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Embracing Academic Transitions

SoAP Box: 
Finding Success in Failure

Spring 2023

Sarah Jane Chavez, PhD

Embracing Academic Transitions

How do you transition from one position to another? How do you adjust to a new job or a new location? These were the questions I asked myself as a Californian first-generation doctoral student who got into a postdoctoral position 3,000 miles away at Brown University. But, of course, there are no right or wrong answers, just processes; here are a few things I’d like to share with you. 

  1. Wrap Up Your Affairs.
    For you, it might be wrapping up your current faculty position, a course, or a graduate program. For me, it was finishing my doctoral program at SDSU and UCSD. This entailed finishing my dissertation, spending more time with loved ones, and figuring out how to start the big transition. This can be stressful, but I learned the importance of self-care during this process.

  2. Explore the Possibility of Living in a New City.
    Nothing makes a transition more real than googling apartments, restaurants, and possible new hiking trails; for me, it was Youtubing Top 10 Things to Do in Providence, Rhode Island. Envisioning starting a new life, or dedicating maybe 2-3 years to a new location, became more realistic with a simple Google search.   

  3. Know you Made the Right Decision.
    Months have passed, and you are driving or flying to your new home - this process was the most difficult. Saying goodbye to loved ones who no longer live a few miles away is challenging. Second-guessing your decision is a normal response, especially for anyone who has settled into their routine at whatever institution or state. During these difficult times, it is essential to remember why you were excited to apply for that position in the first place. Was it a successful program? Was it the potential to learn more about yourself or your research? Or was it a better salary? Whatever the reason, remember it.

  4. You Deserve that Position.
    Nothing is scarier than starting all over at a new position and/or a new institution. If you were like me, you might have gotten over your imposter syndrome at the institution you graduated from and rekindled these feelings again at your new position. I had to remind myself daily that I was qualified to sit at a table at Brown University. Are you questioning your belonging? I’d recommend having these silent conversations with yourself.

  5. Ask for Support.
    Homesickness and the occasional sadness after a significant transition are normal. Adjusting to a new routine, institution, or position can be stressful. Don’t hesitate to seek support from colleagues, mentors, or new friendships. Find your people and reach out; it can lead to discovering new resources and recommendations.

  6. Embrace the Change.
    Whether creating new friendships or adjusting to a new environment, I learned the importance of embracing every change. Embracing change has led to my growth and exciting career opportunities worth every bit of fear that comes naturally. Taking on new positions and moving forward with any transitions will force you to grow personally and professionally. Don’t hold back!

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