Two summers ago my older sister went on Cultural Routes. She came home and went on and on about how it was the best experience she ever had. I thought “Okay, what’s the big deal?” and that she was probably just going through a phase of the ‘post trip hype’ and that it would wear off soon.
Then, I came to TCU and heard other past Cultural Routes members talk about their experience abroad. It became clear to me that it definitely wasn’t just the ‘post trip hype’ that had people talking.
I came back to my room in Milton after one of the information meeting, cut out the CR8 logo, and hung it up on my dream board. My dream board has different things I want to accomplish attached to it. “4.0” “Be intentional” “I am Third” are a few other messages that accompanied my dream of being accepted to be apart of the opportunity to study abroad with 13 other amazing students the summer after my freshman year.
You can imagine how excited I was when I received Dr. P’s text that early morning over Christmas break that my dream had become a reality.
What I expected was to learn about the history of these European cities, and come home with a few close friends.
What actually happened was that I got punched in the face with a wealth of knowledge about how cities like Berlin recover from such destruction, how a camp in Dachau even functioned in such secrecy, the reality of train strikes in Italy (by the way CR: 1 train strike: 0), and so much more about how history can show us actions never to be repeated. I learned that Germans have managed to turn a hot dog into a fine cuisine known as currywurst, the Swiss can range from cute little chocolate makers to crazy men who jump off cliffs for a living, and that the Italians react differently to eye contact on the streets.
The greatest takeaway from Cultural Routes, however, can’t be crammed into a single blog post. It can’t even be put into words. I’ll never forget the memories made and laughs shared with the 15 people I travelled with. But I don’t have to worry about losing these moments, because I know I will carry these people with me for the rest of my life.
A goal I set for myself was to understand people. What happened was I understood myself. Here’s what I learned from Familia.
Jane Lynch: lover of orange chocolate, walking, and all things Lulu Lemon. Jane was always ready for adventure, and was eager to get lost in a foreign city. You just don’t leave Jane Lynch without a smile on your face.
Caroline Jones: lover of fair trade, storytelling, and listening to music inside of museums. CJ is passionate about whatever it is she does, it will never be half-hearted. She taught me how to be all in, not just with your actions, but with your attitude as well.
Mackenzie Warren: lover of rocks, Shark Watches, and making people happy. Mack is deeply concerned for the well being of those around her. She is genuinely caring and kind, and her huge heart is also paired with her small ‘tear cup’ (an analogy she introduced us to on the trip).
Eleni Michaelides: lover of Bitter Lemon Schweppes, musical theatre, and schedules. I saw her grow and understand that it’s okay to live in the moment and accept the unknown. I am so proud of who I have seen Eleni become.
Blake Bengtson: lover of truffles, different accents, and leading groups without a map. He turns any situation into one to laugh about, even if I’m the only one laughing. Blake is incredibly focused, but taught us all how to be light-hearted and relaxed when it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Caydn White: lover of history, facial hair (RIP), and sharing his faith. He is passionate and set in his beliefs, something I think most people lack. I am so happy Caydn was a part of this trip. Caydn taught me how to ask more questions, but he also taught me how to be an intentional friend.
Cooper Gould: lover of solo pics, mountains, and being shirtless. Cooper is one of a kind.. Cooper taught us all how to channel our inner mountain man- by saying yes to adventure and always looking for ways to challenge himself.
Luke Beasley: lover of dancing, the South, and knocking on bathroom doors. Something I love about Luke is how he doesn’t desire to be in control. He allows others to lead, but by taking a back seat he is leading as well, allowing others to grow while he steps up when necessary.
Sydney Galloway: lover of Zara, clean eyebrows, and cappuccinos. She sits back and takes in what people say in a very genuine way. She notices when people lose their mojo, and is always there to encourage others.
Bianca Hursh: lover of art, SpongeBob, and asking questions. Something I love about Bianca is her desire to understand. I watched Bianca stand in front of the David for a solid 10 minutes, not moving. I seriously thought she was going to cry because she was in awe of the beauty before her eyes.
Caroline Wade: lover of chocolate, water, and children. CWade is the ‘mom’ of the trip because of how she cares for others. When the boys were doing handstands, CWade said “Watch your head!” This gives you some insight into how she reacted when her children were stuck on a train hiding from an Italian officer.
Jack May: lover of “Bah,” street vendors, and tourists who throw the peace sign. I love the way Jack treats everyone as equals, and doesn’t let the opinions of others affect him. Jack taught us all how to be 100% true to yourself.
Eli Reynolds: lover of doner kebabs, swing dancing, and golden retrievers. He goes at everything with confidence, but if he fails he’ll get right back up again. Eli taught me how to be adventurous, and showed me what a loyal friend looks like.
Thank you, Familia, for giving me an unforgettable 3.5 weeks. I am so lucky to have met you all. I wouldn’t have wanted CR any other way.
Tu Es Familia,