Hmm…I haven’t been…

Hmm...I haven't been very clear about any of this, have I? I think we're past the point of needing discretion on some of this, so let's recap, shall we?

Kevin's been offered a full-time position as a Lecturer at Oxford. They don't have tenure, exactly, but it's vaguely similar to the tenured position he has now at UIC in terms of workload/responsibility. He'd be an Oxford Fellow, with all the rights and privileges thereto. They've also been quite enthusiastic, on seeing my c.v., about the idea of having me do some creative writing teaching for them. I'm going to be meeting with the head of the program on Monday, so I'll know more about the details of that then. It'd be part-time, not full-time. We need to give Oxford a decision by January 17th or so.

Kevin's also interviewing at Cambridge (right this second), for a Readership. This is a slightly different position, in that he wouldn't be required to do tutorials, so there'd be more time for research. (He'd have the option of doing them if he decided he wanted to.) We're not sure how soon they'll decide if they want him, but probably they won't decide before we have to give Oxford an answer.

Both of these jobs would likely be permanent -- i.e., if we moved here and really hated it, we could go on the job market again and try to get a job in the U.S., but there's no guarantee that we'd get anything as good as what we now have, and it's very likely that we wouldn't be able to get jobs in Chicago -- there just aren't that many jobs in academia, and jobs in specific places come up rarely. So we're thinking of this as a permanent move, if we do it. We'd become expatriate Americans in Britain.

He's also just interviewed at Ann Arbor (which has also expressed interest in having me teach some creative writing for them, though we haven't yet discussed any details). We both have various other applications out across the U.S., from Stanford to Columbia to UCLA etc. and so on -- about thirty schools total. I've interviewed at two places so far; math is on a slightly later schedule than English, so he'll likely have more interview requests. Also, a new job has just opened up in creative writing at the Art Institute in Chicago which I've applied for. And UIC would like to keep Kevin, so they've made a counteroffer which would probably include some part-time teaching for me.

So that's the overall situation. Now, England or not? We have been incredibly torn on this. Here are some of the factors:

Pros:

  • Adventure, excitement -- moving to another country!

  • Prestige of being affiliated with Oxford
  • Access to Europe; cheap flights, lots of new cultural stuff
  • It's beautiful here -- lots of old gorgeous buildings, much more accessible green space than in Chicago, oodles of cobblestones and charm
  • I do have two good friends in London, which is an hour away from Oxford, and a few hours from Cambridge
  • Everyone at Oxford and Cambridge has been incredibly nice and friendly, and they treated us wonderfully.
Cons:

  • Stress, anxiety, culture shock -- moving to another country!

  • Far away from friends and family, especially Kev's family, on the West Coast; we'd probably see them less often, and when we did, it would involve miserably long plane flights and increased expense
  • Housing -- this is a big one, and one we hadn't anticipated. House prices are really high near both Oxford and Cambridge, and we would probably have to rent for a few years, while saving up to buy -- and then, when we bought, we'd expect to pay the same amount we paid for our condo in Chicago for an attached rowhouse of about half the size (probably max 1000 sq. ft.). We looked at some places, and they seem workable (and do generally come with patches of garden, which helps), but do feel rather tiny in comparison to where we live now. Would that bother us? Don't know!
  • My position would be part-time, not full-time -- less pay, less prestige. Of course, more time to write, so maybe this is a pro, not a con. Hard to say.
  • We have to decide about Oxford at least before we know anything concrete about any of the U.S. possibilities (aside from UIC).
There are other, smaller factors, but those are the big ones for us when comparing Chicago and the two cities in England. Right now, we're waiting to see how the meeting goes on Monday, and hopefully a meeting with UIC next week, to get a firmer sense of our options in Chicago. We'll make a decision next week.

6 thoughts on “Hmm…I haven’t been…”

  1. You list of pros and cons is a great start, but if I were you, I’d go for it no matter what. You don’t want to regret not taking this opportunity…

  2. As an American who lives in England, I can recommend the experience in all sorts of ways…but one more thing to keep in mind is the process of bringing Elinor to England. Luckily, it’s a LOT easier now than when I moved with my dog – if you get all the right paperwork filled out, American dogs no longer need to sit in quarantine for 6 months, thank God. However, there is a detailed process you have to go through which is a bit time-consuming (and you can’t let your vets make any mistakes because the paperwork is massively important), so it’s good to start preparing as soon as possible. You can find the regulations here:

    http://www.usembassy.org.uk/ukpets.html

    (Sorry, btw, if you’re already up on all these issues and I’m just repeating what you already know – but I went through so much hassle bringing my Nika to England in the bad old days before 2002 that it still feels like a big issue to me!)

  3. Another Pro: You’ll be paid in pounds, which will go a lot further if/when you both decide to come back to the US!

  4. Heh. Yes, that’s true, but it also means that if we have to sell our place here, we’re going to lose a lot of money in that transition to pounds from dollars. 🙂

  5. The great thing about Oxford is the amazingly long breaks between terms. Calendar here:

    http://www.ox.ac.uk/aboutoxford/dates.shtml

    For example, Christmas break was 6 weeks this year, from 2 December to 14 January, there’s another six week break from March to April, and then a nearly four month long summer. That’s, count it, *seven months* of vacation–there will be tons of time for you to spend with family in the U.S. If there’s any way to afford it, think about keeping your place in Chicago and leading a two-continent life.

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