Letters from the dorm: Meaningful chats with professors

Letters from the dorm: Meaningful chats with professors

If you were to dive into my iCal or my folders, you would find tonnes of documents labelled "OH". It's not an exclamation, as much as I am always excited about it. Instead, "OH" is my abbreviation for Office Hours, an important part of my college experience.

I've always had a romanticised idea of Office Hours: a cozy afternoon where the sun shines gently into a book-filled office, with a brilliant scholar sitting behind a wooden table and enjoying a cup of tea while sharing his or her wisdom with a diligent student who is carefully taking notes. This is probably true. Let me explain my experience with OH so far.

As students, we absorb knowledge on a daily basis. Everywhere, not just in classrooms. OH lets us interact closely (in my case, almost always on a one-to-one basis) with scholars. These people give lectures, assign homework, grade papers and exams, but also publish their research findings in renowned academic journals and contribute new insights to the realm of academia.

I'm writing from the eccentric little town of Claremont, in the US state of California. A little story to finish this off: when I had breakfast at the local bakery at 6.30 one recent morning (jet-lagged and wishing that dining halls could open earlier), I spotted two professors whom I had seen last term, curiously sitting in the very same seats.

But even if they are creatures of habit, our professors are constantly thinking outside the box, all the while pushing the boundaries of knowledge and ways of thinking about something. They will use a base of accepted facts to come up with new and clever solutions and discoveries.

From my experience, even calculus OH is fun - and I'm not a maths person - when my professor shows me her yellow notepad filled with her unbelievably neat handwriting, and when I share the joys of solving a challenging problem with my peers who are also there.

Politics and history OH can be mind-blowing, when I learn about each professor's own areas of academic research. Spanish OH can extend beyond the field of literature to cover academic writing in general, as well as big philosophical questions.

Even if you don't want to be an academic or care about what life in academia is really like, these Office Hours discussions are always thought-provoking, and I feel like I have learned a lot from every single one of them.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Learning from the masters

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