Over 13 days in late spring, 10 undergraduates and their philosophy professor walked 215 miles of the Camino de Santiago, a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage trail through the mountains, plains, forests, and cities of northern Spain. The journey was part of the coursework (along with assigned readings and writing) for PL449 “Self-Knowledge and Discernment: The Experience of Pilgrimage,” taught by associate professor Jeffrey Bloechl. “Pilgrimage is a kind of ‘yes’,” Bloechl told the class in one of six preparatory discussions during the spring semester. “You feel that you want something more than there is now, and you take seriously the idea that there can be more.” Anthony Corcoran, SJ, the Jesuit superior of Russia and a friend of Bloechl’s, was co-leader of the hike. The journey is the subject of the Summer 2015 cover story of Boston College Magazine.

Photo of class setting out from León
The class set out from León on the morning of May 22, carrying 20-pound packs. Each day's walk began with 45 minutes of silence.
Crossing a roman bridge
The 10 students were chosen by Bloechl from among 70 applicants. From left are perspectives major Amanda Bolanos ’18, Kate Albyn ’17 (English and secondary education), Niko Piperis ’17 (history and philosophy), and Ethan Street ’18 (economics and history), crossing a 13th-century Roman bridge over the river Orbigo on Day 2.
Coco Muir crosses river
Coco Muir ’18 nears the end of a 19.25-mile day, as she crosses the Río Burbia to enter Villafranca del Bierzo, on Day 5. Students mostly hiked in pairs or small groups. After the initial getting-to-know-you stage, conversation invariably turned serious.
O Cebreiro at sunrise
After a 2,600-foot climb the day before, Isaac Holterman ’17 and Albyn look out from the peak of O Cebreiro as dawn brightens. The students received their yellow bandanas when the class took a practice hike up New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock in April.
Approaching the 6th-century Benedictine monastery in Samos
The approach to the 6th-century Benedictine monastery in Samos on Day 8. Scallop shells in various guises (here as part of the railing) mark the Camino route.
Arnesia Banks ’16 and Holterman write in their journals
Arnesia Banks ’16 and Holterman write in their journals at a hostel in Palas de Rei on Day 11. The class held a “reflection” session every other night. During the spring semester, the students discussed texts including Frédéric Gros’s "A Philosophy of Walking" and Philip Cousineau’s "The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred."
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In a hostel in Arca, the day before the walk ends, Fr. Corcoran (center) celebrates his fifth Mass for the class. Though most of the students are not Catholic, attendance is near total—the services offer togetherness and the opportunity for prayer and silent thought. Clockwise from left: Banks, Bloechl, Holterman, Corcoran, Greydon Piper ’16, and Kyle Olander '18.
The class removed their boots upon reaching their final destination
When the class reached their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Bloechl tossed his boots to the pavement. The students followed suit.