Setting up professional life in a new country and a new department after having lived elsewhere for a long time is a bit like climbing a tricky mountain.
Do you know one of those mountains which has several ridges and switchbacks? so you are constantly having to turn around and feel like you haven’t really reached very far even though you’ve been climbing for hours!
First of all it’s never about the professional life alone. you need to do simple things like find a place to live, furniture, get the Internet connected… all those little things you take for granted in a home. the logistics can add spice of not knowing the area sufficiently and bumbling along constantly, being tripped up by the smallest things: getting off at the wrong bus stop, choosing the worst company or provider for a service et cetera. The emotional toll it takes to manage in an environment that is completely new and in some ways alien is not something that we reckon with until we come across it. By then the only way to deal with it is to soldier through. Of course these things are part of the fun even if it doesn’t feel very funny at the time!
Trying to get all this sorted in parallel with setting up a new lab is pretty challenging.
For me the biggest challenge has been ( in the professional bit) to find appropriate manpower. in my previous lab I had set up: computers, software and most importantly good PhD students. PhD students are the lifeblood of any lab and research: without them it almost impossible to sustain work. It takes time to find good students and effort to train them and build a good partnership that is fruitful for both student and supervisor. In a new department the challenge is to find funding sources And mechanisms to recruit PhD students and then training them ( I’m not spending lines on issues like Visa processing et cetera). The time it takes to achieve just the setting up means almost up to a year can pass before you have a good student in place and longer before some meaningful research output can be delivered.
Yet there is excitement: there is the chance to work with new partners who have different perspectives and new facilities, new research problems. There is a palpable sense of possibilities, of the future... which keeps beckoning you onwards and helps provide the incentive to whether through the birthing pains. Just as I said earlier this comes with the other aspects of life: discovering a new city, new food, art!
All in all the the fun and the less fun bits go together- and in the process there is a huge amount of personal growth having gone through all of this.