In Experiential Learning, Journalism

Journalism students from BYU’s School of Communications traveled to Spain with three professors to film a documentary on the Camino de Santiago in a mentored-learning experience. (Courtesy of Natasha Ramirez)

BYU communications faculty, staff and students co-produce a documentary filmed in Spain about the famous network of pilgrimages — Camino de Santiago

Five students and three professors from the BYU School of Communications traveled to Spain to capture the experience of BYU Spanish language majors walking the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in northwestern Spain. 

The footage they took was compiled into a documentary about the Camino de Santiago, why people walk it and what it means to be a pilgrim. The 15-minute video, “Camino de Santiago: The Way of St. James,” was released on Aug. 25. 

Communications professors Dale Cressman, Alan Neves and Melissa Gibbs accompanied the students on the mentored-learning experience to help them gain real-world experience filming a documentary and improve their abilities as video storytellers.

Our communications students conducted themselves so professionally. They were passionate about the project and hardworking,” said Cressman. “We were very fortunate to have this experience. I believe it begins to fulfill the vision of our school’s director, Ed Carter — to get our students out into the world in mentored-learning situations where they can do challenging but exceptional things.”

(Courtesy of Dale Cressman)

BYU communications students shadowed and interviewed BYU Spanish students on the Camino de Santiago study abroad as well as others they met along the pilgrimage. 

The Spanish major students began their pilgrimage from Roncesvalles in Northeastern Spain on May 13 and arrived in Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain on June 16 after walking the majority of the way and biking for a portion. These students were accompanied by BYU associate academic vice president John Rosenberg and Spanish department chair Jeffrey Turley

“Everywhere I went on the Camino, people told me they had met one or more of our students,” said Cressman. “In every single instance, those people told me how impressed they were with them.”

In addition to their time walking the trail, the Spanish and journalism students had the unique opportunity to learn about Gregorian chants from Spanish monks in a monastery in Silos, Spain. After practicing what they had been taught, the BYU students were asked to perform the chants following vespers — an evening prayer service — in the local cathedral. They also sang hymns from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hymnbook.

“The students were very musically talented,” said Cressman. “I almost wondered whether they had auditioned for their study abroad — they hadn’t. It was an amazing moment. The pews were full and people were recording the singing on their phones and signaling their approval with enthusiastic applause. It was a spiritual experience that I had not expected. The Spirit was undeniable.”

(Courtesy of Dale Cressman)

Another spiritual experience students had during their time abroad was a Sunday devotional they were allowed to hold in a cathedral in O Cebreiro. During their devotional, pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago would pass through the cathedral. When the communications and Spanish students began singing hymns, however, the pews filled with entranced passerbys. 

Although the documentary is meant to highlight the Camino de Santiago and why people walk it, the communications students and professors hope that it will start a bigger conversation on what it means to be a pilgrim in any faith, including as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

“I think the experiences we had in Spain are unforgettable — both for the Spanish majors who walked the entire Camino and for our students who get to tell their story,” said Cressman.

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