only a dream until it happens to you

Honestly, I never thought I would be traveling on CR9.  I wanted it, I really did, but I never envisioned myself actually traveling somewhere completely foreign with people who were strangers to me just seven months ago.  Come to think of it, the thought of traveling abroad with my family even seemed impossible during college due to our busy schedules and conflicting ideas of enjoyable destinations.  Now that I’m going on the next Cultural Routes, I’m still not sure I can comprehend the journey and adventure ahead of me.

Coming into college, I knew I desired to study abroad to discover more of the world, but I hadn’t figured out when or how I would squish it into my schedule.  Fortunately, CR seemed to be placed in the ideal timeframe to travel abroad.  Some of the my older friends insisted that I applied. “It is the best time of your life.”  “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”  Not a single CR member I talked to spoke poorly or at all suggested the trip wasn’t worth it.  So why not go for it?  Filling out the application doesn’t hurt, right?   A couple weeks after completing and submitting my application, I almost forgot that I had even applied.  I don’t think I intended to push the idea out of my head, but I saw how competent and successful the past students were and wasn’t sure if I could compare.  Nonetheless, I feel beyond grateful to be traveling on CR and cannot wait to curiously discover, learn, uncover, and explore the unknowns.

I do not know much about the culture, history, art, pastimes, or societal norms of Germany or Italy.  As I write, I cringe at my lack of knowledge; however, these gaps in knowledge make me yearn to experience every aspect of the culture in both places.  Just a couple weeks ago, I spoke with my grandparents, who have frequently traveled abroad to destinations in Europe.  They mentioned their enjoyment in Germany, specifically stressing several locations and the delicious foods they had while they were there.  Furthermore, Germany offers one of the biggest soccer (or should I say football) environments in Europe, consistently producing some of the world’s greatest players.  After playing soccer for many years, I have always wondered about the culture in European countries surrounding the game and I look forward to seeing its prevalence in Germany.  Beyond soccer and delicious food, I hesitate to elaborate on what else I look forward to because I have no idea what to expect.  Yet no matter what ensues as we travel, I expect myself to embrace every chance to adventure and grow closer with an already-accomplished group of friends.

Throughout the trip, I expect to feel curious, lost, ecstatic, tired, intrigued, and frustrated along with any other emotion imaginable.  Three and a half weeks in a completely foreign country would frighten anyone in their right mind.  In contrast to the transition from Omaha, Nebraska to Fort Worth, Texas at the beginning of college, traveling abroad catapults us into a world significantly different from home.  Sure, differences in culture exist between Omaha and Fort Worth (nobody wears Chacos up in Omaha), but the distinctness of culture between Fort Worth and Germany or Italy has to be immense.  I fully expect to have misunderstandings with the locals abroad, which will challenge me to empathize and figure out other people’s thought processes.  Additionally, CR will test my ability to quickly adapt.  By spending less than a week at a majority of the destinations, the group cannot spend much time “getting a feel for” each city.  Instead of slowly trying to process the patterns of the locations, I hope we toss ourselves into the culture by encouraging each other to try new things and adapting to specific cultures as we go.  Apart from these challenges, I expect Cultural Routes to make me question aspects about myself and the world around me, and I intend to capture all information with an open mind to develop a more cultured view of the world.

Generally speaking, I rarely get lost or feel uncertain about how to get somewhere.  Overseas, however, I have no doubt I will get lost.  Overseas, I have no doubt that I will question what I am doing.  Overseas, I have no doubt that I will challenge myself emotionally and culturally, but I also have no doubt that I will be surrounded by an outstanding group of people.  People that will not only support me, but encourage me to grow and explore in the uncertainty that confronts us.  If it weren’t for these people, I would be terrified of traveling throughout Europe, yet the people on this trip somehow have already transformed that sentiment into enthusiastic anticipation.

– Christian