Recently, as a graduate assistant in the Office of Admissions, I was fielding questions in a virtual chatroom from prospective HDS applicants. Most of the questions were the typical ones you’d expect: What degrees are offered at HDS? Is HDS affiliated with a particular denomination? How does financial aid work? Some were a little more specific: What’s field education and why is it required for all MDivs? Can you tell me more about the Boston Theological Institute? What’s campus life like at HDS?
But there was one question I hadn’t been expecting: Keith, could you tell us what you like the most about HDS?
For context, I am a first year MDiv, this was only my second week of class, and my time at HDS thus far had been a blur. My days consisted of rushing out the door each day for morning prayer at Memorial Church, followed by an advanced Spanish course I was cross-registered in at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and then off to my other classes on Religious Pluralism or Ministry Studies or Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion, followed by discussion sections, my Hear and Now interfaith group, late nights in the comfy chairs on the second floor of Andover-Harvard Library chipping away at my mountain of reading, and finally my bike ride home, where I would collapse in an exhausted, but happy, heap on my bed, wake up the next morning, and do it all over again.
I loved my classes, the worship services, my readings—all of it. But I hadn’t had much time yet to process it all. And upon reflection I realized that my favorite part of HDS thus far was the in-between time, the few gaps in my schedule, because it was during those times that I had started to build friendships with my classmates. During a break, I’d mosey outside to the quad, inevitably bump into someone, and strike up a conversation: about Boston, or our classes, or specific readings. Just the night before, I had ended up sitting in the grass with two classmates completely geeking out over some obscure philosophy text. On another occasion, a conversation about various Christian practices led to a group of us attending a local church service that weekend.
My classmates fascinate me. They come from all walks of life, from all over the US and the world, from an array of religious traditions, all with deep-seated convictions. From them I’ve already learned about Zen Buddhist monasticism, interpretative approaches to Nietzsche, Latin American Liberation Theology, and Greek Orthodox contemplative practices, not to mention the best bars in the Cambridge, books that change lives, and life hacks for poor graduate students (tip #1: shop at market basket). I’ve quickly realized that though HDS offers leading scholars, top-notch academics, unimaginable opportunities, and access to University-wide resources, its greatest resource may be the students who study here. I look forward to learning from as many as I can, one impromptu conversation at a time.