A Student Publication of Wake Forest University School of Divinity
Top 10 Ways to Survive Div School
Posted On April 15, 2019
As a third year div student on my way out, I’ve had a lot of interesting, confusing, amazing, and transformational experiences at Wake Div. I’ve gained friends, cultivated relationships (heyo Devon), checked my privilege, and engaged in a plethora of theological (and other) conversations, all of which has crafted me into the person I am today. For those of you who are continuing your journey here at Wake Div, I thought I’d give you some ways to survive (and thrive) in this community that have been particularly beneficial for me.
Find your anchors, and hold onto them for dear life. One of the most important things for me when starting (and enduring) div school was staying in constant communication with my family and best friends. When your world feels like it’s being turned upside down, having those people you trust the most in your corner can help you feel more grounded, and a lot less displaced.
Find ways to take care of yourself, even if it means taking a day (or two) to binge Netflix. Being in grad school can often seem overwhelming and like you have no personal time whatsoever. As someone who has had multiple jobs (often at the same time), I can tell you that self-care is far more important than making sure you have straight As. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t give your best to your work.
For the love of all things holy, GO OUTSIDE! We live in one of the most beautiful states in America, with ample opportunities to go hiking, biking, or going for a casual stroll through a park. I spent a lot of my first and second years indoors, wondering why I felt perpetually exhausted — and then I realized it was because I didn’t get enough sunshine. It can be hard to do, but seriously, use any chance you get to go outside, get some fresh air, and bathe in the sunshine. Your mind and body will thank you.
Find a few people at Wake Div that you click with and know you can trust. One of the hardest things about div school for me was trying to be friends with everyone, and ending up disappointed when I realized that wasn’t feasible. A lot of times in this community, it feels like you have to get along with everyone in order to really be a part of this community — not true! You only need a couple people that “get” you and that you can share frustrations, successes, and failures with. They will be your lifeline, trust me.
Get to know your professors, both professionally and personally. I promise, the professors have lives outside of the classroom. The ones here at Wake Div are some seriously cool people who legitimately want to get to know you and help you! Utilize their knowledge, both of work and of life.
Find ways to get involved in SOMETHING, whether it’s with student organizations or communities in the surrounding area. It can be exhausting being a student all the time, so to remind yourself that you’re a human being, get involved in something else besides your textbook! Wake Forest is so connected to a variety of opportunities around the city. It’s just up to you to find something awesome!
Go to counseling. I promise, it’s not that bad. Don’t be suspicious of this nugget of wisdom just because I’m going to be a counselor. It’s actually pretty difficult for someone who wants to do the work to admit they need the work done themselves. Div school pulls at a lot of emotional, spiritual, theological, and mental strings, so having someone whose job it is to help you sort through things can be so important to your holistic health. And it’s free to grad students!
Communicate with the upperclass-persons about professors, daunting assignments, and required classes. Whether it’s an exegesis for Neal Walls, a final paper for Dr. Shaner, or a critical review for Dr. Jensen, getting some guidance from students who have already taken these classes can be a lifesaver. I’m not promoting plagiarism, but getting some common tips or pointers for surviving Ethics or History of Christianity can be incredibly helpful, and may even help alleviate some anxiety.
Go to chapel every once in a while, even if you don’t feel like it. Community Chapel on Tuesdays and Thursdays can be a great way to re-center yourself, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. Not every service is centered around Christianity, so if that’s not your thing, you can still get something out of it. It can also be nice to just sit and be, letting yourself get filled with a little bit more spirituality than you had when you walked in.
Finally, BREATHE, and take things one day at a time. I’m not gonna lie to y’all, div school is rough. Between juggling jobs, internships, classes, relationships, and self-preservation, it does get overwhelming. This is a hard thing. You’re having to orient your schedule around school, and there are a lot of emotions and stressors that will come at you, sometimes all at once. Remind yourself to take time to breathe, and take everything one step at a time. I tended to rock-pile all of my stressors, stacking all my responsibilities one on top of the other, and get so stressed out about the mountain in front of me, that I ran away and did everything except what I was supposed to be doing. You’re not in this alone. There are over 100 other people in this with you. You have access to some of the top faculty in the country. You have access to free counseling. You can do this.