A recent Central Michigan University class experience may be as close to receiving a letter from Hogwarts as any muggle can get. The group of 21 students and two interpreters — as part of a
Harry Potter course — ended their spring semester with a two-week adventure of history and wizardry across the United Kingdom.
The trip is part of an English honors course — developed by CMU Associate Professor Joseph Michael Sommers — that immerses students in the living, breathing history surrounding the creation of the Harry Potter series. The students spent the semester examining Harry Potter in the classroom, then supplemented that knowledge with visits to numerous destinations related to the popular series.
"Between the class and the trip, I was able to look at elements of the series through a more evaluative and analytical lens, which some people believe cannot be done with fiction."
CMU senior Kaitlin Shanks
The trip began in Edinburgh, Scotland, with a coach trip to Durham, Northumberland, York, Oxford, Gloucester and London. Some of the experiences they had along the way included:
- Visiting The Elephant House Café and the remains of Nicolson's Cafe, where Rowling allegedly started the Harry Potter books;
- Stopping at key Harry Potter-related destinations in the books and movies such as the Edinburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Durham Cathedral and Castle, Gloucester Cathedral, Oxford's Bodleian Library and Christ's Church, the Tower of London, and the London Zoo, among many others;
- Stepping aboard Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station; and
- Experiencing "The Making of Harry Potter" at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Watford.
"I've read the books and seen the movies many times, but getting to talk about it in a class setting, and then see all of the different places of inspiration and some of the work that went into the series gave it so much more meaning for me," said CMU senior Kaitlin Shanks of Cheboygan. "Between the class and the trip, I was able to look at elements of the series through a more evaluative and analytical lens, which some people believe cannot be done with fiction."
In the first two iterations of the course, the students traveled during spring break. Sommers believes an extended timeframe and trip later in the year afforded them many more opportunities to learn.
"We were able to experience a whole bunch of new things and visit a greater scope of inspirational settings: filming locations, castles, cathedrals, palaces, gardens and minsters that inspired the Potter narratives. It was absolutely brilliant," he said.
For CMU junior Delany Lemke of Marysville, the course provided her with a long-awaited letter to Hogwarts. Read more about Lemke's experience – as well as some of her classmates – below.