What to do when you realize you don’t go to Hogwarts

Adjusting to the University isn’t as easy as jumping on the Hogwarts Express

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I am sure many of us have been waiting, waiting since we were 11 years old, to read that one line: “We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” 

Well, we all know that never happened to any of us. Or else we wouldn’t be here. 

Harry Potter and his friends would all write each other all summer, excited to finally return to their communal home — ready to take on new Charms courses and challenging Quidditch matches. They school-shopped in Diagon Alley, buying their books and school supplies for the coming months. 

In high school, I shared that excitement. Sure, I was not attending a wizarding school that was pretty much equal parts work and play, but I found a community that I was excited to return to and friends to share my experiences with. I would meticulously pick up my school supplies so that they were color-coordinated, making sure that every class corresponded to a different color. Though it wasn’t nearly as fascinating as wizarding school, high school was a place that felt familiar and homey, just as Hogwarts was for Harry. 

In college, this joy of anticipation comes for some people. In my case, I was not giddy with excitement to tackle a new year. First year, that makes sense. Entering a foreign place with no clue about what is in store is terrifying. Second year, you would think that I had a bit more experience — that I could flounce about Grounds all confident in the person that I am, sneering at first years as they walk by in their packs, announcing to the outside world that they live in dorms. 

Nope, not for me. I still entered this year with uncertainty and dissatisfaction about where I am and how this year will end up. I am living in an apartment with two additional roommates, still figuring out a major, while simultaneously struggling to simply make time to see my friends and find a way to be active. For me, this newness is not exciting. As much as I have found a home at the University, I still struggle with feeling comfortable in a place that is so beautiful and safe yet still so foreign and complicated. 

Harry makes it look so easy to be excited about school and brave enough to tackle the roadblocks in place. With his friends solidly at his side, he fights evil and stands up for what he believes in. He knows the Hogwarts grounds like the back of his hand and relaxes in the Gryffindor common room as if it were his home living room. 

Except, then I remember that in more ways than one, life isn’t like Harry Potter. There isn’t a cookie-cutter way that I should be going through college. I don’t have to be ecstatic to leave my family behind again and prepare to entrench myself in schoolwork. 

College is no wizarding school. This university is challenging, and sometimes I feel suffocated by the fact that there is always another piece of work I could be doing — even when I take a 20-minute break to watch “The Office.” Even though I have found a community, in times like these I do still struggle with finding my place. 

While stressing about classes or about managing my time properly, I remember this quote from Hagrid: “What’s comin’ will come, an’ we will meet it when it does.” It’s not like an enchantment that makes all my worries disappear. It helps though, remembering that even Harry was not always at the Quidditch pitch or laughing with friends in the common room. But no matter what comes my way, eventually I will learn to deal with it.

It’s simple, really — the University is home, just as Hogwarts is for Harry. At home, you feel joy and comfort, but sometimes pain and loneliness. Part of being home is that despite all of these feelings, you know that the people that make home feel like home will be there for help no matter what your mood is. And that really is how Harry allowed Hogwarts to become his home. 

So even though the University says “Grounds” and calls people “first-,” “second-,” “third-” and “fourth-years,” this place isn’t Hogwarts. We aren’t learning magic or being taught to defend against the Dark Arts, per se, but we are given the gift of this shared community. Despite the fact that transitioning from summer to school is always hard for me, unlike how it was for Harry, anyone can find their way of making Charlottesville and the University their home. The stresses of the future will be handled, and the only thing to do about them now is to breathe and trust yourself. 

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