Nontraditional student walks Camino de Santiago and continues path through law school

by Sarah Carlson,

  • Jennifer Trundy JD'19 completed her walk on a route of the Camino de Santiago in May. Here, she stands, just finished with her walk, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
    Jennifer Trundy JD'19 completed her walk on a route of the Camino de Santiago in May. Here, she stands, just finished with her walk, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
  • This is a hamlet in Galicia, Spain. The yellow arrow on the building shows pilgrims the way to go. Trundy had about 37 miles to go to finish her route at this point.
    This is a hamlet in Galicia, Spain. The yellow arrow on the building shows pilgrims the way to go. Trundy had about 37 miles to go to finish her route at this point.
  • Trundy stands at Finesterre, what was thought of as "the end of the world," back when people thought the earth was flat. They thought this point was where the world ended.
    Trundy stands at Finesterre, what was thought of as "the end of the world," back when people thought the earth was flat. They thought this point was where the world ended.
  • Trundy posed for a photo on her fourth day on the Camino. The bridge behind her is from the 13th century.
    Trundy posed for a photo on her fourth day on the Camino. The bridge behind her is from the 13th century.
  • Trundy explained the "Wizard of Oz" to some German pilgrims along this part of the route, because it reminded her of the Yellow Brick Road. This is close to Astorga, Spain.
    Trundy explained the "Wizard of Oz" to some German pilgrims along this part of the route, because it reminded her of the Yellow Brick Road. This is close to Astorga, Spain.

After spending 15 years as the wife of a military officer and building a resume with a list of varied jobs, Jennifer Trundy JD'19 started law school at age 48. With fellow students older than her children and professors younger than she is, you’d think she is a little out of place. But, as she goes into her second year, she knows she’s on the right path.

Trundy said her first year of law school has been good for the most part, although law school isn’t easy, and there are social challenges to being an older student.

“I hadn’t taken a final in 25-plus years,” she said. “I joke that my brain is fuller than when I was younger.”

During study breaks, Trundy needed a goal to work toward in order to be doing something physical. For a dozen or so years, she had wanted to walk part of the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrim routes that goes across Europe and ends in northwest Spain. So, she studied hard, walked a lot, and bought her tickets to Spain last October, completing the trip in May.

“They say your Camino starts when you step out your door,” Trundy said. “I feel like mine started when I began school last fall. My start to law school was a bit of a whirlwind — I took the LSAT in June 2016, applied and was accepted in mid-July and started in August. So really, the last year has been quite a life-changing journey.”

Trundy had lots of time to think during her walk. She traveled 151 miles in 13 days, walking nine to 16 miles a day on varied terrain. She brought headphones but never listened to them. Instead, she passed the time thinking or talking to other people along the route.

She met a Spanish man who spoke little English, but was able to make do and communicate with her for about five hours before he left the trail. A 60-year old couple from Zurich had walked more than 1300 miles in 89 days and told her they could buy almost anything, but not the experience of the Camino. She spent another few hours with a Franciscan friar from Poland and more time with two German ladies.

“We were walking on a road that reminded me of the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Trundy recalled. “They hadn’t seen the movie, so I tried to explain it. I’m sure I sounded crazy.”

Trundy said she could tell lots of stories about the people she met. As they go on their way, the pilgrims wish each other a “buen camino” — good way. When she wasn’t talking to people, Trundy considered her law school journey.

“I thought about law school often as I walked. I thought about the last year, the coming years, what the future holds, the rock in my shoe,” she laughed. “There are some parallels, in that there are times at the end of the day when I was exhausted and thought, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ Then you have a glass of wine, get some sleep, and wake up the next morning ready to face the day’s challenges head on.”

During her time on the Camino, Trundy experienced blisters, a swollen knee and a torn ankle tendon. She ended up skipping a section when her knee started swelling, but finished the final 62 miles to earn her compostela, a Latin certificate confirming the completion of the pilgrimage.

Trundy said the sights and scenery along the Camino are beautiful. In the future, she may return to walk another route. For now, she clerks at the Department of Justice, hoping to eventually practice elder law and help veterans. She awaits the start of her second year of law school.

“It sounds so cliche, but if you want to do something, just take the first step,” she said.

About Willamette University College of Law

Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today's legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.

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