Thank You, CR9!!!!!

It has been five months since CR9, and honestly, I am still in shock that I was able to have such an incredible experience. Creating my Pecha Kucha and going through all of my hundreds of photos has reminded me about all of the unique experiences I had.  I went into CR with as open of a mind as I could, and it completely surpassed any expectations that I may have had and taught me more than I ever could have imagined.

In my Pecha Kucha, I decided to focus on these three learning outcomes: knowledge, skills, and growth. I felt that these three learning outcomes encompassed the most important lessons I personally learned in those twenty-five days. The “knowledge” learning outcome includes my new appreciation for history, my new understanding of different cultures, and how I learned to accept and even appreciate what I cannot understand. The “skills” learning outcome includes all the times I was able to step out of my comfort zone and how my small groups helped me develop my problem solving and communication skills. The “growth” learning outcome includes how I believe CR made me into a more global citizen through a certain awareness of the world and its people along with my new and improved globalized empathy.

The “knowledge” learning outcome is the learning outcome I feel that I was exercising constantly for all three and a half weeks of Cultural Routes. Each city had its own extensive and unique history that I learned to love and appreciate. In my blog post about Berlin’s history, I wrote about being amazed by how blunt the city was about all of its history, including its darkest times. Germany’s history was what created my new appreciation for the history of different countries and cultures. In my Pecha Kucha, I included photos of the Berlin Wall and the Colosseum to exemplify different historical events that I found especially interesting.  Each country had its own distinct culture that we all came to know. My blog post about the culture of Switzerland (or more specifically—Interlaken) describes all the cultural differences I noticed between Switzerland and America. These differences are what make new cultures unique and exciting. From the importance of walking and biking in Germany to the love for strong cheese in Switzerland to the highly valued artwork and architecture of Italy, we learned about the cultures and the people to a deeper extent than we would have in a lecture hall. In my Pecha Kucha, I included photos of different foods that I found to be important to the cultures of each country: a pretzel for Germany, melted cheese for Switzerland, and pasta for Italy. The last part of my presentation that I would consider to be a part of the “knowledge” learning objective would be the slide about appreciating what I don’t understand about different cultures. I not only learned about other cultures and learned to love the idea of other cultures, I learned to love the parts of a culture that I could not understand. From the conversations I couldn’t quite follow to the customs I couldn’t quite understand, I was still extremely excited to be in a different country and thankful that I was able to experience another culture.

The “skills” learning outcome includes how I left my comfort zone along with small group interactions, both of which affected me greatly. I was determined to break out of my comfort zone in order to completely immerse myself into the cultures of the countries that we visited. I was able to step out of my comfort zones many, many times on CR, but the two main activities that challenged me the most would be transportation/travel and skydiving. From using public transportation to using maps to get around on foot, it was all out of my comfort zone. In my blog about everything I learned about public transportation while in Europe, I feel that I was able to convey how much more comfortable I am now with different types of transportation, and my ability to navigate using public transportation. I also feel much more comfortable with my ability to navigate using maps. My blog post about breaking comfort zones was about skydiving. Before CR, I would have never even considered skydiving, but CR gave me the confidence to try it out. Skydiving, in turn, gave me the confidence that I could do anything. In my Pecha Kucha, I included various photos of us using maps or employing public transportation along with a photo of me skydiving. I now see breaking comfort zones as freeing instead of scary. The second aspect of the “skills” learning outcome had to do with the skills my small groups taught me. Each person in each group had different strengths and weaknesses, but wherever someone had a weakness, somebody else had a strength. When we worked together as a team, we were unstoppable (not really, but pretty close). Within our small groups, we had to communicate and problem solve as a group in order to successfully navigate each city and see everything that we needed to see. Working in these groups with a variety of different people with their own previous skills helped me add to my own problem solving and communication skills. Small groups were a huge part of everyone’s CR experience.

The “growth” learning outcome is what I believe to be the most important. The purpose of a study abroad is to create global citizens for future generations. CR definitely helped me become more of a global citizen. I am now more aware of the different people of the world and more knowledgeable about how these people live their lives. I was also able to learn how to reverse situations. I discussed this idea in my blog post about how Olga described Americans. To summarize, the ability to reverse situations and think in a more empathetic manner is very important to truly be a global citizen. In my Pecha Kucha, I included reflective photos and phrases that I feel conveyed these ideas. CR helped me enhance my ethnocultural empathy, or my ability to understand those who are culturally or ethnically different from me.

The last important lesson I learned from CR that I included in my Pecha Kucha that doesn’t quite fit any of the learning outcomes would be to value impermanence. I knew that CR wasn’t going to last forever, but this didn’t make the three and a half weeks any less precious. If anything, it made it even more precious. Every moment counted, and I feel that we all took advantage of every second.

In the end, I am so thankful that I was able to have this experience. It seems very surreal. I made so many new, incredible friendships and memories. It really did change my life for the better, and I feel that it did the same for every person that has ever been fortunate enough to be able to go on Cultural Routes. Without CR, I could have never learned what I have or made the relationships that I have. Thank you, CR9.