“Moving with a family for Academia”

I found a postdoc position in remote sensing in Canada - that was more than 2 years ago now - before the pandemic started. I had only a very rough idea of Canada at that time. Nature, bears and a lot of rivers and lakes?! I was just waiting for the answer to my grant applications. I applied for a DFG project and together with others for a DAAD joint project. The wait was terrible. My postdoc fellowship was about to expire, and I was not made to be unemployed. So I saw the postdoc position, Remote Sensing of Plant Communities and Diversity. Perfect. But in Canada. Why don’t you apply my partner asked. Probably because we have a toddler, you haven’t finished your PhD yet, and there’s still a chance my grant application will be accepted, I replied. No reason not to apply. Very well. He was right. I did apply and got an offer. I have to admit that the discussions after that offer were not as easy as the application. But it was somehow clear that I wanted this job and the challenge of moving to another country. And the timing was just right, because in a few years our daughter will have to go to school, which would completely change our situation. The joint project was rejected. My partner saw all these arguments too, and I think he realized that I would be in an unbearably bad mood as soon as my research was over.

So, in the first year of the pandemic, we moved to Quebec with our 2-year-old daughter. We had to discuss for more than 30 minutes at the airport check-in whether we were allowed to enter despite the pandemic or not (we were allowed), because the work visas are issued at the border and not before. Completely relieved, we were allowed to board.

My school French was non-existent at the time, and my partner had never learned French, while our daughter had just learned German. I would say that we were well prepared for self-isolation in an empty apartment - it was surprising how much kitchen supplies and toys we could fit in our carry-on luggage. However, we were not prepared for life outside the apartment during the pandemic. We had to wait a long time for subsidized daycare (after 1.5 years, we were offered a place for 1-2 days a week). There were also some other things we were not prepared for (even longer waiting lists for family doctors, no drug insurance for international postdocs without student visas). Things we had to live with. But we were also lucky. We have really great neighbors, we soon found private daycare and my partner found a postdoc position in his second year, so childcare is now affordable.

It was a big decision to move to Canada, both financially and emotionally. The position was only for 2 years, but has now been extended. This is great for us because life in Canada is just starting to get really fun! While the language barriers were very big in the first year, especially for our daughter whose everyday language from then on was French (while we mostly speak English at work), everything went smoother in the second year. Almost everyone told me that children learn languages so quickly and easily, but it was not always easy to see the difficulties and fears behind it. However, we also saw the improvement and now that my daughter is fluent in French (unfortunately unlike me), she wants to stay here.

By the way, I have never seen a bear here, but I have seen many rivers and lakes. Besides my friends, I miss public transport a lot. But I have also gotten used to driving more often than I could have ever imagined in Berlin or Europe. My partner has developed a great interest in learning French. And I just really like my job and our life here. We couldn’t have imagined all the hurdles and achievements of the last two years when we decided to move here.

Here are some of our impressions of Sherbrooke and its surrounding, our first Canadian summer and winter, and some lakes and rivers.

Christine Wallis
Christine Wallis
Postdoc @ CABO

Remote sensing of biodiversity