Survive and Advance

As much as I grew in so many ways on Cultural Routes 9, I still live in fear from the plethora of traumatic events we experienced because of our transportation difficulties. I cannot even begin to explain to you how many close calls there were throughout these three and a half weeks. It was almost as if somebody was playing a cruel joke. Every possible encounter with a train seemed to go wrong, but somehow we managed to survive it. Even though our transportation in Europe was not the greatest of times, I can honestly tell you that we learned so many lessons about this group and ourselves because of it.

In 1983, Jim Valvano, head coach of the North Carolina State basketball team, was leading his group of players on a historic Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament. They faced insurmountable obstacles with every team they faced, yet they still managed to pull out a victory. This led to Coach Valvano saying in one of his press conferences, “Survive and advance,” in reference to his team’s tournament run.

As I read this quote, I cannot help but think of our group of eighteen at every transportation obstacle. Our motto truly could have been, “Survive and advance.” There were so many times that there should have been a loss or defeat. However, we remained present in the moment and sought to find solutions. For instance, when the night train arrived earlier than expected on our way to Munich and we were missing around seven people, we never gave up. Instead, this moment of sheer terror actually sharpened our ability to collaborate and come together as a unit.

As crazy as it sounds, I think our transportation obstacles spoke a lot to the character and ability of this group. We embodied the definition of resiliency. Even when the odds were against us, we did not let that affect our spirits or our optimism. We were a classic example of “Bend but Never Break”.

What made our debacles with transportation highlight the strength of our group was the unpredictability that which these obstacles arose. All of the students on Cultural Routes are smart. There is no doubt about that. What made our problems with transportation so unique though is that we simply could not prepare for the situation at hand like we could for a test or quiz. We could not read books or study a study guide that would give us an answer on how to react when a train will be closing its doors in one minute and around seven of the sixteen of us are not in sight.

It was times like these that truly showed what we were made of. When moments of rapid decision-making and problem-solving were needed, we brought our A game. This is an area in which I was most proud of all eighteen of us. We always rose to the challenge no matter the size of the obstacles, and you couldn’t ask for anything more than that.