Long Way Home

Jan 1, 2020

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Image Camino walk 2017

This unique study abroad program, which is offered every other year at FPU since 2011, is comprised of studying and then walking the thousand year-old pilgrimage route called the Camino de Santiago.

On October 25, 2017, following a path marked by yellow arrows, a Franklin Pierce group of student/pilgrims and their leaders walked the last steps of their semester-long, 500-mile journey across southern France and northern Spain into the city of Santiago de Compostela.  They had walked over three mountain ranges and across flat and arid lands for weeks on end.  Now it was done.

“When we got to Santiago, I was speechless” said junior history major Michael Bona.  “I had to go hug the cathedral to make sure it was real.  All of my emotions overwhelmed me and I was bursting with tears of joy.” 

That feeling is not uncommon among pilgrims.  “The Camino has a kind of magic that is hard to describe,” says Professor Douglas Challenger, who along with his wife, Laurie, has led four of these trips with students, after he walked it himself in 2007. 

The Camino has drawn people of all ages from all over the world.  “Almost everyone who goes feels they are called to do it,” Challenger says, “and then walking it and living the simple life of a pilgrim, you gradually get into a kind of meditative groove.”  In that calm frame of mind, you start to have some revelations—some small, others big—about why you are there and how the walk is changing you and enriching your life as you meet its challenges, self reflect, and connect with others.

Now home and back at FPU, senior communications major Luke Walsky said “the Camino is a life changing adventure that I will never forget.  It pushed me further than I ever imagined I could go.  I realized I am capable of so much more than I would’ve given myself credit for.”  Senior anthropology major Samantha Cordiliko summed up how she feels now, “I have a new sense of pride in myself and I am proud of my new friends who I love.”