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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Community

As I'm looking ahead to my move to Medium-Sized City this summer, I'm starting to wonder/worry about how I'm going to make friends and establish a sense of community there. The city itself seems like it has the potential to be cool--it's bigger than Grad School City (where I was very happy living), and has even more in the way of dining, arts, and entertainment options. I'm also looking forward to living in a large, beautiful apartment for not much more than I paid for my tiny grad school studio (and certainly less than I'm paying now!). But this will be the first move I've made since coming East for college where I haven't had pre-existing friends either in the exact location that I'm moving to or no more than an hour or two away. This time, my closest friend will be a five or six hour drive away.

And. . . how does one make new friends, anyway? There are one's colleagues, of course, and I'm excited that there are so many young ones at DRU--but although all the recent hires seem like a lot of fun, most a) don't live in Medium-Sized City itself, and b) don't necessarily seem like people I'd be close to outside of work, even if they were excellent work friends. I got a good vibe from one of them, whom I'm hopeful about, and I know that there will be all the other new-new hires starting in the fall--but one doesn't want to be purely dependant on one's colleagues for one's social life.

However, apart from them, I'm going to know exactly one person in MSC: a fellow INRU grad student, from a different department, just got a job at the local research university. I think we've only actually spoken once, but we know each other by sight and we know a few people in common, so I went ahead and emailed her to say, "Hey! We barely know each other! But I bet you don't know anyone else in MSC, either--let's trade contact information and totally be BFF!" (Fortunately, she wasn't freaked out by this.)

I'm also a little anxious about the scholarly community. The department at DRU seems great, but there's only one other person in my field. Maybe there's a regional, subfield-specific reading group? I know that many of the DRU faculty in different fields belong to reading and support groups that draw from a variety of local universities. If there isn't one, I guess I could try to start one. (You know, with all those connections I have in the area.)

But as worry-making as some of this is, and as torn as I am about leaving my friends, this city, and my life here (my favorite bar! my fabulous hairdresser!), some of it is exciting, too. I already know the frequency of the NPR affiliates, the admission prices and membership rates at the museums and the art-house cinema, and I've been trying to figure out the metropolitan bus routes. The region is also heavily Catholic, so I'm hopeful that, in a city with several colleges and universities, I'll also be able to find the perfect convergence of the liberal, the religious, and the intellectual.

So, you tell me: am I freaked out about moving? Excited? Really, I can't tell.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 2:27 PM |


11 Comments:

Blogger Weezy commented at 3:17 PM~  

Wow La-- great post :)

You touch on alot of things, and I think fears that everyone has about a move.

I do like what you say about "not being purely dependant on one's collegues for one's social life." Given the Incestuous little families that can develop it is wise to look elswhere.

All I can say is do what you do best--- research! Check your local colleges, see what organizations they have.. Try emailing them and seeing if they have any reading groups. Do a basic citysearch search (god that looks ugly) to find the new favorite bar, hairdresser, restaurant. Do they have a townie free magazine listing social events etc?

If the region is heavily catholic (mine is and Blue Collar College is also catholic) check with the campus priest at one of the schools. Mine is totally awesome-- he can hook you up with local volunteer groups, and other like minded types :)

and don't forget...you'll always have us a click away :)

Blogger Tiruncula commented at 3:20 PM~  

Isn't it exciting to be scoping out the new location?

When I moved to SCC City, which is similar in size to where you're going, I knew absolutely noone. I joined a department of young, nice people and in the years after I arrrived we hired one and sometimes two new people each year, most of whom came with interesting partners, so I had a ready-made, ever-expanding peer-group.

Two things that were particularly helpful for getting me connected to a life outside my department: my next-door office-neighbor had lived in the area for several years before joining the dept and so had lots of friends who weren't SCC people, and she and her husband LOVE to entertain and were always inviting me to dinner parties with all kinds of folks. Also, I found the most fabulous church in the universe and made very close friends there.

Oh, and there's an excellent regional colloquium in my field. I bet you will find something like that where you are.

That said, none of my friends in SCC city have become close the way my best grad school girlfriends are close. I don't know if you can predict or produce that kind of friendship by willing it into existence, but I wouldn't angst about it.

And you can always come bookshopping two hours away and hang out :)

Anonymous hk commented at 3:33 PM~  

Both, bien sur. Not that you asked, but since I don't wait to be asked, lucky you -- I found these rules helpful when moving to a new city:
(1) call up, as you have, anyone you remotely have a connection with (friends of friends, distant acquaintances, etc.) -- this is how I became an honorary Jew in ONC, but that's another story;
(2) as a corollary, never turn down an invitation to do anything in the first 6 months -- everything is an opportunity to meet more people and re-meet people; and
(3) give yourself a year to start feeling like you have local buddies and are really a resident of the place. Yes, it can happen faster, but it's tough to form connections and to establish yourself comfortably anywhere. But it will happen. Plus, I'll visit you! (at least once, anyway)

Blogger Ianqui commented at 4:22 PM~  

The year I started at XU, so did another recent grad in different department. There were various events for new faculty, and at every one of them, the other new hire would go up to people who looked to be about 35 or younger and said, "Hi! I'm Jane! I wanted to introduce myself! What's your email address? Let's get a big group together soon!" And God bless her, she did. Very soon after those silly events, we had a couple of happy hours, and now there's a loose group of people on campus that I know. I admit that I haven't kept up with them as much as I would like, but I'm still happy that she got us all together. In November I had a ladies brunch, and it was great. Ironically, she's moving to a different school now, but I hope to still maintain contact with some of these people.

So, if you're at all an extrovert, I can attest to the success of this method!

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 7:03 PM~  

I'm de-lurking after many months of reading your blog and rooting for you (silently!) behind the scenes. So glad to hear that you're sorted out with what sounds to be a neat job and a fantastic and exciting adventure in a new city. That said, I wanted to mention an idea for finding a community and making friends in a new city. Research your new city's adult education options and consider signing up for a course in a field that interests you but has nothing to do with your academic life. I've taken several courses in cooking and baking in my grad school city and have made many friends through my classes which has been incredibly fun (bonus: since we all like to cook dinner parties are always a fun get together). Adult ed is cheap, it supports the community in which you lives, and it gives you a chance to be a student in a field that interests you. Bonus--the courses usually only meet once a week for an evening so it's not a huge time drain.
All the best of luck to you.

Anonymous What Now? commented at 8:26 PM~  

Echoes of all of the above. Certainly in looking for a church home you'll probably find some friends. And making friends at your new school who aren't in your department may be the way to go; it's been a life-saver for me. Plus you may meet some neighbors whom you like.

Our closest friends here in Small City are a couple we met when D. volunteered for a local political campaign when we first moved here; she figured that was the best way possible to meet the local liberals, and indeed we got wonderful friends out of it.

Blogger phd me commented at 9:06 PM~  

I'm wondering the same thing, LL. I won't know a soul when I move to PRU City. Luckily, everyone I met while I was interviewing was very nice and fairly out-going, and I'll be sharing an office with a new young single asst prof, so that should help somewhat. As you pointed out, I don't want to rely on my colleagues for every instance of social interaction, but it would be nice to enjoy their company when we're together.

The hardest thing for me will be conquering my natural introvertedness and making the effort to reach out to new people. I'll never be the Jane in Ianqui's story, that's for sure. Here's hoping my new office mate is!

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 9:06 PM~  

Ooh, such good advice, everyone! I particularly like the volunteering and the Adult Ed suggestions (the latter of which hadn't occurred to me, but it should have--there are any number of classes I'd love to take).

Sadly, I think it'll be harder to find acquaintances and friends-of-friends in MSC than in ONC, hk (given that 1/3 of every graduating class of every major college on the Eastern Seaboard seems to end up in ONC--not the cool 1/3, of course, but 1/3 all the same), but I do like the attitude behind it, and behind Ianqui's colleague's approach. I'm not an extrovert, but I can do a damn convincing impersonation of one when I have to!

(And Anon: thanks for delurking; glad to have you here.)

Blogger MaggieMay commented at 10:17 PM~  

I'm so excited for you! Ianqui's comment was a little embarrassing for me to read because *I* was that person here-- but people told me later they really appreciated the weekly happy hours I organized. I joined a community book club here, too, as well as an arts organization. Although I haven't really made close friends through them, they do help me feel connected to the city and like I have a life outside of campus.

Blogger Oso Raro commented at 1:41 AM~  

Just tonight Mr. Gordo told me he had been thinking of our tormented goodbye last summer, me in my car headed west, he in his headed south. It was a terrible moment, very emotional, and we cried about it together, but bruised and battered, we have (somehow) survived.

Moving of course is one of the most traumatic moments in life, right up there with death in terms of stress. Academics, of course, tend to move more than most people, but that doesn't make it easier.

I would echo most of the advice already here, but also say give yourself a good 6 to 12 months to feel settled. It doesn't happen the minute you finish unpacking! Listen to where you're at, Goddess knows you'll be busy anyhow, and sink into it slowly. In any event, your move is a joyful expression of entering into the profession, moving forward in the profession, and with your life and career. Will it have its sucky moments? Oh, sure. I could repeat a million truisms here about change, but the simple fact of the matter is that change, even joyful change, is painful. But overall, as Martha says, it's a good thing.

Anonymous Dr M commented at 9:41 AM~  

I have many good friends "at school" but it's tougher for guys, I think, to meet buddies outside of work. I don't fish, hunt, or watch NASCAR so that's 3 strikes against me right there, yall. You will have no problem meeting interesting people. You'd think parents would have it easier but in my opinion, single people who are fun and interesting and flexible socially, will have no problem meeting cool people through church, volunteering, adult ed classes, gym, hobbies. That is a nice problem to have!

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