When I became an international studies major at Hopkins, I didn’t initially conceive of it as being interdisciplinary. As I continued to take courses, I realized the wide expanses of the major and how distinct each branch of the international studies curriculum was. A common advice college students receive is go to office hours. But the first month in, I kept psyching myself out by thinking my questions weren’t intelligent or complex enough to bring to my infinitely more educated professors.  

When I went to my first office hours with Professor David for Contemporary International Politics, I realized my fears were unfounded. Professor David was enthusiastic about answering my questions and getting to know me and my experiences. I even found out he knew quite a bit of Chinese! I would advise entering office hours with at least one question in mind and to relax; the conversation will flow more naturally than you might believe. Professors are not answering robots—they’re curious about your personal and academic interests. The even better news is professors help nudge the discussion forward, so you’ll never have to sit in awkward silence.      

In the spring semester, I made a concerted effort to attend more office hours. I’ve found going to them enhances my understanding and performance in the course. I’m currently taking Colonialism in East Asia and Its Contested Legacies with Professor Kuo. Like many college classes, the lessons are dense. A good trick I developed was to mark down areas I wanted her to elaborate on during office hours. Going to them helps me delve deeper into the readings, and talking to Professor Kuo gives me the opportunity to learn beyond what was taught in class.  

One of the misconceptions I had was office hours had to be strictly about academics. But experience has taught me professors are excited to talk about a wide range of topics. As the class covers Hong Kong—which is where I’m from—Professor Kuo and I often exchange stories and perspectives about a city we both have lived in. These conversations have furthered my interest in the subject and guided my choices for future course selections. As an international studies student, I have the privilege of experiencing small class sizes. This makes going to office hours even more beneficial because I can get direct feedback on my writing from my professors.

As important as academic advisors and professors are in directing my college journey, I have also found mentorship in my peers. Part of the international studies department is the International Studies Mentorship Program. The program connects mentees to juniors and seniors who serve as a resource for all kinds of inquiries. My mentor, Tess, has been a great person to get class and professor recommendations from during course registration.

After a semester in college, I’ve learned mentorship can be found everywhere, and in a diverse community like Hopkins, those opportunities will be available if you keep yourself open to them.