Ask any international student about their experience studying abroad, and they will likely describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. While it is an exciting milestone for many, students might not fully utilise the benefits available at their institutions.
Take it from Dr. Aditi Paul, an Associate Professor at Pace University. Thanks to her meetings with professors, the Indian native discovered an opportunity to pursue her PhD in the US. In fact, Paul advises international students to go the extra mile beyond attending lectures, by intentionally building relationships with their professors.
An analysis of 46 studies showed that a positive teacher and student relationship enhances nearly every measurable aspect of academic success. Students are more likely to attend class, achieve higher grades, and graduate when they know — and care about — their professors.
With that said, here’s why you should meet with your professors as an international student:
Meetings with professors: 4 benefits for international students
1. Most professors have allocated “office hours” every week.
According to Paul, most US universities make it compulsory for professors to include information about their office hours in the syllabus. Alternatively, you can find this information posted on the professor’s office doors. Post COVID-19, students can even meet with their professors online via Zoom.
Tim Samoff, a professor at Azusa Pacific University, concurs. “One of the things students don’t know is that most professors are actually chomping at the bit to do office hours,” Samoff says. “We are there to teach and make connections with students. When we do have office hours and no one shows up, we assume that students are doing okay and are not feeling overwhelmed.”
2. You can build meaningful relationships with your professors
Knowing your professors is a great way to strengthen relationships and showcase your personality. This investment will pay off in the form of a recommendation letter or reference for your first job.
“Office hours are a way for professor and student to communicate outside of the pressure and sometimes hurried nature of a class,” Katherine Merseth, a Senior lecturer on education at the Graduate School of Education, shares in an interview with the Harvard Gazette.
You can also have a chat about their past work and accomplishments. Who knows? You may be inspired or discover new research ideas.
3. Meetings with professors today can help you plan the future.
As experienced researchers in their fields, professors are great people to reach out to if you need to figure out life after graduation.
“My students would often come to my office hours to figure out their graduate school plans — what they need to do, how to go about it, and the do’s and don’t of it all,” Paul says.
Annette Gordon-Reed, a history professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, echoes similar sentiments: “Visits earlier in the semester are more often about career path questions or other life issues.”
4. You can clarify doubts about your course materials outside the classroom
Do you need guidance to help narrow down research paper topics? Struggling to understand a key concept taught earlier in the semester? One-on-one meetings with professors are the perfect time to raise these issues for you to receive personal feedback on how you can succeed.
“In my first year of PhD at Bowling Green State University, I took a course on statistics for social science. Since it was my first time studying the topic, I would visit my professor during office hours every week,” Paul shares. “Here, I would ask for more clarification of my weekly assignments to ensure I was on the right track.”