Talk To Your Professors
In an all girl's public school in Dhaka, my class always had 90+ students and it was always difficult for the teachers to retain the attention of everyone. I can perhaps count the times I have had a proper conversation with teachers about anything outside the syllabus. Now, at a university in Hong Kong, I took classes by different types of professors from around the world, and my interaction with them has completely changed from what it used to be in Bangladesh.
Before I had declared a major, I was taking general requirements like Math and Physics. These were classes held in big auditoriums with hundreds of freshmen. I was a shy foreigner and would never interact in these classes, ending up never even going down to the professor and asking them questions if I had any.
In second year, I remember meeting my department head and talking to him about my aspirations as an engineer, and him spilling out stories about his university life. I was surprised that there could be such friendly, up close and personal conversations while being respectful to the professor. With this group of engineering professors, my batchmates and I have had game nights, pizza parties, and heated arguments about studies. While we are extremely professional during class hours, we can also joke around as long as it is appropriate and I think that's something that really motivated me to study better and pay more attention in class.
If you are a high schooler both intimidated by and excited about how to build and foster relationships with your professors in university, I have a few tips for you.
ASK GOOD QUESTIONS
In both large and small classes, the best way to grab professors' attention is to ask them good questions - within and outside the curriculum. I think that really helped me stand out among a lot of students in a classroom.
BE PROFESSIONAL BUT ALSO FRIENDLY
Like any healthy relationship, boundaries are extremely important especially in terms of approaching professors. I would recommend not asking about their personal lives if they don't bring it up themselves, but I would also recommend following up if they do mention anything about their personal lives to not seem ignorant and unempathetic.
UPDATE THEM ON YOUR WORK
This is a good way to not just improve your relationship with the professors but also to let them know you value their advice and remind them about opportunities suitable for you. I usually send them emails if I have any awards I won, or found a good research paper they might like.
I think the takeaway from this would be to remember that while there are so many variables about how your relationship with your teachers might be, it all does depend on you and them as people in general.
If you can't get through to a professor, that's okay; we are only human. Piggybacking on the same point about being human, it's also good to note that professors are super busy humans too and just asking them about their wellbeing might be a great way to start up a conversation that might lead to an amazing teacher-student relationship.
Mashiat Lamisa studies Integrative Systems and Design at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Write to her at email@example.com