Professor Distance

I don’t think I have told this story before, so I’ll tell it now. At the beginning of my second year of college, a lady asked me at a bus stop which bus to take to go to the university. I, of course, was also headed that way. I may have at one point asked her why she was headed there, or else she offered me the information, and I discovered she was to speak at a conference later that year and attend some other ones during her current time there. She was from Canada, and an older lady, probably in her 50’s. I was intrigued by the light conversation we were making, so I asked if she wouldn’t mind if I sat with her on the bus ride.

During the 15-minute ride, she gave me one piece of advice that I thought was wise. She said that she never went to a professor’s home, even if the professor was female. She said it wasn’t because of some fear that a professor would take advantage of her or anything like that, but that by staying away from their personal space, there is a healthy, unspoken ‘distance’ between them. She said, she had no problem meeting with one for coffee, lunch and the like. She was saying, once you’ve broken that personal barrier of going to their home, the relationship can’t feel completely professional. You can keep it professional by keeping the setting professional.

I doubt that there would have been such an occasion that I would find myself in a professor’s home, but there was one smaller, private university that I applied to and visited where it was said that professors would invite students to their home. This was partially because many of the professors lived close to the school; it made sense, considering it had a rural college-town feel. A student had mentioned to me how she, or her friend, had the experience of being able to go to their professor’s home with some of the other students and bake cookies or something of that nature, and then talk about the course contents together. It sounds warm enough to the extent that I wouldn’t think anything of it, but I do think that piece of advice that woman offered is wise.

This is the kind of distance that participants of the JET program probably want to maintain. I had heard before coming on the program it would not be uncommon for students of the same-gender as the participant to try to come to the participant’s living quarters. Fortunately, as is said for participants, every situation is different. I don’t have that problem, and hopefully won’t have that problem.