There are an infinite number of changes we face when we head to college. We are semi-independent people who must now decide when to wake up, what classes we want to take, how healthy we want to eat, when we clean our rooms or do laundry, which majors we want to pursue, where we want to go abroad… The list continues. This is the first time that many of us are standing on our own, teetering into adulthood with training wheels that are almost—but not quite—off.
I call my mom with questions regularly. When she doesn’t pick up, I call my dad. Or ask a friend. Consult Google. I’m not alone in this journey, but I’ve had to learn to ask for help. That’s hard for me to do: I’m just awkward enough that the answer doesn’t seem worth the trouble. But in college, I’ve learned that I had to ask for help, to reach out, to find the answers to my questions.
That means office hours. *Shudders* Something about office hours terrified me throughout the entirety of my freshman year. Classmates and teammates all raved about the relationships they’d built with their professors: how they got coffee together once, how they spent over an hour just talking, how they were now walking their dogs for them three times a week. I had no idea how they had gotten into that sphere, that level of comfort and confidence that I thought it took to walk into an office, sit down, and just start talking. Needless to say, I did not go to office hours during my freshman year unless I absolutely had to. And I did not enjoy them as much as I wanted to.
However, I returned to Kenyon at the beginning of my sophomore year with a resolution to go to office hours and enjoy them. People always talk about the stress of junior and senior year, but I think sophomore year deserves a bit of talk, too. This second year is difficult because you have to start making decisions. Majors. Studying abroad. Career paths. All of this really starts to take root in your sophomore year, so office hours become even more necessary.
So I started with Professor Suggs. Because I needed an advisor for my Anthropology major and had immensely enjoyed his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology the previous semester, I decided I would ask him. I agonized over an initial email that turned into a lovely conversation that ended in an appointment a few days later. That Friday afternoon, I found myself petting the most marvelous golden retriever puppy in a fabulous office with a professor that I admired and enjoyed talking with.
And it wasn’t awkward or hard at all!
Because here’s the secret: professors are people, too. I know, this is big news, but bear with me. They chose to enter academia because they were passionate about what they were studying and wanted to share that joy with other people, to foster that curious spirit in people who are trying to figure out their own paths. Professors want to talk about their work, answer questions, and give advice. That’s why office hours exist!
Professors aren’t scary! After that first successful meeting, I spoke with a few more professors and had just as lovely of an experience. Office hours help your current professors get to know you better, and they help maintain relationships with past professors. Not only that, but they give you an opportunity to talk to professors you’ve never had.
Last week, I walked into Professor Heidt’s office hours for her signature on the declaration form for my English major. I’ve never taken a class with Professor Heidt—in fact, we’d only ever made eye contact a few times before this meeting. But she was so welcoming when I tentatively asked if she had time to answer a few questions. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so hesitant. Professors’ doors are open for a reason. The hardest part is convincing yourself to walk through them, sit down, and start talking.
So, you’re intimidated by office hours? I totally understand. Completely. They still scare me to some extent. But I dare you to try them—you’ll find that they really are as helpful, inspiring, and enlightening as everyone says they are.
Image credits: Taylor Hazan