I, as well as many of my peers, have had endless discussions about how Cultural Routes changed us. Sure we adventured through countries for three and a half weeks seeing some of the most amazing art, architecture, and food available, yet none of those things have left the same impression on me as the other 17 people I had the opportunity to travel with. These people changed my life for the better. They taught me to be flexible, curious in ways I never had thought to be, and how to grow to be a better person everyday.
Upon leaving Rome on the last day, I was so sad to be leaving my friends, my family for the last month, but truthfully I was relieved as well. I was tired, stressed out, and just done. Done examining culture, done pushing the boundaries of my physical capabilities, but more so done having exhausting conversations day in and day out with the same people asking deeper and deeper questions. But here now, sitting in my dorm room 5 months later, I would drop everything to go back and do it again. Those three and a half weeks were the storm, but sitting in the calmness now I know that the fleeting pains of those moments were building up to something bigger.
I know now that there is nothing I did in those three and a half weeks that I would not want to do again. Every tear, every blister, every mile walked, hill climbed, or city visited was worth the laughs and the memories that we made. Looking back, I don’t see the pain of 5 am wake ups or 2 am bed times, I just remember the conversations that made me think about things differently, that made me want to get to know other people and connect on a deeper level, and made me a better person.
In my Pecha Kucha, I dive into the ways that I grew on CR. However, I can confidently say I am still figuring them out. The day I left Rome was the day the trip ended, but not the experience. There is hardly a day that goes by here on campus that one of the 17 people doesn’t change for the better.
Now I am the type of person that has everything figured out. I plan everything, I like to be on time everywhere, and it stresses me out when things don’t go according to the plan I set everyday. Well guess what, that isn’t the real world and CR showed me that. Sure I still hate being late to things, but I don’t need a perfect agenda for each hour of every day. I now actually know that life happens while you’re busy making other plans because each and every day of CR was a mystery. My group made spur of the moment decisions, and I loved it. We went paddle boating in a lake in Munich because why the heck not. We ran and jumped off cliffs not sure exactly where we would land, but trusting that we would. These little moments left impressions that even today I am still uncovering. When my days at TCU don’t go as planned, I am able to look back and know that that is life, and everything will still be okay.
I also learned to be curious in ways I never expected. Growing up with the same kids for years teaches you to look at problems with the same lens, but CR changed that. The 17 other people on this trip looked at the world so differently, it amazed me every day. I learned so much not only from the museums, tour guides, and informative plaques, but from the other people. Lance and Cassidy taught me to look at music and art differently, Kendall and Davis showed me other ways of looking at politics, Chandler taught me to take a deep breath and then look again, and the list goes on. Each person brought with them a unique world view that influenced those three and a half weeks more than anything else. This has allowed me to come back into the classroom and approach problems differently, but also approach people differently.
Lastly I have grown on a personal level since leaving CR, not because of what I saw in Berlin or Rome, but from the way the 17 people have impacted my life still on this campus. When I left CR, I was ready to come back to school and pick up where my best friends and I had left off in May. Little did I know one of my best friends was transferring and the other and I would grow apart. The first person I texted in July was from CR, I asked her to be my friend when we got back in August because I thought I didn’t have any and now we’re living together next year. I didn’t know that this would be one of my hardest semesters academically that I’ve ever had, but that these people would stay up studying with me and reassuring me after I bombed an exam. I didn’t know that I would start to question everything about myself, what I cared about, or why I was trying so hard to reach a goal that I couldn’t even determine, but these people listened to me and hugged me while I cried.
Cultural Routes was probably one of the hardest physical and emotional three and a half weeks that I have ever had in the moment, but looking back I don’t see any of that. I have pictures of the beautiful museums we saw and a scrapbook full of the train tickets, but what I carry in my heart everyday is the love and support of the other 17 people. Every time I have a bad day, I know who I can go to, but equally as important for every good day, these people celebrate it with me. I will be forever thankful that I had this opportunity because there is truly nothing like it.