Where Will I Live? An Overview of On and Off Campus Housing Options

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Editor’s Note: Whether you have recently been admitted to HDS or you are considering applying, we know you may have questions about where you will live while completing your degree program. For students who are not already in the Boston or Cambridge area, looking at housing options can be particularly confusing and stressful. We hope this post provides more clarity on the various housing options that HDS students can choose from. While the ongoing pandemic has left us with some unanswered questions about what exactly fall term will look like, we advise students to plan to be on campus in the fall. 

Courtesy of Justin Knight Photography 
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J-Term Course: Comparative Monasticisms

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Editor’s Note: HDS students have the option to take J-term courses, which are usually 2-credit courses held over winter break. In this post, MDiv student, Jessica Young Chang, shares her experience taking Kerry Maloney’s Comparative Monasticisms J-term course virtually this past January.  

Post by Jessica Young Chang MDiv’22 

Photo Courtesy of Jessica Young Chang

Candlelight is flickering against the unadorned white walls. The echo of monks chanting in Latin invites a reverent silence into the room. The table is set with a humble bowl of lentils, rice, roasted squash, bread, and a mug of tea. My notebook is poised nearby in case the abbess reads or utters a morsel of wisdom I want to remember. 

And in the other room, I can hear my husband laughing at whatever he’s watching on Netflix.  

The retreat week for this year’s Comparative Monasticisms class looked a bit different. A J-term class offered by HDS Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Kerry Maloney, this class provides students with a background of the contemplative life as defined and practiced in the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Typically, students convene with Kerry and co-teacher David Woessner for a week and retreat at centers in the Massachusetts area. Alas, the pandemic made it impossible for us to gather and travel safely, so we retreated in our homes, are less the band of wandering mendicants and more the community of desert siblings in our individual cells.  

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Reflections on What HDS Has Taught Me

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Editor’s Note: We know hearing from current students is one of the best ways to learn about what HDS has to offer. For this post, we asked one of our graduating students to reflect on her time at HDS and what lessons she’ll take with her as she moves on to the next step in life.  

Post by Madeline Levy, MTS ’21 (Area of Focus: Religion, Ethics, and Politics)

Madeline reading on set // Photo Courtesy of Madeline Levy

 

My name is Madeline, and I am a second-year MTS student with a focus in Religion, Ethics, and Politics. And, wow, these two years have really flown by! It is so hard to believe that I’m already in a position to be “reflecting” on my time at HDS.  

I am originally from Port Townsend, WA and received my BA from Whitman College, where I majored in Religious Studies. After graduating, I worked in opera stage management at a variety of companies around the country. While that career brought me much joy, I came to deeply miss the academic study of religion: the discussions, the material, and the depth. In my application process, I was drawn to HDS in particular for its pluralistic approach to the study of religion as well as for the institutional emphasis on ethical action, compassionate community, and rigorous academics.  

As I prepared to begin my time at HDS, friends and family kept telling me what a journey graduate study was and how much they had changed during their degree programs. It isn’t that I didn’t believe them, but I just didn’t spend too much time reflecting on how I might change. I expected that I would learn a lot about religion and find a warm, thoughtful community. In that way, HDS has been exactly what I expected, though I didn’t–or couldn’t–imagine the growth that I would experience in these two years.  

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Narrowing Down Your Grad School Options

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Narrowing down your options can be nerve-wracking especially when you are choosing between multiple programs that will help you meet your personal and career goals. Here is some advice on how you can go about narrowing down and comparing your options.  

HDS Photo Courtesy of Kristie Welsh

Consider All Factors 
Make a list of what you are looking for in a graduate program and all the factors you want to consider. Then rank that list in order of importance. You should be honest with yourself when considering all aspects of a graduate program. If location or housing options are important to you, be sure to include it on your list. While that might feel less important than focusing on solely academic criteria, it is important to consider all parts of your graduate school experience. Also take time to look at the resources that the program offers. This might include things like grants, fellowships, libraries, field education opportunities, and so on.  

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Managing Finances at HDS: What to Expect and How to Save

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Photo Courtesy of Kristie Welsh

Where to Save 

There are several ways to reduce expenses in graduate school. One way is looking for cheaper housing options. Less expensive housing usually comes with the caveat of a longer commute so ask yourself how important it is for you to be close to campus. Another option is living with roommates. The more roommates one has, usually means cheaper housing costs. If you are someone who enjoys sharing spaces with others this can be a good option.  

While having a car can be convenient, especially during the pandemic, it can also be very expensive. In Massachusetts you need to get a street parking permit and in order to qualify for a permit you need Massachusetts insurance which requires registration in Massachusetts and a Massachusetts license. Massachusetts insurance can also be more expensive than other parts of the country. If you opt not to bring your car, you can still get around the city using the T system, the buses, and free Harvard shuttle. HDS offers access to a reduced T pass, which you can renew each semester. Factoring in this deal might make it easier to live farther away from campus. Harvard also has an evening van program, which operates anywhere within a 1-mile radius of the yard. You can call it to come directly to you and then bring you to the exact location you specify.  

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Five Lessons I Learned My First Semester at HDS

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Editor’s Note: Last fall our first year HDS students made the decision to join our community amid uncertainty brought on by a global pandemic. In this post, MDiv student, Cassie Montenegro, shares some of the lessons she learned in her first semester at HDS.  

Post by Cassie Montenegro MDiv’23 

Photo Courtesy of Cassie Montenegro

Like some of you, I found myself applying to divinity school after taking a less than linear route. I’m a trained attorney, experienced teacher, and former TEDx organizer. I am also a queer cis-gendered Cuban American woman who was raised on café con leche, the Rosary, and Tibetan chanting. And I am a first year MDiv with a penchant for Religion and Literature and a love of sacred space. However, it took me about six and a half years to muster the courage to apply to Harvard Divinity School. As I find myself a few weeks into my second semester, I would do well to remind myself of the lessons learned last semester about the Harvard community, about student life on Zoom, and about myself. 

  1. There is no “right time” or “wrong time” to go to Divinity school. Although joining the HDS community would quickly prove one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, when the time came to leave a profession I loved, to begin a new vocation amidst a global pandemic, the decision was not an easy one. Should I try to defer? Take a reduced course-load? However, the more I networked with and spoke to other current and admitted students, especially those within my Unitarian Universalist faith tradition, I knew I had found my people, my place. 
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Harvard Wide Opportunities

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Editor’s Note: At Harvard Divinity School, our students can utilize resources across Harvard University. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the facilities, opportunities, and experiences that our students can access beyond HDS.  

Photo Courtesy of Kristie Welsh

Libraries 
As a Harvard student you have access to Harvard’s impressive and one of kind library system which includes over 73 libraries and over 20 million volumes. You will also have access to Harvard’s incredible archives, including collections on women’s history at the Schlesinger Library and the collection of rare books and manuscripts in the Houghton Library. Whether you study religion at the intersection of law, politics, education, medicine, or more, Harvard probably has a library with books tailored to your area of study.  

Take Courses Across the University 
At HDS you’ll find that our students, even students in the same program, have very different class schedules because of the vast course options available. As an HDS student you can take classes at other Harvard graduate schools as well as at schools who are part of the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium which includes 8 other schools.  It’s so easy to cross-register in courses at other Harvard schools that you don’t even need special approval from your advisor—you just simply enroll! You can check out some of the course offerings here.  

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Exploring Death, Music, and Spirituality in Field Education: An experiment in collaboration and virtual creativity

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Editor’s Note: HDS students have the opportunity to participate in field education, a structured learning experience that combines theory with practice. Students in the MDiv program are required to complete 2 units of field education, however it is optional for MTS students. Due to the pandemic, field education placements were shifted to virtual platforms, as were classes, in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. In this post, Julia Reimann MDiv’22, shares her experience thus far completing her field education requirement virtually.  

Post by Julia Reimann MDiv’22 

Photo Courtesy of Julia Reimann

As the start of fall semester 2020 approached, my second year Master of Divinity student self was not looking forward to an entire virtual semester. In particular, I was dreading the prospect of completing my first unit of field education digitally. In the first few months of learning at HDS (when we were able to be in-person), I heard many stories from classmates in field education placements about how they were glad to be actively engaged in and practicing the ideas learned and developed in the classroom; abstract learnings were made tangible in their sites. Months later, as an aspiring chaplain, I feared what would be lost in this new virtual version of graduate school & field education made necessary by the insidiousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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I Submitted My Application, Now What?

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Photo Courtesy of Kristie Welsh

First, take comfort in knowing that the application process is now out of your hands and that you have done what you needed to do to craft a strong application. In addition to celebrating the fact that you’ve submitted your graduate school application, here are some other things you can do while you wait for decisions to come out:  

Apply for Financial Aid: If you haven’t already, be sure to apply for financial aid. Look out for an email from the financial aid office with instructions on how to apply. Although you do not need to apply to for financial aid to be considered for merit-based aid, you do need to apply for financial aid to be considered for need-based aid. About 90 percent of students receive some form of institutional grant assistance, and the vast majority of that is need-based aid, so we strongly encourage all HDS applicants to apply for financial aid even if they feel that they may not qualify for need-based aid. 

Keep Up with Admissions Office: Our Admissions Team will be hosting various panels and presentations in the coming months to help answer any questions you may still have. Keep an eye out for our emails and follow us on Instagram (@harvarddivinity). Also, feel free to look through previously recorded panels here and browse the student crafted content on our Admissions Blog. 

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Celebrating the HDS Community!

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Editor’s Note: Due to the pandemic, HDS made the difficult decision of continuing remote learning for fall and spring semester this year. In this post, HDS student, Malini Srikrishna, highlights the resilience and strength of the HDS community despite the challenge of distance.  

Post by Malini Srikrishna MTS’21 

Photo Courtesy of Malini Srikrishna

We finally made it! I want to affirm and explore the confusion all current HDS students felt last semester because we were forced to be together and experience love in ways that were unfamiliar. I write this to record the monumental ability that has been displayed so all those who come after us can read this and enter with the hope of unrestricted possibilities. During the past year of being students and teachers during a global pandemic, our community displayed a remarkable commitment to being open to new experiences that have only become better over awkwardness, laughter and time. As has often been advised for endeavors such as this — it has been a time to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. 

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