my streaming tears while CR members stood up and celebrated each other with awards, in Dr. P’s last speech affirming each of us, and in the all nighter that some of us pulled before waking up to a 12 hour flight home. I was able to see the beauty in each person’s heart throughout the past three and a half weeks and love them better.

CR – thank you for showing me that there is beauty in everything, and in everyone. I will never be able to fully explain this beauty in words, but I think that is what makes it beautiful.

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