When I began my journey at UC Riverside, one of my anxieties was going to talk to my professor either about the content of the class or their advice to reach my professional and academic goals. I spent my first year at UCR avoiding the professor’s office hours and made every attempt to speak to my teaching assistants instead.
I was intimidated by all my professors. I felt very anxious to talk to them because I thought I could not contribute to a meaningful conversation with them. I did not feel intelligent enough to speak to them. If I ever needed to email my professor, I would go to the tutoring center and have another set of eyes to proofread my email. I would constantly doubt my abilities. I was terrified that they would think I was not smart enough to be in their class.
During the past academic year at UCR, I committed myself to get over my anxieties and get out of my comfort zone. Since I had no problem speaking to the teaching assistants, I asked them for their input about approaching professors. All the teaching assistants that I talked to assured me that there was absolutely nothing to fear.
One teaching assistant told me, “Professors were once undergraduate students too, and they understand it might be intimidating to speak to them.”
After my teaching assistants encouraged me to talk to my professors, I was eager and motivated to go to my professors’ office hours. I still remember that brief feeling of anxiety as I was standing in front of my professor’s door waiting my turn for her to explain to me the prisoner’s dilemma. My hands were trembling as I took a seat in my professor’s office, and my throat was dry. Although I was overcome with anxiety, I was able to ask my question and gained a greater understanding of that concept.
I advise anyone who is anxious about talking to your professors to go ahead and do it. The thought of engaging with your professor is scarier than actually doing it. I have come a long way from that moment of fear in front of my professor’s office. Now I am unafraid to ask my professors to explain a concept or ask for research opportunities and career advice.
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