As I start to write this final blog of CR, my mind feels overwhelmed at all there is to reflect on. A year ago, I was an eager freshman curiously considering the opportunity to study abroad. I was just starting to get my feet wet at TCU, and still hadn’t quite found comfort in being here. Eleven months ago, I received the news that I would be entering into the Cultural Routes familia; I was so excited, but I laugh thinking about all I didn’t see coming. Six months ago, I still had no idea that the adventure I was about to embark on would change my life. I know, it sounds crazy and cheesy, and I promised myself I would never say it. But I will say it now, with confidence and overflowing joy: CR changed my life.
I recently heard a speech given by a man named Rick Rigsby entitled “The Wisest Man I Ever Met Was a Third-Grade Dropout.” In this speech, he asks his audience, “How are you living?” He wasn’t asking how they were feeling at the moment, or how their week was going, but to take a deep look at how they were choosing to live their lives. Looking back, CR for me was 3.5 weeks of being asked, “How are you living?” I was never asked the question explicitly, but rather challenged in various ways to step back and take a good look. This came through meaningful questions from my peers about why I was walking certain paths in life — why I was pursuing a certain career, relationship, or hobby. It came through blog prompts that challenged me to examine my role as a global citizen and ethical leader. It came through conversations with locals like Allain (who I met on the train to Interlaken) that made me reflect on what legacy I want to leave behind someday. It came in the late nights that I spent lying in bed, exhausted from the day’s activities, processing how my heart was changing and how my eyes were being opened to new things. How am I living? Am I really pouring my heart and soul into the life I’m leading? Am I living so that years from now I can look back without any regrets?
This semester back at TCU has been full of life changes. Seriously. New relationships have bloomed and others have passed away. I made difficult decisions about my academic career that pushed me to reevaluate where my value comes from and what my goals in life are. I’ve sought wisdom, understanding, and peace with myself more than ever before. I can honestly say that those life changes have roots in Cultural Routes. I don’t think I realized it at the time, or even soon afterwards, but reflecting now five months later, I can see what a radical difference this experience made on the way I view my life. CR taught me to take a risk, to be comfortable with stepping into the unknown, and above everything else, to trust myself.
While on CR, I remember quite often looking around and feeling like I didn’t deserve to be at the table with the seventeen others. They are brilliant. They are thoughtful and intellectual. They are kind – some of the kindest human beings I have ever known. They are funny and witty and wise. I have been blown away by the wisdom that they have shared with me. Each one of them taught me something that I will hold onto forever, and they are still continuing to teach me every day.
My pecha kecha is devoted to these people, and tiny tidbits of the lessons they taught me on CR. Davis taught me the value of a thought written down. Lance taught me that it’s always okay to laugh. Andrea showed me what it looks like to be passionate about the life I live. Riley taught me that pillowtalk is good for the soul. Christian showed me that sometimes we have to be hands-on. Matt taught me that we can do anything we set our minds to. Kate taught me that a subway door is not stronger than friendship. Chandler taught me that wisdom doesn’t have an age requirement. Will taught me the importance of a helping hand. Kendall portrayed the beauty in being authentically myself. Sarah taught me that it’s okay to voice our perspectives on the world, even if people might disagree with us. Josh taught me that the fruit of the spirit is patience, and challenged me to be selfless. Madeline taught me to never settle for surface-level. Cassidy challenged me to see the value in every life, whether human or not. Cole showed me what it looks like to dive head-first into conversation with foreigners. Mollie taught me the importance of taking care of ourselves, and how cool it is to be vulnerable. Dr. P taught me how to starburst, how to be all-in, and how to look more deeply at the world around me.
These friends have been everything I could have hoped for and more through all that this semester has brought my way. They have high-fived me in my victories, listened to my late-night ramblings, and given me some of the hardest laughs of my life. They have road-tripped with me, they have held my hand and told me that they believe in me, they have hugged me while I sobbed. Truly, everything I could ask for and more. On our final night in Rome, standing around Trevi fountain, we all sang “Lean on Me.” Leaning on these friends is what made CR a joyful trek, and what continues to make climbing the mountains of life a little easier.
I promise I really did learn things on CR about governments and political systems, how brutal history has shaped the atmosphere of Germany, how the locals in Cinque Terre take life a little slower. We squeezed so much information and culture out of these cities, and I learned more than I could ever sum up into one blog post. But, with all of that said… It would be a shame to use this blog post to reflect on the factual things, when I know that years from now, when I think back on everything I learned on CR, these people will steal the show.
My dearest familia, thank you for sharing your minds with me. I love you all to every corner of this Earth.