Reflecting on My First Year at HDS

Post by: Julia Reimann, MDiv ‘22 and Graduate Assistant 

As the year comes to a close, I find myself feeling immense gratitude for the classmates and courses of the first year of divinity school in all its complexity and challenge. This year has been a particularly unconventional first year: moving across the country, joining a new campus community, returning to school, completing the first semester and launching into second, and then returning home and completing the first-year virtually due to COVID-19. This year has been characterized by significant change and frequent transitions, a constant cycle of readjusting. Amidst all the change, my relationships with classmates in our MDiv cohort and throughout the HDS community have been vital to maintaining connection to my educational journey and community amidst the chaos. The small class sizes at HDS and our required first-year courses in the first semester helped to foster close relationships with peers, which have only grown throughout the year. 

Weekly events with community members became even more important to my schedule during second semester as the members of our first-year cohort moved to independently study our particular research interests. The food and time we shared outside of the classroom during Community Tea was a meaningful space to share our experiences with each other, maintain connection to deepen relationships, and grow together.  

Julia and friends perform at HDS’ annual mult-religious
Seasons of Light service //photo courtesy of HDS COMMUNICATIONS 

This first year at HDS also brought music back into my life. After studying music and religion in undergrad, I have since wondered what role music might play in my career or vocation. Singing with both the HDS choir at Noon Service and a sweet small group of HDS friends this year has brought such joy to my life and reminded me of the power of making music with others. It has encouraged me to think more deeply about the integration of music in my work. 

This year has offered me opportunities to delve into the multiplicity of my academic and vocational interests and to begin to narrow and deepen my aspirations. Here are a few of my favorite courses from first year: 

  • Women & Gender in U.S. Catholicism: Taught by Professor Monica Mercado, one of the visiting Women Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) professors, this discussion-based course allowed me to delve into issues of women and gender within the history of  Catholicism in the U.S. in my first semester within a class of nine peers. It was such a joy to be able to explore some of the questions I am most passionate about in my first semester. I could not recommend taking a course with one of the WSRP scholars more.  
  • Religious Literacy at the Boston Children’s Museum: Deepening a partnership between the Religious Literacy Project and the Boston Children’s Museum, this course with Professor Diane Moore and Leslie Swartz (Senior Vice President of Research and Program Planning at the Boston Children’s Museum) was a unique classroom experience which introduced me to the fascinating field of museum studies and evaluation as well as child development. The course built upon a number of skills related to developing developmentally appropriate materials for children with the goal of increasing religious literacy in a space which fostered innovation and creativity.  
  • Elementary Classical Hebrew: Though I originally felt uncertain about taking a language in my first year, I found studying Hebrew to be a refreshing shift from the heavy reading and writing demands of my other courses. Language learning has its own challenges, but I found great joy in taking Hebrew this year. 
  • Healing & Spirituality in Medicine: The opportunity to take courses at other Harvard schools was one of the things that attracted me to HDS, so it was so exciting to take this course at the medical school this semester. Team taught by Dr. Gloria White-Hammond (HDS) and Dr. John Peteet (Harvard Medical School), this interdisciplinary collaborative class was made up of students from HDS, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard Kennedy School. As an aspiring hospital or hospice chaplain, this class supported my growing interest in pursuing chaplaincy in a healthcare setting.  

As our community and world continue to adapt to the challenges of this current moment, I hold these moments of growth and joy in the midst of all the unknowns and questions. Though we are apart, I feel supported by a community that continues to seek to be there for one another in the face of immense and unprecedented challenges and obstacles. Though this moment is deeply distressing, it is a vitally important one within which to be studying spiritual care as the need for spiritual care and innovative methods of care developed by my classmates and professors. My classmates bring me hope in these dark days and remind me to honor the growth of this year and to find ways to continue growing in a different space away from our community in the days to come.  

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