Sitting on the train after our day spent wandering through Venice, I have finally found time to process the intellectual breakthrough I have been experiencing in Florence.
In Berlin and Munich, we studied the cities by learning their transportation systems. I have almost no navigational skills, so this was increasingly frustrating for me as those around me were praised for their ability to move around the city well. Furthermore, I struggle in museums, as I am unable to retain dates or names of the information boards. I felt inferior as I had little to contribute to conversations about specific details about the Holocaust, World War II, or the Cold War. I did know, though, that I had questions about how these things affected people. I wanted to learn by understanding the culture and how those histories have left a lasting footprint in the way Germans handle themselves daily and how that culture differs in Berlin and Munich.
In Interlaken and Riomaggiore, I thrived in the beautiful scenery. I was able to explore and study the interactions of people (both peers and locals) with their surroundings. Possibly because of the lack of museums, I began to gain confidence in my knowledge in other areas. There was time for the 16 of us to discuss our passions and to share more details about the driving forces in each of our lives.
Finally in Florence, I found myself surrounded by spaces that allowed for questions! I found places to apply my brain power! In the first space we entered on Friday, the Museum San Marco, I was tangibly able to apply the Latin language I learned in high school and the passion I have for understanding across language barriers. I had a redemptive moment after fighting against the untouchable German language.
Furthermore, and most notably, we spent time looking at and appreciating art. I always thought I enjoyed history, but learning history in a museum proved to challenge me greatly in Berlin. In Florence, in the other hand, we ended our first day with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery, where I wandered the marble statue lined corridors and stepped foot into rooms which held the works of Michelangelo and Botticelli, to name a few. Tears rolled down my cheeks when certain pieces came into my line of sight, and the hundreds of people surrounding me faded away as I was able to not only view but interact with famed mixes of colors and chunks of marble that create the images that resonate with people.
With art, I think there is a method of thinking that aligns with mine. As someone who cannot necessarily latch onto information, I enjoy facing the abstract or loosely explained with an eagerness to question, understand, and attribute. Obviously, the colors, facial expressions, and body positions found in pieces of art take time to be interpreted and can stir people differently. But, the stories behind these pieces truly interest me. Thinking about the Renaissance and the people who shaped it reminds me of the genuine power of the human mind. These creatives crafted lasting work that people from all places and all walks of life appreciate. Furthermore, especially with ornate decor in churches, it is interesting to question the time and money devoted to artists and the value attributed to a colossal chapel. Understanding the stories behind pieces breathes life and adds dimension to and already breathtaking visual experience.
Just last night, I talked with the inquisitive and prudent Chloe Creed about how we are almost different shades of the same person. Both students of the English language, our minds think in words. We appreciate the interactions between words in sentences from which meaning is derived. We enjoy exploring ways to explain things differently. She shares with me the way of thinking I described previously. We have felt similarly challenged on this trip, so Florence provided both of us the opportunity to hone our skills and understand our strengths.
Overall, CR has made me incredibly grateful for every element of the past we have studied. Not only am I grateful to be immersed in European culture, but I am grateful for the ways I have been pushed to interact with people and situations. Although the human population is dispersed among 7 continents, we are humans, the same species with the same ability to think and understand. This experience has made the world seem both big and small.
So, for any CR12 or beyond student reading this, be prepared to have your view of yourself shaken. Be prepared to be challenged by those around you only to come to a greater understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to be both humbled and empowered. CR has done marvelous things for me and given me a confidence to maintain my uniqueness of thought and to never compromise my desire to question and learn.