Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Planning Ahead…And, Sometimes, Afar

Monday, April 4, 2011

Planning Ahead…And, Sometimes, Afar

Graduation is around the corner for many of us, including myself (that is, as long as I passed my comps.*fingers crossed*). That also means that job search time has arrived. And I’m sure many of you, both Master’s and Ph.D. students, are in the same boat. Or maybe some of you have already found jobs (in which case: Congratulations!). In any case, April seems to be the month to reflect on what life will be like next year, especially for those of us leaving Fordham.

Despite the continuing cold weather this year, that seems pretty appropriate, doesn’t it? April: The time to look forward to your new life as the spring season begins and new life begins to grow around us.
At least, it seems appropriate in New York, where the weather patterns match (or, at least, should match) my lovely hackneyed metaphor.

But some of us, including me, are not looking for jobs in New York. You may be looking to move somewhere relatively closeby, such as Philadelphia, or you may be interviewing for a job in Texas. Some of you probably already have jobs in places as far as California, or maybe even somewhere in Europe or Asia.

The thing is, next year a lot of us will have more than just a location change to adapt to. Besides having to deal with the moving vans and being away from a place we’ve grown comfortable in, any of us will have to deal with culture shock. Yes, even those of us relocating within the US. That’s one of the things that’s so interesting about the United States…we have so many different American identities within our one country.

Everyone who has grown up on the East Coast has heard, for example, “West Coast people are different.” Why? “They just smile ALL the time,” one friend who lived in California for 7 years explained to me recently (as opposed to people in England, who apparently never smile. If that's true, I’ll blame it on the weather). Even in a place as close as Boston I have been told I "dress very New York.” Honestly, I don’t even know what that means. I was wearing black jeans and a white t-shirt when I first got this comment. But, anyway, you know that this country is diverse (even beyond differences in race and culture) when you travel four hours on a bus and all of a sudden your clothes can define what city you’re from.

So how is this timely musing going to help you, dear readers? Well, for anyone considering a job somewhere they’ve never lived before, I suggest spending at least a weekend if not a week in the place before you decide. I know some of you may not have that option, either because you can’t take the time to do that or simply because, for any number of reasons, you have to take that job in Arizona. But what I learned from being a transfer student in undergrad. is that anywhere you live, learn, or work becomes a kind of home to you. I mean the place itself and the city or town around it. So you can’t just look at a place and think about all the practical pros and cons. You have to think of how you fit in with the culture and the people (and even the climate), and how you will feel defining yourself by it for at least a few years (e.g. If everyone smiling all the time is going to have some sort of reverse effect on you and make you want to punch people, maybe you shouldn’t move to California. Just sayin’).

So good luck to everyone reading this who’s on the job market, academic or otherwise. And remember to shop for a home, not just a school, job, or place to live.

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