Jennifer Hanson is a Masters candidate in Business Administration and Marketing, and NUPSA’s Coursework Representative.
I have a confession to make. It took me until age 22 to finally get around to reading the first Harry Potter book. I had just finished my undergraduate degree and I was ecstatic to finally have time to read books of my own choosing, instead of those assigned in my courses. Admittedly, it took me until age 26, in the midst of my postgraduate degrees and the COVID-19 pandemic, to finish the final book. Now I’m a full-blown Potterhead.
What finally changed my mind?
First of all, I’ve always been a late bloomer. But what really pushed me was visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Florida. The Wizarding World is split between two separate Universal theme parks, with a replica of the Hogwarts Express connecting them together. Universal Islands of Adventure houses a recreation of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts Castle, and Universal Studios houses a recreation of Diagon Alley and Muggle London. Both parks feature themed rides, shops, food and butter beer too!
Though it carried a hefty price tag to visit both parks on the same day, it was honestly more than worth the trip, especially considering the amount of thought and detail that has been put into it. Being immersed in the Wizarding World first-hand at age 22 finally showed me what I was missing all this time! A few days later, while visiting a second-hand bookstore, I happened upon a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone. It was a packed bookstore with books stacked on each other from floor to ceiling, but somehow this book stuck out, like a beacon in the night. It was a sign. After purchasing the book and reading the first few chapters, I was hooked.
Growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Harry Potter was everywhere. The fact that I didn’t read the books or watch many of the movies is actually kind of impressive. All of my close friends were enthralled by the series, or had at least seen the movies. Not me. I was stubborn. I managed to go through adolescence only seeing snippets of a few.
I can’t really put my finger on it, other than I was never really that interested in the fantasy or science fiction genres. Oh, and the one time I caught a glimpse of He Who Must Not Be Named, I was pretty scared to be honest. To this day, I still haven’t seen Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. (Gasp!) Instead, as a kid I preferred to read about “the real world”, choosing non-fiction books about my favorite athletes or historical fiction books about my favorite time periods.
Do I regret joining the HP bandwagon so late?
Yes and no. When I finally finished The Deathly Hallows, I realized my whole childhood could have been different had I read the books as they were released. It’s a pity, but better late than never!
Luckily for me, just as I finished the final book, Big W happened to have a huge stock of HP merchandise. So naturally, I had to make up for lost time in getting my HP fix. I bought the most amazing HP quilt cover, pillowcases and a sweatshirt. I resisted the urge to buy a cloak, but I will probably buy one eventually.
Perhaps now, more than ever, I believe that reading (or re-reading) the series as an adult offers many benefits. I think that as we reach adulthood, some of us forget the importance of having dreams altogether; whether they are realizable dreams or not makes no difference. Since finishing book seven, I’ve caught myself daydreaming about what it would be like to attend Hogwarts on numerous occasions. I suppose my slightly more realistic “adult” dream is a trip to the UK for the full HP experience. (And also an HP-themed birthday party when I turn 27 next year.)
But until I can make those dreams come true, I’ll have to settle for the magnificent escape from the real world that is Harry Potter.