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A Thank-You Letter to My Professor, From a Student With OCD

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If I was asked what my favorite class is in college so far, it would hands-down be a course called Ecology of Human Parasites. The material was fascinating, and because of the course I am definitely considering studying parasites after I finish my undergraduate degree. Beyond the material of the course, the other factor that made the class memorable was the awesome professor who taught it. She was always friendly, impressively smart and enthusiastic about the material. She was also the first person outside of my family and friends or strangers who I told about my obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is not an easy boundary to cross. Luckily the conversation went well, and the class never really ended because I asked to be a research student in her lab.

I wanted to find a way to thank my professor for all she has done for me so far. She might not be aware of how much she helped me, but since I often become shy in person, writing seemed like the best option.

Here is a thank you letter to my professor.

Dear Chelsea,

Thank you for not asking too many questions last year when I handed you my testing accommodations form, but thank you for kindly listening when I wanted to explain more. Using accommodations was something new to me that year and was still nerve-wracking, but you treated it like something I shouldn’t be ashamed about.

Thank you for believing me when I told you I have OCD and not viewing it as a joke. It’s unfortunately not the most common response I get, so when it does happen it means a lot.

Thank you for treating it like no big deal when I took longer than the other students to finish exams, instead of acting annoyed that I might have been wasting your time.

Thank you for believing I could do well in your class. At the time it was stressful because I didn’t want to disappoint you, but it certainly pushed me and helped me believe in myself.

Thank you for being encouraging and hopeful when I told you I was taking time off from school to do more intensive treatment. Your advice that “School isn’t going anywhere and it will still be here when you’re feeling better!” helped me feel more comfortable with the tough decision.

Thank you for asking “How are you?” or “How are classes going?” and truly meaning it.

Thank you for casually mentioning your own stress in conversations from time to time. It helped normalize something that can often feel isolating.

Thank you for once telling me you weren’t very good at math. At the time you might not have realized the enormous effect that simple sentence had on me, but I did. Hearing you are imperfect made it feel OK for me to be imperfect. (I am horrendous at geography and history.)

Thank you for being a role model as a female scientist and professor. I look up to you immensely and something that motivates me through exposures is the dream to one day be like you.

Thank you for treating me like a person (who just happens to have anxiety), instead of something less than that.

And last but not least, thank you for teaching me about parasites and ecology.


Originally published: March 1, 2016
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