BIC Beyond the Books: Study Abroad Reflection

Written by Brennan Saddler, BIC student

From Gilgamesh to Plato and from Basho to Ben Franklin, we BIC-ers have dived headfirst into the cultural history of the world. For some, this story is just beginning, and for some of us seasoned BIC-ers, we look to this grand continuing narrative with a sense of wistful familiarity.

This summer, I came face to face with this story when I embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime with the Baylor in Maastricht Study Abroad Program. While there was plenty of “study” in this 3-month long program in the Netherlands, the most rewarding and enriching educational experiences were those outside of the classroom. With my Eurail train pass in hand, I had the entire European continent at my fingertips. I never dreamed that my travels would lead me page by page through this grand story that BIC has presented us with.

After walking through a super-sized version of the Fiero series in the Prado Museum in Madrid, I was greeted by Plato and Aristotle in The Old Library of Trinity College in Dublin, where they austerely guarded their manuscripts. Wandering around Westminster Abbey in London was like taking a tour through a World Cultures syllabus. In Paris, I savored the grandeur of Versailles and walked the streets of the peasants’ oppression all the same. I found the glory of the Renaissance alive and well in Florence, and if that wasn’t enough, the 15th leg of the Tour de France ended at Petrarch’s Mont Ventoux on the anniversary of storming the Bastille. Despite resisting that notorious BIC tendency to make connections, I realized my efforts were all for naught, because this great story was literally everywhere.

After enjoying afternoon tea in Oxford with the BIC’s former fearless leader, Dr. Tom Hanks, I journeyed to Wales in search of the legendary medieval church, Tintern Abbey; the church that inspired William Wordsworth’s famous poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.” In this nostalgic piece, Wordsworth revisits his favorite boyhood romping grounds and reflects on how this green sanctuary has always granted him solace. In the end, he finally realizes that his love of the countryside has evolved into an impenetrable intellectual and spiritual connection with nature and beauty. From the second I read this work in World Cultures III, I knew I had to find this magnificent piece of our story.

Just as Wordsworth did, I listened to the river’s murmur, beheld the lofty cliffs, and bounded across the mountainside. I even sat in quiet solitude, reading his poem outside the abbey. I delighted in the rhetoric that fused nature and spirit because it was real. I felt what he felt. I saw what he saw. His words mirrored my own raw human experience, and evoked an insight I never thought possible.

So go forth, my friends. Don’t just read the documents of this narrative. Really see them. Experience them. Feel them. Go forth in search of the rest of this splendid story, and carry it with you wherever you go.

Brennan Saddler ‘15

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