Luther College Chips

Take the opportunity to learn from experience and diversity

Anila Bano (‘20)

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A few weeks ago, I was talking to some graduate students at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). I asked one of them, “Do you know what you want to do after you graduate?” He said he did not explicitly know yet. Likewise, another student said she changed her graduate program after attending HDS.

This made me think of instances when I asked the same question to undergraduates at Luther and my friends from other colleges and universities. Usually, I found that people were hesitant to say they did not know what they wanted in the future. No doubt, it is good to be committed to something after you have explored it.

However, this does not mean you have to know everything when you enter college or when you leave it. I believe college, especially a liberal arts college, is the best place to explore and maintain relevant opportunities. In college, we are in a good position to look back at past experiences, analyze the present, and realistically imagine the future. This requires exploration, which, in its essence, encourages active search.

The same HDS student who I mentioned earlier said he has learned a lot more from living with diverse group of individuals than from classes or books. I strongly believe in the power of diversity and an exploratory spirit. I applied for the Diversity and Explorations (DivEx) program at Harvard. It is a three day introduction to graduate programs at HDS that span religious and cultural divides to prepare ethical leaders to work in a complex world. It is fair to mention that I learned about the opportunity from Associate Professor of Religion Todd Green who posted a link to it on the “Interfaith in Action” group on Facebook.

It was a sweet surprise for me to be accepted to the program and I am grateful to Harvard for flying all the participants to Cambridge at no cost. This year’s cohort consisted of about 40 students, selected from across the United States. I was humbled to meet this group of motivated and inspiring individuals who are committed to making a positive impact on the world we are living in today and the world we are looking forward to shaping.

I actively participated in all the activities over the course of three days, however my favorite part was conversing with people and learning about what they are doing. What are the odds that I meet someone who has interned at the presidential personnel office at the White House or someone who is from California but is the founder of a non-profit organization in my country, Pakistan? Also, what are the chances that I had the opportunity to spend three days with the admissions team of one of the world’s top universities? The point is, such opportunities do not come all the time.

I am glad I took the chance, although it meant missing my classes and struggling to catch up with them. I am thankful to my professors and friends at Luther who were supportive.

At DivEx, we learned a variety of things both inclusive and exclusive to Harvard Divinity School. To clarify, it was not only for students who want to pursue a career in religion or who want to attend HDS; it was more than that. For me, it was the collective experience of learning about graduate schools, exploring further options, talking to others, and listening to great talks from the Harvard faculty.

HDS Professor David Carrasco gave a presentation titled “Gifts from Mexico.” He introduced the idea of “Convivencia,” a concept that resonated a lot with me due to the way he explained it. Carrasco defines as “living together in order to give life the upper hand over death.” My favorite line was “to establish bonds that unite us with the universe.” In today’s world where there are great divides, I believe in the evolutionary connectedness of human beings — the connectedness that strengthens with pluralism.

I am double majoring in biology and psychology but the program at HDS turned out to be surprisingly relevant to my interests. I was particularly excited to learn about the “Science, Religion and Culture” program which I would not have known about had I not attended DivEx. If you are curious to know more about the program, you can certainly research it or talk to me. I encourage anyone to apply and am happy to answer any questions that you may have about the program.

Anila Bano (‘20)

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1 Comment

One Response to “Take the opportunity to learn from experience and diversity”

  1. Bob Puffer on December 2nd, 2017 4:32 am

    Well written, well thought out piece of journalism. Helpful to many I’m sure. Thank you.

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