Zubair Hirji
Zubair Hirji

“Most of my success in class comes from having constant communication with my professors and TAs. Having grown up with a university lecturer as my dad, your professors and TAs want to see you succeed as much as you do.”

— Zhi Wen Teh

University is likely the first time you’ll get to properly encounter the mystical being that is the professor! Believe it or not, most professors are actually there for you and actually care about your education. Here’s a little prof orientation for you.

Go with an open mind

Profs are very knowledgeable and are great resources to tap into. They all have different teaching styles, and it helps to be open to these as some may work well for you and some may challenge you. You’ll have to figure out what works. While you have an option to drop classes if you don’t like them, often you’ll find that profs have bountiful insight that may completely change the way you look at things.

Don’t be a ‘tourist’

Engage in class. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — talking in class is important to building your confidence, understanding the material, prompting discussions, making friends and getting to know your profs. They’re nerds but they can often be cool and funny and care about the ideas you have and the varying perspectives you bring. They want to hear you speak.

They treat you like adults

Unlike some high school teachers, most profs treat you like adults and with respect. They won’t force you to learn things or do homework and they’ll expect a level of accountability from you. They’ll be clear with what they expect from you and won’t hold your hand as you go through the term.

Profs are people

They care about you. They’re not robots and will empathize with you. It’s okay to approach them outside of class and to just talk to them. This also helps you build strong relationships with them. If they remember you, they’ll probably look out for you. This can also be helpful later when you’re looking for that sweet, sweet reference letter or just someone to validate your existence.

Be critical

Don’t be afraid to challenge your profs! It’s important to learn how to argue and to voice your own opinions within reason. Your ideas are just as valid coming from a student. Challenge the course material, the way concepts are taught and assumptions presented in class. This way you’ll win participation points AND respect.

Office hours

Go! To! Them! Attending your first office hour can be very intimidating. What do you even say? Honestly, depending on your prof it can also be awkward, but some can be charming and offer you an hour’s worth of fun anecdotes that have nothing to do with your course about Eastern European culture. You’ll never know until you try it out! Remember that profs are happy to see you. Some will even beg you to come because they’re lonely, some will give you incentives like meeting the office dog and some will even bribe you with tea and (sketchy) pineapple cookies. However it goes, being able to pick some of the smartest minds for half an hour is possibly one of the best university experiences.

I’m scared!

It’s okay! Start by asking questions and slowly progress to ideas. Many profs will help ease you into it with small group discussions — try finding your voice in those! It’s validating and reassuring talking to your peers first. Remember you’re not alone ­— some of the most intelligent fourth-years you’ll ever meet are also scared, but years of experience just teach you that it’s worth it and whatever you say is valuable. Even if your point is absolutely stupid, your prof will appreciate you garnering the courage to speak up, especially in a class full of people.

The online classes dilemma

Talking to your profs gets harder with online classes, but you can write them emails to introduce yourself and ask questions or share ideas. You can also attend virtual office hours from the comfort of your own home instead of fumbling through the confusing halls of the Anthropology & Sociology building looking for their office. In a time when socializing with other students or having the feeling of being in a classroom is significantly harder, your profs are your number one point for social connection.

You have a voice

While most profs you’ll encounter at UBC are going to be caring, insightful and respectful, you may also encounter some profs with whom you may have bad experiences. You may not agree with their problematic stances and some even buy into harmful prejudices. Remember that you don’t have to stand for any of it if it makes you uncomfortable and that there are resources and people you can talk to if you need.

Professors shape your university experience like nothing else. They help you find your voice and you are likely to find at least a couple who will inspire you profoundly during your time at UBC. Make use of the opportunities.

“Most of my success in class comes from having constant communication with my professors and TAs. Having grown up with a university lecturer as my dad, your professors and TAs want to see you succeed as much as you do.”

— Zhi Wen Teh
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