A Shot in the Dark

Coming into freshman year, I had the privilege of attending Frog Camp Berlin. For a small town girl going abroad for the first time, you can assume correctly: this rocked my world. On this incredible 10 days with 30 people I had never met, I heard about Cultural Routes. My Frog Camp facilitators were eager to plug me into the community and opportunities TCU had to offer. I was fortunate enough to take this trip with Dr. Pitcock and quickly realized I had a lot to learn from him. I began asking how on Earth I could get back to Berlin and do the experience again, and that when the words “Cultural Routes” were dropped. I now knew my goal for first semester: operation CR 10 was in full pursuit.

Dr. P will be quick to remind you that this is not a trip. Don’t worry Dr. P I know it isn’t Frog Camp. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think it was a trip at first, that’s what sparked my attention. As I reached that end of the semester I was battling many circumstances that life had thrown at me. As the title of my blog sums up, CR was truly a shot in the dark for me. As far as academics go, I was not under the requirement but I certainly thought I would be cutting it close due to the tough life issues I referred to.

I can say with a bit of confidence that no one was more excited to be on winter break than me. Not that I did not enjoy first semester, I definitely did. I was a completely different person at the end than I was at the beginning and it was definitely for the better. When I arrived back on campus after a wonderful Thanksgiving break with my family, I had no idea I was coming home to the week that would knocked me down so hard I didn’t know if getting up was an option. That week I went through a break up, which meant losing a best friend, and my cousin Robin, who had two heart transplants, passed away. Her body had gone through the worst, her body couldn’t keep up, but she is no longer in pain. Robin was equivalent to my second mom, needless to say her passing was not even a possibility in my mind. Having my family rebuild from the ground up and watching my cousins lose their mom was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and still continue to do today.

Now, I don’t want you to think I just poured that all out to make you sad or prove to you that I needed CR, I just believe in being raw. It plays a valid role in my emotions of the discovery that I received CR. The night we got off for winter break, I went to an Old Dominion concert with Ryal and my roommate Ashley. We had heard that CR acceptances came out and I decided to check it out, without high hopes. To be honest with you, I did not even tell my parents I was applying (sorry Mom and Dad), I just did not think after a semester like that it would happen for me. Clearly, I was wrong. I opened the email in the 7/11 and saw the black CR crest pop up on my screen. I could not believe it. I actually thought I was dreaming for a little while… There was no way I was selected. I am beyond grateful for the light in the darkness that CR offered me. God was too good to me and I can never thank Dr. P enough for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime, I am not sure if he knew how much it meant.

Just to reiterate, this isn’t a trip. What I have learned is that CR is a growing process. Not just for me but for each incredible student going on this trip. We are each going to grow individually through learning about our strengths and weaknesses. Each student on CR is a leader one way or the other but the beauty of CR is knowing that we still have so far to go in our leadership training and through the three and a half weeks, we will learn a substantial amount about ourselves and others. The way the CR is designed is perfect in the way that we will grow individually, but more importantly we will grow with each other. God designed us for relationship, and what better way to connect with people then spending about a month with them in Europe. I hope to really be challenged intellectually and emotionally. As I have heard, CR is an emotional battle but in all the right ways. It is going to challenge me greatly to learn how to fight through the tired and the stress. I like to think of myself as a battery, I can go quite a long time, but there is a point that I hit where I just need my time. However, after this trip I want to learn how to remain charged the whole time by investing in others and feeding off their energy even if I don’t have a ton left.

I trust that the students on CR10 are going to challenge me and support me through the highs and lows of the trip. I am confident that I will come back with fifteen of my closest friends. I could not be more excited to dive in with CR10 and learn from my group. As I am writing right now, I can only imagine what it is all going to be like: immersing ourself in world culture, pouring into each other, and developing our character together. Like I said, I am imagining, and from what I have heard from previous CR members, mainly a good friend of mine Cooper Gould, I would say it is pretty accurate. However, I know there is so many unknowns still, life changing things are going to happen when I cross the ocean that I may not even be able to put in words. That said, Europe get ready, CR 10 is coming for you.

 

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All In for CR10

I’m ready to be all in for this experience. It feels like my entire freshman year at TCU has gone by in the blink of an eye with Spring Break on the horizon. I can still remember one cool afternoon in October when I walked into Rees-Jones Hall because my friend had told me about an “Honors Exploration” that would count as a Cultural Visions credit towards my Lower-Division Honors requirements. That’s why I walked into that building to learn about summer experiences. I wanted that credit. When I left, I wanted to go on an exploration for so much more.

I had heard of Dr. Pitcock before Cultural Routes. I had heard that he took kids on “trips” overseas to Europe for a few weeks over the summer. I knew that Cultural Routes was one of the most sought after explorations. When I heard him give his pitch about CR, I knew that this was no “trip.” I knew it wasn’t a trip because he opened with “this isn’t a trip; it’s an experience.” Then he told us stories of old experiences and how things have gone off track for the better (adapt and overcome) and what exactly CR looks like in terms of where we’re going: Berlin, Munich, Interlaken, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome. He told us how emotionally and physically taxing this experience would be. He told us we would be challenged like never before, but changed in a way we had never been before. That got my attention and bumped CR to the top of my list. We wouldn’t just be doing this for a college credit. We were doing this to make us better people, just good raw human beings. That’s what I wanted to be a part of. When going to apply, I answered the questions open and honestly, hoping I was a good fit for Dr. P and his team. Then I said a small prayer and hit the “submit” button. In December, my prayer was answered.

We had just finished up watching my little sister Gracie, a sophomore in high school, play her JV basketball game for the night. I was very excited because it was the first night of Winter Break, and life couldn’t be much better. I had finished my last final earlier that day and drove the long drive home to Haslet, TX about 15 miles away to spend break with the family. Life couldn’t have been better. We went out to eat at one of our favorite cajun places, Boo-Ray’s, in Saginaw, with my grandparents who came to watch Gracie earlier that night. I felt a small buzz on my Apple Watch and looked down and there was an Outlook notification. I pulled out my phone in the middle of dinner (bad table manners, I’m working on it) and saw “Pitcock, Ronald: Cultural Routes 10: Welcome to the Familia.” I screamed a loud “YES” and everyone in the restaurant stopped for a second and looked at me. It was as if in that moment, time had stopped. I wish I could go back to that moment and just pause. All of the joyful emotion, all of the excitement, it was overwhelming. It was amazing. I told my family and we all celebrated. It was the best Christmas present anyone could have received. But after the excitement was over, it was time to go to work.

I believe that everything you do, you give 100% effort in doing it. There’s no room for doing things halfway. CR is no different for me. With this experience (It. Is. Not. A. Trip.) I am going to give it all I have. Every ounce of effort I can pour into this experience, into these people, I am going to do it. Like our logo says, “All In, 24/7.” I welcome the challenges that come with this experience. I want them to change me. I love these people and I want to change them for the better, and I want them to do the same for me. I feel so blessed to be afforded this opportunity to have this experience, and I am not going to squander this once in a lifetime chance. I will not fold. I am all in for CR10.

 

Humanity: A Naval Fleet

I remember becoming an admitted student last April and feeling all of the stress of choosing a college dissipate. My parents were concerned that I only picked TCU so I could snag the last spot in Frog Camp Berlin, and that definitely was a factor. But honestly, who could say no to all of the wonderful things TCU had to offer? Sure, all 15 schools I looked at offered great academics, most had exciting sports, beautiful campuses, connections all over the world, and ways for me to grow. But Texas Christian University was the only school that felt like I was truly loved and welcomed upon immersing myself in the Horned Frog territory.

A few days after I committed to TCU, I drove (a few miles per hour over the speed limit) to get down here as fast as I could for an Honors weekend. This would be my third visit to the school, but my first time on campus as a member of the Frog Family. While I did not know it at the time, God was hinting to me all of the things he had in store for me on this campus. The red sand that lined the sidewalks hinted my involvement with the International Justice Mission, the student I connected with who accidentally let slip what fraternity he was in hinted my joining of this fraternity, and my sneaking a peek of the chapel when I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to go in hinted all of the ways I have been able to encounter Him over the past semester and a half. While all of these things did not surprise me, per se, they did excite me for the seemingly limitless opportunities to grow in my walk as a student. The one hint that did surprise me, however, was my encounter with Dr. Pitcock when I first heard about Cultural Routes. I stood there trying to keep my jaw from dropping as he told me about this incredible experience he facilitated in Europe. I never would have suspected that I would have been one of the people chosen to participate and contribute to the adventure.

Before I knew it, it came time to apply for the Honors Abroad Experiences in November. I knew I had to give the application a shot; who could turn down the opportunity to explore Berlin, Munich, Interlaken, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome? Obviously, anyone would say yes to this, but a conflict arose. Even still, anyone could travel to any of these cities and follow the itinerary of Cultural Routes. So why apply?

Reading the description of the experience made C.S. Lewis’s description of Humanity in Mere Christianity ring loud in my head. He explains humanity as a fleet of ships, sailing towards the same objective of peace and harmony; when one ship becomes stronger, or faster, or learns new information about the course ahead, the entire navy benefits. I knew Cultural Routes would not only put in my close proximity to incredible leaders on TCU’s campus for three and a half weeks (which will no doubt expand my horizons in more ways than I could ever imagine), but would also build my emotional, physical, and spiritual resilience. I knew that Cultural Routes would show me how different Cultures interact and have developed throughout the years: making all of those seemingly dead pages of AP European History come alive. But most of all, I knew that these adventures on this once in a lifetime experience would heighten my perspective, understanding, and ability to be a global citizen. This growth will indubitably enrich my life, but the light it gives off will be able to shine through in all that I do for the rest of my life.

Cultural Routes is an amazing, unique way in which humanity gets stronger year after year, thus helping that Naval Fleet I mentioned in the title grow sturdier, smarter, and better connected. Needless to say, I am eager and enthusiastic to sail* for CR10.

-Kyle Hepting

*Note: we are not actually sailing.

Game Time

Preface: I wrote a long, other, detailed, page and a half blog post before this one. I scrapped it. So, here I am, raw and unedited, fingers upon a keyboard.

CR10—the term that brings me both equal excitement and fear. I have never been one to be too eager to hop onto study abroad opportunities. I thought my time would come, but that time was definitely not now. First hearing about CR10 on a diner date with my (then, soon-to-be) big, Cassidy Willie (CR9), I didn’t immediately show extreme eagerness to apply. Cassidy raved and raved about her “familia” and her experiences, but I just didn’t think that it was for me; I was neither ready or adequate enough for an opportunity like this.

Nevertheless, after contemplation and conversation, I applied. Shocker. In order to pacify and mollify my growing uneasiness, I thoroughly convinced myself that there was absolutely no shot that I would actually be picked to go on the trip anyway, so might as well just go for it!

Upon beginning the application, I instantly knew something was different; it felt right. Pressing the hyperlink to open a list of questions just waiting to be answered, I began the process. As I went through and began typing, my excitement only grew. Seemingly being directly related, as my word count increased, so did my eagerness. Over the course of those few weeks, my longing to be accepted skyrocketed. Beginning as a “hey, why not,” but growing into a real hope, my desiring to join CR was alive and well.

Once Winter Break ensued, I filled my time with a multitude of activities to get my mind off of the waiting. One morning, as I sat on the furry white chair in my bedroom, I naturally refreshed my email—and there it was. “Pitcock, Ronald; Honors Exploration.” Face flushing and fingers weakening I tapped the screen of my phone quicker than ever before, opening up the greatest green header I had ever seen: “Cultural Routes 10 Welcome to the Familia.”

Now, I can explain the equal excitement and fear that email brought me. Opening up that email that day brought me elation beyond belief—top five best moments of my life—yet that email also brought me extreme trepidation to now live up to the name. I am in awe that I get to continue a legacy of such honorable members of the familia and hopefully add to the legacy myself. It is time to prove myself wrong. Prove my personal labels of inadequacy, trepidation, and unworthiness wrong.

This experience has now been my own personal challenge to be all-in, alongside people who push me to be the best version of me. I still am in shock that I get this opportunity. I’m learning the deep importance of positive, genuine community (and the experience has only begun). It’s game time in my mind; it is time to prepare for the upcoming wild, crazy adventure. So here I am, game-face on, ready to do this. CR10, here we go!!!

A Decade in the Making

For 10 years, I’ve had the great privilege of leading John V. Roach Honors College students through parts of Western Europe. One-hundred and twenty-seven students currently make up the Cultural Routes family, and we are preparing to welcome 16 more with CR10.

These 16 join an incredible group: alumni of CR have gone on to forge memorable careers at TCU, pursue advanced degrees at prestigious universities like Harvard Law, travel internationally as Fulbright Scholars, and secure impressive, fulfilling occupations. More importantly, many of them have made a positive difference in lives and communities with increased cultural awareness, intelligence and sensitivity; they’ve learned to be more emotionally resilient and better communicators.  As they’ve become difference makers, they’ve learned to understand, accept, identify, and empathize with difference. These students recognize and develop a deep, active appreciation for an array of human experiences and the potential of every human being. They are CR.

This blog will document their story —the intense learning, thoughtful reflections, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences—of the new 16 through words, images,and video. The site will offer academic reflections, meaning making, and storytelling. To read the blog as a “piece of promotion” is to devalue the struggle, work, and questioning CR students engage 24 hours a day while being “all in” We are always 24/7, ALL IN … we have been this way for a decade.

Below are pics from past Cultural Routes experiences, images of people I will certainly remember as CR10 tackles active and experiential learning in an extremely exhausting and incredibly fulfilling manner: walking quickly over cobblestones, climbing mountains, surveying memorials, sharing meals, discussing meaning and motivation late into the night, and exploring culture while directly and openly facing challenges. They are mi familia, and Cultural Routes is about them—their experiences, adventures, lessons, growth, and cultural connections.

Keep visiting for posts and updates from CR10. Please feel free to share and follow!

Welcome to the intellectual, emotional, material, and inquiry-based journey of CR10!