What we mean by “Undergraduate Focus”

In the midst of a chaotic midterm season, I found myself seated in an elaborately decorated room with a classmate. But rather than stressing over looming deadlines and late night study sessions, we found ourselves enchanted by scents of the apartment.  We didn’t spend that night cramming for quizzes. Instead, we discussed the Spring Revolution with our professor, the former Egyptian ambassador, over a home cooked Egyptian meal. It was then that I truly realized what the vague phrase “undergraduate focus” really meant.

My high school conception of college professors situated them in a gray room, with minimal lighting, surrounded by stacks of dusty old books. Looking back, I realize that I was very (very) off the mark on that. Within the first week of classes, I began to realize just how invested the professors were with their work as instructors.  In fact, by the second day of shopping period, I noticed how professors’ instructions were always followed by an emphasis on their availability during office hours. Nonetheless, it still took me a while to shake off my presumptions, as I remained apprehensive about approaching professors after class.

My first visit to office hours shall forever be remembered as that day my hands just wouldn’t stop sweating.  I desperately tried to dry them against my jeans as I ran a million different scenarios in my head; each one seemed to involve the many ways in which I would end up asking a silly question and then receive a disapproving nod in return. I was meeting with my professor to discuss essay topics for the upcoming paper. To my surprise, we ended up spending almost a quarter of my visit talking about the actual paper and the rest, exchanging movie recommendations and anecdotes about our lives. Office hours weren’t what I made them out to be at all. In fact, my professors advice for improvement did not leave feeling dejected, but rather got me excited about my writing and had me practically sprinting back to my room to jot down all my new ideas on paper. 

Since then, I’ve had several dinners with professors and some profoundly enlightening conversations during office hours.  From Creative Writing in Spanish, to First Order Logic, to Conflict and Resolution in the Middle East, I’ve always found the professors and TAs to be incredibly approachable. Not once have I encountered anyone who vaguely fit my “old rickety office” stereotype.  I am beginning to think that it might just be a rather pervasive myth.