Course Description

Camino de Santiago de Compostela: Walking on the Pilgrim's Way

Course Description

This course, to be conducted while walking in Northern Spain, between the Pyrenees and the Galician coast, will be organized as a collaborative inquiry. A collaborative inquiry offers a systematic structure for learning from experience by providing a safe and supportive space for action and reflection. Participants will learn about pilgrimage by becoming pilgrims--by walking with head, heart, and body along the Camino de Santiago.

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a UNESCO world heritage site, is a pilgrimage route that runs from the Spanish-French border to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Pilgrimages played an essential role in the spiritual life of Medieval Europe. The route to Santiago was also fundamental in the cultural exchange between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. In one sense, the Camino de Santiago is a 790-kilometer museum, offering the best-preserved material record of the importance of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and a testament to the cultural exchanges that it promoted. Through the reemergence of interest in pilgrimage in recent decades, though, the Camino is also a vibrant living community-drawing people from diverse places and backgrounds as it has always done. Pilgrims are supported by the communities along the route and pilgrimage in turn has a enormous impact on the region.

What draws us to Santiago? What compels us to leave our home and become pilgrims?  All the program participants will have a unique motivation to set out on the pilgrim's way, but we will share in a commitment to walk and to support each other as members of a mobile learning community.

In preparation for the pilgrimage the group will agree upon a common question, which will serve as a unifying theme for the course. Each participant will then develop a guiding question and do preliminary research in relation to that theme. We will work as collaborative learners-co-teaching and co-learning. During preparation, everyone will gather the resources needed to explore her/his own question and prepare to facilitate learning tasks for the other course participants. The common question may be something as simple as "what is a pilgrimage?" The individuals may then develop questions around topics such as:

  • Benedictine values as experienced on the Camino
  • Motivations of pilgrims in a historical perspective
  • The difference between a pilgrim and a tourist
  • The art and architecture of the pilgrim's way
  • The economic or environmental impact of pilgrimage
  • The unique characteristics of parochial albergues
  • The multiple languages of the Camino
  • The role of the sacred on the Camino
  • The pilgrim memoir as literary genre or spiritual expression

Our preparation will involve intellectual, physical and emotional work. We will gather information, train our bodies and explore our motivations, but the Camino itself will be our classroom. While walking, each of us will explore our guiding question, seek support and collaboration from our colleagues, facilitate learning tasks for members of the group. We will also do our own fieldwork along the way by reaching out to other pilgrims to enrich the experience and gain more insight into our guiding questions. In order to be effective and respectful in those interactions, participants will practice skills for engaging fellow pilgrims and hospitaleros in dialogue in Spanish or English.

Not only is the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route rich in art and architectural history, but also in metaphor and legend. A pilgrimage is a walk to a place of significance, but it is also a metaphor for life. The collaborative inquiry will be structured to engage all the participants in the action and reflection of the experiential learning process. We will also be concerned, though, with how to bring this learning back home-how to transfer that metaphor to a vision of our every day lives and relationships. At the culmination of the pilgrimage, in Santiago, we will spend one full day presenting preliminary answers to our guiding questions, and designing plans for how to transfer what we have learned as pilgrims back to our life at home.

The only prerequisites are an interest in new cultural experiences and the willingness to participate in a mobile learning community. The course is open to everyone regardless of major. Students may enroll as follows:

  • Course of the College: COLG 280-Camino de Santiago (2-4 credits) fulfilling Intercultural and Experiential Learning Requirement (Required)
  • Students may also complete 2 credits towards HISP Minor or 2-4 credits towards HISP Major (Optional) 

For more information, contact the Center for Global Education.

from Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela-790 kilometers
between the Pyrenees and the Galician Coast
one solitary step, one moment, is all there is
                                                            and we walk...