CR –> CT (aka Cinque Terre)

Even though I have only lived in one city in my 19 years (2 if you count my TCU home), I’ve somehow found a way to contract an intense case of what I call the “travel bug”. In grade school, when we memorized the fifty states (and capitals too, of course), I quickly made it a goal to explore each and every one of them. As I got older, I comprised a more extensive bucket list including countries and cities I hoped to one day visit. Cinque Terre is one of them. I first came across this picturesque city on Pinterest under the title “Top 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit.” Though in my opinion, “beautiful” is the understatement of the century. The city built on cliffs with colorful homes and beaches was quickly added to my bucket list. While CR and all of its adventures are crossing off several entries to my bucket list, Cinque Terre is an especially exciting one for me, even though I am certain I am butchering its pronunciation.

  • I am torn between;  CHEENK-way TEAR-ay or CHEEN-kway TEAR-ah

Meaning the Five Lands, Cinque Terre is comprised of five small villages; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Monterosso is known for its strips of beach and because of this, it is also known for having the most resorts out of all of the villages. Vernazza is the harbor city of Cinque Terre and is still looked at to be a traditional fishing town. Corniglia is located high up on a hilltop making it the only village not located on the water. Manarola contains more grapevines than any other village. Riomaggiore is the unofficial “capital” of Cinque Terre, being the largest. All of these villages contain historic, colorful buildings that are built into cliffs, creating an unusual and aesthetically pleasing landscape.
These villages each possess a unique vibe and language dialect, however they share one key thing; an element of seclusion. There are not many roads within Cinque Terre, making it unlike most typical tourist destinations that are stuffed to the brim with cars and massive groups of travelers. No one seems to be bustling from point A to point B, instead they seem to just enjoy the journey in this simple Italian city. While it is not as isolated as it once was, there is still an authentic feeling to the way of life here. Adding to this element of isolation is the fact that Cinque Terre is not easily accessible by car. Many travel blogs suggest leaving your car in La Spezia and walking or taking the train to travel between villages. When talking to CR alum Claire Carter, she told me this was her favorite stop on her CR journey. She told me how the element of seclusion emphasized the beauty of the city and detailed how they traveled by train. Claire also mentioned CR 8’s experience with the train strikes in Cinque Terre and members almost missing the only train to leave that day (again emphasizing the very real scenario of missing the train).
I am completely intrigued by this idea of spending time in stunning seclusion while unplugging from the hustle and bustle of our insanely busy daily lives. There seems to be a sense of tranquility in Cinque Terre that is not often seen today. I do wonder how they have be able to maintain this sort of serenity? While I understand it is not in complete privacy, there are vast differences between it and Rome, for example, or other more frequently visited tourist destinations.
Our visit to Cinque Terre occurs during the final third of Cultural Routes. While I’m wondering now what lies ahead for the CR10 Familia, I expect by the time we visit Cinque Terre we will all have grown in our own ways; together and individually. I am so looking forward to exploring the stunning city of Cinque Terre with some of the most amazing individuals I have ever met. So what I look forward to most about Cinque Terre and CR as a whole, is continuing to foster growth while crossing once-in-a-lifetime experiences off of my bucket list.

PS. Only 47 days!!

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It’s Not All Fun & Games

March 28, 2018 – As I sit in my dorm room, I try to evoke the emotions I have had over the last few months in regard to the Cultural Routes experience. Let me tell you, it has been one rollercoaster of emotions. The first week I stepped foot on campus, I met a few young men who had participated on CR9. Their description immediately sparked my interest in the trip, excuse me, experience.

Cultural Routes is everything for which I live. I believe that one of the greatest things that we as humans can do is explore the world around us, and that is exactly what CR does. There is so much to learn, so much to do, and so much to be discovered. Everything in this world can be talked about or taught in a classroom in some way or another, and I do greatly value the learning that occurs in the classroom setting. However, learning that occurs outside the classroom setting with experience stepping in as the professor is exponentially more powerful and memorable than what we learn inside the classroom. There is something about experiencing things for ourselves instead of merely learning about them that cements them in our brains for us to hold onto for a lifetime.

After researching more about the experience, my excitement grew. Ever since I took a trip to Italy with my high school choir the summer after my freshman year, I have been thoroughly enamored with travelling. We live in such a vast world, that contains a myriad of things to be learned and experiences to be had. Once I got a taste of the excitement and adventure of exploration and discovery, I couldn’t help but crave more of this experience.

As I made my way through the fall semester, I met more and more people who had been on the Cultural Routes experience. The people were quite a diverse group, yet I seemingly kept running into more and more people who had been on CR. The more people I met the more excited and nervous I became about the opportunity to apply for CR. Despite their diversity, there were some commonalities that I found among all the past CR members that I met: CR had a unique but distinct and powerful impact on every one of them, each of them is using what he/her learned abroad to influence the work they are doing at TCU, and last but not least, every single person that I met inspired me.

I am unmeasurably excited to go on CR because of the opportunity to grow, learn, and explore Europe with 17 other amazing individuals. I am certain that I will have the experience of a lifetime on this trip. I know that the experiences I have will lead me to not only discover more about the world around me but also more about myself and those with whom I am travelling. I know that CR will challenge me to grow in ways that I cannot yet imagine. I know that CR will be an experience that challenges me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Cultural Routes will be everything but easy. I will need to be ALL IN 24/7, if I want to gain the most out of my experience, so that I too can inspire the next generation of CR students.

Until next time,

Jake Lynn

 

 

What Dreams are Made of

My favorite movie growing up was the Lizzie McGuire movie.

Naturally, when I think of Rome, I think of the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Acting as the quintessential 2000s teen idol, Hillary Duff portrays a fresh middle school graduate, waiting to conquer Rome through pure spunk and adventure. Too young to truly know Rome, five-year old Olivia simply understood the great Roma through the eyes of a bright-eyed, blonde-haired protagonist—and that was enough to spark a childhood of underlying curiosity and a craving to fulfill a dream.

One of the most iconic scenes of the movie takes place at the Fontana di Trevi, more commonly known as the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is one of the most beautiful Baroque fountains in Rome, encapsulating the era of extravagance and ornate detailing. Lizzie and her sidekick Gordo stand at the barrier of this iconic landmark and throw a coin behind their back to make a wish, commencing their adventure in a city rooted in history, importance, and looooove. Handing over the one coin they had, Gordo relinquishes his opportunity at a wish exclaiming, “I’m in Rome with my best friend, I’m good.”

 

Rome is the last city of our experience and consequently, the last city to experience with the Familia. Although we have yet to embark, I can say with almost complete confidence that each and every person in our familia will be my best friends by the experience’s close. Sitting down with a CR9 student, I began by asking what stood out most from the city of Rome. She talked about the Trevi Fountain and The Coliseum and The Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel. She talked about how the team learned how to make pasta from scratch, and how they bonded over using their scarves as costumes to mimic the iconic Madonna and Child pose. But within each landmark and memory there was one commonality she kept leading back to—companionship.

Being a grade-A art nerd, of course I’m excited to experience the iconic architecture and landmarks of Rome; I’m excited to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel firsthand and walk the grounds of the Spanish Steps, but more importantly, I’m excited to complete an experience of growth, maturation, and community with some amazing people by my side.

Now, no longer five-years-old, I am preparing to conquer Rome with a union of the adventure I saw in the eyes of Lizzie and her companions and the maturity of pursuing knowledge in a city of deep history. Unlike my childhood idol, I’m not hoping to get love or a mega popstar experience or find my doppelganger in Rome (sorry Lizzie!). Instead, I’m hoping to be all in, more than best friends, but family, uncovering the true routes of a city flowing with religious history, architectural beauty, and loads of pasta  with some pretty rad people by my side.

An Introduction to Florence – Trust me, I’m an Expert.

When I think of Florence, my mind immediately goes to Dan Brown’s Inferno – the book, not the movie that only got 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. While I doubt there will be some villain attempting to solve the overpopulation problem of today, I do look forward to seeing all of the art and history to be found in this city.

I completely overthought this blog post for the longest time, and finally came to the realization that I just needed to start writing when I googled “Fun facts about Florence.” While I do not want this blog post to just be another list of fun facts, aroundrometours.com provided some intriguing information that I thought I would share here. My favorite five facts that I discovered on this fantastic website are as follows:

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the lower valley of the Arno River in the territory of Florence on April 15, 1452.
  2. Pinocchio, the wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies, came from Florence. Le Avventure di Pinocchio was published between 1881 and 1883 by Carlo Lorenzini (pen-name Collodi), a Florentine by birth.
  3. On November 30th, 1786, under the reign of Pietro Leopoldo, Tuscany was the first modern European state in the world to do away with torture and capital punishment.
  4. Florence was severely damaged during World War II by the Germans, who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vecchio as it is alleged Hitler declared it too beautiful to destroy.
  5. Tuscan bread is traditionally made without salt, and it’s been this way since the 12th century, according to popular legend. That legend says that during the historical rivalry with Pisa, the Pisans thought blocking shipments of salt would force the Florentines to surrender in whatever battle they were involved with at the time. Instead, the people of Florence just made their bread without salt.

Florence, or Firenze as the locals call it, has been a capital of art, science, mathematics, music, and food. From the extensive research I have done (which included staring in awe at pictures of the city, playing the video game Assassin’s Creed 2, scoring a solid 3 on the AP European History test sophomore year of high school, reading a few books by Dan Brown, and compiling the list you just read), I would say I’m practically an expert. Of course, I am kidding. I feel like I know very little about the city, yet cannot wait to immerse myself in its environment. Nearly a third of the world’s art treasures are kept in Florence, and the history of innovation that has occurred in Florence, from designing the harpsichord to designing early tanks, Florence has fostered the growth of brave adventurers, famous nurses, musicians, authors, and mad scientists.

I was nearly jumping out of my chair while writing this due to the excitement I felt to be able to breathe in the air of this exceptional city, so I had to go ask some CR alumni about their experiences in Florence. The first story I heard had to do with a CR9’er who wrote about Galileo’s middle finger in one of her initial blog posts and how the team was able to bond over finding the finger in one of the museums once inside the city. I then told the person I was speaking to that I was looking for a little bit deeper stuff than that.

“It’s such an underrated characteristic that the city is walkable. Navigating Florence is possible just by looking at the skyline since very few of the buildings are extremely tall. You’ll know exactly where you are base on where Il Duomo is relative to you,” Matt Williams explained to me. He explained to me that the city exists without major public transportation because everyone can just walk everywhere, and walking through the streets is an incredibly enriching experience. He also told to me that going into museums was a fantastic way to learn more about the culture and history of Florence, but his favorite way to understand more about the city was simply by walking around. While the paintings and works of art in each museum are beautiful, mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation, and the Florentines are no exception. Street artists and performers can be found scattered throughout the cobblestone streets – which are apparently not the most fun to walk around on – and they bring the city to life. Matt explained to me how tons of places in Europe have fantastic museums, beautiful buildings, and interesting histories; the one thing that no two cities have in common is the people that live there.

While talking about traveling with the amazing people of the Familia sounds like nothing but a great pleasure, almost every single Cultural Routes alum has told me that the experience starts to feel long, and it is definitely challenging. While I will walk away with a newfound appreciation for different cultures and a much greater understanding of the world, doing so in a group of 16 nineteen-year-olds will not be an easy task. By the time we will arrive in Florence, our vulnerabilities will most likely be exposed to each other, and we will know just how to encourage each other and just how to give tough love to each other. That tough love can hurt, but it will ultimately provide growth for everyone involved.

I know that this tough love will be at its peak towards the end of the journey. Since Florence will be the second to last city of Cultural Routes 10, we will all be close to the point where we know exactly how to exploit each other’s weaknesses, which is a scary thought. However, this knowledge of how to “push each other’s buttons” is precisely what will bring the Familia so close together. As we near the end of the adventure, I know that Florence will provide the perfect setting for furthering our cohesiveness and for the advancement of our global understanding. I am eager to step into the famous city, but I am even more eager to further step into the Familia and create life-long friendships with this team of stellar individuals.

-Kyle Hepting

I Did it, Mom!

As a measly first semester freshman at TCU, Cultural Routes seemed like a looming giant that was oft whispered about but rarely openly discussed. “CR” was the experience of legends; everyone who had gone on it had been the best of the best, so the way I saw it, there was no way I was going to be accepted. I wanted to apply, but I didn’t think I’d get it. It wasn’t until the day the application was due that I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. I clicked on the link, filled out the questions in approximately an hour, and turned it in probably thirty minutes before it was due. I felt regret the minute I hit the submit button, but after that I refused to give it a second thought. I didn’t get it, but at least I applied. Now I could at least tell my mom I tried.

It wasn’t until I was 7 hours into driving home from school, going thirty over in a desperate attempt to escape the semi-trucks that seemed to be trying really hard to run me down, that CR crossed my mind again. The soft ‘ding’ of an email startled me out of my road trip daze, and I glanced at the screen to see the words “PITCOCK, RONALD” in the scrolling bar across the top. I panicked and threw my phone at my sister, who clicked on the link and read the email aloud. The words hung in mid-air, so dense with meaning they almost felt tangible. Then my sister erupted into cheers and called our parents to tell them the good news, but there was suddenly a thickness in my brain, and I couldn’t hear the congratulations over the sound of my own confusion. I got invited to Cultural Routes? But…why?

I’m really glad that’s the first question I thought of, because apparently I never actually get an answer to it. Ironic.

I’m excited about many things that are to come: the unique history of the cities, the distinct cultures, the food. The art and literature are already being heavily researched. I’m eager to learn about new and exciting things in such a unique environment and with people I may not otherwise know. But I’m also ready to be challenged and forced outside of my comfort zone. There’s a very good chance I will find myself in situations that I won’t know how to handle, but it’s important that I experience them so I learn how to manage things I might not otherwise face.

I’m so happy to be part of such an amazing group of people and to have such a great opportunity. I can’t wait to get to know everyone better and to take on Europe in just a few short weeks. And I can’t wait to keep asking Dr. P questions that he can’t answer.

Seeking Growth

As the last day of finals week and the fall semester came to a close, I sat watching TV attempting to forget the horrors of the week and to enjoy the last moments with my friends before we headed back home for winter break. When I received my CR acceptance email, my initial reaction could be considered dull and delayed. After a long and tiring week of testing, I was almost positive that my eyes were deceiving me due to fatigue. However, as I handed the phone to my friends to read, they whooped and hollered and gave me hugs. Their excitement was infectious and caused me to break out in a huge grin, the realization of what that email meant finally hitting me.

I first learned about CR through a good friend, a CR9 alum. I remember keeping up with his blogs when he first mentioned to me that he was going to be spending almost an entire month in Europe. The many pictures and blogs posted began to excite me and I swore to myself that I would at least apply. When I got the chance, I asked about his experience. His eyes lit up, pumped to tell me about his experience. The more I heard, the more I yearned to go on CR.

I am not going to attempt to sugarcoat why I first applied to CR. Isn’t it obvious? Getting to travel to Europe, which I have only ever passed through, and the stories of the amazing community hooked me and encouraged me to apply. However, as I have spoken to more CR alumni across campus and through our monthly meetings, my reasons for wanting to go on CR have changed. Although the thought of backpacking through Europe and visiting many historical cities still excites me greatly, I realize that experiencing fantastic community and personal growth are two things I hope to gain on my CR experience.

I have been able to hear of and witness the community of past CR groups. There aren’t too many days where I don’t see a group from CR conversing or walking through life together. The excitement that I hear in the voices of CR alumni who get to share about their community and how close they are to each of their groups only fills me with excitement in knowing that I, too, am going to witness that. I realize through seeing fantastic community, that I have lacked that same community in my own life. It is something I desire greatly and seek earnestly as I go about life.

Through CR, I also hope to grow as a person. I have heard countless stories of CR being a life-changing or a defining experience, especially as a student at TCU, and I hope that CR can do the same for me. My freshman year has been full of questions and doubts about where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing and I hope that CR can lead me to be more passionate in my schoolwork and all that I do. One CR alum mentioned that this experience was one that helped him rediscover his passion for learning and I hope to God it can make a similar impact on my own life. The opportunity for extreme personal growth is both daunting and thrilling, but it is something I also yearn for greatly.

Cultural Routes will be everything I expect, and I believe it will be even MORE. I hope my expectations will be blown out of the water and that my experience on CR, and my experiences with the people with me, to be something that I hold onto and cherish for the rest of my life. As each day passes, I cannot contain how excited I am to be fully immersed in diverse cultures and to get to know my fellow CR members. I am anxiously and eagerly waiting for the moment my flight lands in Berlin.

– Marat Rosencrants

The Girl Who Never Sleeps

“It’s true what they say, this city never sleeps.” The words of my Uber driver echoed through my ears as I gazed out the window at the New York City skyline. Being my first time in New York City, I was mesmerized by the bright lights, extensive NYPD, and the soft snow falling in the night. Just a few hours before, I was finishing the last final of my first semester. Now I was in the heart of the American dream; the place people come to full of hope, charisma, and desires for new beginnings. Though I wish I could say my motives were as meaningful as the millions who passed through Ellis Island before me, my biggest dreams consisted of nothing more than lots of trendy food and a few high-quality pics for the ‘gram.

As my mom continued to talk to the Uber driver about all things NYC, I felt a slight buzz on my wrist. I looked down at my Fitbit and noticed a text that simply said, “Check your email.” While this may seem elusive to some, I knew exactly what this meant: CR decisions had come out. How did you know you might ask? Well, there’s a of couple things. 1) I had heard that Dr. P was notorious for the way he releases CR acceptance letters. Being that it was December 15th and the expected release date was December 20th, this premature announcement seemed to be right up his alley. 2) It was 10:24 PM on the first day of Christmas break. Who gets a text from a friend at 10:24 PM telling them to check their email unless it’s something important? Immediately I began to see my heart rate climb from a steady 60 to a rapid 90. My hands were shaking as I opened the email from Dr. P.

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To be honest, I thought there was no way I was going to be chosen for Cultural Routes. Though to the common eye Cultural Routes may seem like just a three-and-a-half-week trip to Europe, I knew it was something more. Even from my earliest moments on campus, I noticed how the past CR groups stood out from the rest of the people at TCU. They were a community in all sense of the word. They cared for each other, they loved each other, they pushed themselves and those around them to be the best that they could be and never settled for less than their full potential. Mediocrity was not in their vocabulary. During my first semester of college, I found myself struggling to find this community. When I came to TCU, the community I had worked hard to build was suddenly ripped away from me. I was given a blank slate; a chance to be the best version of myself with no presumptions, no expectations, and no strings attached. Yet, college consumed me. It was full speed 100 mph and every opportunity flew by me before I could even realize it was approaching. I began throwing myself into every opportunity available, longing to find my fit somewhere…anywhere… on campus. I was lonely, but never alone. When I heard about the Cultural Routes application, I was intrigued by the chance to study abroad, but even more, I knew that this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. This was the chance to make something of myself, to find my community and my fit on campus. Though I doubted my qualifications, my involvement, and my merit, I gave everything I had to the application. Even if I wasn’t selected for the experience, I wanted to go out knowing that I had given it my all. After a week of constantly reading and re-reading my application, I finally hit submit. It was now all in the hands of Dr. P.

Over the next three weeks, Cultural Routes seldom left my mind. There were multiple times when I would be studying in the library (shoutout to club lib) and my mind would wander to CR where I would then proceed to open the CR9 blog and watch Riley Malloy’s video for the 20th+ time. I knew each of the songs, what clip they corresponded to, and what time they appeared in the 9-minute video. Sometimes I would begin planning my first blog post, only to quickly stop, hoping not to jinx myself. I would lay in bed at 3:00 AM, sleep deprived and running on the fumes of caffeine, consumed in thought about how great this experience would be if selected. Ultimately, I think it’s safe to say that I was certified obsessed with the idea of Cultural Routes. As the December 20th date approached, I was probably the only person on campus who was looking forward to finals, knowing that there was a chance I could catch a break from my continuing focus on CR. When I left for New York, I was hoping these thoughts would continue to be pushed out of my mind.

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“Welcome to the Familia.” As I read these words I began fist pumping in the backseat of the Uber, eliciting an understandably confused face from my mom and an even weirder reaction from the unknowing New York City Uber driver. In the city of dreams, one of mine had come true. As I looked out over New York City from the Top of the Rock, I imagined myself at the top of the Swiss Alps overlooking the Swiss countryside. In that moment, I realized the gravity of this opportunity. I had overcome the first obstacle: getting accepted. Now it was my turn to make the most of what lies ahead and what is to come. Though trials are inevitable and we will falter along the way, I could not be more excited to experience CR10 alongside 15 of the most incredible freshmen TCU has to offer. We are familia and we are ready. It is OUR turn to seize the day.

With much anticipation,

Brooke Boisvert