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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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.

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Life gets busy and oh man did I not anticipate how busy sophomore year would get so fast. Coordinating a night for us all to get together is so hard, but it just makes our moments together all the sweeter! And looking back, I’m so thankful for every second of our time together on CR (and gosh how we used every possible moment for incredible adventures!).

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I love each of you from the bottom of my heart so very much. Thinking about this summer, of course I will never forget the views from hiking in Cinque Terre or riding in that gondola on the Arno, but more than that, I will never forget you – the people who inspire me – how each of us grew, and the bond of familia that ties us together.

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Abby, gosh darn, you are so resilient and such a leader. On CR I gained such an appreciation for you, your eloquence, and your ability to make decisions when necessary. You stand for what you believe in, and that is incredible. This year, you’ve just blown me away. You are so refreshing to hang out with and I feel like you have endless love to give. And you have an amazing talent to be succinct, giving your words such power. Thank you for sharing life with me. (also sorry this is a little similar to your last blog, it was just so good!). You are a loving, resilient, strategic leader.

Taylor, you are SO funny!! You carry so much knowledge and know how to use your perfect balance of fun and wisdom. You just have this sense of ‘let’s have fun because everything will be ok’ and when needed, ‘let’s get what we need to done’. You are just so fun to do life with! Team Bravo would’ve never been the same without you! And this semester oh my gosh. On top of sophomore year ramping up the academics, you have been such a key influence in so many freshmen girls’ lives. You are a wise, funny, valued leader.

Nishu, those beats tho. You just blow me away with your talent. One day you’ll be the best music creator and doctor, known all over, and I’ll think back to you making music on the trains while most of us were just trying to catch up on some sleep or journaling. You have such an ability to be intense and give your all. Just okay is never an answer for you and I so respect you for that. Our random run-ins with each other this year have been so sweet, and I’m so thankful to know you. You are an intense, dedicated, extremely intelligent leader.

Jake Lynn! Or should I say Mr. Lynn? Lol, you are such a light of joy! You light up literally any room you’re in. You amaze me by how you treat every single person you talk with like they’re the only person in the room. You’re the best listener, and wow are you a funny person! Always a joy to be around, no moment with you is ever boring Jake. This semester you’ve inspired me in how you roll with what life gives you. You turn everything into a joke, and everyone wants to be around you. You are a funny, inspiring, hardworking leader.

Audrey, yes girl! I’m so thankful we got time together on CR. You taught me so much about how each of us recharge differently and how to have grace for myself when the I seem to be feeling so different than the group. You pushed yourself big time, and grew so much! Thank you for giving us your whole self and showing us every incredible, funny, loving, intentional part of you! You play such a huge role on campus! You are a huge leader in marching band and man are you invested in that! I love your passion which will carry you so far in life! You are an impactful, intentional leader.

Olivia, oh my gosh you are so fun to be around! Getting to know you is such a treat and I’m especially thankful for Rome together! You bring fun to every situation, and we know you can insta story so well! You’re such a joy to be around, and getting to know you deeper is awesome. I never thought we would’ve talked before, and CR allowed me to see how incredibly your drive, motivation and competitive nature pair with your deep love for others. Life is truly an honor with you, and the impact you’ve had on freshmen this year is awesome! I’ll randomly be talking to a freshman and she knows you and loves you! You are a loving, driven, fun leader.

Ryal! We definitely learned a lot about each other, and I’m very thankful for all the time we got to spend together in Europe! In the same group in almost every city, adventuring is so fun with you, and you helped reveal so much about myself. You have such a big heart for those you love, and I would honestly trust you with my life. You are incredibly loyal and hardworking. Fellows has been amazing with you, and you’re just killing it at life! I’m so impressed by how you balance all aspects of your life from Beta, to friends, to fun, and of course studying! Thank you for being so honest with me and showing me how I need to be more flexible. That reminder has been so helpful and necessary this year. You are an awesome friend, and I’m so thankful for you! Ryal, you are a talented, caring, dedicated leader.

Indigo! Wow girl, you are full of so much joy and you radiate light! You are such an incredible lover of life, and you amaze me in how you are blessed with joy. There were definitely some hard days on CR, but you brought your best at every moment even when it was not easy I’m sure. You have been so hard to catch this year, but occasionally running into you at church or seeing you on campus are moments I treasure because you are all-in all the time. Also, remember that time you and Marat went to Istanbul? You handled that SO well. I love you so much, and life is so sweet and powerful with you! Everyone you interact with is so lucky to do life with you. You are a joyful, all-in leader.

Brooke, I can’t help but think back to a train ride when we sat next to each other and had an awesome conversation. You are so open and willing to share your life and get to know others well. You had so many awesome moments on CR. From sharing your story with a bunch of us on random boats in the little man-made lake in Berlin to getting us all back to Florence safely and sanely from the best gelato ever, you are an awesome team member because you can confidently lead, but also take a step back and let others lead, you also bring people together very well, making sure voices are heard. I’m so impressed by you Brooke, and just want more time with you! Love you lots! You are a confident, caring, motivated leader.

Jacob James. Oh man, you surprised me. Sitting next to you in the Rickel for class last year, I truly had no idea how much energy or confidence you had, not to mention that you’re so outgoing. You kept everyone laughing the entire experience, and you brought life to CR. Your insta moments will forever be memorable, as will the endless amount of Disney you and team Charlie brought to the group. You honestly make an effort to get to know those around you, and I’m truly appreciative of that, as I’m sure so many others are as well. BYX is lucky to have you as a leader, and I know you’re inspiring those around you! You are a fun, talented, outgoing leader.

Brittany, bestie gal! You make such an impact on everyone around you! You somehow are so fun, bringing dance parties anywhere you go, but also love getting to know people deeply. This combination is so rare, and you are such a gem. You and Taylor are so funny together, seriously so funny! And how cool we got to experience Europe together with literally the best group of people at TCU!? I’m so thankful that people got to experience your love and radiance, because you are truly special. You bring people together like no one else I know. I love you endlessly, and seeing your impact on others this year has been awesome! I’m blown away at how you accept people where they are and run with them. You’ve made an impact on so many people at TCU and beyond already, I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. You are an invested, whimsical, loving leader.

Emma, oh how I love you! You are one of the most selfless, giving, helpful people I have ever encountered. You constantly put others before yourself – constantly. Sometimes even to the point of where putting others ahead of you may hurt you. But you think it’s worth it, and I so admire you for that. Can you believe you jumped out of a plane in Interlaken!? Insane!! You rock, and you bring so much fun energy to a room, but you also know when it’s time to get to work. You lead SO well. You listen to people’s needs (even when they aren’t telling you, because you just see it), and you bring people together. I will never forget day 1 in Munich, where we were all having a rough time, but you helped lead the group to an Italian restaurant (Italian in Germany, interesting lol now that I think about it) but we were so hungry and our group was about to collapse in on each other. You again put others above yourself and saved the team. And later that day, I remember you letting a lady go in front of you for gelato, super simple things, but you consistently are selfless. You are so admirable Emma. You are a selfless, driven, fun leader.

OC! Nothing but fun things to say about you! Europe was SO FUN with you! Queen of pivots, you keep us all on our toes while having fun. You never let anything get in between you, your friends and fun! You were one of the people I had no idea who you were when we all first met, but girl you have so much depth. You are really good at bringing the fun, but also sharing with others. Thank you for getting real with me, because you are so cool and have so much to share. You love others so well, and you have such a caring heart within you. I wanted to go to summer camp with you after CR just to hang more with you! In addition to your depth, you are so talented with pictures! Like, world watch out because you can Insta-story like no one else. I love you endlessly, and it’s been so fun being in foundations with you this semester and seeing your love for your friends and how much fun you have at school too! It’s always a party with you OC! You are a pivoting, fun-loving, real leader.

Kyle, you are so incredible. When you describe yourself, you make it known that your goal is to end human trafficking. You are so committed to everything you’re involved in which is truly honorable. You get invested in those you do life with, and want to know them well, and you completely brought that to CR. I love sitting next to you in accounting, and sometimes I can’t help but think about our really awesome conversations we had in Florence and on our way to the Hard Rock Cafe in Munich. You have so much depth, and you’ve overcome a lot in your life. You have so much to be proud of. Doing life with you this semester has been awesome. It’s definitely been a lot, but watching you pick what you’re really wanting to be invested in is a gift because it’s forcing you to choose, and you’re still making such an impact on all those around you. Not to forget, you are so funny Kyle! You are an invested, impactful, driven leader.

Marat! Last, but certainly not least, getting to know you so well on CR was such a gift. You have this ability to critically think about issues and internally process then share your findings with others. Every moment with you was  such a gift on CR because you are always real, never wanting to be fake in any way. You let people know exactly how you feel, and always want to make a better impact, just making sure it’s logical too. We got to hang out a lot in Europe and discover we have some similarities that I would have never known without traveling with you! Thank you for adventuring together and making an effort to enjoy every single aspect, even if they weren’t the most logical routes to take. You are such a blessing of a friend, and I would trust you with my life if I had to make a super hard decision. Also, you’ve made such an impact in Milton already! Your guys love you and watching you go out of your way to make time for you friends has been awesome! You truly cherish those you’re around! You are a motivated, impactful leader.

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CR10 is not a trip, and not just any experience, but the best experience on TCU’s campus, because Dr. Pitcock invests in each of us so heavily. Reflecting on my relationships with each member of the familia, I’m blown away. Each of you rock and are incredible leaders, but a good bunch of us would not know each other and certainly not to this depth if it wasn’t for CR and the groups we were specifically put in. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie were so well thought-out and same with the groups going forward. We were put in challenging, but incredible scenarios that we will never forget, and I will never forget the impact each of you has on me. I love you guys and will love each of you forever.

A huge thank you and appreciation is due to both Dr. P and Lindsey for this experience. The amount of work they put into us is astonishing. Every moment they were, and always will be, there to help us, and that’s amazing; but especially on CR, because we can be some pretty difficult people – traveling with 16 college students for a month is a feat in itself, but even more than that, every single moment we were being poured into whether it be by Dr. P and Lindsey or the situations they specifically placed us in. You guys are incredible, and we have so much to thank you for.

Much love familia!

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With so much love,

Lauren