The price we pay?

The long-distance relationship format sucks in almost all types of relationships, except academic/professional relationships.

Yet, it seems to have become an unwritten rule that if you want to make it in academia, you have to move around, and preferably abroad. What kind of fucked up rule is this, really? When I finished my PhD, I have applied for postdoctoral positions in several universities in my own country, and was never even invited. I am pretty sure that this had very little to do with my letter writing or my cv, as being hired abroad was a piece of cake. For reference, I applied to four foreign postdoc positions, all in excellent institutes (one at SLU in Sweden, two at Uni Göttingen and one at TU München in Germany), was invited for all four, got job offers from the first three (and cancelled the last interview because I accepted the third offer).

Ironically, I have been doing totally fine in keeping up professional ties to former institutes and still have many active long-distance collaborations that are mutually beneficial.

What has truly suffered are the friendships*, the family relationships**, the sense of belonging***.

Sometimes I wonder what I am trying to prove…

——————————————————————————————————————————————–* Some friendships suffered because of the other party moving away, and me staying, others have suffered from me moving away.

** No matter how far you move, family will still be family in a couple of years. However, my son growing up with his great-grandparents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and a nephew being only in an on-screen format… Ouch, that hurts. Expecting our second child and not being able to share the joy with the extended family is also an interesting experience. Covid has made it worse, as we would probably have spent more time ‘back home’ if travel wasn’t so difficult and an additional risk.

*** Don’t get me wrong. I like it here, and the longer I am here, the more I appreciate Bavaria and its people. But I feel that most of the non-locals here struggle with finding a sense of ‘belonging’. That is probably true for any place that has 50% internationals and 50% very traditional locals.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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