When I moved across the country for undergrad, lots of people were surprised; not because I moved away, but because I moved to one of the coldest parts of the northeast. Despite this, moving to Boston was very easy for me. I’d always wanted to be there. The four years I’d spent there were the best and leaving it was definitely very hard. In fact, it was the hardest decision I had to make those four years.
Before graduation, I was offered jobs in Boston, Baltimore, and Chicago. Some people thought it was an easy choice; I’d stay in Boston, near my friends, and get to live in the city that I absolutely loved for two more years. What could be better? Well, when I was applying to graduate school the previous semester (which did not work out, obviously – there will be a post on that eventually), it was hammered into me that in the world of science and academia one of the most – if not the most – important thing was the fit between you, the program, the research, and your potential advisor. This fit will affect productivity, eventual progression into the real world, and ultimately your happiness.
I had been very lucky in undergrad. My mentor was amazing and while we didn’t share the same core interests research-wise, she helped refine the skills I would need to ultimately find something that would be the perfect fit for me. She was also very present in my research by making time to be there when I needed her and encouraging me to pursue opportunities like going to conferences, submitting funding applications, and taking on more lab related responsibilities. This mentoring fit was perfect, so finding something similar would be a challenge.
When I weighed these three opportunities, none of them would be the perfect fit research-wise, but Baltimore was the closest. Keeping that in mind, I weighed the opportunities I would be presented with and the type of mentorship I could receive, and Baltimore was the best. While I love Boston, the best thing for me was (is) Baltimore. And that’s how I ended up here.
To be clear, this post isn’t about having to explain myself to anyone, but lots of people focus on location and familiarity when making a decision that shouldn’t have to account for those things. At the end of the day, it’s all about the fit.