Baylor in Greece — Mattilyn Egli

mattilyn-egli-greece

Article by Mattilyn Egli, current BIC student

When asked to explain the BIC, or any course in the BIC, I can think of no other way to do so than definition by negation. I can tell you what it’s not: The BIC isn’t a set of pre-recs. It isn’t a philosophy program. Nor is it a psychology, English, history, or sociology curriculum. It isn’t focused on teaching students logic, it doesn’t have an ethics course. And what do you even call the study of empathy? How can you tell a stranger (or your grandma, for that matter) that you’ve been studying how to be a person for the last two years?

Really—if someone can answer this, please get back to me.

The Baylor Interdisciplinary Core is magical in its ambiguity. Once I got lost in the twists and turns of nuance in World of Rhetoric, I knew there was no going back. But the BIC cannot live in Baylor alone; it was created for life far beyond the borders of Waco. This was finally impressed on me this summer when I studied abroad in Greece.

I remember the airplane ride from Philadelphia to Athens. A group of us met together for the first time, tremulously awaiting what would, for many of us, be our first venture out of the country. Those strangers with whom I had thrown my lot boarded the plane with me and, together, we flew halfway across the world. For the second time in my life, I knew there would be no going back.

The next month stands like a gleaming whirlwind in my memory. We read hundreds of pages of Plato, Aristotle, and Paul and we walked, literally, in their footsteps. Socrates changed from “an old grumpy Greek guy who couldn’t be quiet” to “an old grumpy Greek guy who had a few brilliant ideas.” Plato went from being his doting student to a man who lived through peace, war, and tyranny and longed to reestablish justice. We saw the very cities where Paul taught, spending rosy mornings on Mars Hill and star lit nights in Berea.

Over the five weeks we were in Greece, we grew close. We held late night meetings on the roof, at beaches, on hilltops overlooking Athens, and enjoyed just living in one another’s presence. We had dreamy conversations concerning the rise and fall of empires while we watched the moon rise over the acropolis, just as it had done for millennia. At once, our lives seemed infinitely small and more vibrant than we could imagine.

One moment is particularly special to me: we had the rare chance to spend the entire day swimming on Corfu, an island just west of mainland Greece. The water was a color that I didn’t believe existed. It was a mix of turquoise and the foliage of some great blue bird that only inhabits paradise. We had all spotted a rock in the middle of an inlet beckoning to us to join it. So, all of us swam out against the powerful waves and latched onto it, water beating down on us from the indifferent sea. One person kept watch while the others did their best to keep their grip, yelling “Wave!” about the roar of the surf—and the rest of us knew to grasp even tighter and hold our breath while a particularly monstrous wave attempted to pull us under. We played like children for hours that beautiful day.

It was in Greece, with strangers turned family, that I began to understand what education is meant to be. We worked hard, yes. Even after we got back, we worked. My mother loves to tell people that even for the week after I arrived home, my family didn’t see my face—I was either asleep or writing. But I never grew weary of the work that I had to do because I had allowed myself to stop caring about my grades. How could I consider a letter, when we were wandering down mountains and through castles and trudging between the margins of The Republic?

This is truly what the BIC aims for. We had no choice but to be entirely immersed in learning. We built relationships and worshipped together, pursuing truth while exploring history. We allowed our minds to wander along with our feet, watching sunrises and returning to breakfast, letting our conversations on theology melt into philosophy, which was melting into our morning cups of coffee. Somehow, in the midst of earnestly comparing gyro quality with my companions, I learned something that is now part of who I am. I began to pursue capital “T” Truth above all else. It was here that I really started to understand what it is to be a person.

Mattilyn Egli is a sophomore BIC student and University Scholar

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