by Samirah Jaigirdar, MTS ’24
Editor’s Note: Samirah is one of the 2022-2023 Graduate Assistants in HDS Admissions. She is a first-year MTS student at HDS with an area of focus in Religion, Ethics, and Politics. She is studying religious extremism and propaganda.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you want the HDS community & prospective students to know about you?
I grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and I attended Connecticut College for my undergraduate degree. I was convinced I was going to be a chemistry major until I took an International Politics class; I got hooked. Soon after, I added a second major, Global Islamic Studies, and a minor in Arabic Studies. I was apprehensive about coming to graduate school immediately after college, but now I am glad I did. Every time I am engaged in a meaningful conversation with someone (usually in the HDS Commons) I am reminded about how much I can grow here. HDS has given me space to develop intellectually and to think about extremism and radicalization at a granular level.
My interest in higher education administration was born in college where I was heavily involved with Student Life and Communications. Now, I am looking forward to getting a taste of how graduate admissions work and supporting fellow prospective students! As a GA (Graduate Assistant), I will be working on social media, so let me know if you want to see specific things about life at HDS!
How did you know HDS was the right school for you? What led you to apply here?
I always knew I wanted to attend graduate school, and I was convinced a policy-oriented International Relations (IR) program would be perfect. Thus, I sent in my applications to five IR programs and, of course, to Harvard Divinity School, which was the only religious studies program on my list. I want to study extremism and radicalization, and I thought that an IR program would be the perfect match. However, there was a part of me that wanted to dive into these issues through a religious lens, and that made me seriously consider HDS. When the time came to decide, I knew I should use my masters to explore extremism and terrorism from a point of view other than the one I had explored during my undergraduate years. Hence, I committed to HDS.
What advice would you like to share with prospective students?
Don’t be afraid to write multiple drafts of your statement of purpose. I think I wrote ten versions of mine before I was fully happy with it. The best advice I can give for the statement is ask a friend, who knows nothing about HDS or religion, to read your statement and ask them if it sounds like your authentic self. That is the best way to judge whether your statement is a good reflection of you!
What are you most looking forward to this year at HDS?
I cultivated very close working relationships with some of the faculty at my undergraduate institution and I look forward to doing that here as well. HDS is a tight-knit community where professors welcome all sorts of questions! I am interested in doctoral programs post-HDS so my professors are a source of vital advice.
Please share with us one thing that is bringing you joy right now, as you start your fall semester.
Although I’m most excited by the conversations I am having with other HDS students, I am also particularly excited about attending the different events around the Harvard Campus. Specifically, I’m looking forward to the events organized by the Mittal Institute. So far, the Friday afternoon tea sessions hosted by the South Asian Studies Department have been my go-to! These events, attended by lots of other Harvard-affiliated South Asians, have been rejuvenating me, and they ensure that I don’t get bogged down by my academic commitments (graduate school homework loads are no joke).