Like many of the students on the Fantasy on the Fringe program, I grew up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley. They were my friends and they were my heroes. J.K. Rowling’s novels were some of the first fantasy books I read on my own and were one of the main series that made me fall in love with literature, and fantasy in particular. Imagine then my delight when I discovered an entire program based on fantasy and in the United Kingdom to boot. Eleven months later, I was touching down for the first time in London, England!
Arriving in London was like something out of dream. I had been imagining the city since I first read about Harry going with Hagrid to get his school things. In my travel-induced, sleep-deprived state, everything—the trains, the streets, the cars, the buildings—seemed wildly different from the United States. However, after wandering around the neighborhood to find dinner and a good night’s sleep, I found a world which seemed much less foreign. It was bustling with cars, noisy with construction, and brimming with people going to work or the grocery store or to a meeting. Yet somehow there was still an unfamiliar, unexplored feel to the world around me. There were large parks, building with ancient architecture, and historic places on what seemed like every corner. This harmony between familiar and unfamiliar was one of my favorite parts about the program, finding the things that I recognized but which had a different role in the United Kingdom.
Interestingly, these differences, to a smaller extent, could be found within the program participants as well. Having lived on both coasts of the USA, many of the differences didn’t surprise me. However, I loved getting to know all of the other participants and hearing about their various universities and towns and lives.
In the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Trelawney talks about broadening your horizons. This program has not only helped me broaden my view of the world but it also taught me to broaden my own experiences, both academically and personally. The program helped me to be more confident and showed me that the world is simultaneously a lot larger and a lot smaller than I thought.
Senna Steward, Harry Potter in the UK, London