If someone had asked Katherine Scheidt a few years back what she saw herself doing in the future, she probably would have said waitressing in her hometown. That was then, and the University of Cambridge in England is now.
Scheidt wasn’t interested in college once she graduated high school. After all, she liked the paychecks she earned waiting tables at a small restaurant in the Mount Greenwood area. “I really wasn’t gung-ho about school, and I was focusing on my job because I liked it a lot. I was making good money and enjoyed hanging out with the people at the restaurant,” she said.
A friend encouraged her to go to college, so she enrolled at Moraine Valley. But, she says, she did poorly and left. “I told myself that was ok,” she said. “I don’t need to keep going to college. Two years later, I ended up wanting to go back. I was still working at the restaurant, and I started thinking maybe I don’t want this to be my life. Maybe I want something different, and maybe I do want to go to college.”
Scheidt re-enrolled at Moraine Valley and was more serious about her classes. “When I went back, I really cared a lot more. I was definitely more mature,” she said.
She soon discovered a newfound passion for literature. “I took classes with Professor (Dr. Tom) Dow, and I loved it so much. I felt like those classes helped me get a sense of direction, and I really liked school again,” Scheidt said. She credits Dow’s teaching methods with keeping her engaged in class and wanting to study.
“I was still waitressing, and I was a nanny and was just exhausted. I would do my homework sitting in the back galley at the restaurant reading Shakespeare plays for Dr. Dow’s class at 10 p.m. waiting for my last tables to finish up,” she said.
After graduating from Moraine Valley, Scheidt earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois Chicago, where her professor, Raphael Magarik, encouraged her to continue her education. She followed his advice and was accepted at Harvard University in Massachusetts.
“I loved studying literature and theology, and I completed my Master of Theological Studies at Harvard’s Divinity School,” she said.
She is now in England studying at the University of Cambridge, where she plans to earn a master’s degree in Celtics Studies as it relates to religion. “I’m branching off theology and studying Old Irish and Old Welsh. This is going to be a stepping stone to hopefully pursing my doctorate,” Scheidt said. “I would like to stay in academia and continue doing research and hopefully be a professor one day.”
Scheidt says she isn’t fully grasping all she has accomplished. “When people ask me what I do, It feels surreal to say I’m a student at the University of Cambridge. I feel like an imposter—like I should still be saying I’m a waitress,” she said. “I’m a very spiritual person, and I believe God has gotten me everywhere in my life. If it wasn’t for my faith, I couldn’t have done any of this.”
Leaving the Chicago area was not in her plans. “Never thought I’d end up in Boston or in England, and I did,” she said, pointing out that even though she lived in Boston, she remained a White Sox fan. “It’s funny that I’m sitting here with my three college degrees when in the beginning it seemed so difficult to even get one.”