I remember the first day I stepped on Duke’s campus as a “real student.”
I stared up at the chapel tower, trying to figure out how to gawk while still looking dignified. It was one of those days where the sky is impossibly blue, and against the chapel, it looked like it belonged in a postcard.
I remember feeling this sense of excitement that I was finally here. After years of running on the hamster wheel of the “work world,” I was at least taking some steps toward something. And yet also the feeling that somehow I was an imposter, and someone was going to “find me out” and throw me off campus.
There’s an odd feeling of helplessness in being new to a place. I found myself walking down hallways or staircases that suddenly ended and having to do an about-face and walk the other direction, getting lost on campus and having to guide myself back to the div school by looking for the chapel, feeling nervous about every little thing–essays, Greek quizzes, response papers, discussions. Taking the long way to places because I didn’t know the area well enough to take a shortcut.
School is great here. I take twelve hours of courses: Church History (early and medieval), Old Testament I, Greek I, and Pastoral Care in Cross-Cultural Perspectives. At first, I was skeptical of having such big classes. There are about 150 or so others in my Old Testament and Church History lectures, but the lectures are so excellent (and, yes, information-packed) that I really don’t mind that the classes are huge. It’s been interesting switching over from being a literature person to being a theology/Bible person, but I’m enjoying it and trying to take it slowly, despite what I might say on a bad day.
A lot of the newness has worn off. But I am still blessed to be here, in the truest and most non-trite sense of the word blessed. To learn about the tradition that has shaped me (whether I knew about it or not), to read the Scriptures more deeply with a critical and literary eye, to translate Greek words and see a passage I know unfold before me, to listen to the stories of my classmates in my small group, to find moments of connection when I don’t expect them and watch friendships develop out of awkward smiles, to find that the faces around me are growing more and more familiar, to pray the Psalms honestly and openly, to go to the sung Vespers service in the chapel and almost cry because it feels so beautiful and so ancient, to worship and remember that God is so much more than what we try to say or write about him/her.
And sometimes, still, to catch my breath as I stare up at Duke Chapel and an impossibly blue sky.