Invent the future…

The Camino Hokies are making international connections en route to inventing their futures in this Virginia Tech study abroad opportunity in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.


“a global, unified family”

by Heather Wieberdink

One of the most interesting aspects of this trip for me was the opportunity to meet people from around the world, an obvious correlation with my International Studies major. Through my experiences thus far, I can honestly say that on the Camino, everyone has more similarities than differences. Apart from the obvious language barriers, everyone has been friendly and passionate about the Camino de Santiago. We walk for many different reasons, but whether someone is French, German, Spanish or American, we are all peregrinos with the same goal in mind; get to Santiago.

With these last couple days being more strenuous, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep going. For me, part of it comes from my interview with Carlos, a worker at the albergue in Leon. After learning where he came from and how long he has worked at the albergue, I asked Carlos (pictured above) why he liked working there. He replied with a statement about how much he enjoys watching the generations of people coming together and how important it is that the Camino experience is passed down to future generations. Next, I asked him to tell us about the spiritual experience of the Camino, something he is very passionate about. He said that along the Camino, we form a universal community, one that comes together to get to Santiago. He said that in this moment, we are a part of a global, unified family walking the Camino. I had never thought of the Camino in this way, and it is a concept that is hard to understand without walking the Camino yourself, but after hearing that from Carlos, I have been able to keep going. Because the Camino is something far deeper than a hike across Spain, and with my newfound perspective, I am able to find the motivation and determination within myself.


Peregrino bonding

By Julie Lynberg

Now that we have completed the first half of our journey to Santiago de Compostela from Leon, I have been able to observe some ways that my sociology major is helping me analyze Camino people and practices.

As we set out each day before the sun has reached our section of northern Spain, individuals come together as we walk and start a repeating process of communication and connection. This communication is such an essential aspect of the Camino and reproducing the society formed along the way because of the opportunity to create a very unique group of people from many different countries with countless different stories. It is interesting then to see how it’s complicated by language barriers and how people still manage to overcome these barriers and form group bonds. Many people in our group have met interesting people and formed friendships with strangers as they try to learn about each other’s lives and countries in ways we’re not able to by reading a textbook or attending a lecture.

I also see how symbols of group membership bonds with other peregrinos and immediately establishes understanding. Many fellow hikers have shells strung to the outside of their hiking packs, repeating the tradition from the midieval years when pilgrims carried shells as a sign of their religious pilgrammage to prevent thieves from stealing their belongings. Hikers are further recognized by sturdy walking sticks and muddy hiking boots. For many these hiking boots secretly create painful blisters and swelling as each peregrino pushes their body forward, knowing that each kilometer means one less until reaching Santiago. Our combined spiritual, historical, or physical reasons for completing el Camino only intensify our group connections and exemplify the many different ways individuals bond with rituals, activities, and shared goals.


Photo: Julie (right) talks with Serene as the two prepare their journals for class.


International studies on the Camino

By Serene Cherian


One thing that I really love about this experience is how it greatly pertains to what I want to do in the future. Being a double major in international studies and Spanish, I believe that being here and doing the camino has really opened up my opportunity to be more independent and practice my Spanish. There are also people from all over the world, some who don’t speak Spanish, that I also talked to. For example, I met a couple from Belgium, and I was able to exchange information about our reasons for doing the trip and our experience thus far. It has been very rewarding to be able to interact with so many people from different places. I chose international studies because I love learning about different countries and individual cultures and traditions, and this experience has really allowed me to do all of that. So basically, not only am I able to interact with the natives of Spain, but I am also able to learn about people that come from everywhere, doing the same thing that I am doing. I am looking forward to the last few days of the camino and absorbing all it’s worth.

Serene hikes with Julie on the Camino.


Pilgrim images and statues

A statue of a pilgrim in Lèon gives one pause about the journey.

A modern rendition of a pilgrim, found just before the Cruz de Ferro, where pilgrims metaphorically and physically unload their burdens into an ever-growing mound of rocks.

A mosaic in Masarife.

A pellogrino leans into the next step just pass the mountain top town of O’Cebreiro.

A pre-backpack pilgrim in Astorga.

Making connections

By Olivia Caron


From a trip to the pharmacy to meeting a pharmacist from Bordeaux, France, the camino found ways to infuse my trip with chemical engineering. I arrived in Leon with an eye infection in my left eye that kept me from being able to use contacts and see more than three feet in front of me. Annie and I took a trip to the pharmacy where we were told to check in next door at the optomologist for a quick check in. It was indeed the quickest eye appointment I have ever had. The doctor told me after a few scoldings that I needed a cream in my eye for about a week and that under no circumstances could I put back in my contact lenses. The efficiency and simplicity of the pharmacist and the eye doctor astonished me. Not to mention extremely cost efficient. As I endeavor to join the pharmacy career, I can’t help but think that the system in Europe has a few quality features the United States could benefit from.

Just a day later, I was walking along to Astorga when I happened to meet a pharmacist from Bordeaux, France. I could not by any means consider this a coincidence. As I was able to practice my French skills as well as Spanish, I was also learning about my possible future career. Her simplicity and our ease to chat still amazes me. Time flew by and when we were forced to say goodbye I felt as if I was leaving a long time friend. Sharing a few hours, enduring the same hardships, finding common interests, and feeling the same Spanish sun made us closer. A day and a half on the camino had introduced me to new people and new methods that in some way or another linked back to my studies as an engineer and Spanish major at Virginia Tech.