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May-term students learn through Spain experience

Campus News | June 23, 2015

Carson-Newman students and their instructors at the town of Padrón in Galicia, about 27 kilometers from Santiago de Compostella. Front row, left to right: Ashlyn Stanton, Darian Epperson, Ashley West, Whitney Owen, Courtney Luttrell, Annie Coleman and Dr. Tanya Ramsey. Back row, left to right: Sarah Bennett, Dr. Mary Baldridge; Celeste Randall, Dr. Kip Wheeler, Kiayna O’Neal, Kara Ziler, Gonzalo (a local tour guide), Ron Hunt and Will Meyer.

(June 23, 2015)—Twelve Carson-Newman University students traveled to the Galician region of Spain for three weeks as part of a May-term "Medieval Pilgrimage" course.

Students in the class read literature about pilgrimage and the region, then hiked 75 miles on routes ancient pilgrims used on their way to the Apostle James' shrine.

“The idea behind the class blended intellectual, spiritual and physical health,” says Dr. Kip Wheeler, Carson-Newman associate professor of English and one of the course instructors. “Students explored relevant readings, discussed the idea of life as a journey and walked a tremendous distance each day as part of the course.”

In traditional accounts, James traveled as a missionary to northwestern Spain. His purported place of burial at Santiago de Compostella became the destination of pilgrims for centuries afterward up through the present day. Hundreds of thousands walk the pilgrimage routes annually.

Rising senior Kiayna O'Neal says the trip added another level to learning through first-hand experience.

"When I could see things for myself, see the changes over time and know the history behind it, it stuck with me so much more," O'Neal says. "I could ask our professors about a building and they were able to give me such great answers. It makes me more appreciative of it and makes it more meaningful."

The group explored other sites as well, including Sofia Reina Museum, the Prado, the Museum of Pilgrimage, a seasonal Royal Palace for Spanish nobility, the Alcazar and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, at which students attended a service for pilgrims.

"It opened my eyes to different cultures and ideas," O'Neal says. "We have so many opportunities in this world and we should take them when we can—there’s more to life than just going to class and getting good grades."

At the end of the journey, officials at the Cathedral awarded each student a signed document in Latin certifying his or her participation in the pilgrimage. The secretary of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella also presented a certificate honoring Carson-Newman University for organizing the trip.