One of the most common pieces of advice I was given when I started college was “Go to your professor’s office hours!” and “Get to know your professors!”
Like many students, my gut response was an extremely decisive “no f-ing way”. I was never the kind of person who hung out with their high school teachers, and I had no idea why my professors would want to get to know me. Office hours, I thought, were only for people who needed help (and I loathe asking for help) or for being a kiss-up. I would never go.
Thanks to the Emily Balch seminars, though, I didn’t have a choice. The seminars cover a range of content and teaching styles, but one of the common elements is that you meet with your professor a few times a week to discuss your work.
I didn’t dread my first meeting, but I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. I don’t like asking for help, remember? Even though I’d struggled a lot with my first essay, I didn’t want to admit it.
The meeting was surprisingly helpful, though. If I’d just been handed back my essay with a grade and a few comments, I probably would have taken all semester to figure out what I was doing wrong.
Thanks to that, I got the hang of what my professor was looking for pretty quickly, and by our third meeting we had a little time at the end to just chat. She asked me pretty standard stuff: how was I doing in my classes? What was I studying? Had I ever considered majoring in English? Pretty soon our meetings turned into hour-long discussions about campus culture, academia, and current events. I even started telling her about a few anxieties I’d been having.
Eventually I began to see her as a mentor, and even though spring semester had started, I still went to see her. She pushed me to get help for a health problem I’d been trying to ignore, inspired me to write a letter to the editor for the College News, and convinced me to take an English class this semester.
I would guess a solid 50% of my friends are friendly with at least one of their professors. My roommate says she went to hang out with her dean almost every week, and I know other students who have babysat for their professor’s kids or even had Thanksgiving at their houses.
These days I have no qualms about going to see my professors, whether it’s because I need help on a paper or because I want to know more about a study abroad opportunity. It’s not crucial that you get to know your professors in college, but getting to know my ESem professor definitely had a big impact on my first year at Bryn Mawr.