Christmas < Advent
As my second of two sequential entries written and posted after the fact, I wanted to quickly write about my experiences at the Div School around Advent, as they were enjoyable and noticeably different than much of the rest of this semester. First and foremost, I would like to again offer my thanks to the good people of my DC congregation, St Paul’s Lutheran DC, for the delightful care package I received on/for Saint Nicholas’ Day (put simply, the European celebration of Santa’s practice run) – the cards I received from some of the kids were especially thoughtful and are featured in the photos section.
On another note, Advent at YDS was a rather interesting season: liturgies and homilies all made HEAVY use of the notion of Advent as the 4 weeks of uncertainty waiting for something good to come as opposed to the 1 day of Christmas. For finals- and stress-laden students, this message of surviving interminable waiting and struggle resonated well. Check out the photos section for a look at the Common Room all decked out (halls included) for the Advent Party, the other big event of the fall when most of the believers at the school all go to church after the last class ends on a Tuesday in December, and then all go to get very, very drunk (but in a catered, classy way) afterwards prior to finals. Similarly, my office at Yale’s Office of Sustainability was also decorated and quite enjoyable – check out the photos!
Finals Season – a truly eschatological, End Times experience
Speaking of finals, I wanted to end by summing up the entire semester and specifically focusing on how finals went; a sort of look at how my whole semester went! The schedule at the end was insane, as it ended up stacked (and yes, here in writing, I fully admit that I voluntarily took on too much, as I am wont to do). For me, my final papers were due up until the Monday that was the second-last day of class; a photo finish on the last one, finishing a 6pm deadline at 5:58pm. Classes ended that next day, Tuesday – the aforementioned Advent party was that night but I had to skip it in favor of preparation for the following. The biggest meeting of the semester, with my job coordinating paper reduction for the Office of Sustainability, was scheduled for that Wednesday afternoon – the meeting itself was a slam dunk and was great, but preparing for it and not knowing how it would go was fairly nerve-wracking up until it. Then, due to being an idiot, I had schedule the GMAT for that Thursday morning, which went fairly well for no sleep, high stress, and only cursorily glancing at study materials (it turns out that after 7 years of no use, my immediate handle on the rules for exponents wasn’t at high capacity). Though I am going to retake the GMAT in the future, that initial experience was actually rather valuable: first, as a benchmark for how I did taking the test cold and thus how much I would need to study in the future; second, and perhaps far more importantly for the strength of my application: it was enough, when combined with the extremely positive outcome of that work meeting (and its implications for my participation in paper reduction and thus cost-savings for Yale over months of implementation) to convince me to delay my application to the School of Management until next fall, so it will be as strong as possible.
On to the Crucible they call “finals” themselves – all told, it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t managed to strategically overschedule myself to an absurd degree (on the other hand, everyone is good at something; I am just sticking to what I know!). Armed with the knowledge, though, that I was busy until Thursday afternoon (and realistically, I was completely sleep-deprived and utterly mentally-destroyed after the GMAT in the morning, so Thursday night was a mental health night of some 1978 Battlestar Galactica 😀 ). Therefore, I had all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to prepare for a triplet of 3 hour-long finals: 9am Monday Old Testament exam; 9am Tuesday Systematic Theology; and 2pm Tuesday Transitional Moments exam. All told, my study friends (it is a long story, but one nickname for us is “Team Rhetorical Violence”) and I all spent a great deal of time sequestered away in a lovely little room at Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies (which, we all agreed after examining, is the poster child for what Hollywood makes us expect Yale to look like). Our Old Testament study guide was upwards of 40 single spaced pages; the Systematics final was on a full 12 theologians (both identifying quotes from all the readings and their author; and also extended essays on 2 thinkers) and so preparation was limited to talking out summaries of the ideas and then trying to skim passages which might be helpful; and finally the Transitional Moments final was a whole bunch of term preparation (we thankfully had the entire list of terms we needed to know, so that only left the short answer and essays as unknowns).
Though as of Christmas Day 2011 I have not seen my grades yet, I am hopeful that I did well this initial semester at Yale Divinity School. In the aggregate, I am extremely pleased with my choice to attend YDS, have made friends with a great bunch of peers and professors, and am looking forward to several more years of experiences which I hope to share the highlights from here!