Two-city living: It’s what you do if you work in UK higher ed?

I remember the first time I learned that one of the professors in my discipline commuted to Manchester for work but lived in another city several hours away (by train). He’d stay a few days then go back to his family on the weekend. I remember thinking this was completely crazy – who would voluntarily do this? Well, apparently it’s quite common in academia have what I call a “two-city” life.

Last September my partner moved to Brighton to take up a post at the University of Sussex while I remained in Manchester, so we’ve been in this two-city living situation ever since. So far, the practicalities of travelling every few weeks (I go to Brighton or he comes to Manchester) have been smooth, though a little surreal. We were both so busy at work that the reality of living in different places didn’t really sink in until later in the semester.

Oddly, it feels kind of normal but at the same time I’m still getting used to all this. Technically one doesn’t travel “home” to the other – we both take turns visiting each other (though currently Ben travels more to Manchester)! I also don’t really have a “life” in Brighton – no networks or close friends, and I get lost easily. So when I’m there,  the city feels more like a tourist destination than home.

It’s a weird kind of change, but the weirdness hasn’t come from the distance but rather how normal this transition feels. Like, it’s an inevitable (?) part of us both working in higher education. The move wasn’t expected, but when he got the job offer, it just made sense to live in different cities. Not for the long term (hopefully), but certainly for now. It’s what you do if you work in UK HE, right?

Things that make you go “hmm”! Feel free to comment below.

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