Everyone has heard some version of “the talk” from their high school teacher: “I’m going to make this class difficult to prepare you for college”; “I expect ten pages by Friday, and don’t even think about turning it in late because your college professors won’t tolerate it, and neither will I.” This created apprehension that morphed into: Don’t talk to your professors, or you’re chopped meat.
I have a secret. Come close. Closer. Closer. *whispering* Your professors are really nice people, and all of them were once in the same place as you.
Before my first day of classes, I was incredibly nervous. Someone slid an encouraging note under my door, and I remember staring at it hopelessly. My high school teachers warned that college professors wouldn’t offer retakes or accept extra credit, and I'd be hard-pressed to say hi to them.
If they told you that, then they lied. At Monsters University, maybe, they’ll threaten or scare you. But here, our professors are some of the friendliest and most intelligent people on campus. After my first semester, my professors knew my name, and I’d talked to each of them.
My first professor was my first-year seminar instructor. Our class size was around twelve students, which made it one of my favorite classes because our conversations felt personal and profound. He knew my name from day 1, and by the end of the semester, he was calling us his friends. Granted, it feels slightly passive-aggressive to receive an email like, “Dear Friends, Your 3500-word research paper is due by Friday. Have a great day!” Nevertheless, it always felt like the “Dear Friends” cushioned the blow of knowing you’ll have to work for the next few days.
The award for the kindest professor goes to… my English professor. In a class of over fifty students, I fretted that I’d never talk to her and she’d never know my name. After class, I approached her to word vomit, “I’mexcitedforyourclassandthisisgoingtobeapplicabletomybookthatI’mwritingwhichisafantasyromancebytheway,” and she was all like, very calmly, “It sounds like you are going to get a lot out of my class, Natalie. I’m excited to have you here.” Over the semester, she knew my interests and wrote personal comments on each of my essays. Cue my friend's and my adoration for our English professor.
The Multiverse of Names
My astronomy professor and I had many meaningful conversations, from talking about the multiverse to asking if she believes in extraterrestrial life (she does). My third professor learned my name in a matter of weeks, which may not sound impressive until you realize she taught a class of 100 students and another class of 60 students. Additionally, my astronomy professor answered every class question with "That's a great question!" Hearing her affirm that it's okay to ask questions was what kept me going most lectures.
The Economics of Ladybugs
Finally, my economics professor learned my name in addition to administering tests, weekly assignments, and configuring new lecture sets (with savvy transitions). Not only that, but we went out of our way to talk to each other at various student events around campus. By the end of the semester, my professor felt like a friendly face. Well, a friendly face that also grades my homework assignments and reminds me to read the question before shamelessly circling the wrong answer.
At the end of the day, your professors are people too. They want an empty inbox and timely submissions, but they also want what is best for you. Here are some of my favorite moments that proved that my professors aren’t scary or tyrannical administrators:
My first-year seminar professor
bought us mango juice, baklava, and dates from his favorite local Turkish restaurant (read to the end of the blog to see which restaurant),
told us about his sister and showed us her artwork,
wrote poetry for each of us in Persian calligraphy to hang up in our dorms,
connected our class with an Iranian musician and economist.
My astronomy professor
included Bitmojis and memes in her lecture slide,
helped me research for my science fiction novel,
geeked out over new NASA pictures.
My economics professor and I saved a ladybug from her office together. We also shared our love of Lebanese food.
My English professor
told our class how she read her essays to the other soccer moms,
I’m still unsure if it was a compliment or insult that she used our essays for entertainment. Considering the quality of some of my essays, I think I may know the answer.
bought us chocolates,
gave us recommendations on her least and most favorite films relating to the course,
explained to us how Keira Knightley running down a warfield in blue paint made the terrible movie much better,1
asked for book recommendations for her teenage daughter.
Bonus: I talked to my friend’s French professor about how much I love my roommate and what I like to write.
All it takes is a conversation with any of these lovely professors to discover that they are people who will make your life better and more interesting. I recommend going to their office hours, asking for additional readings they like, and saving ladybugs together. (;
Finally, if you’ve made it this far, my first-year seminar professor recommends the Istanbul Mediterranean Grill.
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