Beneath the Bag: University Students Share the Contents of their Backpacks

Note From Lauren: This blog post was an assignment for one of my marketing classes at school. I had to research/observe students using backpacks and then write about what I discovered.

Who knew university students were so attached to their backpacks? I’m not talking about being physically attached to their bags – yes, they carry them all over campus and to and from the too-far-from-the-buildings parking garages, but I am here to tell you how students are emotionally attached to their bags.

As I sat in the IUPUI Campus Center on a busy afternoon observing students and their backpacks, I couldn’t help but focus on a few students who were sitting quietly amid the hustle and bustle. As I watched these students, one boy and two girls, I noticed they all had one thing in common. Their bags were all very close to them, even touching them.

The first girl I noticed had a brightly colored, pink and grey bag that was sitting on the floor, but it was propped up and balancing against her leg most of the time. She seemed to have been sitting there for a while as she had a notebook, laptop, a couple highlighters, and her iPhone on the table in front of her. I then looked over towards the boy who had sat down on a bench across from me. He had his backpack sitting on his lap using it as a desk for the laptop he just pulled out of the bag. I noticed his bag was much more plain than the first girl’s bag, but it seemed to be about the same size. Girl number two was sitting in a big, comfortable chair and she had her bag in the seat next to her, but again it was still close enough to be brushing against her upper arm at all times.

Girl Number 1's Backpack

Girl Number 1’s Backpack

After observing the three students for the better part of thirty minutes I decided to approach them to ask them a few questions about their bags. I started by asking why they carried that specific book bag and didn’t get an unexpected answer. All three times the response was, “I have to carry my books to class in something.” So I dug a little deeper. Was it really just books in that bag? I mean, they were pretty big bags and seemed to be overflowing with items when I got close enough for a good look. And the way they were all sitting with their bags so close to them seemed like it was much more than just a way to transport school stuff. So I asked. I asked what they really had in their bags.

The answers, all three of them, were not what I was expecting… at all! I couldn’t believe how quiet, almost shy, all three students got when I asked what the contents of their bags were. It’s not like any of them were hiding anything bad because they all showed me everything that was inside. It was the meaning of what was inside that was so personal and unique to each student. They all had a connection with what they put in their bag every morning and where they put it. Now, I know you’re thinking, what could be so special about contents of a book bag? When the students explained what they carry (beyond books), and why, it was like they were describing an old friendship. These students weren’t just carrying their books from Point A to Point B; they were carrying their daily essentials, their daily routines in their bags. Everything from headphones to gum to a picture of a cute little brother was inside these bags.

Contents of Girl Number 2's Backpack

Contents of Girl Number 2’s Backpack

Who knew backpacks, an inanimate object, had the ability to create a bond with its owner? Now it’s your turn – Tell me about your connection with your bag!