UPDATE: Sarah has received the Shaffer Fellowship from Notre Dame Law School to work for the Colorado Legal Services Department in their anti-human trafficking and U-Visa projects for the two years following her graduation in May, 2014.
What are you doing today (professionally) and how did studying Religion prepare you for this?
I am currently in my third year at the University of Notre Dame Law School. I plan to practice immigration law upon graduation in the spring. Though I have always had an interest in studying the law, my degree in Religion, in part, led me to study immigration law at Notre Dame Law.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Religion?
Studying religion prepared me for law school by teaching me necessary analytical research and writing skills. Law school requires careful attention to detail and reasoning, also required in a major in Religion.
What advice do you have for current Religion students?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is to take as many courses as possible; even in areas you may not think you are interested. The professors in the religion departments are all experts in their field and they are truly able to provide valuable unique insights into their areas. Though I went into the religion major thinking I wanted to focus on East Asian religions, I ended up with a fascination of religion in America and focused the majority of my time on classes in that area.
The second is to write as much as possible. If you plan to return to academia in any discipline, the benefit of having carefully honed research and writing skills are invaluable. Writing an honors thesis my senior year was one of the most valuable lessons I learned at Wake Forest. It taught me the necessity of hard work, diligence, and attention to detail in order to get results. The professors I worked with both guided and mentored me, but also encouraged me to do the majority of the work independently. Take advantage of the opportunity to write a thesis.
How have other areas of your life been shaped by studying Religion?
Studying religion has given me a desire to travel and learn about new places, while also making me more self-aware about the religious traditions in which I was brought up. It was eye opening to learn about the Protestant religion from a removed, academic standpoint.
Studying religion both helped to open my worldview by studying different religious traditions, but also gave me a greater insight into various cultures. I studied abroad in Siem Reap, Cambodia after my sophomore year at Wake Forest. While there, I learned about the Buddhist religion, which I continued to learn about in various classes at Wake. After graduation in 2009, I moved to Cambodia and lived there while working for a human rights organization before coming back to law school. I found that I was better able to acclimate to the culture because of my previous studies. Religion is an integral part of many societies, and having a greater understanding and appreciation of these religious traditions helped me be a more respectful guest in the country.