It’s that time of year again

I love this time of the year!

I cannot believe the first day of school is here. What used to be the time designated for picking up crayons, Trapper Keepers, and shopping for the best possible “first day of school outfit”, is now spent getting new IDs and picking up hundreds of dollars worth of brand new, exciting books. I also can’t wait to meet all of the new students on campus.

Being a historian, I have always enjoyed hearing people’s stories. I appreciate a couple’s love story, an account of how a family came to the United States, or what traditions have been passed down from generations past. Interestingly, the most thrilling stories I get to hear are the ones of how people ended up in seminary. No one fits a mold and everyone’s path is different. On any campus you will come across second or third careers, international students, musicians, people who grew up in the church, the already ordained, new converts, farmers, or even tattooed city-dwellers.

My favorites are the second careers and the international students.

The complexity and wisdom second careers bring to a classroom cannot be replicated any place else. They have lived a whole life already and for them to drop (usually) a steady and successful career and go back to school shows a great sense of vocation and bravery. I have met former scientists, lawyers, soldiers, rappers, bartenders, sports reporters, salesmen, political consultants, and nurses. No one has the same story, but every single one of them goes into the classroom with a sense of adventure.

A very close second are the ever growing and changing international students, many of whom have to leave everything behind to come to this country. It is hard for me to picture not only leaving my entire family and friends, but also my home and everything that is normal to me. One conversation I had a couple of summers ago sticks out more than others. I ran into an international friend on the way home one afternoon and he almost couldn’t contain himself he was so excited. He had spent the last three years in the United States obtaining his PhD so that he could get a teaching job in his home country. What I did not know is that he had left a very pregnant wife and toddler behind. Now, he was finally able to go back to be reunited with his children, one of whom he had yet to meet. Can you even imagine that kind of dedication?

These are the stories Americans hear so often in classes about our ancestors—people leaving their families for a better life and then (hopefully) reuniting with them years later when they had earned enough money. It is so hard to imagine what strength that takes and yet so many sit next to these people every day in class.

My point is this: I hesitated for way too long to go back to school because I thought I did not belong or I didn’t have the right background. What I eventually learned was that studying religions suits every background because religion is in every facet of life. So, if you are like I was…waiting on the sidelines, not sure about making the jump, GO FOR IT!