I’ve moved quite a few times for work. It’s difficult. These are things which either helped me, or would have helped me. I still love it – I love travel, I love exploring a new city, visiting new cafes, libraries, galleries, even supermarkets. But it’s stressful, and it can be horrible if it doesn’t go well. As well as various towns and cities in the UK, I’ve lived in Brazil (2 months, visiting researcher grant), France (1 year, post-doc), Spain (3 months, sabbatical). Moving is something I know a bit about.
These things could make it easier.
- Having regular science meetings with the boss/the team. This might seem like a thing too obvious to state, but some labs just don’t do regular meetings unless you ask for them. Particularly at the post-doc stage, a bit of structure to the week can really help.
- Learning at least a bit of the language (if it’s different). Google translate offline can be a lifesaver even if you do speak quite a bit – when you are out of data/signal it can read menus and packaging.
- Joining a journal club (pick an article per week to discuss) or starting one if there isn’t already.
- Get a bike or a car so you can explore.
- Doing some kind of regular social thing – a sports club, a dance class, a language class, a walking group… I ended up taking up Lindy Hop (dance) when I moved to Grenoble for a postdoc and I still enjoy it from time to time 10 years later.
- Do some kind of volunteering to help other people (babysitting? playing cards with the elderly? parkrun? helping with language classes in a school?). This is similar to 5, but makes you feel useful as well as sociable.
- Get a mentor who’s moved countries before.
- If you have a significant other – in a different city or country – you need to be sure you are both OK with the distance. Skype can help, and long weekends can help, silly postcards can help, and finding a cheap hotel half-way can help.
- If you find you need to be at “home”, ask. A lot of places will be laid back about working from an alternative location every now and then (when I worked in France they were happy with me spending my August entirely with my husband in another country – not much happens in French labs in August).
- Go to events – any events – conferences just outside your field? Go along! Postgrad shows? Go along! Join in the departmental life. Part of travel is making new contacts, and this is where you’re most likely to do that.
If it really isn’t working out for you, then leave. You don’t have to work out the full contract in a place that you can’t stand.