I. "Where to next?"
This was a question I asked myself repeatedly throughout the last 4 years, a question that instigated both great anxiety and long periods of hopeful daydreaming throughout the often arduous process of completing doctoral studies in language and writing. As soon as I had landed in Indiana, PA, home to IUP, I began to consider what came next.
It seemed I had three choices:
- Look for a job in the states
- Look for a job abroad
- Return to Japan
Each option had its own merit along with supporters and detractors. For example, "I don't think teaching at a Japanese university will be taken as seriously as teaching in an American one." This was offered by a grad program administrator with considerable experience. Likewise, "I've always pictured you living in Europe." This sentiment was often voiced by my own father. As much as I hated to admit my own inclination to leave the USA despite my strong family and friendship connections, Europe was a place I had always dreamed of returning to.
When my American job searches ended in vain around the middle of April, 2010, naturally I returned to thoughts of Japan. Having been my home for 4 years along with the source of much of my professional scholarship, Japan seemed to be the natural continuation of a journey that had actually started there back in 2002. But then came Peppi.
A Tuesday morning skype interview, my very first, left me feeling confident that I had connected with potential co-workers at the University of Jyvaskyla in central Finland. Within 3 hours after the conversation I would receive an email confirming the offer of employment, and three minutes later I returned the email with an emphatic, "I'll do it!"
I was pleased to have predicted my interviewers' response to our discussion. Despite that fact that they had no web camera, and as such, only I was visible to them, I still found the ease and flow of our banter both comfortable and exciting. Peppi and her colleagues, representatives of the university Language Centre, were a fun trio and I could already feel the tension in my shoulders beginning to dissipate; the reality of a move to Central Finland began to massage away the ache of unemployment worries.
II. Yurvaskyurla – "But…how do I pronounce the name of this place?"
Later that night when sharing the good news with friends and family I was immediately faced with the challenge of pronouncing a language I knew absolutely nothing about. Peppi had mentioned the name of the university a couple of times, and I was fairly certain it was something akin to "yur-va-skyur-la" and so the internet searching began. Guide books, novels, history books, etiquette books, and language learning materials all suddenly entered my life. Apartments were located, work permits applied for and airline tickets purchased. Aside from some difficulty with representatives of Finland living outside of their home country, everyone I had communicated with in Finland sported a strong sense of humor and an altruistic good will that consistently left me impressed.
Some of my favorite moments included the apartment rental question of whether or not a sauna would be essential to my every day life, discovering "street view" on Google maps and looking up my new apartment, and the first few days of discovering facts and photos of Finland. Little by little a life took shape in my imagination and the sadness of saying goodbye to my life in Pennsylvania began to subside.