A Week in the Life of an HDS Student: Featuring Jessica Young Chang

By: Jessica Young Chang, MDiv ’22

Editor’s Note: Jessica Young Chang (she/her) is a third-year MDiv student who is thrilled to be graduating this spring. She studies mystical experience in Hindu and Christian traditions and spiritual care in the reproductive justice landscape. Currently, Jess is exploring interfaith ministry in chaplaincy, and she is on the ordination track in the United Church of Christ, planning to complete a residency in clinical pastoral education after graduation. 

In late March 2022, we asked Jess to describe a week in her life as an HDS student. While no two students will have the same experience in graduate school, we hope this snapshot of how Jess balances her time will be a helpful illustration of graduate student life as you’re considering HDS. 

Photo courtesy of Jessica Young Chang

I like to start my weeks with some quiet reflection in the morning. Because this is my last semester at HDS—and because I was a fiend about getting my requirements taken care of early(!) —I have more flexibility in my schedule and don’t have any morning classes this semester. This allows me to center my spiritual practice most days and to ease slowly into my day.  

On Mondays after quiet time and breakfast, I finish up any homework for the coming week that I couldn’t get to during the weekend. If my workload is light, I enjoy joining my fellow United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ classmates (we’re the DUCCS! Quack, quack!) for connection and devotional time. Then I head to UCC Polity, taught by Reebee Girash, the DUCCS denominational counselor, and the Pastor of Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Arlington, Mass. 

Tuesdays are one of my Field Ed days. I’m currently completing a seminary internship at Old South Church in Boston, and I usually have some writing to do for the week’s worship services. Working from home, I attend various staff meetings and trainings via Zoom. I spend Tuesday afternoons writing, planning my small group and writing liturgy for the week, and checking in with staffers and congregants. My favorite thing to do at my internship is to meet with members of the church and hold space with them to share about their lives. I love connecting with people and the ways in which Field Ed is helping me gain real-world experience in ministry and service, especially in this highly variable pandemic time. 

My afternoon class on Wednesday is Mystical Theology with Amy Hollywood. She’s an amazing lecturer, and the class is taught hybrid-style. I catch up on some reading for her class before we begin, and then spend two hours with her and other friends and classmates digging into hagiography and writings of folks in the early Christian tradition. Afterward, I jet home so that I can facilitate a movement-based, interfaith small group at Old South called Nourish. 

I have a quick discussion section on Thursdays for one of my classes, and then I hop on the T to Old South, where I’m a member of the worship team that facilitates a Jazz Worship service on Thursday nights at 6 pm.  

On Fridays, I prep for weekend worship services, start in on the following week’s homework or get writing done on sermons or papers, and have a check-in with my field ed supervisor. If there’s time, I’ll do a little socializing with friends, whether they are local or long distance!  

Keeping a Sabbath practice has long been an important part of my mental and spiritual health, so I try to avoid looking at my phone, corresponding about school or work, and even doing homework from Friday evenings to Saturday at noon. I will spend extra time in spiritual practice and with my partner of twelve years(!), and I will try to slow down and listen to what my body and mind might need for rest.  

Saturday and Sunday 
Saturday afternoons and evenings are generally for homework, and Sundays I spend most of my energy at my Field Ed site. I try to get a good night’s sleep, so that on Monday, I can wake up and do it all again! 

If you’re interested in learning more about the student experience at HDS, contact the HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants in the ask_students@hds.harvard.edu inbox!  

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