Humans of Hogwarts

When we travel, our ideas of a place rely solely on our experiences there. We may have had preconceived notions of what to expect in said place, but once we go there, we define that location by our new memories of it. But what we don’t realize is that other people may have different experiences in that same destination, and their memories hold different meanings to them. So how can a place truly be defined when everyone’s definition is different?

I think it’s important for us to recognize that we all have different stories that evolve around the same places. I thought for a moment about stories and about meaningfulness and my mind wandered to Harry Potter. This book series (and the movies) might possibly be a defining part of my childhood. My dad read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to me when I was only in kindergarten. At the time I probably didn’t understand much of it, other than the fact that I absolutely loved when my mom or dad read to me. It became something that I looked forward to every day (and really that’s kind of weird for a five year old right?!). This book was so grown up for me and so wonderful at the same time. I loved everything about it: Hedwig the owl, the Nimbus 2000 broomstick, and of course Hogwarts. Throughout my elementary education the books continued to come out and the movies began to be released.

I started my writing journey when I was in third grade. I was a young reporter for Bear Essential News, a local children’s newspaper in my hometown. A story that I was assigned to was writing about the prescreening release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I saw the film five whole days before everyone else did, which practically meant I was the coolest kid in my third grade class. I wrote my report and that was the start of my childhood celebrity status…

Okay, that last part was a joke. What it really was, was the start of everyone knowing I was a complete and total nerd. Yes, the one who was always reading Harry Potter (because I was a really slow reader and those books are HUGE so it took me forever to get through them) and wrote for the kid’s newspaper. Fast forward several years; all the books had been released, I was a senior in high school, and the last movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” came out in theaters. You better believe I went to a midnight showing.

I graduated from high school and suddenly my childhood was over. I was about to go to college and the Harry Potter books and movies were all out. Then my wonderful family packed it up and took a vacation to Orlando, Florida so that I could go to Universal Studios where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was.

I was beyond excited to try pumpkin juice.
Another blur of a few years went by and I graduated from the University of Arizona with my Bachelor of Arts degree, when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released- and I, for the first time in my life, went to a Harry Potter midnight release party. This was something I had only dreamed of as a child. I wanted to be there when the clock struck midnight and everyone was in a frenzy rushing to the registers to purchase their books. I was always too young and my parents never took me when the first seven books came out. The release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was everything I had hoped for. There was trivia, costumes, and incredibly imaginative decorations all around the bookstore. Even the ladies room had red paint on the mirror saying, “The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir beware.”

It was when I was recounting my experience at the release party to my coworkers that I discovered several of them had a deep-rooted love for this series as well. After a VERY spontaneous and impromptu coffee run, two of my coworkers and I had booked a trip to Universal Studios in Hollywood. It had recently opened in our neighboring state of California, and they longed to go. I was desperate to return to such a magical atmosphere, but in all honesty I had no desire to ever return to Florida (it was so humid that I actually thought I was drowning half the time I was there), so the new addition to the Universal Studios in Hollywood was very exciting.

An attendant scanned our tickets and like children we practically ran to the Harry Potter area of the theme park. And suddenly, it hits you: crooked chimneys, snowy rooftops, and the glorious Hogwarts castle.

I had seen it five years before in Florida, but my friends had not. Their eyes lit up and their faces told me that this meant something deep to them. Being there and seeing the castle was just as magical to them as it had been to me the first time I saw it. We spent most of our day just in the Harry Potter area of Universal Studios. We had lunch at The Three Broomsticks, enjoyed some butterbeer, and were overly amused that Moaning Myrtle can be heard in the ladies room.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful humans of Hogwarts, who are my coworkers and friends that accompanied me to this magical place.


Hogwarts House: Hufflepuff

Patronus: Orca

Wand Type: Willow wood with unicorn hair core, 12 ¼ inch and slightly yielding flexibility.

What does Harry Potter mean to you?

Harry Potter is one of my favorite escapes from reality. I read the series the first time around in 2011, during the most stressful time in my life. I had decided that divorce was the only solution to my marriage and was living with a roommate. She eventually became one of my best friends but at that point we were just acquaintances doing our best to be good roommates to one another while we both sorted through the wreckage of our lives. On top of my massive heartbreak, my financial situation was also precarious. I no longer had the financial support of my ex and, just as soon as I finished my comprehensive PhD exams, I was scheduled to embark on a year of self-funded dissertation research in Bolivia.  And so, completely devastated, broke, and exhausted from studying for my exams, I would throw myself down on my bed for a siesta every afternoon and lose myself in Harry Potter’s world. I recently read the books again. Even though I’m now happy and financially stable in my post-PhD life, I still love to lose myself in fantasy.

Do you have a favorite memory associated with reading the books?

When I read them the second time around (when everything in my life was better!), it was like reading them for the first time. It was exciting to return to them and find that I loved them even more than I had when I read them the first time. I love Rowling’s ability to weave together a story, to introduce plot lines and then tie them back in hundreds of pages later without making their connections obvious or using heavy-handed foreshadowing.

How did you feel when you first stepped into Hogsmeade?

I felt a little bit like a kid when I first stepped into Hogsmeade– or at least I could imagine how I would have felt at 7 years old. My 7-year-old self would have felt the way I did on Christmas during the years when I knew that Santa wasn’t real but still had enough fantasy left to imagine that maaaaaybe those were hoof prints in the snow on our roof on Christmas morning.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

So many favorites! Walking into Hogsmeade for the first time, standing in line for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride (the line for that ride is almost as good as the ride itself!), walking through the shops in Hogsmeade after it had grown dark and trying to find a wand at Ollivander’s. I think darkness made Hogsmeade even more magical.



Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw  “wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure”

Patronus: Blackbird

Wand Type: Rowan wood with a Unicorn hair core 10 ¾” and Unbending flexibility (no dark witch or wizard ever owned a rowan wand)

What does the Harry Potter series mean to you? 

Harry Potter is pure joy and imagination.  I first read Harry Potter when I was 18 and newly out of high school, trying to figure out my path in life.  Not only are they some of the best written books I have ever read, but they are inspirational and enforce the universal themes of courage, friendship, and resiliency.

Do you have a favorite memory associated with reading the books?

I went to the midnight release parties for Books 4, 5, 6, and 7- and watched them grow so much!  And, finally, when it was proven once and for all that Snape was a good person, I felt vindicated for all my years of faith.

How did you feel when you first stepped into Hogsmeade?

I was so excited!  I think my 18-year-old self would have died of joy, so it was probably a good thing there was no Hogsmeade until I was an adult.  It was so well done, I felt like I really was in the real Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

They all are!  I loved walking through Hogwarts Castle and seeing all the extra details that made it feel so real.  I also really enjoyed eating at the 3 Broomsticks and that Moaning Myrtle was in the women’s restroom.  Also, in true Harry Potter style, I was excited to spend the day with two good friends who also love Harry Potter.


While waiting in line for an attraction, we each created a Pottermore account. We may all have been faithful Harry Potter fans, but none of us had ever explored the site before. We were digitally sorted into our houses, discovered our patronuses, and were chosen by our wands. It was no surprise to me due to my dedication to my education and my working at a university, that I was sorted into Ravenclaw. Though it was a little ironically full circle feeling, since my high school mascot was the raven.

My patronus, much to my surprise is a Newfoundland. My inner cat person is a little disappointed but oh well. And my wand is Alder wood with a Unicorn hair core 12 ¼ inch and Slightly Springy flexibility. It’s clearly all fun and games, but an experience like this was meaningful in so many ways. The stories we share with one another help to define a place. Not only do I hold so many special memories from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks, but I now know what it means to my friends, and that is something that makes me appreciate that place so much more.

Five years later and I might still be a little overly excited about pumpkin juice.

3 thoughts on “Humans of Hogwarts

  1. Hi Mariah!

    I love the use of design elements in your blog. Your images and ability to size them into a single poster adds a lot of pop into your blog. I am struggling with adding images to mine because I really don’t have a lot to offer. And whenever I do try to add images online, I have the hardest time sizing them and making them integrate well. I am a Hufflepuff, and I am proud of it, so I like your theme for this post!


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  2. Mariah, this is such a familiar topic to me–homey as butterbeer. It is very hard not to spend my reply talking about the Harry Potter memories I made indoctrinating my children into the world and convincing my daughter that we were elf-descendant. SHHH. I’ve read the first five books 5-7 times (with each of three kids and then by myself in between).
    Is a book a place too? Is Harry Potter world a stage for stories that revolve around personal narrative? What do we come away with? Is the place in pseudo-reality of a theme-park as good as the real British/European world created in our heads? How does the story change our perceptions of place filtered through film?

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