As a self-proclaimed member of the “Harry Potter” Generation, I’ve spent the past 15 years fighting alongside Harry, Hermione and Ron as they grew from little children to powerful adults. In a way, their journey mirrored my own — only without a wand or those annoying life-or-death encounters. The “Harry Potter” series helped usher me — and millions of others — into adulthood, giving us an intricate and extraordinary world to lose ourselves in. Filled with supremely real characters, there was never a lack of role models or situations that I could relate to. Whether it was dating, dealing with loss or just being happy, Harry Potter has been there and shown me that these feelings are universal. No one is alone.

Harry Potter has certainly had an impact on my generation, and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to call it one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of all time. I still remember practicing the “swish and flick” and “dueling” with friends at recess with sticks we found (yeah, we were just that cool). It’s stemmed numerous incarnations — literary and non — to create a little bit of magic in our world. You can even visit Hogsmeade and Hogwarts now if you happen to be in Orlando. But the truer test of its power and impact comes on a much more personal scale. Rowling’s masterpiece has helped guide me to where I am now, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. As Harry made friends, enemies, fell in love, out of love and back into love, I was, and still am, doing the same. The true mark of Harry Potter is that in a world filled with magic, brooms, dragons and someone who goes by the name Lord Voldemort, it’s the characters and life events that truly color the pages.

As I walk through campus — especially the Law Quad — I feel as though one could easily transport themselves to this world. The University is our own personal Hogwarts. A place to live, learn and love. This school is definitely full of magic — anyone who’s eaten in the cafeteria during one of the Thanksgiving dinners knows that’s pretty much as close as one can get to a feast in the Great Hall. It’s here, just walking with friends, that I feel most connected, or maybe it’s just that college has been the best comparison to the wizarding world of Harry Potter (bonus points for those who know what that was a reference to). While I’ve never had a class as fun as flying or a teacher quite like Hagrid, the realness of the books and characters makes getting into the University feel like I received my own personal Hogwart’s letter. I treasure my time here, and I think I appreciate its magic all the more because of reading these books.

As Harry’s journey reaches its conclusion with his final cinematic romp taking place this summer, I feel as though I’m finally graduating as well. I’ll be starting my final year at the University and preparing for life outside its walls and comfort. While my career choices sadly don’t include being an Auror or dragon trainer, the possibilities are still endless. I plan to tackle the unknown of the next couple years with the same determination and excitement that I’ve used waiting for and reading these books. The series has helped countless people find a love for books and reading, but what I think is even more important, is that it’s helped people find their voices. So go take a break from studying, lose yourself in the magical world and catch up with some old friends. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Matthew Shutler is a LSA junior.

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