It is sometime in March or April during spring semester at UNF. Nine o’clock a.m. on a Wednesday I sit in one of Building 51’s lecture halls ready for Dr. Kaplan’s lecture on Roman Imperial administration of Western Europe or something to that effect. But before he can begin another professor I vaguely recognize as the Department of History chair makes a presentation about a summer study abroad opportunity to Northern Spain. I was intrigued but I’d be lying if I said I was hooked right then and there. It would take another month or so and some motivation from my well-traveled Grandfather before I reached out to that professor for more details about this Pilgrimage he seemed so excited about. Now several months, thousands of miles, and a lifetime of experiences later, it is a bit hard to believe that my Camino de Santiago began in such a boorish way. But it is even harder to believe that it is now all over.
As friends and family beg me to tell them all about my adventures I struggle to find a way to aptly describe the experience. In fact, so bad was I at explaining the trip on a whim that I began to worry that I was coming across as if I had taken nothing out of the experience, as if it was just another month of school, as if I simply didn’t have anything to say. But when I sat down one late night with my dad, the Google Drive with all the photos in front of me, something clicked. Each image bringing in a flood of inspiration and anecdotes I can’t share fast enough. A photo of the street in Roncesvalles sends me on a tangent about a broken down bus and Monica’s patented catchphrase “change your mind, change your life.” Another photo of a painting depicting the crucifixion of Christ opens a diatribe on the nuances of the depictions of Romans in medieval art. A seemingly innocuous picture of a rainy courtyard in Santiago begins the long story of how Dr. Sheffler, Savannah, and I spent four hours longer than anyone else musing over the collections present in the Santiago Cathedral’s museum of art and architecture. Experiences become memories. Memories become part of who you are.
Now to say I came back from Spain a new person would be a bold-faced lie. But it would also be a lie to say that the sights I saw, the things I learned, and the friendships I made haven’t deeply affected me in a way I never could have imagined all that time ago in Building 51. I can never adequately express just how grateful I am to have been able to partake in this adventure under my wonderful professors and alongside my unforgettable peers. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and with any luck it will one day prove to be the first of many more grand adventures as I continue my education.