Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Where To From Here?

My partner and I are in a predicament. He is currently completing his PhD in physics, and expects to submit his thesis early next year if everything goes well. At that point, he plans to find a job doing a whole lot of stuff that I don’t understand. It could be work with particle accelerators, it could be work with semiconductors, it could be work with energy research (is that the same as semiconductors?), or it could be some additional science field that I’ve probably heard of but already forgotten. This means he wants to have a new job in 12 months.

In the shadow of his future career path is my own. I am able to work in two careers at present: writing/editing and administration. I am highly skilled in these fields, and I know that I could walk into a job doing either of them tomorrow. These jobs would pay well, and my financial worries would be over the moment I put on a suit and walked into the office. The trouble is that I never want to put on a suit and walk into either of those roles again. The issue here is not the suit. To do anything else will require retraining.

Our predicament? He is unable to tell me which country we will most likely be living in. We are looking at the global job market, and if you have ever looked at the requirements between countries you will appreciate how unpredictable they can be. I could spend an expensive year here learning something, only to arrive at our next destination and discover that my efforts are not recognised and will need to be repeated. Alternatively, I could spend a year waiting to migrate before studying only to see him secure a job here in Canberra.

We had initially focused our research on countries where the official language is either English or German. Both of us quickly eliminated the USA as an option, because it is too dangerous a place to live. (I’m sorry, dear American friends, but your country is insane and I sincerely hope that you are never shot by a lunatic while taking your children to school or going to work.) As his research continued, additional countries that officially speak neither English nor German were added to the list.

Now I not only need to train in a new field, but I probably also need to learn a third language. Learning German isn’t too bad, because I know that it’s on the list. But our third language? Short of picking up a few key phrases in every European language, I have no idea where to start. I assume I’ll have several weeks to begin once we know where we are moving to, but those weeks will include packing up our lives in Canberra and shifting them to another country.

The internet tells me that French is the third most common language behind English and German, with 24% of Europeans speaking it. Portuguese is fairly far down the list with only 3% of Europeans able to converse in it, but if we moved to Brazil it would become rather important. Dutch is a possibility, but only 1% of Europeans speak it as a second language; as with most of the likely languages, it is essentially spoken only in its native regions.

For the next year, we are potentially trapped: he won’t know which jobs are possible until he has written his thesis, and I won’t know which path to follow for my own life until I have a better idea of where we will be living. Without that information, I can’t look up professional requirements, and I would not be able to navigate a job interview in the local language. There will be an obvious and satisfactory answer out there about what to do for the next year, but at this point I’m stumped and can’t see it.

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