Anyone who has attended college knows that the typical student-professor relationship is one of authority figure vs. faceless "cog" in the system - unless the student actively chooses to go out of their way to attend office hours (normally in a dire situation) and happens to develop a deeper relationship with the professor there. It is very easy to coast through college without seeking out these professor-student relationships because in the end, grades are considered to be the end-all-be-all of our academic experience. Why would we waste precious nap time to talk to a professor unless we are begging for extra credit opportunities?
I am currently studying abroad all over Greece for five weeks for Villanova's communication program, and only a week into the trip the majority of my profesor/student interaction misconceptions have been shattered. In this program we are staying in various hotels around the Grecian islands, so this means we are living in extremely close quarters with both of our professors. This program is so unique since we do see our professors for scheduled class time almost every day, but we also see them during breakfast, before we go out to whatever club in Mykonos we chose for that night, and often bump into them on the way back home from said club. While it takes a certain type of adult to be cool with seeing young adults behaving in their natural environments and perhaps now legally drinking at a younger age than we are all accustomed to, the fact that these adults are also the professors that are responsible for our safety over these five weeks has the potential to completely change this dynamic for the worse; something I have yet to see.
Both of our professors are very special individuals who I already immensely appreciate, and I am able to appreciate them so much due to their comfort in challenging the expected roles of their positions. In a location such as Greece where cultural immersion is such an important aspect of the experience, we would all miss out on so much of the potential of the program if the professors didn't go out to eat or occasionally drink with us, and only spoke to us during the hour and a half of each class period. A unique bond is able to form when you have professors that relinquish some of their power to the students and create a space for teaching and learning both ways, because they are able to recognize that even though we are here to learn from them, us students each hold our own knowledge and experiences we are able to share with the group for the betterment of everyone.
I truly believe that the traditional classroom space impedes the capacity of learning, as it is often so intimidating to many students. With such a clear line of who "knows" and who "doesn't", organic relationships cannot form due to such a focus on grades and memorizing information, rather than connecting such abstract concepts that are in the communication field to practical, real-world contexts. The best classes I have had on this trip so far have been the ones where I did not even realize I was connecting key communication concepts to daily life on this program, then expanding them to the "real" world. Nothing is more valuable to a student than knowing that the content we are spending our time and effort learning will actually be useful to our lives outside of that course.
Being able to relax with and really talk to my professors for the first time in my two years in college has been an eye-opening experience that I will remember just as much as I'll fondly look back on Tropicana in Mykonos. Here it is so easy to capitalize on the opportunity to learn from such intelligent people, and have them challenge you in ways that would not be possible in a conventional learning environment. No one knows everything- we are all learners, and we are all teachers in our own ways. It's the way these roles are used that is what is impactful in the long run.