It’s crazy to think that 5 whole months ago we were in Rome. We were probably eating Gelato, talking about non school related topics, and living in the moment. We were (barely) sleeping in a beautiful hotel, touring the Vatican and the Colosseum, and competing in Whai Whai. We were just about to finish the trip of a lifetime. As I sit here and reflect on this gloomy morning in Samuelson Hall, my heart truly misses the simpler times had on Cultural Routes. I miss the hands-on studying that came from asking questions and exploring some of history’s most iconic artifacts. I miss talking to and learning from my fellow CR9ers. And I miss waking up in the morning overcome with excitement for adventure. As I attempt to describe all that I learned about myself, those around me, and the world on this trip, I would like to start by saying thank you. Thank you Dr. P, Kaity and Taven for planning, organizing and caring for me before I even knew I was going on said “experience.” Thank you Mom and Dad for funding this experience, praying for me while I was away, and always believing in me. Thank you to Mrs. Willie for reading my blog. Thank you fellow CR9ers, Lance, Josh, Will,  Davis, Matt, Christian, Chandler, Sarah, Madeline, Cassidy, Kate, Jacey, Riley, Andrea, Kendall, Mollie and Dr. P for being amazingly unique and pushing me to learn and grow. Thank you to past CR members and Dr. P for investing in this program and making it possible. And thank you to Berlin, Switzerland and Germany for blowing me away with your beauty, culture, language, and, most importantly, cuisine.

Now, on to the learning stuff. I would say that my time on CR was marked by growth, knowledge and curiosity.

First, the Cultural Routes experience allowed me to grow. This growth specifically came in my world view, my view of myself, and the way I interact with others. Before CR, my view of the world was based on what was familiar to me. While I knew all about the world’s history, studied spanish here and there, was a big fan of Chinese food, and had been to Mexico and Guatemala, I definitely thought and acted like an American. When I read news stories about tragedies happening in other countries, I had a hard time feeling compassion for those outside of my bubble. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t even imagine what those people were like. The CR experience that stresses interaction with locals pushed me to find common ground with those living thousands of miles away from me. One specific interaction that stands out to me was the one I had with a woman on the train from Munich to Switzerland. (The woman on the train blog) This woman was raised Muslim and lived in many different countries, studying and working in Qatar, Germany, and the US. We talked for hours about religion, politics, and family. This interaction taught me that all people are more similar than we think they are, and age, language, or culture doesn’t change that. I also grew a lot in the way I view myself. Specifically, I learned that I need time alone in the morning to pray, reflect, and clear my mind, I learned that I LOVE adventure, and I learned that my role as a listener and encourager can have a positive impact on people. Finally, I grew in the way I interact with others here at TCU. From the many deep conversations on CR and moments of miscommunication and frustration, I learned the importance of patience, and truly seeking to understand others rather than to be understood. Most times, whether it being after an exhausting hike in Cinque Terre or a long day cramming for an exam, people just want to feel known, heard, and valued.

Next, the Cultural Routes experience gave me much more knowledge about European culture and history. This knowledge specifically came from the way we studied and analyzed historical artifacts. I vividly remember my excitement and interest for the Berlin Wall. I love the way the city embraces its broken history instead of running away from it. This is clearly shown through the graffiti art that covers the wall. What once was a physical barrier and sign of repression, tradition, and hate, is now used to foster community, progression, and love. I also really enjoyed the Vatican. To many, the Vatican represents a holy land. My extended family, most of whom are Catholic, would have done anything to stand in that immeasurable building. I could have stared at the ceiling of the sistine chapel for hours. Finally, I was blown away by the Colosseum. To think that the structure has been around for over 2000 years and that gladiators fought to the death in there is mind boggling. (Apple pie and baseball blog) While the structures, buildings, monuments and museums were all worth the trip, I’ll leave CR with something much deeper – a desire to learn and embrace curiosity. This desire came from discussing and analyzing each artifact, rather than simply walking through and moving on. Some days, I envied those who flew through the museums because processing deep moments of history is difficult and draining. However, I’m beyond thankful that myself and the group did not take the easy way out. We embraced this challenge and I believe that the mindset to be curious is what separates this experience from any other trip.

Thank you to all who read my blogs – sorry for any bad grammar or spelling. To CR10, I hope you all have an amazing experience. While the moments and memories are sweet, I’m confident that this trip will be life changing because you’ll grow in your understanding of yourself, the world, and the way you interact with others while developing a passion for knowledge through curiosity.