Job Exchanges Can Open The World

Feb 28, 2017

Ever thought of swapping your identity with someone else? Job exchanges are one way, and luckily, I’ve been able to do two in my career.

Both were in Australia: the first in the capital, Canberra, and the second in Sydney. I spent six months each time taking on the life of my exchange partner and experiencing the world from a whole new perspective -- something that seems massively appealing these days.

An exchange lets you enter an established domain with a built-in set of friends and family. My exchange partner Katie and I traded residences but continued receiving our home institutions’ salaries and paying our respective rents, mortgages, and bills.

These exchanges were invaluable – professionally and personally. I worked with a group of committed reference librarians at the Australian National University, who also loved a good time and introduced me to wine at lunchtime.

At Macquarie University in Sydney, I was challenged by maintaining a computer network that kept me working late into many evenings. But what an awesome city to spend 6 months in – commuting across the Sydney Harbour every day and exploring spectacular beaches, a multicultural population, and excellent coffee!

Meanwhile, Katie was experiencing my life, first in Houston where she drove my VW Superbeetle twice to Mexico. On the Illinois exchange, she worked alongside Fermilab scientists, tried ice-skating, and discovered Chicago blues.

Traveling to and living in another country can give you a new appreciation of your home country and a better understanding of your national identity. At the same time, it broadens your view beyond nationalism, making you a citizen of the world.

I’m Paula Garrett, and that’s my perspective.