“Europe is always a good idea” -unknown

What an incredible journey these first few months have been. As an out-of-state student with little to no expectations beyond beautiful weather, a good business school, and the charming city of Fort Worth, my experiences at TCU thus far have been borderline mind boggling. I had no idea that I would fall in love with my dorm, that I would enjoy learning through the core curriculum, that I would be content in not knowing my major, that I would be involved in more engaging activities than I was in high school, or that my faith would be stronger than ever. I am thrilled about the idea of topping off these experiences with the trip of a lifetime – Cultural Routes 9.  

I first heard about the Cultural Routes trip at my first day of Frog Camp. (I know, pretty cheesy) My facilitator, Jack May, had gone on the trip a few months earlier and spoke nothing but good things about the CR familia, the sites he had seen, and how the trip changed him. As the first day of frog camp was my birthday, I focused on making friends and fitting in, and I did not think much about Jack’s comments. By the time frog camp ended, I had realized that Blaire, my other facilitator, and Jack had met through the connection of being a part of this CR familia, and I left the camp with the impression that there might be something more to this Honors trip to Europe. As weeks went by, I decided to attend the CR information session, knowing that Jack would be there and that I would be able to discover a little bit more about the mysterious trip. As I heard leaders from each grade talk about how much they got out of the trip and how much the community meant to them, I knew I had to apply.

One day over break I received a text from my good friend Ryker, telling me to watch a TCU holiday video. I looked at the first fifteen seconds, but had other things to do, and decided to put the video away, assuming that it was nothing of importance. Later on, as I was at the gym getting my “swole” on, I was shocked to see numerous texts from Ryker, telling me to watch the video, and asking if I was still alive. I watched the full video and saw the numerous Cultural Routes alums talk about how excited they were for us to be a part of the trip. At that moment, I got a glimpse of how this group was a family. I can not wait to join this community and embrace Europe with this amazing group.

To be honest, I do not even know what to imagine when I think of Italy and Germany. While I have heard great things about both countries, and I have studied their histories in various high school classes, my few interactions with people from Italy make me especially intrigued to explore their culture, cuisine, and way of life. One of my best friends, Nico, is fluent in Italian and travels to his homeland every summer. He always talks about how there is something special about his extended family, and how people in Italy seem to enjoy the little things more than Americans do. The parents in our friend group were always shocked at how Nico’s mom simply went with the flow, and I often heard about how that trait was because of her culture and upbringing in a small town in Italy. This past summer, Nico’s cousin, Matteo, came to Minnesota to get the complete American experience. One weekend, our squad went up to our friend’s cabin, and Matteo came along. Matteo was the life of the party, and everyone wanted to be around him. He frequently bragged about the wild parties he would throw in Italy, and while I was pretty uncomfortable with a lot of the language he was using, I adored his appreciation for his language, his family and friends, and his nation. I look forward to embracing my inner Matteo, not in the same sense of being the life of the party, but by taking in every moment, bonding with friends, making memories, and learning about what makes Italy so unique. As someone who already goes with the flow, I hope that Italy will teach me the importance of seeking quality relationships, embracing unexpected adventures, and exploring unique cultures while keeping an intentional heart that seeks after the little things, not simply as a way of saying yes, but rooted in the purpose of personal and relational growth.

I am excited to face the battles of embracing the uncomfortable, testing my worldview and culture, and walking more than my feet are prepared for on this trip. As a teenager, I often stuck with my same friend group and hung around people who all were just like me. Through high school and my time here at TCU, I have worked hard to put myself out there and intentionally befriend those with much different backgrounds and perspectives than me. While this has been a goal of mine, this trip will force this uncomfortableness out of me. I will not simply be having conversations with people who are much different than me; I will be living with them. I hope the people and the culture will challenge me to stretch my mind beyond the simpleness of TCU, to learn more about the stories beyond the amazing people of CR 9, to develop my worldview, to embrace the adventure, to cherish the little things and to seek intentionality.

While I have only seen glimpses of this amazing community, it is hard not to be excited about CR 9. The video, the dinner, and the bonfire have all given me a greater appreciation for the mission of the trip and the drive to keep the familia going strong. I’m excited to be challenged, to see the world like I have never seen it before, to be connected through the disconnect of technology, and to make long-lasting friendships. While a bit nerve-wracking, I’m ready to put myself out there, to share my story, and to learn what makes the trip so special.