Leaving my life behind for a while...
January 20, 2014 4:53 PM   Subscribe

So...I applied for and received a grant to learn/research/write abroad for 4 months starting in March in the field of librarianship and informatics. The grant will pay for food, shelter, and travel (4 cities in Germany, if it matters). The grant agency is going to try and help me find temporary housing. Very fortunately, my job is ok with this and excited about what I will learn, so I have a job to come back to. I am simultaneously excited and terrified. IF you've done something like this before...any recommendations?

for how to:

a) Make the most of the experience?
b) Deal with the logistical issues? (If you've done an unpaid sabbatical and that's what this more or less is from my job's POV, what might I not be thinking of making sure is set up here before I leave/there before I get there)
c) Make sure that re-entry is minimally complicated? (I will have about a week right now to get back to my job)

Additional potentially helpful info:
- I am currently in the United States.
- I have lived in Germany before, but I was in high school at the time (1996-1997) and didn't have to do my own logistical work
- My German is very good, but imperfect (I test at the B2 level written but can read/understand well above that)
- I am in my mid-30s and have relocated by myself successfully before in the United States but this will be my first time doing anything remotely like this. The grant agency is pretty experienced though and the library association is well established so I should have some support.
-I am a mid-level manager at work who also teaches.

Thank you for your help/thoughts.
posted by eleanna to Travel & Transportation around Germany (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect the reason you're not getting any answers here is that there does not appear to be a problem to be solved. Your situation is ideal, your costs are covered, you know the language, you have a job to return to...

A week is a good amount of time to re-acclimate yourself and you won't have jetlag in that direction. It all sounds good unless you have specific concerns.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:45 AM on January 21, 2014

I recently did something similar, although my base was one South Asian city (I'm from and currently live in the US). Some advice:

1) Allow yourself time to adjust to the cultural differences. You'll be in a familiar-ish, Western culture with access to most if not all of what you're accustomed to, true, and the differences could be be subtle. But they'll possibly be enough to cause stress that you might not recognize for what it is. Don't worry about it, just be aware.

2) Make professional and personal connections as soon as you can. If you have online colleagues, friends and/or acquaintances that you can get in touch with before you get there, even better.

3) Set up your home work-space (and living space!) to your liking and make it comfortable for you. That might mean getting some pictures and new curtains, or a good chair and desk. Check whatever Craigslist-type sites might be available.

4) Find a base outside your home to work out of - with permission, I staked out a desk at one of my case-study libraries. This gave me a better connection with the staff and I was able to adjust my project according to incidental conversations that wouldn't have happened otherwise.

5) Find a coffee-shop or cafe that you enjoy. Become a regular.

Have a great time! I'll be glad to share more info and details, so msg me if you like.
posted by infodiva at 8:23 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I probably could have worded the question better. Infodiva's advice is spot on though and I will be messenging her.

Problems/potential problems I am concerned about:

1) While my costs over there are taken care of, there are maintenance costs/reentry costs over here. If someone else has done this, how have they minimized those?

2) If you've left work behind for 4 months, what was it like coming back?

3) What might I not be thinking of that I should do to make this experience worth the most career wise and personally?

Simplified, those are my concerns/questions.
posted by eleanna at 9:17 AM on January 21, 2014

I meant to add something for b)! Apologies if any or all of this is obvious.

Meet asap with the person or persons who will cover for you. Give them all the info they'll need to do your tasks - make cheat-sheets and lists; encourage them to ask for info and clarifications; if you deal with vendors or outside tech support, alert them officially that someone else at your library/workplace will be their contact while you're away; ask your IT department (or do it yourself, if you have access) to create a new account on your work PC so that other staff can access it easily if they need to. Re-direct your work calls to another phone. Alert co-workers about projects that you'll need to put on hold. Document procedures, and document the decisions and outcomes from any meetings that you have about re-assigning tasks, putting projects on hold, etc. Make sure everyone has a copy of that documentation.

Consider re-directing your work email to a gmail account, depending on how easy it is for you to get to your work email from off-site.

If you're taking unpaid leave, resist as much as you can the urge to do part of your job while you're away. If you've made it easy for colleagues to cover your most important duties, resisting that urge will be simpler. BUT - ask them to update you periodically with goings-on or changes.

Talk to HR about possible changes to your benefits - will they continue your insurance/retirement contributions/etc., while you're on leave?

Tell your credit card company and bank/s that you'll be away, where you're going, for how long, and when you'll return.

Bring back nice goodies for your co-workers and boss.

Again, feel free to msg me. And CONGRATULATIONS!!
posted by infodiva at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2014

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