first days in SLC

–Before my dad left for California (and, from there, the Netherlands), we spent a day doing the essentials: buying stuff at Target, opening a bank account, and visiting as many coffee houses near my new place as we could.

–On Wednesday, my first day in SLC by myself, I made sure to visit the public library. (You should google it, it’s gorgeous.)


These were my first picks. (I’ve been back twice, since then.) They’ll let you have a massive amount of books, which is very convenient because I catch the Trax to the university right in front of the building every morning and get off it every night, and I can already tell it’s going to be hard to resist to go in and find yet another book to read.

–Thursday saw my first day at the University of Utah. I was reminded of my weird brand of European Americaness when I saw the Center for the Humanities listed as on the first floor and promptly went to find a staircase before I remembered that here, the first floor is the ground floor. Also, apparently I gave them my birthdate written European style, so now I was born in January instead of March. Oh well.

–Thursday (and Friday, and Saturday) also saw me wandering a lot. Everyone tells me it’s so hard to get lost here, since it’s all on a grid, but apparently I’m a very special snowflake. But luckily my newly data-enabled smartphone has gps, so eventually even I get to where I need to go. (Google maps also helpfully tells you how fast you’re walking, which is invariably slow when I’m lost-ish.)

–I’m sitting in on a class (American Religions), taught by a professor whose books I’ve read and love, and I’m already writing down teaching techniques to employ on my future students. Some of them involve how to get students to be concise in their remarks, although I doubt I’ll need that as much in the Netherlands/Germany, as the problem there is usually to get students to talk more, not less..

As an aside, I think the greatest thing about having a fellowship isn’t the own office (with actual daylight!) or the paycheck (that they say isn’t much but is still more than I’ve ever had; I’m feeling positively rich right now) but the people you get to meet. When I asked that professor if I could sit in on her class, I expected her to be friendly, as most American professors are to visiting researchers. But because of the fellowship, she already knew who I was and where I was from (“Dortmund, right?”) and what I was doing here. Like so many PhD students, I suffer from major imposter syndrome, and although it’s certainly stressful to have to meet (self-imposed) expectations, it’s also so gratifying that people know what you’re doing and think it’s interesting. I’ve gotten enough grants and fellowships and scholarships that you’d think I’d be used to this by now, but I’m not.

So in conclusion? I’m a little overwhelmed with the newness of it all, but generally doing just fine. Now, if only I could remember that Americans like their air conditioning and remember to bring a sweater to work..


9 thoughts on “first days in SLC

  1. Howard Pepper says:

    Thanks for this update, Saskia… seeing your post title pop up on my WordPress homepage got me looking and glad to see your latest move. (I confess to not reading any of your posts for a long time… my main interests are rather selective, mostly around
    issues of biblical scholarship, American religion, psych of religion and if you’ve been on any of these, I’ve not noticed.) Anyway, I’m wishing you the best of times here. We sure need people like you studying a given “religion” or sect or “cult” (a relative term, hard to define tho I worked in a cult-identifying, cult-exposing Evangelical organization of some prominence many years ago). And similarly, with that, studying and educating ABOUT religion and all its accouterments (is that a proper word here?)

    I don’t know what you like to follow in the Christian academic or student-academic blogosphere (mostly PhD students and profs where I sometimes interact, tho my own blog is more geared to the general public, with an academic edge). But lately I found this blog which you may already read:, run by Intervarsity. There has also been a fair amount of discussion re. Evangelicalism and “historical critical” scholarship on a few blogs… all fascinating (and I think important) re. trends in biblical and religious scholarship, and how that filters down (or not) to believers in pews, in books, on the Net, etc.

    I forget what area(s) your study is focusing on particularly (point me to prior posts if you want… I promise I’ll look), but my fairly-exposed observation is that very little of biblical studies and even theological studies scholarship is adequately inter-disciplinary. I think I observe some trending that way, but not nearly fast enough to my liking. I understand the difficulties on a practical academic level. But that’s not an adequate excuse to me, especially among the many students/scholars I know who do seem to want to discover deeper truth, not just make a name or a living. I guess my main beef is this: “Why won’t more Christian scholars of biblical studies look at the creation of the Bible, the development of Judaism and the emergence of Christianity, at least some of the time, through the lens of the history, psychology and sociology of religious development?”

    And similarly, look at the nature and role of religious literature in general. Sure, they work on this some, but the “uniquely unique” assumption re. the Bible gets seriously in the way. Seems to me the biblical scholars either ignore or mostly discount the input, for example, of literary critics who know the Bible well but aren’t formal scholars of it. Harold Bloom might be the prime example but there are others, among whom one might include the late Steve Allen. Another scholar interesting to me is Steven Prothero. Any thoughts?

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