City of Woes

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written by ML, a current graduate wife

We don’t like it here.

Not everyone ends up enjoying the location of their spouse’s chosen school. My husband’s graduate school is fantastic and the people he works with are great. He loves his program, has so many opportunities he wouldn’t somewhere else, and it will benefit him greatly in the future.

But it’s different here, 2,000 miles from home. The people aren’t as nice and after five years it’s really wearing on us. It’s much more densely populated. It’s a pain to drive, park, take public transportation, and just plain dangerous to ride a bike. Simple errands I never thought about before are cause for anxiety and frustration. The crime rate is high. It’s humid and floods often. And it’s oh so very much more expensive than any place we’ve been before.

There are a number of reasons you might not like where you are. Here are some of my suggestions based on the last five years of coping.

1)     Buy a local guide book.  I didn’t do this at first because I wasted time thinking of everything as temporary. Now that we’re down to the final year (hopefully), and I’m armed with multiple books, there is so much we want to do but won’t have time for. Yes, we have to get out of town and that costs money, but it more than pays for itself in keeping us sane. There are all kinds of guidebooks, get the one(s) that suits you. Books for families, nature lovers, bike enthusiasts, and people with pets (to name a few).

2)     Make friends who share your attitudes and beliefs. It’s a relief to kick back with someone that is on the same page as you, and friendships make the support system you will need.

3)     Focus on the things you don’t hate. This can be hard at times, but I bet you can find at least one thing you don’t hate about where you are. Sometimes I have to run this list over and over again through my head, but it helps. Now that we’ll be leaving soon, I’m even sad about leaving some of it.

4)     If you can, find a place that reminds you of home. This can be a nice “escape” during a particularly rough week. Maybe there’s a restaurant or bar that’s similar to one back home (maybe they’ll even put on the game of your favorite team back home if you ask them).There might be a hiking trail that helps you forget you’re in a big city. It could be a place that has an activity you did before you left (like a rock climbing wall or an ice skating rink).

5)     Workout. It’s a great way to relieve frustration, and it’s healthy, too. Whether I’m here or there, a treadmill and the music I’m listening to are the same. I also just feel better when I’m in shape.

6)     Make your house your home. This is another thing I neglected for a while because I felt it was so temporary. I slowly added pieces that I like, and now our home feels to me like a sanctuary. Let the weather do what it will, let the traffic out front be bad – I’m in my home with my favorite books, pictures on the wall, and our Harry Potter wands on display.

7)     If you love pets, try to find a place that allows them. This took us three years. This isn’t the most pet-friendly area, and when people find an apartment where pets are allowed, they don’t move. For three years it was like something was missing. Now, coming home to a purring cat after a hard day can make all the difference.

8)     Learn something from it. Before we moved we had some pretty romanticized ideas about what it would be like here. It sounds crazy, but I’m a little glad we’re somewhere we don’t like for this stage in our lives. It’s made me so aware that we need to research an area and find out what it’s really like before moving there for a career. (This is a great time to discuss what you want in the future.)

9)     Visit some place worse. Okay, okay, we didn’t so this on purpose, who would? But we took a trip and couldn’t wait to get back here. Sometimes when I want to complain about this place, I stop and think about all the ways it’s better than some of the other places we could have gone.

10)  Think about when it’s over and you’ll be moving. Is there something you’ll miss? Take advantage of the time you have left to enjoy the things you won’t have when you’re gone.

Though you’re far from home, remember that you’re with the one you love, someone who shares at least some of your interests, attitudes, and beliefs. This person is your rock, and you are theirs; be there for each other.

If you don’t like where you live, what have you done during your graduate journey to make it livable?

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4 thoughts on “City of Woes

  1. Great tips! We’ve definitely been there from time to time. I think the best thing we’ve been able to come up with is finding local bakeries, farmer markets, and nature trails…they always seem to make things better!

  2. this is spot on! my husband and i are currently in a city that we don’t like for his graduate school. we are also (hopefully) in the last year and everything you said is something that i’ve been through. i focused on everything i hated for the first few years when i should’ve been looking for more things to like but like you said you keep telling yourself it’s temporary when in reality you’re going to be there for 5 years or so. thanks for writing this, seriously, i feel like you took the words right out of my mouth. :)

    • I came here from a city that I loved, and would you believe that for the first year here when I walked down the sidewalk I’d put on a song I listened to while walking in the other city and imagined I was in there instead!

  3. I can relate to this so well! I wish that it wasn’t the case. I wish that I liked where we are, but I don’t. My husband is a medical student on a Caribbean Island and there are few things that remind me of home. There is one thing that I like here, that’s the beach. But, it’s just vastly different than the view that I had of this place before I came here. It’s amazing what we can talk ourselves into given the opportunity! :)

    Amazing tips- I’m going to work on focusing on the one thing that I like about being here and appreciate that I am with my husband, and that’s the whole point of this journey.. :)

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