Hi everyone! This week has been uncharacteristically warm for this time of the year in Cambridge. I feel like the sunny weather serves as a reflection of my current mood, because I have some great news to share with you all! I have officially completed New Year’s Resolution #4. Looking back on my post about the New Year (#auldlangsyne), you might remember that my fourth resolution was to attend at least one Office Hours session for each of the classes that I am taking this semester. Well, I am happy to report that I have officially accomplished that mission.
Actually, I like to think that I went above and beyond my set goal. A few weeks ago, I went to Office Hours for my English Seminar on the Civil War, taught by Professor John Stauffer. I was incredibly excited about our meeting, because he is one my favorite professors at the college. In fact, I took a lecture course with him in the fall called American Protest Literature, but I never took the time to speak with him outside of lecture. Since I was already stepping outside of my comfort zone by attending Office Hours, I decided to “go big” and invite him to join me for the Pforzheimer House Student Faculty Dinner.
Every semester, Harvard students have the opportunity to invite a professor, advisor, or teaching fellow (TF) to a Student Faculty Dinner. For the freshman students, the dinner is hosted in Annenberg Hall (the freshman dining hall). However, for upperclassmen, the faculty members are invited to dine with you in your respective house.
Unfortunately, he was giving an evening guest lecture on the date of the dinner, and so he had to decline my invitation. However, in an unexpected (but welcome) turn of events, my professor suggested that we make separate plans so that we could still have a one-on-one discussion. We decided to meet for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the Square, and the English Department was kind enough to sponsor our outing.
I have to admit that leading up to the dinner I was a little nervous about how things would play out. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold up my end of the conversation, or that the discussion would be inorganic and awkward. It turns out that I had nothing to fear, because my professor was as dynamic one-on-one in a casual setting as he is in the classroom. We were in the restaurant for about two hours, and in that time we discussed my academic interests, my plans for my thesis (talk about thinking ahead), and he even offered me some course suggestions for next fall. More importantly, he took the time to get to know me as an individual. We shared stories about our backgrounds, touching on our families, hobbies, and other interests. It was an incredibly positive experience, and my only regret is not reaching out to a professor earlier on in my college experience.
Meeting with my Professor for dinner was, without a doubt, one of the best experiences that I have had in my time here at Harvard. It’s reassuring to know that even though a lot of the professors here are well known (and tragically busy), they will still take the time to get to know their students. That being said, I realize that I may have never had this memorable experience if I hadn’t taken the initiative to go to Office Hours, or if I hadn’t taken a risk and invited my professor to the Faculty Dinner. Hopefully I will continue to reach out to my professors and teaching fellows, so that I can have similar experiences in my future at the College.