Going Back to School

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Photo by Chris Alburger

Course readings available at Harvard COOP. Photo by Chris Alburger

After being in school for 18 years, I happily spent the year after graduating from college babysitting and bartending. Only a few months in, though, I started itching for more school, and this past September I started at HDS. As the semester began, I attended my first classes in over a year. They were full of smart people with interesting things to say about religion, people who were all here for the same reason I was—because they think religion is fascinating, important, and relevant. After being one of two religious studies majors to graduate my senior year, this was a dream—except that after a year without classes, papers, reading, or finals, I forgot how to do school.

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Housing & How to Get Around

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Now that you’ve been welcomed to the HDS community, you may be wondering, “How do I live in this expensive place on student loans?”

The graduate student dorms and apartments are a great option if you’re looking for communal living and proximity to campus. However, if you want to live alone or in a more house-like setting, you’ll want to look farther afield. Craigslist is probably your best option. Be aware that, for most spaces in the Boston area, you’ll be expected to pay the amount of four months’ rent up front: a full month security deposit, first and last months’ rent, and the amount of a full month’s rent as a realtor fee (the last of which you won’t get back). You can seek out no-fee and reduced-fee options, and small-scale landlords will often have lesser deposits, but those places are a bit harder to find. You can start looking now, but openings for August 1 or September 1 will probably not show up in great numbers until June. Continue reading

Saying Yes to HDS

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Photo by Katelynn Carver

New growth. Photo by Katelynn Carver

Three years ago I attended the Open House for Admitted Students, and I can remember being very hesitant about the day and my decision itself. I had just attended an event for admitted students at another divinity school, and was pretty sure I was going there, but I still went to HDS to check it out and affirm my decision to attend the other place. I thought HDS was going to be the wrong place for me, that it would be all extremely high academia and no community, that it would be a place that would only challenge me intellectually, but not spiritually or emotionally, that it would simply be a place to earn a Harvard degree and nothing more. Continue reading

Citta

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Photo by Katelynn Carver

Photo by Katelynn Carver

Around this time last year, when the tenuous and uncertain transition to spring usually makes me want to feel time speed up—right through the last of the dreary, cold March days—I found myself wanting nothing more than to put the brakes on the incessant passage of time. I had the great fortune of being admitted to the two dream masters programs I had applied for: a Masters of Theological Studies concentrating in the Philosophy of Religion at Harvard Divinity School and a Masters in Applied Psychology at Columbia.  Although I primarily felt just tremendous gratitude for the opportunity to engage in either of these wonderful programs, I was also facing a significant decision that would likely have very different implications for my future.

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Stellar & Down to Earth Faculty

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The Harvard Divinity School shield. Photo by Chris Alburger

The Harvard Divinity School shield at Harvard COOP. Photo by Chris Alburger

When I visited HDS as a prospective student, I was surprised by what Dr. Emily Click said from the podium. I’d brought some assumptions with me, across the country to Cambridge. I mean, it was Harvard. I figured they’d be snobby. Especially the faculty, with all their accomplishments and accolades. But Emily Click emanated warmth, her words were heartfelt, and she was so down to earth, I thought, wow, this is like my small liberal arts college, but even more so: nurturing, holistic, inspiring. Continue reading

An Incredibly Supportive Community

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The Harvard University Plaza. Photo by Chris Alburger

The Harvard University Plaza. Photo by Chris Alburger

“Don’t be afraid to let yourself be human, Jen.”

These wise words from one of my HDS advisors have come back to me again and again throughout my second year here at HDS. Throughout my time here, I have experienced firsthand that while HDS is full of some of the most talented and highly productive people you may meet, it is also grounded in an incredibly supportive community. Over our three years of Divinity School in the MDiv program, we are asked, constantly, to do it all: complete multiple intensive, transformative internships; read more pages than ever possible each week; develop strong and lasting relationships with friends and colleagues; network and realize our future plans; go to all of the lectures and all of the events taking place across this great university. The opportunities for education and exploration truly are endless here, not to mention the amazing people you’ll meet along the way.

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Inimitable Opportunities

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Photo credit: Chris Alburger

Congratulations on your acceptance to Harvard Divinity School! Discerning program “fit,” in light of my scholarly and personal interests, was easy for me. I entered HDS with personal conviction, very much in alignment with the HDS mission, to foster a global culture of mutual understanding, respect, and goodwill—a culture in which people of every religion and culture coexist and work together in peace. I knew that the MTS program would help me to critically engage my understanding of my Catholic faith and learn more about powerful and interdependent cultural, political and social forces, as I endeavor to help implement empirically and cultural-linguistically based policies and programs centered on access to equitable health care and education for all.

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Skills That Will Translate

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Divinity Hall. Photo by Chris Alburger

Divinity Hall. Photo by Chris Alburger

I was planning on going to graduate school to get a master’s in international education, which made sense at the time. I had been working with international students for three years, both in the U.S. and in Costa Rica, and getting a master’s degree was the next logical step. I had a plan, I had a spreadsheet with all of the international education programs I was applying for, and I had a solid elevator speech to respond to the inevitable, frequent, and mildly painful question, “what are you going to do next?”

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In My Head and In My Heart

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Divinity Ave. Photo by Chris Alburger

Divinity Ave. Photo by Chris Alburger

If a year and a half ago someone had told me I would soon be in Divinity School, I would have thought two things: 1. “Here is someone who doesn’t understand that you can do something with a Religious Studies major besides become ordained” and 2. “That is not in my plan.”

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A Special Place

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Mosaic. Photo by Katelynn Carver

Mosaic. Photo by Katelynn Carver

To be honest, when I came to HDS for admitted students day I was looking for excuses not to come here.  I had just graduated from Emory and received a job offer to stay there and work.  I was afraid to leave my comfort zone filled with friends, relationships, and work.  But I knew I couldn’t just turn down Harvard without a good reason, so I decided to come to the Admitted Students Day and find a reason why HDS was not for me.  The quickest way to do that I realized was to discover that there was no real community here and thus it was not a place where I could be successful.

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