The University is not Hogwarts, but it casts a spell of its own
Here we are again—some getting back into a familiar routine, and others setting foot on Grounds for the first time. There is some sadness as we leave the long days of summer behind, and there are definitely a good many fears about the upcoming challenges. But more than anything else, I feel a sense of magic.
And so it is only appropriate to greet all of you as Albus Dumbledore would: “To our newcomers, welcome! To our old hands—welcome back!”
Newcomb Hall and O-Hill may not serve pumpkin juice, but students from first to fourth year will soon be packing into these buildings for feasts aplenty. New students will have a few days to get themselves situated, and then they—and all of us returners—will be heading to class. And while the University does not feature the winding staircases and secret passageways that crisscross Hogwarts, first years will still take a wrong turn here and there. I remember trying to figure out the numbering system for rooms in New Cabell my first year and thinking frantically that I could not be late for my first class in college.
Before long, just as it did for me, experience will set in. Students new and old will start taking the University’s own secret shortcuts to get to our classes. Older students will make the trip down to our very own Hogsmeade to spend some time with friends at places like No. 3—which I like to think of as the Three Broomsticks. Football games will start, and while there is only one ball featured, that won’t stop students from showing up, dressing up and getting caught up in school pride.
All of this is not to say that the University is without its challenges. New students will be facing classes much harder than those they took in high school. A note to new students: we don’t exactly have a substitute for Madam Pince, but quiet in the library is still very much appreciated.
And there are less obvious challenges. Incoming students will likely find themselves, on their first day on Grounds, sitting on the bed in their new dorm, things semi-unpacked, and just wondering where to go from there. Some may have high school friends on Grounds, but for many, this will be a daunting beginning in a sea of strangers. I will readily admit that making friends was one of the scariest parts of starting at the University for me.
How did I approach it? I did not just stay sitting around in the hopes that a Ron or Hermione would show up. I got involved. I joined up with the Cavalier Daily early on, and forged relationships with my peers in Navy ROTC. I took classes that interested me, and met people who shared similar interests around which we bonded. In my fiction writing class, we bonded so well that the entire class went out for dinner together each week. Then there are those random friends you will meet, just by taking a seat near them in the dining hall or the library. Some of the strongest friends I have made here have been made in such random, lucky ways. And there is something magical about that.
Here at the University, we will not have to confront You-Know-Who. But we will each have to face our own set of challenges, and will walk away with stories—stories of late nights of studying, of snowball fights, of romance and heartbreak, of friendship and self-discovery. So while we may not get phoenix-feather wands, we are all entering once more, or for the first time, into our own kind of wizarding world. And so I’ll leave you with this, which is a slight adaptation of Dumbledore’s famous few words: “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Wa-hoo-wa!”