THIS IS HAPPENING.

It honestly feels like yesterday was the day I got the news that I would be attending Cultural Routes 11. My family and I were on vacation in Mexico. My dad was asleep on the pool chair next to mine, my mom was reading a book, and brother was ordering tacos. My phone buzzed with a notification from Indigo Crandell, a CR alum. Her message said “Here’s a fun video for you, Madelyn!” Somehow I just KNEW it had something to do with Cultural Routes. I frantically opened up the video, heard the Christmas music, watched Santa talk to me for maybe 3 seconds and then fast-forwarded to see Dr. Pitcock’s legendary face telling me that I was going on CR (don’t worry, I went back and watched the whole thing afterwards). I screamed. LOUD. “Mom, Dad, JACOB, you aren’t going to believe this!” We were all freaking out. I still am. I still can’t even believe it. Shortly after, my dad and I drew “CR11” in the sand on the beach and my mom recorded us from a balcony above as we ran around the “CR11” in the sand like total idiots for the celebratory video. We definitely got some strange looks but it was absolutely worth it.

Iconic.

I am immeasurably blessed and thankful for the opportunity to get to explore Europe with 15 other incredible students and 2 outstanding faculty members. Receiving the good news feels like it just happened, but an entire CRAZY semester has flown by. I do not know where all of the time has gone!

I have never been to Europe before and have never felt such authentic, childish excitement to travel to a brand new place. I am so excited not only to experience the rich history, beauty, and culture of Europe but also to grow close to everyone in our group. Getting to know new people is one of my favorite things, and the relationships that will be formed is perhaps what I am MOST looking forward to on CR. The fifteen people I know flying to Berlin today all have such vibrant spirits and unique personalities, and I am ecstatic to do CR alongside them.

For my last pre-reflection blog post, I was asked to write about my personal goals for CR. If there was one goal that encompassed everything I want out of the entire experience, it would be to simply BE PRESENT.

I am absolutely the “planner” kind of person. I like things to be in order in the way that I like them to be and I have a constant need to control everything in my life. However, Cultural Routes is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I do not want expectations of itineraries, mapped out days, and stories of previous Cultural Routes experiences to rule me the three and a half weeks I am in Europe. Rather than thinking about what I will be doing all day, I want to be fully present and take in every experience as it comes to me. I know that the time I spend in Europe with 17 other incredible individuals will FLY by, and I do not want to be caught in the trap of thinking about what I will be eating for dinner that day or what pictures I will post on social media. I feel like so much of our lives are spent thinking about how we can curate our memories and experiences, but so much to the point that in each moment we are living for the validation of others instead of embracing each moment for ourselves.

When I see the beautiful cliffside of Cinque Terre, or the awe-striking Swiss Alps, I do not want my first instinct to be to pull out my phone and start snapping pictures that will likely end up on social media. I am going to hold myself to this and not spend my time in Europe with my phone glued to my hand. I do not want the experience of CR to be consumed by the desire to have an examined life. I would rather be fully present and ALL-IN, 24/7. There is so much to learn and experience ahead.

I cannot believe the day has finally come. Catching a flight tonight!

See you in Berlin!!!!!

Madelyn

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