I Think My Professor is Following Me

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Reader’s Question

I don’t know how to get out of this situation. My instructors at college were friendly and guided me very well. As a newcomer to this country, I needed references. The problem occurred with one instructor whom I really admired.

I started receiving strange emails to an account which I used only for applying for jobs and references. He was the only male faculty member I was communicating with using this email. The emails were directing me to dating sites. I visited these sites but could not find the username he gave on the email. I also received strange phone calls and text messages.

Then I noticed there were a number of cars following me wherever I go. I even got a glimpse of him once. After a few days I was panicky and went to my home country for a break. There were at least six or seven people who travelled with me. In fact, I saw him in one of the transit airports, so as soon as I reached my home town I called him to ask if he was also flying. He said no, he was busy and asked me to email him. I wrote to him explaining everything and also asked about my status. He replied asking me not to contact him in the future, as otherwise he would report me to the police. I was really taken aback.

People are still following me; he has some very good connections and I see some cops are also part of it. I even get junk emails asking me to leave my marriage. I have two kids and I was always in this relationship, although the year all this started I was staying in a different city and we did have some differences. My kids were with me. I did not say any of this to my husband because our culture does not accept any of this and it is very rigid. Now I have moved back to my old city to stay with my husband.

I don’t know what happened to this person. I have not seen him. The trucks keep following me everywhere, but no one dares talk to me. Plus these people bring FedEx vehicles, courier vehicles and an action bus for physically challenged people. I keep getting emails in these recent months about inheritances. They also bring to my attention all those things I wrote on the email to him about his bike and grey truck. I am feeling guilty.

I called him to ask how he was doing; he just said that he does not want to talk to me. I really liked him. We can still be friends. I’m ready to forget and forgive him. All these frustrations are taking a toll on me. I can’t have a normal conversation with my husband. I feel like I’m the cause of all this. I think my emails were misinterpreted. What should I do in a situation like this? I do not have any friends in this country apart from my husband and kids.

Psychologist’s Reply

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The first thing you should do is stop trying to communicate with this professor. He has clearly requested that you no longer contact him, so you need to respect his wishes. Your emails may have been misinterpreted but there is nothing you can do about that. Given the friendly and helpful nature of your relationship with this professor, it is possible that you thought there was more of a friendship present than there was. However, his interactions with you were in the context of his job and the injection of your personal feelings may have made him uncomfortable.

Although I have no way of knowing for certain, I am wondering if the cultural differences between countries have made you more anxious than is necessary. Several of the things you mentioned, like the emails directing you to dating sites, asking you to get out of your marriage and talking about inheritances, sound like common junk emails that everyone gets. Spammers (people who send emails trying to get you to send money or buy their project) are very good at obtaining your email address, so it did not have to come from someone you know. I’ve also received “spam” text and voicemail messages. Without hearing or seeing the actual messages, it’s difficult to know for sure but these could be something you’re not used to and, as such, may be nothing to worry about.

Similarly, I am wondering whether the cars following you are merely business vehicles that have routine stops at locations you frequently visit. It would be extremely difficult for one individual to use FedEx trucks, courier vans and buses used to transport the physically challenged to stalk or follow someone. Given that you’re not from the country, maybe you can ask your husband about them and see what he thinks. Once again, it could merely be something you’re not used to. The only way to know for sure is if you get the opinion of others. I definitely urge you to consult your physician as well to see if she or he has any advice to offer.

Finally, it sounds like you are very lonely and feel isolated from others. That may be one of the reasons why you are so focused on the professor who was kind to you. New situations are very difficult to manage, especially when you are very busy with a career and young children to manage. Are there places you can go or groups you can attend which would help you meet new friends? It frequently can be useful to find people besides your husband who can help you get accustomed to a new place and different customs.

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