What does a day in the life of an HDS student look like? Here’s the play-by-play of one Tuesday in October.
6:00am: Grad school has confirmed that I’m an early riser who needs his morning “me” time, and today is no exception. I roll out of bed, make some coffee, sit down at my kitchen table, and do some pleasure reading over my breakfast.
7:00am: I head out the door into the unusually warm fall air. I live in Somerville, about a 25-minute walk from Harvard, and my apartment sits on top of Prospect Hill, which offers one of the best views of downtown Boston. Prospect Hill also sports a stone “citadel,” which marks a number of historical events, including the spot where it’s said the original American flag was first flown. I take a second to appreciate the fall foliage and the sun glinting off the city’s skyline before heading down the hill.
7:25am: I arrive at Lamont Library in Harvard Yard. Most buildings are closed this early, but Lamont is open 24 hours during the week. At this hour, the place is deserted besides the cleaning staff and a few undergrads slouched in armchairs after an all-nighter. It’s quiet and calm, the ideal place for me to get some reading done during the day’s early hours.
8:40am: I leave Lamont and head right across the Yard to Memorial Church for Morning Prayers. Morning Prayers is one of those Harvard traditions that has been going on for centuries. The service is held Monday through Saturday for 15 minutes in a small chapel in the rear of Memorial Church that includes angelic singing from the Harvard University Choir and a short address from a member of the Harvard community. I love Morning Prayers because, though there’s a general Christian spirit in the liturgy, you never know what you’re gonna get with the sermon; they run the gamut from religious to vaguely religious to not at all religious, and the speakers include those from a range of faith traditions—or none—and from all the different schools and offices across campus. Overall, it’s a pleasant balance between consistency and surprise. Today’s speaker is Professor Michelle Sanchez from the Div School, who gives a reflection on the role of habits and her church community over the past tumultuous year.
9:00am: I cross the Yard again for my Spanish class. As an MDiv, I have to complete three semesters of language. I completed two over the summer thanks to the Summer Language Program and cross registered for an advanced Spanish language and culture class being taught through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. It’s a tough class, and it’s a lesson in humility to be in a classroom of undergrads who all grasp the material easier than me. This week we’re finishing up our reading of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Spanish. ¡Qué bueno!
10:00am: Two of my fellow HDS students have Arabic in the same building at same time that I have Spanish, so we meet up outside after class and stroll together over towards the Div School campus. Today, we decide to stop at Velozo’s food truck outside Div Hall, so my pal can grab one of Dean’s famous red-velvet cookies.
10:20am: I don’t have any more class today, but I have plenty of work to do. I find an open table in the lounge in Div Hall, and take out a pile of books from my backpack.
12:30pm: After two solid hours of reading, I head outside to eat lunch and enjoy the unusually warm fall weather.
1:00pm: I head to the second floor of Div Hall to the Office of Admissions where I have a work study job as an office assistant. I really enjoy the convenience of working on campus and enjoy getting to know people I wouldn’t otherwise see. We’re gearing up for Diversity and Explorations and Theological Education Day in November, so it’s a busy day in the office.
Overall, it’s a pleasant balance between consistency and surprise.
4:00pm: I walk from Divinity Hall to Andover Hall for Community Tea, a weekly HDS tradition when the whole community comes together to share relax and socialize over food. I stuff my face with falafel, beef skewers and rice (rule #8 of grad school life: if there’s free food, I must eat as much as possible), and catch up with a group of fellow first years.
5:00pm: I backtrack to Divinity Hall and walk up to Divinity Chapel for Hear and Now. Hear and Now groups are small, interreligious support groups that meet weekly throughout the academic year. They’re less about growing in your particular faith tradition and more about sharing your story and spiritual growth and listening to your peers. I’ve grown quite close to the other two members of my group and I cherish our weekly meetings. Today, we spend half of the hour checking-in and for the other half another students leads us in the some very basic meditation.
6:00pm: I still have plenty of work tonight, so I stroll over the Harvard-Andover Library, where I end up for a few hours most days to study. I’ve come to love the odd leather and wood, reclining chairs on the second floor, and post up there. Dinner is yesterday’s pasta eaten discretely from a Tupperware. Leftovers have also become an integral part of my grad school life.
9:00pm: The flip side of being an early riser is that my brain stops functioning at about 8:00pm. I struggle on for an hour longer, but eventually close the books for the night. I run into one of my classmates on the way out who also lives in Somerville, and we stroll home together. I end up idling on the sidewalk outside his apartment so we can finish our debate about our readings from Introduction to Ministry Studies. We both geek out over Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
9:45pm: Home sweet home. My roommate is watching The X-Files. (He’s currently working his way through all nine seasons—it’s been an interesting few weeks.) To reward myself for a productive day, I plop myself on the couch for the remainder of the episode.
10:45: After looking over my schedule tomorrow and making the next day’s lunch, I lay down in bed to do some pleasure reading before turning in. But I barely make it three pages before my head is already nodding. I toss the book aside, flip out the light, and quickly fall asleep.