Opinion | Welcome to your bildungsroman

Students+line+up+at+a+booth+during+the+Welcome+Celebration+at+lot+31+on+Aug.+20.+Columnist+Samuel+Rahman+believes+college+is+one+of+the+best+times+for+ones+formative+years.+

Cameron Krasucki

Students line up at a booth during the Welcome Celebration at lot 31 on Aug. 20. Columnist Samuel Rahman believes college is one of the best times for ones formative years.

By Samuel Rahman, Assistant Opinions Editor

The 50-cent specimen staring back at us from our word-of-the-day calendar this fine morning is “bildungsroman.” It is the literary term for a coming-of-age story — more specifically one where mental and emotional maturity takes place. Think “Jane Eyre,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars.”

It just so happens that the classic hero’s journey — whether bildungsroman or not — vaguely begins with a call to adventure, crossing a threshold and journeying into the unknown. And just look at that. You will christen the new school year through move-in day by quite literally crossing a threshold from your old, into your new, living quarters — either a dorm or an apartment depending on how many times previously one has gone through the bildungsroman.

If you follow the literary steps, you should end the year having gone through some trials, gained something, lost something and return home more emotionally mature — most likely the juggling of courses, extracurriculars, friends and jobs, hopefully some knowledge and probably a lot of sleep, respectively.

I propose you lean into it. Approach the school year knowing you will change and actively seek out the AP English steps to make it happen. Look for the literary archetype: the sidekicks, the mentors, the challenges, the abyss. It will surely be more entertaining that way — watching the movie of your life with the same wonder as you had during the first viewing of your now-favorite franchise film. While the cinematography and editing could use some work, the resolution of the picture makes you feel like you are almost physically standing in each scene.

I do not mean to imply narcissism in any way — the narcissism of “I am the hero of my story and everyone else is a side character whom I might bestow a speaking role upon if they are so lucky.” We exist accompanied by a perpetual first-person inner monologue and are never allowed the benefit of seeing the world through another’s eyes.

Those corporeal constraints are not an excuse to ignore the truism that, identically to you, others around you are likely on their own hero’s journeys — interesting plotlines for but a moment or for years.

So, while you find your way through your literary adventure, do not lapse from considering your peers’ journeys. On move-in day, introduce yourself to the neighbors and cross into each other’s journeys. Maybe, jointly survey the variety of moral arcs your university opportunities can bend you toward — your neighbors, potential extracurriculars, course listings, professors whose research interests you.

I am acutely aware of the authority I lack in espousing one way over another of getting the most out of your time here on campus.

Quite frankly, this author speaking on any aspect of the average college experience — let alone university housing life — is akin to someone who has only ever viewed the world through grayscale attempting to explain the phenomenon of “blue.”

For my first two years, I lived at home while commuting to DePaul in Chicago then transferred to the University and continued living at home through the year of COVID-19 and online courses. I only recently moved out of my parents’ home and into an apartment on campus at the beginning of the summer for a research assistantship.

There is bound to be some portion of sophomores who stayed home last year too and are undergoing a belated on-campus freshman experience. So while juniors and seniors start the third or fourth iterations of your yearly bildungsromans, the freshmen and a larger portion of sophomores than years previous will start from the first page of chapter one.

So, with me being so new on campus as well, join me in our collective parallel, simultaneous bildungsromans. We just crossed our thresholds. Our heroes’ journeys await.

 

Sam is a senior in LAS

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