Dear Olivia & Raquel — Romantic Feelings for my Professor!
I need your advice: I have romantic feelings for my professor! This never happened to me before, I don't know what to do!
This course is not part of my programme, I take it as a free elective. We get along very well but I think it's just because I'm closer to his age than the rest of the group (I already have an MA). I'm also an exchange student and while I chose this country because I intend to move here in the future, I still have to go home in July (and just thinking about it breaks my heart).
Obviously, I don't want to do anything direct and make it awkward for the rest of the semester: this is a professional working environment and I fully respect that. But it still hurts and I don't know how to deal with it. I don't even know his marital status, even though he's very informal with us.
He also organises a lot of extra activities (museum visits, film screenings, etc.) - should I just stop going to these to limit our interactions? Should I go and try to know him better and see what happens? Should I tell him how I feel when the semester is over and I'm heading home?
I don't see how this whole thing could end well - but I also feel too weak to just give up...
Our Editor-in-Chief, Olivia's Advice —
Thank you for writing to us. And yikes! This is a difficult situation. That you're older than your fellow students, closer in age to the professor, not in his program, and an exchange student certainly makes this overall better, but you are still his student at the end of the day. Consequently, I'd say that the only thing you can do is to do nothing at all. Go to class, go to the extra-curricular activities if they're intellectually enriching, but don't do anything beyond that. Some professors are just more informal in nature and don't mean anything by it. Crossing boundaries and flirting with students is a major red flag. You haven't said anything to suggest it, but if your professor's actually doing something to encourage your feelings, then keep in mind that he would not only be crossing those boundaries but would be abusing his power over you.
Of course, I understand that sometimes feelings can't be helped, so this remains difficult. I'm consequently passing this on to our Creative Director, Raquel.
Our Creative Director, Raquel's Advice —
Hi Anna. First of all, please don't ever let a man get in the way of your education. Go to class. Attend every single extracurricular activity. In five years, you're not going to regret going to the museum or film screening, you're going to regret staying home. Secondly, I wholeheartedly agree with Olivia's statement— if he has signaled any intentions or encouraged your feelings, this would be an abuse of his power and I'd strongly advise against any private interactions with him in general.
As for interactions in class, have you tried to make friends with your fellow classmates? I wonder if you feel closest to your professor because of this age difference you mention and you might feel like you have nothing in common with those around you, but I have to say some of the best friendships you can make are with people of different ages and programs, you never know what you could learn from them! And if you plan to stick around this university it couldn't hurt to make some connections.
At the end of the day, I know it seems like nothing I've said covers why Olivia's brought me here: the feelings. (If I could animate that last bit, I promise you there'd be all sorts of lightning bolts flashing around those two words. I'm dramatic.) But I think that's the point. You cannot act on the feelings but you can distract yourself while you figure the rest out, and it may seem like you can't control those either, but you can make the choice to try and move on. It's only going to get worse if you let yourself wallow in them, but having feelings for someone shouldn't stop you from living the rest of your life. Try writing about them in a journal so that they're not constantly revolving in your brain. Read some love stories to vicariously get a sense of a happy ending. You haven't mentioned whether you're having trouble in his class due to his presence but definitely focus on your schoolwork. You won't be in his class forever, you won't be a student at this university forever; these are the things you should enjoy now, and if you do end up living in the city as you anticipate and run into him at a coffee shop or something five years from now, you fully have my permission to walk up and say hi.