My Journey

Chamilla Fenja Justesen is a second year MDIV student. Chamilla is a beloved member of our communityThanks Chamilla for sharing your YDS experience with us. 


I began at YDS as an international exchange student from Denmark. Prior to my arrival at Yale I received a bachelor's degree in Theology from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. As far as I can remember, I have always dreamed about studying in the US and this dream of mine came true, when I was offered the opportunity to study as an exchange student for two semesters as a part of my Danish theology master's program in Denmark.

I remember all the genuine, warm welcomes I received when I first arrived at YDS in January 2014. People from the register's and admissions office, and other staff members went out of their way to assist me as I settled in. Their concern was genuine as I was cared for as not only a student, but also as a human being.

I absolutely loved my classes during the first semester, and especially the pastoral care classes. I felt as if I had found my field and area of interest. While studying in Denmark, I struggled to figure out my vocation, and I did not have a clear sense of what type of ministry I was best suited for. However, as my first semester progressed not only did I enjoy my academic work but I became more focused, and much more dedicated to my studies. Now with a clearer sense of direction I had been more content in general. I reflected on the reasons why this was and realized my experience at YDS had produced not only a positive change in my attitude but in my life as well. My experience at YDS allowed me to express myself in more creative ways than I had been able to in Denmark. My participation in pastoral classes and attending Marquand Chapel services almost daily I found that my Christian faith expanded and deepened as I became more attuned to God's spirit. I went through a period of reflection during my first semester and I could not imagine myself going back to my old life in Denmark. It just did not feel right to me at that time in my life.

During this discernment process, I spoke to a friend of mine who is also a student at YDS, and she encouraged me to apply to the Master of Divinity degree program here. I did and I was accepted.

Now as a matriculated MDIV student here at YDS, I know I made the right decision by choosing to pursue a degree here, and that it was God who spoke to me through my friend that day, and convinced me to apply to the MDIV program.

Yale Divinity School is a fantastic place to study for many numerous and various reasons. First, are the professors who care not only for your academic development but your spiritual formation as well. YDS offers a variety of interesting and exciting courses from all theological perspectives. Also, I appreciate the diversity of places and sites one can internship at, and I myself am struggling to chose in between the many interesting places YDS offers.

YDS is a wonderful worshipping community. The students at YDS have the opportunity to go to Marquand Chapel and worship together daily. I fell in love with Marquand Chapel almost the minute I got here. Every day is different, and the Chapel team does an amazing job trying to create variety and to respond to all the different faith traditions that exist among students at YDS. Marquand Chapel offers a space that is open and available to everyone, and I really value the different worship days, because they each offer something different, being it a traditional or contemporary worship service, Taize prayer or almost silent mediation.

As I mentioned above, being sincerely cared about is something I value very much. All the time I hear students mention how somebody at YDS have helped them with something, being it the registrar, their advisor, the assistant dean of students or one of the professors. I truly believe YDS to have some of the best advisors and counselors I have ever met, and there is always someone available who will listen to your concerns or assist you in your process of discernment.

When I look back, I do not think that it was I who really chose YDS, I think YDS chose me.  I am deeply grateful to be a student here, and I value all the learning and experience that I have been given so far.


Chamilla Fenja Justesen, MDiv. '17