It was about two years ago that I packed up my whole life and moved five hours up I-5 to matriculate into The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. I was a bundle of nerves, having only ever lived in my hometown until now to begin this new learning venture in a brand new, big city. I was also filled with excitement and confidence to continue down this road of theological and psychological education, one I’ve grown to love and feel a strong sense of belonging to. Little did I know, this love would go through the fire over the course of my first year, only to come out on the other side broader and deeper.

The Seattle School is a unique place. A great deal will be asked of you in the coming months and years, as you are introduced to yourself and your story. It may feel disorienting and frightening at times, but take heart and be brave: The work you are about to enter into is sacred and beautiful. It is a gift for which I expect you will be as grateful as I am.

A few words of advice: If you are moving to Seattle from somewhere far off, find your places of escape. Whether it’s getting lost in Discovery Park, finding and setting up residence in your new favorite coffee shop, or just the company and community of friends, we all need spaces where we are able to breathe deeply and let go of the stresses of the intense work we do. Also, make play a priority. While our studies here at the Seattle School are important and filled with meaning, some of us have definitely been known to take ourselves a bit too seriously from time to time. Play means something different to everyone, but I recommend going out dancing, playing board games, or hiking some of the incredible trails surrounding Seattle.

Most importantly, know you are not alone. You may be feeling some anxiety about entering into a new community and finding your people. I suspect everyone feels this way at the beginning, I know I did. What I discovered, though, is that my people found me. The students, staff and faculty here welcomed me with open arms, making me feel as though I truly belong, which I now know I do. And now, we are all very excited to fully welcome you as you matriculate into The Seattle School and collectively transform our community with your unique perspectives and personality. I pray peace and blessings over you as you make this transition, see you in the fall!

Sam Koekkoek is a second-year Master of Divinity student. He enjoys writing music and studying the intersections of pop culture and theology.