Survival Guide: 3 Quick Tips After Wrapping Up My First Year

Published: May 8, 2014

survival-guide-year1As much as I’d like to think that divinity school is something you experience, embrace, encounter, or enjoy, at times it truly is a lesson in survival. It isn’t the bare bones wilderness that will get you a spot on the discovery channel, though navigating the sea of questions, doubts, and wonder does require some survival skill. In order to compile these ideas, I racked my own brain and those of a few friends searching for any little nugget that could aide a fellow traveler on the journey. These three reigned supreme:

Tip #1 – Find out how you work best.
Trial and error in moderation is the key here. Perhaps you’re someone who loves doing work with a soft amount of background chatter. Or, perhaps that background chatter causes you to put work away and join in. Either way, test the water. Like any strong graduate program, there’s plenty of work to do. So, explore the options. When you find one that works, the world is your oyster. The best news is that you aren’t alone in your exploration for the proper study skills. The School of Divinity and Wake Forest, as a whole, have many great resources for finding a set of productive study skills.

Tip #2 – Do something completely unrelated to theology. Do it often.
Lord knows that we divinity students spend a considerable amount of time attempting to decipher the messages of the Divine Mystery. And on our off time, many of us are involved in ministerial work in internships and church commitments. All of these things are good…in moderation. You don’t need Art of Ministry I or a lecture on self-care to know that there are things other than theological studies that get your wheels turning. Give those theological wheels a break and be a hamster on another one. Dean O’Day recommends reading something for pleasure for at least ten minutes a night. That’s a good place to start. If nothing else, it will serve as a reminder that people, other than academicians, use lots of great words.

Tip #3 – Plug into the Wake Div Community.
This past semester, I had the pleasure of planning a chapel service with the Worship Matters class. Our text was from John, the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. We took an angle that focused on the communal effort in the process of his unbinding. Similarly, the community at Wake Div is brimming with people from all walks of life that are waiting to participate in your unbinding. So, plug in. Really plug in. Don’t just sign-up for a student organization’s list serve or browse the “This Week” emails of opportunities in the School and University. Go. Go to the weekend tailgate, even if you don’t care about football. Go to a free lecture on campus and bring a friend from class. Go to the library and sit in the grad lounge until a fellow Div student comes along to distract you from any and all work. I know it is not always easy going out on a limb. So, if you’re a “go-er” then grab the hand of someone who you haven’t gotten to know very well and go somewhere! If you aren’t a “go-er,” find a friend that will just sit and breathe with you. Sometimes we all forget to breathe. Remember these words from the Servant Song: We are fellow travelers on a journey… we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.

There you have it, three simple tips for survival in divinity school. They might not guarantee an A on your first, or last, paper. They won’t solve all of the spiritual or personal quandaries that surface over your three years in the MDiv program. But, they’ll keep your head high above the water and your eyes on the horizon for any sort of rescue that can help you keep plugging along.

BONUS TIP – Get a Crock-Pot.
As a bachelor approaching graduate life, living without mom’s cooking or a meal plan for the first time, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed cooking my own meals. Using the right ingredients, it tastes better and lasts longer than anything fast food. Ask everyone you see for recipes. Share the good ones with your friends. In my experience, the easiest way to cook is to grab a bunch of food, throw it in a crock-pot, add some liquid and leave it. A good chunk of pot roast or a hearty bowl of chili can do wonders for the soul. And, it makes any bare apartment smell like home.

pottdt13Daniel Potter
First Year

Daniel Potter is from Chapel Hill, NC. He enjoys laughing, good music, and watching the Atlanta Braves. After graduating, he hopes to work with youth in a congregational setting.

Related Link of Interest
Wake Forest University transforms public spaces into park-like environments for de-stressing and interaction (from Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2013).