A little background about me: I am an undergraduate engineering student (graduating in June 2022) currently doing my semester of bachelors. In my penultimate year, I did a research internship with an overseas university with a great professor. Although I learned a lot from that internship, I would be lying to say that I enjoyed my time. The work was pretty tedious and the tools were not at all helping me in any way. I grew frustrated. The task was large and often I ended up getting scolded by him. The expectations were high, weekly deliverables were massive and I was often left helpless without much resources both on the internet and text. Although I was able to complete my stipulated internship duration of 6 months under him, he asked to work informally under him, even remote, without an incentive as long as I could. I worked for a month more but then graciously asked my supervisor to relieve me of my duties as my home college session had started and I had to return to campus full-time.

Present: It's been almost 5 months now since I ended my internship and although I hated my internship work, I wrote an email to him thanking him for all the good learnings I had under his guidance and wished him a very happy new year. Today (after 10 days of wishing), he e-mailed me with the proposition to work under for the same role, the same task again. I would not want to work under him again (as I believe my interests vary from the internship and my struggles) but I don't want to hurt him as he is a very good and humble human and lots of students would love to grab the opportunity he's extending to me.

How should I decline the proposition of working under him, politely? We're about to have a team meeting online this week? Any suggestion is welcome as to how to deal with the situation as I am clueless about this.

  • 2
    "Thank you for the kind offer. Unfortunately, I already have other commitments."
    – user9482
    Jan 25, 2022 at 13:27
  • 1
    Do you have other opportunities?
    – Buffy
    Jan 25, 2022 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


I can't give a recommendation about whether you should accept the opportunity or not, but I can suggest a two-fold plan for making the decision.

First, is that you should consider what other opportunities you have at the moment. One of them is to just focus on coursework, but there may be other things with other professors. Try to rank these in some way though precise linear rank may not be possible. I'd assume, from what you say that this one would rank pretty low.

Second, and possibly more important, is to consider both the short term and the long term. Short term pain for long term benefit is often a good tradeoff. You probably take some courses that you'd rather not, but they may open some doors later.

Depending on the status of that professor and the perceived value of the project (to others as well as yourself), you might come to the decision that it has potential. In particular, you will eventually need good letters of recommendation for your next steps.

Don't ignore the "pain" factor, but evaluate it in terms of other longer term benefits that might come.

But try to find the sweet spot between the two considerations; current opportunities and short v long term considerations.

And, if you do decide that declining is your best option, then just say thanks but you have other things/requirements/options that, at the moment, make it impossible for you to accept.

  • Thanks, @Buffy for your advice. Pointing down the pros and cons in a ranked list should definitely help me. I shall do that pronto. I do have other opportunities and they diverge from the current field of work(research). I will do keep all other factors in mind while ranking. Letter of recommendation is what led me to the dilemma. If I decline the opportunity, he might get offended and I may end up in his not so good books. I definitely want to avoid it. But anyway working on that project seems a bit too tightly stretched for me right now. I shall also evaluate that accordingly.
    – Ravi
    Jan 25, 2022 at 17:26
  • 1
    There is no reason for him to get offended, but who can predict personalities. It seems like you've done the right thing up to now in keeping it positive.
    – Buffy
    Jan 25, 2022 at 17:36

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