Diary of a Visiting Assistant Professor, week 5. Life Outside Academe

In my first post I listed some topics I hope to cover this year, relating to my experience as a visiting assistant professor. I’ve talked a bit about teaching, and will have more to say soon (I’m participating in a teaching partnership, and last night was my first time being observed). I’ll also be writing about conferences, and about finding time to write: I’m heading to a conference next week, and have been struggling to find the time to write the paper I’ll be presenting. And since the job list came out this week, I’ll be thinking lots about the job market in coming weeks (and probably about stale PhDs, which everyone’s talking about).

But VAPs are people, of course, and this week I want to say a little about settling into a new city and life outside of academia — the part of life that while relevant to any VAP (moving to a new place, for a specified short period), doesn’t deal directly with teaching, research, service, or the job market.

My fiancee and I arrived in late July, spent a few days unpacking, then promptly left again, to return the night before I started teaching. Especially since I teach two nights a week, the first weeks felt a bit hectic. Most nights we spent watching TV and going to bed early. Now that we’ve been here a while, we’re starting to settle in. Florida is warm (though not yet as horribly humid as I was led to believe), and we take advantage of the weather. I’m not so interested in fishing or water sports, which are the big recreational activities around here, but I’ve been running (there are lots of trails and lakes) and borrowing my fiancee’s bike (there aren’t many hills here, but biking around lakes and on flat ground is nice). And I’ve found a disc golf course, and places to dance (if you read the about me page you know these are big hobbies for me). And while Orlando in general is a cesspool of chain stores and fast food restaurants, the neighborhood where we live has lots of excellent, local restaurants, and a thriving farmer’s market every Saturday. Some of these places I discovered at the recommendation of other faculty, and some on my own. For activities like disc golf and dancing and [fill in your own hobbies here], the internet was a start, but once I found a place it was more useful to just ask other people where to go.

For many academics, the “dual career” is a major issue. There’s lots of good stuff about this topic, but focused mostly on tenure track positions. The VAP presents a different problem. Even if your spouse or significant other isn’t an academic, moving somewhere for just a year can be tough. I am lucky in that my wonderful fiancee moved down here with me. And this week she accepted a job at the same college where I’m teaching (she works in alumni relations). Other than to say it was wonderful of her to move down here even when things were uncertain, I don’t have much advice to offer on this score, though maybe somebody else can weigh in? How did your SO react to your move? Or, generally, how do you balance academic life with the rest of your life?

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