3.5 Weeks into 400 Seconds

Creating a Pecha Kucha presentation about CR9 really embodied all that the experience is. The presentation needs an aspect of fun, but also depth, just as our time overseas did. It requires you to contemplate who you are and who you’re becoming, just as those walks along the mountainsides of Switzerland did. It involves remembering your experiences have come to an end, but never forgetting that they happened, just like the memorials we saw scattered across Germany.

I realized that you can’t ride through this life solo on any scale. For a single day in Europe, or 3.5 weeks of CR, or the trek of college, and life thereafter, others are your greatest strength. For reading a map, navigating a bus schedule, or grinding through the biochemistry life, a companion is all you can ask for sometimes. For a nation in the world, leading or following, collaboration and understanding between parties is so crucial. No man is an island, and no nation is either these days. CR taught me the importance of dependence on others and that America needs to work with the world, not alone or against it. Two are better than one because if one falls down, the other can help him up! My Pecha Kucha shows some of the people I learned from in the casual, fun contexts of navigating a city, but also in the sober debriefs of history’s tragedy.

I embraced a newfound sense of curiosity on three distinct levels: a curiosity for friends, for strangers, and for art. I knew these friends coming into the experience, but something about the environment of Europe and being outside of TCU’s campus allowed us to really invest in unique relationships forged from the fire of sprinting to a train or talking until we fell asleep. Just like every nation, every person has a history, and a place from which they’ve come; discovering that made me further curious about what drives people from different backgrounds. Friends generally come from first being strangers. It’s one thing to sit at TCU and say you want to learn more about what people are like in different parts of the world, but to actually converse with people from a different country is a completely eye-opening experience. I learned about the life of a German my age from Nielz, a little bit about Italian cooking from Cesare, and what life is like as a Muslim living across several countries from the woman on the train. These are things I never would have thought of wanting to know about until I jumped in and learned about it! Curiosity is a positive feedback loop, that is stimulated further and further the more and more it grows. My appreciation for art grew from 0-60 quite quickly. I still wouldn’t say that I know many factual backings to the history of art, but I love it. Blogging about the connection between man’s artistic depiction of itself really helped me dive deeply into what I feel about art, whereas a pre-CR version of myself probably wouldn’t have felt as invested.

The most remarkable aspect of CR for me was seeing hope. One of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens, wrote at the conclusion of A Tale of Two Cities: “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.” Seeing the tragedy of Germany reborn into a nation of life reminded me of the power of hope for the future. We all come from the past, live in the present, and don’t know the future, but amidst all these times, hope can be found. CR showed me places I’d never seen before, and helped me think thoughts I’d never thought before. I saw humanity past and present holding on to hope, hope for their people, for the world, for today and tomorrow, for better. I’ve heard an expression that “every person is better than the worst thing they’ve ever done.” I think this holds true on a national and global scale as well. Germany defines that. The world lives it. We live in a world worth working for, and worth connecting together as a global community.

I look back at the blogs I wrote during our time abroad and realize that they still hold significance to how I operate back here in the states. The woman on the train taught me to look at American politics from an outside perspective and think more critically about how our image and actions affect the world around us (“1776 Words, Fitting God Bless America”). I recall asking her about the power of divisiveness in the modern world, and she instead answered with an emphasis on what unites us. I came to the exhortative conclusion of “Let us unite together as the people of TCU, and when that excludes people, let us bond together as Americans, and when that excludes people, let us rise up as citizens of the global community under which no man, woman, or child can be ignored.” That still feels so engrained in my heart; national labels and names are insignificant to who we truly are in the global community. Blogging about art and the beauty of humanity being expressed in stone statues also reminds me of this idea (“Is beauty in the eye of the beholder?”). The stone sculptures were not made bearing a flag on their back, or with any identifying symbols, but showed the naked image of man in his most simple state, the same as all other men, stripped of clothing, wealth, and worldly identity.

I look back to blogging about comfort zones (“A Pirate’s Life for Me”) and all that was overcome. Learning how to function amidst unfamiliar circumstances provided me such valuable experience for navigating the world to come. Because “home” and “comfort” can be such centralized places, there’s a fair chance much of one’s life will be spent out of a comfort zone. I’m so glad I learned this now as I trust and know it will make me a better leader and global citizen going forth.

There is a bittersweet sensation in preparing the Pecha Kucha. The pain of Germany’s history still stings, always will. The beauty of art still lingers in my mind, always will. The words of the woman on the train still resonate, always will. CR still teaches lessons, always will.

-Joshua