Some call it wanderlust. Others tell me it’s the result of growing up in a small town. My parents’ conclusion is that they let me watch the Travel Channel one too many hours as a child. Whatever the reason, I’ve never been able to sit still for long. Whether it’s backpacking across Zimbabwe, studying Ancient Christianity in Greece, or even just climbing on my bike to get out of town (and into some of the amazing trail rides outside of Atlanta), I’m usually found wherever the rubber meets the road.
During my undergraduate years, I learned how to put my thirst for travel to good use. I felt a strong desire to seek an education influenced by classroom learning and on the ground experience. Beginning my freshman year, I came to understand academia not as an ivory tower set apart from the world, but as the ivory composing the tusks of the elephants that live as part of our world. I traveled to Mozambique, Turkey, Ireland, and other locales, seeking practical application for all that I was learning. In the process, I met people who challenged me to speak, think, and care in diverse and life-giving ways.
When I decided to apply for divinity schools, my number one priority was finding a university where education wasn’t limited to the classroom. I looked at many places that viewed theology as an integral aspect of a global community, but Candler stood out as a place already engaged in the world even from its home space. Atlanta is a city where global NGOs converge with refugee communities, where church is not limited to local neighborhood, and where a school of theology utilizes the international perspectives all around it. Because of these reasons and more, Candler became the obvious choice.
Two and a half years later, I enter my last semester of divinity school having spent almost as much time inside the classroom as outside of it. Hours of contextual education in a women’s prison, three and a half months of the summer working for a development organization in Africa, two weeks at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, and an additional summer in Mexico are all opportunities that were made possible to me because the faculty, staff, and students at Candler believe that education is at its best when it is inclusive of global perspectives. Thanks to Candler, I am equipped for leadership in the real world, and it feels bittersweet to be preparing to leave an institution that has supported my passion for a global education.
- Maria Presley
Maria is a 3rd year MDiv student from Mississippi and a Student Ambassador.