Magazine On-line [spring 2008]
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Alumni Profiles

Rachel Wilson '07

Spanish Pilgrimage is an Unforgettable Experience

Rachel WilsonRachel Wilson ’07 struggles to explain exactly why she decided to walk 500 miles across the breadth of northern Spain last fall after graduating from Transylvania, all the while deferring her graduate school plans, and freely admits that she discovered no startling revelations about herself during her 38-day pilgrimage. Even so, it’s obvious she wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

“One beautiful morning during the first week, we were climbing a little path through the trees and came out on a huge grassy knoll where you could look back and see the mountains you had crossed and then ahead to where you’re going,” Wilson recalled. “I stood there for several minutes. It was such an amazing feeling, just being in Spain, and I thought, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be right now.’”

That otherworldly experience was actually in contrast to most of Wilson’s days, which she says were a real-life adventure consisting of making new friends, seeing beautiful and memorable sites in Spain, and trying very hard to keep her backpack dry on rainy days.

Wilson became one of uncounted pilgrims over a 1000-year period who have walked the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James in English, a traditional pilgrimage route. She walked alone and with others while beginning just over the French border in St. Jean Pied de Port and arriving more than a month later in Santiago near Spain’s west coast, staying at hostels each night along the way.

At various times, Wilson’s walking companions were a speech therapist from Scotland, a filmmaker from Germany, and two older women—one from Montreal, the other from Denmark—who “adopted” her. “They were my grandmas,” she says. “They took me under their wing and tended my blisters.”

At the end of her pilgrimage, Wilson stayed in Europe for six more weeks, spending part of the time with her mother and part with Transy students Katie Grisanti and Jessica Jarboe, who were doing a study abroad program in Grenada.

Wilson majored in Spanish at Transy and developed a love for Spain and its culture that prompted her to undertake the pilgrimage. Spanish professor Veronica Dean-Thacker was her adviser and a major influence on her love of the language and the country. She will begin the Hispanic Studies program at the University of Kentucky in the fall.

Wilson says her love of Spain made the pilgrimage decision a relatively easy one.

“It was the first time in my life where I had the freedom to make a decision, other than going straight to college, and of course I would go to Spain,” she says. “It was a great adventure, and I loved meeting all those people and hearing the things they had done with their lives.”

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