The pace of life for a Boston College student is rapid. You must earn high grades, stay active, spend time with friends, and excel in clubs or athletics (sometimes both), all while reflecting on your experiences. You stay busy in order to learn as much as possible and do everything you can in four years, with the ultimate goal of becoming successful men and women for others. You are on a rapid pursuit for happiness.
However, there is a program that exists solely to slow down thought and encourage spiritual and personal reflection. Self-Knowledge and Discernment: The Experience of Pilgrimage, a trip led by Professor Holly Vande Wall and two additional staff members, invites ten undergraduates on a seventeen-day long pilgrimage at the Camino de Santiago, providing a welcome shift from the restless BC lifestyle.
“To be away from everything, to be fully integrated in nature, and to live so simply,” says Amanda Bolaños, MCAS '18, who participated in this program in 2015, “is such a simple concept.”
The Camino de Santiago is a series of trails that pass through forests, cities, mountains, and plains and lead to the shrine of St. James at the Cathedral of Compostela. In 2015, about 260,000 recorded pilgrims traveled this path, and together they formed a community of spirituality, reflection, and kindness.
It is important to know that this walk is not easy. Bolaños reflected on the pain and vulnerability she endured on her pilgrimage.
“Feet that hurt. Blisters that bleed. Bruises that ache. Pain. Pain. Pain. [The] sun shining intensely. Sweating profusely,” she says.
However, Bolaños continues. “My pain was so much easier to ignore because of the incredible, authentic conversations we had.” Through each treacherous upward slope and bursting blister, “kindness was everywhere, God was everywhere,” and “the community that I surrounded myself with made it so much easier.”
For those looking for a physical, mental, and spiritual challenge, the program begins with seven class meetings during the spring semester of 2017, includes a two-night weekend retreat in March, and ends with thirteen consecutive days of walking through Spain.
Ethan Street, MCAS '18, a pilgrim in 2015, says he spent every day “allowing each moment to flow into another without holding onto the past or creating expectations for the future,” and he learned to be “fully present and deeply satisfied with life.”
To take this journey, you do not have to be of a certain faith or speak Spanish; you must come only with an open mind, a will to overcome pain, and an openness to experience. Walking the Camino de Santiago will teach you, as Bolaños says, that life is “not about the pursuit of happiness, but rather the happiness of the pursuit.”
For more information and to apply to the course, click here.