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Column: What the Religious Studies department did for me

Photo via Ethan Nelson

It was a hot Wednesday morning in 2020, and I was having a difficult time breathing through my mask. I had just finished watching a video of what not to do in college classes and I was nervous. 

Don’t come to class extremely early? Okay, I’ll walk into class right when the clock hits nine. I sat at a table in Markin, waiting to go into the basement for my first ever college class as the clock ticked by. A tall man holding a leather briefcase with a blue bandana tied around his mouth entered and walked downstairs to the basement. 

I wondered who he was before heading to my religious studies class just two minutes before it started. 

That man turned out to be the first professor I encountered at Bradley and would become one of the most impactful educators of my college career. I took four of his courses, each one better than the last. 

During my time at Bradley, the Religious Studies department has welcomed me with open arms. I enrolled in so many religious studies classes my first year that I considered getting a minor. It helped fulfill most of my GenEds and BCCs and were the classes that taught me the most about the world. 

The most recent class I took was Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. I learned much of early Jewish history and how it impacted many of the stories told in the Bible and the Torah, the Jewish holy text. 

I read many non-canonical texts, all of which I would have never explored on my own. Although I don’t connect with them spiritually, those texts still intrigued me and taught me about people’s beliefs hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago.

In the Arabic Christianity class I took during my second semester of freshman year, I was offered my first internship for the National Endowment for the Humanities: Middle Eastern Christianity. 

I helped design a website, poster and tote bags. I assisted with tech issues and worked with professors from all over the country. I learned so much in that internship and met many amazing people.

The Philosophy and Religious Studies department is where I spend almost every Wednesday morning thanks to Fika, a Swedish tradition of having a coffee break and socializing with others. Fika has always been a highlight of my week. 

I love interacting with faculty and students while getting a small snack and coffee. Fika welcomes all departments and faculty as well as people from all over campus to socialize. 

The Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Ethics department has been my home for three years now. I have completed my minor, but I find myself taking yet another Religious Studies class this upcoming semester. I came to Bradley to form mentoring relationships with professors and that is what I have found in this department.

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