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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Going Home: The unspoken part of the 'Grown Up' Gap Year

In the General Assembly hall at the UN.  SO. EXCITING.
Despite the fact that it's snowing AGAIN today, nothing will destroy my ongoing joy and excitement about visiting the United Nations recently.  One of THE best things my performing-arts-focused high school did was to get a bunch of us to participate in the UK version of the Model United Nations, and I credit those experiences entirely with any confidence I have in public speaking and my belief that knowledge is power (as opposed to shouting the loudest!).  So going to the real thing was extremely exciting.  Didn't quite get to meet Ban Ki-moon, but hey, that's for next time!
A Nancy Reagan gift at the UN

It also gave me the opportunity to catch up with some lovely Fulbrighty types too.  The end of our American adventures is rapidly approaching, and apart from causing us all to get incredibly stressed about work, trying to get everything done before we leave, it has also prompted us all to ponder 'going home' and what this even means.  Safe to say we're already plotting an 'American Re-migrants Support Group'; because I find myself incredibly sad that my time abroad is coming to a rapid end.

I thought this year would cure me once and for all of my enthusiasm for the almost annual moving around that has come to characterise my 20s; one final fling of my rucksack around the world and then I'd be content to settle myself a little in one place.  In reality, and to my surprise, it has had quite the opposite effect.  Discussing this with other friends who have temporarily emigrated, we all have this strange sinking feeling of 'safety' with returning home, almost like we're not totally sure where we belong anymore.  I know I am incredibly lucky to be returning to a country where I can continue to work in my fields of interest, a luxury not bestowed upon all of my immigrant buddies.  Not just that - I have an amazing job to go home to!  Much as I enjoy research, I have come to really, really miss being a clinical doctor and I am really looking forward to combining research with medical practice again.  Research on its own, whilst awesome (when it works), is only half of my professional soul, and I miss the other half!
Finally submitting DNA for deep seq!
The first thing to go right for a while.
We were excited.  

And yet - I really enjoy living overseas, and in the advent of Skype and FaceTime, missing home really doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might.  Of course I am missing all kinds of stuff - my sister's 30th birthday, my niece's first steps, the occasional wedding, a hug from Mother P.  But as my bestie from med school reassured me - when it comes to close friends and family, they will always be there, regardless of where I am.  I realise talking to a face on a screen isn't the same, but I feel like I am almost more in touch with key people - I just make more effort. At the same time, I love the mentality that has been integrated in my brain as an immigrant - an even greater enthusiasm for exploring this damn beautiful world, a greater degree of self reliance (and resilience), talking to strangers and making friends.  In the latter, I have been more than richly rewarded in the great people I am lucky to call friends on this side of the pond: friends who have helped me through all of life's ups and downs, and even more wonderfully, are willing to rely on me as a friend in return.  Living abroad has raised more questions about life than any of my immigrant chums and I ever expected - all of which I'm still processing and digesting.  But it feels very healthy to allow all this thinking to happen.
A chunk of the most quoted text in the world
I remember my family commenting to me a few years ago that they had long feared I might settle abroad when I 'grew up', and I had scorned this at the time.  Now, I'm not so sure... However, I will say this: if I emigrate again for however long, I'm going somewhere warmer - this winter is just never-ending.

Homemade mango pickle
nom nom nom...
But I'm not yet a grown up - that's a few years away.  In the mean time, I'm excited for the job I'm going home to, the research I am still doing here and my currently rather insane work:life balance (read: doing both at 100%) - although I am getting way better at enforcing occasional hermit-ness.  I've had some truly wonderful friend-merge dinners recently (I LOVE friend merges) - possibly a favourite was Keralan curry night, complete with mango pickle (see right!) and my #1 wine from my Californian trip which I managed to find in a CT wine shop (no arsenic in sight...).
I just wish someone had told me that remigrating home is looking likely to be way harder than leaving it in the first place.  Yes, I know.  #firstworldproblems.  Don't worry, I do count my blessings every day. 

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