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Photo by Caroline Matas

Photo by Caroline Matas

After a four-hour block of classes, we were all feeling like we needed some ice cream.

A few of my fellow incoming MDiv and MTS students and I walked over to JP Licks in Harvard Square. We flopped down onto the metal seats, savoring that end-of-summer, last-moments-of-freedom, coffee-cookies-and-cream feeling.

I looked around at my new classmates and asked, “So…what’s new?”

They laughed, and one of them said, “Basically, everything.”

If you are considering applying to HDS, you might just be starting to consider what kinds of changes you could be making in your life this time next year. For me, and for many of my fellow classmates, this past month has been a whirlwind of changes. In the month of August alone, I have had 4 different addresses (and, at times, no address), used 2 moving vans, and lived with 8 roommates. I have begun a new job, registered for new courses, and fumbled through the Harvard library system to order my new books. I left almost everyone I know behind in the Midwest, and I am beginning the process of building up a new network of friends and mentors. In short, what’s new in my life is…basically everything.

This kind of uprooting has certainly been exhausting and, at times, stressful. However, there is a sort of beauty in starting something new alongside so many people going through the same changes as I am. The residential, community-oriented nature of HDS means that, as I begin to navigate my new life, I have plenty of company. There is a solidarity that comes from joining a group of people who have all chosen to change their lives for the same cause. On days when all of this change feels overwhelming, all I have to do is reach out to one of my new classmates to be reminded that I’m not alone, and that we’ll figure things out together.

The decision to change directions and start graduate school at HDS is one that will change your life radically, in almost every way. Whether coming to HDS means moving across the country, across the world, or just across the Cambridge-Somerville line, life will certainly look different on the other side. The physical relocation is just one dimension of the changes you might have to make; as you start embarking on new intellectual ground, making new friends, and getting lost on a new campus, you may find yourself making emotional, mental, and possibly even spiritual relocations. As you begin deciding what programs are right for you, drafting personal statements, and gathering references, I would encourage you to start imagining what kinds of changes you are open to making in your life as you begin a graduate program.

I don’t know that I could have imagined just how many transformations my enrollment at HDS would bring to my own life, but as my classmates and I start tentatively sharing our new addresses with one another (if we can remember them), forming new traditions and jokes and plans, and adjusting to the rhythm of our new daily lives, all of these crazy life changes are starting to feel like maybe they were worth it.

If nothing else, they provide a great excuse to go out for ice cream.