Rome…the last official stop on the itinerary for CR 11. Arriving in Rome left me at a loss for words. The fact that CR 11 was almost over is crazy, considering how fast it truly went. Yet, Rome also represented a significant amount of personal growth. Although the experience had gone fast, Berlin felt like months ago, and the amount of lessons I have learned in between that time is a testimony to how much I have grown personally. It is even sadder thinking about this now because I am writing this on an airplane heading home to Charleston, SC, meaning CR 11’s portion of our journey in Europe has officially come to an end.

Nonetheless, an initial observation I had of Rome upon arrival was the clash of old and new in the city. There are buildings and structures next to each other that can be 2,000 years old or ten years old. The difference in age is really crazy to think about. Even among the disparity in age, the fluidity in which Rome demonstrated its age and youth was quite impression. The city is very well blended together.

On the first night in Rome, CR 11 was lucky enough to take an authentic Italian cooking lesson and eat the food we had prepared. We were able to dice the tomatoes, make the noodles, and help with the creation of the delicious tiramisu. I have never been much of a chef, but it was so much fun! All sixteen of us students were around this giant kitchen table preparing classic Italian dishes…so fun. Getting to eat the food may have been even better; it tasted incredible. Knowing that we helped prepare the food was very special. Also, Cesare, the chef, who was giving the lessons and hosting the event made us all feel at home. The joy he got from being with us was clear. So much so that when we were saying our goodbyes, he was tearing up as we headed out the door. This care demonstrates the welcomeness and love we felt, as a group, from Cesare.

One of my favorite parts of Rome was going to the Vatican. More specifically, seeing St. Peter’s Basicilica was incredible. Upon walking through the doors, the magnitude of this church is hard to fathom. It is so large and so ornate with beautiful gold details accenting every inch. The physical architecture clearly depicts the wealth of the church.

When observing this expensive building, Madelyn Hicks made the point that many may get upset at the idea that instead of investing so much money in a church, religions people could have been using that money to help the poor. To many, this may reveal the corruption of the church. Although this is a very valid point and there is truth to it, it is also important to remember that humans through out history are constantly attempting to find ways to glorify God. Building the most beautiful and vast structure of its time is a way for humans to worship God, to show our appreciation. Money does speak. And to the people of that time period, putting a significant amount of money to one of the biggest buildings of the time period can demonstrate humans’ appreciation of God.

While walking in St. Peter’s Basilica, I was pleasantly surprised to find La Pieta by Michelangelo nestled in the corner. La Pieta, for those of you who don’t know, is the famous depiction of Jesus, post-crucifixion, in the arms of mother Mary. Jesus is depicted as being very small and frail in the embrace of the graceful and beautiful Mary. Madelyn Hicks made the point that this statue almost makes Jesus more personal to the viewer. The image can be simplified down to simply a son in the arms of her mother, which almost everyone can relate to. The life of Jesus Christ can sometimes be intricate and complex, but this image simplifies down to the hope and love that is the core of the Christian faith.

Lastly, Rome would not be complete without the epic Cinderella story of Team Ghost Bird’s victory in CR 11’s WhaiWhai. Many thought it could not be done. Team Dome and Domer put up a valiant fight but were no match to the sheer savvy of Team Ghost Bird. Shout out to Claire O’Connor, Madelyn Hicks, Emma Kight, Sarah Covell, Gabby Douthitt, Kynnedi Rone, and Harris Podell for being the best teammates.

I truly loved Rome. I loved the history. I loved the architecture. I loved how the depths of God was felt through out. Rome also felt like a place where CR 11, as a group, really hit our stride in terms of solidifying relationships. It was cool to see how intentional people were being to have deep conversations with each other, to get to know each other. Although Rome may symbolize the end of one journey, I think that it represents the beginning of another. CR 11 is an adventure that continues on long after our time in Europe. Whether it’s meeting to hang out at TCU, reminiscing on past memories, or taking trips together in the future, this is just the beginning, and I am so excited to see the places that our group will go. And it is special to know that I have a Familia that will always be there for me, as a support system or ready for the next adventure.

I am now at home, and CR 11 is officially over. Thinking about this makes me quite sad. Part of me wishes that CR 11’s time in Europe could just continue on. I feel so lucky to have made so many incredible memories. To quote Grandma Donaldson “don’t be sad it’s over; be glad it happened.” It is very sad that CR 11 is over, but I think the sadness felt is a testament to how incredible the experience was. Plus, what makes CR CR is the people. Thus, I am so excited to further the already special relationships I made while on CR 11.

To all the memories shared, friendships made, tears shed, laughs had- I am so grateful for Kynnedi Rone, Brent Hewitt, Chloe Creed, Claire O’Connor, Connor Nolan, Cooper Gollier, Emma Kight, Gabby Douthitt, Griffin McPherson, Harris Podell, Kevin Crump, Lauren Klingemann, Madelyn Hicks, Taylor Harville, Sarah Covell, Bea, and Dr. Pitcock– Mia San Mia

Thank you CR 11

-Peter Donaldson

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