From some of my earliest memories, I’ve been shaped by stories. Whether I was being read to in family members’ laps or entering a new world through a TV or movie screen, the characters, places, and themes guided me through my childhood and gave me an escape from the routines of my every day life.
When I was growing up, these stories had a singular, introspective nature. It was only when I got older that I began to understand the connections and lessons that they truly gave me, and this realization took on a new dimension when I came to K-State.
In a sea of gen-eds and enrollment decisions, my mom suggested that I look at a first year-seminar called Fiction to Film (taught by K-State First Assistant Director, Mariya Vaughan). In the course, students got the opportunity to read popular books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Pride and Prejudice, while also getting a chance to analyze and compare their film adaptations. Apart from getting to reread some of my favorite books and fall for Lizzie Bennet, getting to share these stories and their relation to our own world with other freshmen gave me an anchor and an outlet as I found my footing in college.
I was lucky enough to continue my K-State First experience when I was hired to work as the Muggle Studies Residential Learning Assistant with Mariya and in the Strong complex. I’d been in a CAT Community myself during my first semester, but I couldn’t help being a little nervous as we prepared for our first Connections class. Would I be able to be a good resource for them as they transitioned into K-State? Would they be able to relate to Harry Potter and each other?
Thankfully, the answer to both was yes. Our students were from a variety of areas, from just outside Manhattan to across the country, but they always had the same sparkle in their eyes as we discussed the symbolism of race and Muggles, or that Dwayne Johnson is a Hufflepuff. As they got to know one another, they went deeper and deeper into the social issues that can so powerfully bridge fantastical worlds and the very real circumstances that we find ourselves in today And, although close friendships can form in virtually any classroom, there was something special about seeing fiction and this department succeed in bringing a group of new students closer and closer as the semester progressed.
For me, it’s easy to say that working and learning with others through K-State First’s programs has given me a better appreciation for the bonds and understanding that can be forged through simply “nerding out.” By bringing together people and promoting their passions, it’s exciting to think of what the many CAT Communities and networks will do in the years to come, and I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to be a part of it.
by Abby Monteil