How I Ended Up in Kazakhstan

I can say with complete confidence that never once in my life did I imagine I would travel to, let alone live in, Kazakhstan. Ignorantly, my only exposure to this place was in the form of a very unfavorable film. I imagined if I ever lived abroad it would be France, Germany, or England for some sort of postdoc or long term research project. So how did I end up here?

After finishing my PhD in Anthropological Archaeology, I entered the gloomy and isolating world that is the current academic job market. My first official year applying with degree in hand was promising with eleven positions for which I qualified—I ended up a finalist for a Visiting Assistant Professorship and a research postdoc—but alas, both went to other candidates. The second year with my degree was worse; there were only four positions for which I could even think about applying and since these were a stretch, they amounted to nothing. I took an unrelated job and planned to wait it out another year.

In the meantime, my amazing husband was wrapping up his PhD in the same field. Since he would be finishing in 2016, he could apply for a few teaching/research positions at the end of 2015 (one of which was in Kazakhstan). I remember when he first applied. I remember saying something like, “Watch, this will be the place that calls you back.” And on a day in mid-February of 2016, they did just that.

Finding out your husband is on the short-list for a job in Kazakhstan during the middle of the workday is a bit distracting. More than that, it’s a major, “Oh-shit-could-we-be-moving-to-Kazakhstan” day. I was excited for him, yet overwhelmed by the prospect of it all, and hopeful that this could mean a start for at least one of us in academia. This could be great, an adventure (as one of my clear-eyed work colleagues pointed out)! But in Kazakhstan? He went ahead with the interviews and then we waited…for weeks. When no news came, we assumed they went with another candidate, and so I continued my full-time job and he worked on finishing his PhD. Then he got the call. Needless to say, he accepted.

Within a few months, he defended his dissertation, we had visas, and I sent him on a plane to Kazakhstan. I stayed behind because there were simply too many things to figure out in such a short amount of time. I organized a new roof for the house and tackled some additional projects, got the cat’s paperwork and health certificates in order (that could have been a blog itself!), and packed our stuff for storage. Four months flew as I juggled far too many major things at once, but I made it to December. The husband returned, we celebrated the holidays with nearly 2,000 miles of driving, subsequently sold the car, and boarded a plane for Kazakhstan shortly after the new year.

How did I end up in Kazakhstan? A series of fortunate and unfortunate events in the world that lack rhyme or reason. The important part of all of this is that these random events, like so many things in life, brought us to a new and unexpected path which promises to be full of more opportunities and surprises in the years to come!


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