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How close is too close?


splendora

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A few professors in my department like to hang out at a local bar where graduate AND undergraduate students regularly show up and all (presumably) have a merry time socializing. I haven't gone drinking with professors (yet) but know a couple of undergrads who do. It makes me curious: what kind of relationship did/do you have with the professors who wrote/will write letters of recommendation for you? Are you like Ludwig Wittgenstein, who at Cambridge would show up at Bertrand Russell's room at night, literally imposing himself on the latter and steadily developing as a philosopher in front of his eyes? Do your professors know much about your personal life? Do you interact informally with them? Do you sometimes visit them in their office? Not at all? Often (and how do you define often)? Do you ask questions after each class? Do you discuss things beyond your particular academic field? Like what? How long is your typical office visit? And how is your relationship affected by gender differences/similarities? How far do you go to make sure your professors remember you? How do you say "goodbye" at the end of each year, knowing you'll see them again next year (i.e. several months later) and wanting them to remember you?

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Read this in the New York Times a little while ago:

>>As for Ludwig, the baby of the family, he seems to have had a sense of his genius from an early age. After finishing high school (where one of his classmates was Adolf Hitler), he decided to find a fellow genius who might serve as his mentor. His first choice was the great physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, but Boltzmann hanged himself before Wittgenstein could meet him. In 1911, Wittgenstein sought out Bertrand Russell in Cambridge. Russell was initially wary of the strange (and startlingly handsome) young Viennese, who would show up in his rooms late at night to stutter out philosophical monologues, pacing

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Well, Wittgenstein's got me beat (for pretty much everything, actually, but that's no surprise): I've never walked into a professor's place unannounced in the middle of the night. But, I'm lucky to be able to count my former professors among my closest of friends--we definitely know a lot about each others' personal lives, and I've gotten used to it. Being as I never initiated any awkward personal talk, and they contact me about their "life stuff" about as often--maybe even more often--than I contact them about mine, it feels natural, and not, for lack of a better word, creepy. We've been out drinking together, yes, and I've been over to a handful of their houses, met their families, etc. Maybe it's a Cambridge thing--and it's one of the things I love about the area!

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I just got home after spending the last few hours at one of my reference letter writer's house. We were watching basketball and talking about comic books, grad school for next year, what he's teaching next year and historian gossip. We hang out and go see movies, plays, sporting events, etc. and he's been here for dinner more than a few times. He's on sabbatical and when I was actually taking classes with him we weren't as close... I helped him move once... he's a friend who I happened to meet because he was one of my professors.

My supervisor for next year has offered to let me and my partner stay at his house when we go up in a few months to look for an apartment. He's called me and we've talked on the phone. I also met his partner (who also teaches in the program me and my partner will be entering in the fall) for coffee a few weeks ago and I am friends/co-workers with her son/my supervisor's step-son.

It really depends on a lot of things. Everyone is different and everyone's professional/academic relationships are different.

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One of my most important recommenders was both my work supervisor (PI on a study while I was a RA) and academic adviser. However, we had a very open relationship. I could come talk to her about anything that was going on and I actively asked her for advice. I'd see her at social functions thrown by the school and mingle at school parties (which included alcohol). So I don't think associating with your recommenders outside of school is such a huge deal. I wouldn't call her up randomly and ask to hang out, but then again, she's like 55 and I'm 25.

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