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.

 

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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.

***

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

 

Video: Indigo Singing at Villa Aurora in the Footsteps of History

This is a brief story about TCU Honors student and theater major Indigo Crandell and a chance to sing where opera was first conceived of as an idea. It is a story of learning, history, experience, love, passion, exploration, and discovery. It’s what makes Honors learning truly uncommon and memorable.

During the final days of CR10, the group had the unique pleasure of visiting Villa Aurora in Rome and being hosted by HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Princess Rita generously provided a magical afternoon for students, as she gracefully walked us through rooms where artistic, political, theological, and scientific history had been shaped. A beautiful building came alive with every story she told. For starters, the villa is built on the Gardens of Sallust, where Caesar reportedly romanced Cleopatra. About Villa Aurora and its role as a host to some of history’s most important thinkers, writers, and artists, Princess Rita said in her speech delivered at the Institute for Digital Archaeology Conference at Harvard University:

… it is a small miracle that the Villa Aurora even exists.
Oftentimes, I marvel when I sit beneath Guercino’s Aurora and imagine Bernini playing cards with Ludovico Ludovisi. Or Galileo gazing at the stars from our roof observatory, the highest point in Rome, where he left two of his telescopes.
Or Vittoria Archilei, the leading soprano of her day, singing solo a cappella in the Aurora room in 1602. It shocked her audience. Up until that time, everyone sang polyphonically, together to God.  Her performance inspired Cavalieri to write the first opera, in 1606.
I am in awe every, single day when I think of the people who have graced our home, Tchaikowsky, Hawthorne, Stendahl, La Notre, Goethe—or more recently, Woody Allen and Madonna.
Gogol, after he finished Dead Souls, walked around our garden smoking a cigar. Henry James  wrote portions of Italian Hours under a great Lebanese cedar in our back garden.
One problem with the Villa Aurora is that we keep on finding unknown treasures. For example, our Caravaggio was rediscovered only in 1968. It had been painted over, with black paint no less.

And this brings us to Indigo. At the strong urging of Princess Rita, who also filmed the performance for the Villa Aurora’s archives, Indigo sang a song under Guercino’s Aurora in the room where opera was first imagined. Here is Indigo’s impromptu performance. Enjoy the scenery, the sound, and the learning!

 

 

We didn’t start the Firenze

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

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

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

Emma

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

Audrey

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

OC

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

Wales

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

Lauren

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

Brittany

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

Brooke

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

Indigo

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

Taylor

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

Ryal

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

Jacob

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

Jake

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

Marat

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

Nishu

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

Kyle

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

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

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

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

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