Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  August 2017  >  August 3, 2017  >  'We saw history come to life': Creighton students on vaunted Camino de Santiago pilgrimage tread thousand-year-old path
'We saw history come to life': Creighton students on vaunted Camino de Santiago pilgrimage tread thousand-year-old path

Creighton Spanish language and Spanish history students walk a stretch of the Camino de Santiago pilgrims' trail during a Faculty-Led Program Abroad this spring.For more than a millennium, millions of pilgrims have been cutting a 490-mile track across northern Spain in a rite that’s part religious devotion, part endurance contest.

This spring, students in Spanish language and history courses from Creighton University took a run — well, a measured walk, anyway — at the Camino de Santiago, among the most cherished Christian pilgrimages from the Middle Ages to the present day. Josh Nichols, a budding filmmaker and a senior studying multimedia photo journalism and digital development, was one of the Creighton students on the trip, recording hours of footage of raw feet and impromptu singalongs, interviews with his fellow students and pilgrims, all in the hopes of giving to posterity some perspective on the very first Creighton Camino.

“There were moments when I was filming and thinking, ‘You know, people have been walking this path for over a thousand years and it’s still socially, historically, spiritually relevant,’” Nichols said of the spring break Faculty Led Program Abroad ushered forth by history professor Scott Eastman, PhD, and Spanish professor Ryan Spangler, PhD. “It was something new for all of us, but to be a part of something that’s been going on for that long? The Camino gave us all a new perspective.”

The documentary Nichols is making about the Camino is in the editing stage and he hopes to have a refined draft ready by the time classes begin in August.

Reliving the experience in the moments captured by his camera eye, Nichols said he still ponders how he and his fellow Creighton pilgrims made the trek, hiking through dense woods in snow, long stretches in the rain or the heat.

While the Creighton pilgrims didn’t always stick to the true Camino path — they traveled some of it by bus — they still experienced plenty of the pilgrimage’s demands. Nichols’ film reveals the aching feet, the weary legs, the exhausted, delirious laughter at the end of a grueling but fulfilling day.

“We became a family,” he said. “There were up days and down days. We laughed together, felt pain together. There was a lot of community growing. It was a large enough group that you always had a new conversation to share, but it was also small enough that you could get to know everybody.”

Along the way, the students shared stories, not only of their present experience on the Camino, but of how they got on a path to Creighton. They practiced their Spanish language skills in the small coffee shops, restaurants and markets along the way, places marked with the Camino’s signature scallop shell. In those places, they could collect stamps in their Camino passports, the evidence of the miles they’d traveled and the encounters they’d had.

“Getting those stamps became a kind of collective scavenger hunt,” Nichols said. “It helped us get out there and see more, interact with more people, use our Spanish. We traversed the entire Camino, some of it by bus, some it on foot, but we saw the changes in terrain, climate, food, cultures, people. Every day, we got to experience a little different part of Spain.”

Eastman, who hopes to lead future Creighton students in the Camino pilgrimage, said Nichols’ film elegantly and movingly captured an experience that was, in Eastman’s estimation, a perfect way for students to engage the world and put to work the lessons in history and language they’d been undertaking all semester.

“It was the best class I’ve ever taught at Creighton,” Eastman said. “The students actually applied what they learned and had a chance to do it while making a religious pilgrimage in Spain. It was an incredible experience.”

Nichols is now hoping his film can contribute to a tradition of Creighton students trekking the Camino. The story, he said, is still there for others who want to contribute to it.

“We went down a lot of paths that we read about in class before we went,” he said. “We saw history come to life. There were cathedrals, different points on the trail, friendly people along the way — all things that previous pilgrims had seen and written about and there we are, doing that same thing. It’s hard to explain sometimes how eye-opening an experience it was to see people who are living different lives, a different culture, a different history that goes back more than a thousand years.”

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