A Letter to my Chemistry Professor

Dear Professor,

When I heard your voice at the cafe, I felt as if I was somehow transported back to my first semester freshman year, in your Chemistry class of one hundred odd Honors students. I remember how passionate your voice was as you taught us about bonds and solutions as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world, which, to you, they were. And although I have never liked Chemistry, when I heard the excitement and reverence in your voice as you shared with us a snippet of your field of expertise, I started to respect and honor Chemistry for the first time. I still do not like it to this day but I can respect it for the field it is and the people who have dedicated their lives to the field.

I wanted to thank you for teaching Chemistry so passionately, but you were in a conversation with another professor. I hope that this letter will be enough to share with you the impact you had on my life, in a way that you probably didn’t anticipate.Β 

When I saw you getting that excited about Chemistry, it made me wonder why I wasn’t the same way with engineering. Of course, there are rough moments in everything we love, but still, I never saw myself getting that excited about Engineering in the way you did about Chemistry. It was the first hairline crack that would eventually grow into a chasm that freed me to my new major, International Studies. I still respect Engineering and applaud those in the field, but it is not for me. Now, finally, in my major, I am talking about the topics in my class in the same manner you are.

But nothing is perfect, of course. This is only my second semester in my new major and I’m being stretched more than before as I’m taking all upper level courses and Mandarin. I’m busier than ever, but I’m not complaining. There’s so much to learn and the more I learn, the more wonderful and beautiful the world becomes.

The one difference, then, is that compared to freshman Ashley, I don’t know, or perhaps, I’m not as confident of what I’ll do when I’m done here. Freshman Ashley thought that she had everything planned up until her first job, which she’d get right after graduating (of course, right?). But Junior Ashley is not so sure, but she is figuring things out, step by step, and not worrying so much about it because she knows that there’s a plan in store for her and has been since the beginning of time.

It makes me wonder, then, what your story is.Β As I was getting my Biomedical Engineering advisor’s signature to switch out of BME, he told me how he ended up where he was, a professor also doing research. His story wasn’t smooth, either, but in the end, he landed where he was meant to be. And I think that’s super encouraging, that in the end, once the dust settles, I’ll land wherever I’m supposed to be.

Thank you for starting me on a journey that would lead me to where I am now. Although the future isn’t crystal clear for me now, I believe that it will be one day.

Thank you for teaching with such energy that made me think deeper about why I was in my major.

Sincerely,

Ashley Chong

///

Don’t worry, I didn’t actually send this to my Principles of Chemistry professor; or, maybe I should? It’s pretty out of the blue and he most likely doesn’t remember me (too many students haha) but it might encourage him? I’m not sure.

Either way, I wanted to at least write this out as some sort of release of my thoughts.

~ajc

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