Eight days. The world can change in eight days. It took eight days, July 16th – 24th, for the Apollo 11 mission to fly into space and return to earth, with a stop on the surface of the moon for Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
I have always been awe-struck with space travel; thinking about the adventure, the mystery, the wonder, and I can only imagine the true beauty of the view. I have always been an adventurer at heart, which has worked to my advantage, as it takes a little spirit of adventure and courage to move halfway across the country. I was working in Oregon, close to family and friends, when on July 16th 2012, I received a wonderful job offer in rural Illinois. The same date that Apollo 11 took off from Cape Canaveral 43 years earlier, I was starting off on a great new adventure myself.
I celebrated my birthday on July 18th, surrounded by friends and colleagues, but distracted by the details of this new job. On July 20th, the same day in history that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, I left my job at the University of Oregon, spending the day saying goodbye to my colleagues and friends.
Astronaut Sally Ride said, “All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” Ms. Ride, however, was not deterred by what could be a scary adventure. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, the youngest American astronaut to make it into space, and an inspirational figure and hero for me. On July 23rd, after spending just two days with my parents and extended family in Portland, I left Oregon for Illinois. As I waited at my gate to board, I learned of the death of Astronaut Ride. Not only was Ms. Ride a trailblazer for young women, but her quote beautifully captures how I felt as moved across the country. It may not have been a trip into space, but I was excited and scared for the possibilities all the same.
On July 24th, just as the Apollo 11 astronauts had returned back to Earth in 1969, four decades later my eight day trip, was also coming to a conclusion. I was in my new home state, starting my first day of work.
Leaving your professional home can be as hard as leaving your home state
When I moved to rural Illinois from the West Coast, I had never been to the Midwest except for conferences where I barely left the hotel or campus at which I was staying. Not only did I leave my family and friends behind when I moved to a new state, I also left my institutional and regional involvement. I truly believed that I had found my professional home through my involvement within ACUHO-I, and particularly in the support and acceptance I found in my first professional home, The Northwest Association of College and University Housing Officers (NWACUHO); an affiliated member of ACUHO-I. This was where I had learned how to be a professional. These were the people who I had first looked up to, and then had the pleasure to grow with, and had later the privilege of serving with in this organization. With a move to a new region, I left all of this behind, and I was in a position to have to start fresh with these regional professional connections.
A question that may linger on the reader’s mind is why I would choose to leave my “home” region, and engage with this professional network reset. There is an unfortunate, but logical, bottleneck of jobs at the mid-manager level, and my best opportunity to get the job and experiences that I wanted was to be flexible. Sure enough, I got an excellent opportunity far from home, and I jumped at the chance.
Institutional culture change of a new job
Moving to a new area of the country for a new job included all the same adjustments to a new campus culture and position, with the added adjustment of the geographic and environmental changes. Not to be underestimated is the adjustment needed to the weather patterns of living in a new location. Tornado shelters? Snow boots? These were all new for a California kid from Oregon. I found it very helpful to be thoughtful about the personal transition that I was undertaking as I move to a new part of the country, and I encourage others to do the same. Be mindful of creature comforts that may not exist in your new area. Some of my favorite chain restaurants are not found east of the Rockies, and grocery stores go through an identity crises when they cross the Mississippi. Even soda and snack foods, have regional affiliations – do you want a Pepsi or a Coke? To experience a new part of the country or world is a life-changing experience, ripe with personal growth. It is a rich professional and personal experience that I strongly recommend for anyone who is not bound to a specific location, but be prepared to experience something new and unfamiliar. When I was not anchored for the little changes that I would experience, those small changes seemed a whole lot bigger.
Words of Advice
I am not an expert in moving across the country, but as I have outlined, I did embark on such a journey. Thinking back to my own experience, and supervising others who have made cross-country moves, I would like to offer a few words of advice both to the individuals uprooting their lives, but also to the organizations welcoming new staff from afar.
Transitions are not often easy
We know that transitions can be difficult; ask any first-year student. As we think about new ways to support students in their own development in transition, we often forget to stop and think about our own transitions, as we have selected a transition-filled career field. When you are new to a region, or university, it is important to bring your experience and expertise to your organization, but also acknowledge that you are the new face around the table. Take the time to listen, learn and get a feel for the culture of, not just your particular department, but maybe a whole new culture in a new area of the country for you. There will be many things that are unfamiliar, ranging from new acronyms and buzzwords, an adjustment to student mentality and culture, differing state policies or laws, and regional differences that may impact institutional culture. It is your responsibility to ask these questions, and have an open mind as you learn, learn, learn!
How to Get Connected
As you start to settle into your new professional life, you will want to think about how you can get connected into your new region. You have left a place where you were well-connected, networked and involved, but it would be short-sighted to not get involved in your new region. There are so many ways to get involved, including going to state and regional conferences, following colleagues in the region on Twitter, connecting via e-mail, signing up for regional committee involvement, exploring professional training institutes, and becoming a member of your regional or state ACPA and NASPA affiliates.
Supporting New Colleagues
For those who will be welcoming new transplants into your organization, I also have a few suggestions to help your new colleagues’ transition into their new position and region. Being a friendly face at a conference and responding to networking efforts go a long way for those who are trying to navigate a new region. Another greatly appreciated practice is to check-in with new staff to make sure their personal and professional transitions are going well. New staff to a region may not always know what questions to ask. I have been very fortunate to work with some wonderful people in my new region who have supported me, and it has made a significant positive impact. Please pay it forward, and do the same!
On to the next great adventure
I hope that some of these thoughts are helpful as you think about transitioning to a new region. Your story will differ from mine in detail, but you will likely find changes in culture, environment, and regional nuance as you make your transition. Although such a big move can create some anxiety, it can also be exciting and rewarding. The view might change, but not unlike staring up at the stars and admiring the moon, the view is pretty great from here.