I just finished reviewing my journal from CR. So many unbelievable experiences written in the short three and a half weeks spent in Europe. Obviously, people had questions upon my return. How was it? What was your favorite experience? How different was the culture? What did you guys do since you didn’t take class? The funniest question I often received though was, “Which city was your favorite?” The question wasn’t funny because of the question itself, but instead because of my answer. After reflecting on the trip for months, the answer really shouldn’t be that difficult. One city and a quick explanation why. It could have been a specific place, such as the Colosseum, or a specific experience, like a German soccer game. Each time someone asks though, I find myself giving a new answer. One day, I say exploring the streets of Berlin and navigating the U-Bahn/S-Bahn system. Another day, I might say hiking through the Swiss Alps to see some of the sweetest sights on the top of Europe. Or even another day, I say eating juicy steak with 17 other incredible individuals in Fabio’s restaurant. Or jumping off cliffs into the crystal clear Mediterranean water off the coast of Cinque Terre.
What makes it so difficult to consistently answer a seemingly simple question? I believe the inconsistency within my answer comes from my state of mind when someone asks me. If I am happy, I pull a from an experience that I associate with happiness on the trip, like the final dinner in Rome. If I am excited, I might pull from an experience I associate with excitement, like jumping down a canyon into roaring water down below. I think that my ever changing answer to the question, “Which city was your favorite?” is an accurate reflection of the vast applications of experiences on CR. No matter what is going on in my life, I can think to a time just 5 months ago where I was feeling a similar way. And whether I am abroad or at TCU, I still know I have some of the best people in the world by my side. People who have taught me to think critically to solve problems. People who can adapt to any situation even when everything goes wrong. People who strive to make the world a better place. People who are spontaneous and bring happiness to others. People who are kind and are willing to help the fallen stand. People who never give up. People who drive to inspire others. People who fail, laugh, and love. People who, together, are unstoppable.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of only focusing on one task after another each day at TCU. My schedule: wake up, breakfast, speech class, organic chemistry, lunch, organic chemistry lab, chemistry club, dream outside the box, and then I go and sit in the library and can’t even think straight because I haven’t had a minute to think for myself all day. All I’ve thought about is my work.
Cultural Routes reminds me to snap out of this zombie-like state. We went non-stop 3.5 weeks, walked 250+ miles, and traveled through tremendous cities. I saw some of the most important historical spots in the entire world. And these memorials and rich history probably triggered my thoughts to fire in ways they never could have in another place. The sites inspired my curiosity and demanded me to look deeper into my own understanding. I was challenged to think about why things happen, why people act the way they do, and why I strive for the things I do. And that might be my most important takeaway from this. To think. If I can approach any situation and think about why something isn’t working or think about why someone is upset or think about why the scenario happened, then almost any problem can be alleviated or at least prevented in the future. No matter how big, no matter how small.
Cultural Routes has taught me how to think, how to solve problems, but more than that, how to love. Love different cities, love different styles, love different cultures, and, most importantly, how to love others. Until next time,