A Week in the Life of an HDS First-Year Student: Featuring Kat Woodard

By Kat Woodard, MDiv ’25

Editor’s Note: While no two students will have the same experience in graduate school, we hope this snapshot of how Kat balances her time will be a helpful illustration of graduate student life as you’re considering HDS or newly admitted.

Monday: I like to use Mondays as a “refresh day,” so Monday mornings are usually reserved for all the household tasks I have been putting off from the week before, such as meal planning, going to the grocery store, and doing laundry. Once I have things in order at home, I usually log on to work with HDS Admissions around noon. This year, Admissions is following a hybrid schedule, so I spend a couple of hours working from home on Mondays before heading over to campus for a weekly meeting with my fellow DUCCS (Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ) students and our wonderful denominational counselor, Rev. Reebee Girash. After my meeting, I travel only one classroom over to my only class of the day: Negotiating Across Worldviews with Jeff Seul. This class normally meets from 3-5PM, but every so often we’ll be in class until 6, especially if we’re running a live negotiation simulation. Once class is over, I walk back home to cook some dinner and decompress before jumping back into schoolwork. Usually, I’ll work for 3 or so hours before getting ready for bed. 

Tuesday: Tuesdays are a lighter day for me schedule wise. I don’t head over to the Admissions office until the afternoon, so I spend the morning completing my remaining class readings for the week. On Tuesdays I often lead a tour during my work shift or Zoom with a prospective student, and these face-to-face interactions are my favorite part of the job! After a couple of hours talking with students and my colleagues in Admissions, I leave feeling energized before my 3-5PM class, Histories, Bodies, Differences. This class is a small seminar, so I usually go out to eat afterwards with friends I’ve made from the class. After dinner, it’s back to the books! Lately I have been studying from Langdell Hall (the Harvard Law library) on Tuesday nights, because it is close to my last stop of the night and favorite gym on campus, Hemenway.  

Wednesday: Wednesdays are often my final big push work wise before things settle down later in the week. In the morning, I’ll schedule meetings with professors about upcoming projects, or I’ll start to plan ahead for my classes the following week. Once I’ve cooked myself something quick for lunch, I walk over to campus for my longest shift in the Admissions office. During this shift, we have our weekly team meeting with all four Admissions graduate assistants and our supervisor, and I look forward to this time of catching up and being together each week. After work wraps up, I have a lengthy period of time before my German class later in the evening, so I’ll usually use this break to walk to one of the many coffee shops in Harvard Square to get some work done. If I’ve had too much caffeine for the day already, I’ll reroute to Widener Library on Harvard’s main campus instead. Before the sun goes down, I’ll head back over to HDS’ small corner of the world for my German class. Although this class meets relatively late into the evening, I’m always able to maintain energy throughout the three-hour session, largely in part due to the delicious German snacks my professor provides.  

Thursday: Once or twice a month, I’ll head out of town on Thursday evenings to visit my partner, friends, or extended family members. So, in the morning I’ll pack a bag for the weekend and tie up any loose ends around the house. Then, I complete my final shift for the week with Admissions, and I go to my Spiritual Care and Counseling class before catching the train. After my Thursday class ends, I relax out of the more rigid and routine structure I try to implement earlier in the week. Each weekend looks so different for me depending on who I’m with and what city I’m in, and keeping a stricter schedule Monday-Wednesday helps stay on track school-work wise regardless of what my weekend looks like.

Friday: By Friday, I’m usually feeling tired and ready for a slower rhythm of life, so I’ll allow myself to sleep in until my body feels well rested. Then I prioritize rejuvenating activities like calling my parents, going for a walk, or journaling to reflect on my week. After that, I’ll treat myself to a cappuccino from a nice coffee shop, and I’ll sit down to get some work done if I have time. In the early afternoon, I’ll reach out to anyone I’d like to catch up with over the weekend in hopes of getting a concrete meeting time on the books. That way, if I have any school assignments I need to get done, I can plan their completion around seeing my loved ones, which takes priority on the weekends. 

Saturday:  On Saturdays I do my best to honor the promise I’ve made to myself of taking one day each week completely off work. When I wake up, I turn off email and Canvas class assignment notifications, and I try to limit the amount of time I spend on my phone. Throughout the day, I like to get outside if the weather allows, and I always try to cook at least one hearty meal on Saturday. My weekdays are certainly more packed as a result of me taking this time off, but I’ve found that taking a day for full and complete rest each week serves me well during the long stretches of the semester where we go without holidays.  

Sunday: If I’m in town, I do my best to attend church services on Sunday morning. Being a part of a larger faith community in Somerville helps me build connections outside of the divinity school with folks from the town I live in, and hearing my pastor’s sermon often helps ground me before the week ahead. It takes me about 45 minutes to walk home from church, but there’s a delicious breakfast spot on the way, so I’ve made a habit of grabbing a bacon and egg biscuit sandwich from there as a reward for getting out the door on cold mornings during the Massachusetts winter. After I get back home from church, I’ll sit down with my agenda to take a look at the week ahead and write down any reminders that I want to keep top of mind in the coming days. The weeks fly by here, and it’s been easy for me to get settled into a consistent routine, so I have to regularly remind myself of any changes to my weekly schedule, like an upcoming talk on campus or a student organization’s event that I’d like to attend. When I first arrived in Cambridge, I rarely had the time to participate in these more sporadic, one-off events, but now I structure my weeks in with more margin, allowing me to add interesting happenings to my calendar as they arise.  It took a few weeks for me to find my rhythm in the fall, and then things shifted again with the start of the spring semester. But before I knew it, operating on HDS time became the norm for me, and I’m sure it will for you too. 

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