Otto Rank. Joseph Campbell. Carl Jung. I flipped through the reading list before proceeding to checkout. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Despite the fact that I was going into my senior year at Arcadia, I was having flashbacks to freshman year and my wonderful experience with my First-Year Seminar. The course is designed to help you adjust to college studies and Arcadia’s curriculum by letting you take a scholarly look at unconventionally academic topics. Explore the global presence and significance of tea. Take a look at body adornment throughout history and across culture. Discuss the importance of chocolate.
Yes, that’s still a course offered at Arcadia. I know, right?
For my First-Year Seminar experience, I was drawn to something called The Hero’s Journey. In that class, Professor Frankie Mallis took us through the archetypes and models of different scholars, all who worked to unravel and lay out the core stages of our most famous stories, from the Greek gods all the way up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We discussed theory, plotted out movies, and even marathoned The Lord of the Rings in an Oak Summit Lounge.
I loved that class. Everything from the material we covered to the friends I made along the way really helped me take a new look at the process of and joy in scholarship. Even the homework was fun. And the whole time, Frankie made the discussion open and engaging, blowing our minds and cracking open the secrets behind the symbols in the books and movies we read.
And that is why I was thrilled to see that an opening in my spring schedule coincided with another course taught by her: The Secret Symbols of Pop Culture. Without a second’s hesitation, I signed up. I didn’t even need to read the course description. I was all in!
As I ordered my textbooks for the upcoming semester, I realized the reading list looked suspiciously similar to that of my First-Year Seminar, all those many semesters ago. In fact, I still remembered most of the theory about which these scholars had pontificated. And even though a curiously familiar PowerPoint presentation popped up on the screen on the first day of class as Frankie began her lecture, I was amazed by how much more there was to say on the topic of hidden patterns in the narratives of our social world.
Suddenly I realized, even if the material had been exactly the same as what I’d been taught in my First-Year Seminar, now, almost three years later, I still would have gotten something completely different out of it. As time goes on, we grow and change as college students and as people. Our minds travel down new roads. We see things in different lights. And even though my interests have obviously stayed their course over these past few years, my analysis of them has certainly broadened.
As the semester goes on, I’m excited to see where the winding road of Heralds and Shadow Mentors and Threshold Guardians will take us in a rediscovery of our own pop culture. And, although I’ll be sad to leave this place someday soon, for now I’ll take comfort in getting the chance to relive some of my very best memories with the teachers and topics from my past.