Career Center

Eleven-year-old Connor and eight-year-old Drake know a few things about making friends in new places. In August, the two brothers and their parents moved to Minneapolis, where their father, Ken Young, PsyD, accepted a job as a unit psychologist at a state hospital.

The Young family started out in Arkansas, and relocations to California for graduate school and Cincinnati for an internship preceded their Minneapolis move. Despite a few tears shed over leaving best friends and the comforts of a familiar place, the moves have worked out for them, says Young.

"We have a family motto that life is an adventure and we love trying something new," says Young. "We use this to acknowledge our fears, but ultimately face them together as a family, whether that's eating brussels sprouts for the first time or moving across the country. But we're happy to be at the end of this very long journey and finally settling down."

Not every family is that flexible. For Janice Tedford, PsyD, a consultant in private practice in Salem, Mass., accepting an internship that best suited her meant moving to Denver, 2,000 miles away from her husband and two grown daughters, one of whom was planning her wedding.

Any student preparing for a far-away internship faces the stress that comes with relocating for the year-finding housing, building a new support network, and missing family and friends. But for students with spouses or children, the decision to move for internship can put both their marriage and career on the line, says Christine Whitley, a PsyD student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. After not matching this year, Whitley plans to broaden her rankings geographically for the next internship match, despite her husband's inability to relocate and her uncertainty on how they will care for their 2-year-old daughter if Whitley matches in another state.

"Commuting or spending a year apart puts a great deal of stress on a relationship," says Whitley. Conversely, she admits, "to be the best intern, you want to have as little stress as possible so that you can focus your energies on internship." If an internship-related move could be in your future, consider this advice from those who have been through it:

  • Discuss your options. No matter which way you're leaning-moving alone or with your family-hammer out your options early on with your spouse, children and anyone else who might be affected by your decision, says clinical psychologist Sarah Chickering, PhD. Chickering moved from Seattle to Wichita, Kan., with her husband in August 2006 for a yearlong internship at a community mental health center. Involving her husband in her internship search from the beginning helped him take more ownership of the decision, she notes.

By ranking internship sites together, she says, students may also find a way to make the move a positive change for their family. Chickering's husband, a middle-school math and science teacher, lined up a job in Wichita working with troubled teens as a way to expand his skills.

"He's been able to negotiate a promotion back home because of the things he experienced here," she adds.

And if it's not feasible to move together, for financial or other reasons, says Tedford, talking about how you will handle a year apart is crucial to making sure your family doesn't feel as if you're deserting them.

"It's imperative to have good support and to talk about this process all along," she says. "[My family] was involved in this decision from the get-go."

  • Go online. The Internet is a tremendous resource for families making this transition, says Young, especially when it comes to finding a place to live or quality child care. He surfed the Web to research school performances in Cincinnati. "We could rule out certain areas of town where the neighborhoods may have been nice, but we knew the schools were struggling," he says. He also encouraged his sons to look at pictures of their new school online to help quell their fears.

E-mail and other Web communication tools can also help families keep in touch with those they've left behind and help them build new support networks, be it through a local running group or supper club. Such groups can also recommend a new physician, dentist or the best neighborhood dry cleaner, Chickering says.

  • Make the most out of yourmove. Whether you move with family or alone, take advantage of your year away by exploring your new city and reinventing yourself professionally, says Chickering. She used free time on weekends to explore Wichita with her husband and to attend volunteer events and conferences though her local psychological association.

"Sometimes moving away can have a really positive impact on you professionally, because you meet so many different people," says Chickering. "Everyone here knows me as a professional, not as a graduate student or someone who works in their lab...and that really boosts your confidence."

For Tedford, her internship year gave her more time to focus on her goals and work on her dissertation, away from the distractions and chores of day-to-day living with her husband, daughter and young granddaughter. While it was hard to say goodbye, she reminded herself that internships don't last forever.

"I learned a great deal, and wouldn't trade the year I spent there for an internship closer to home," she says.

“Sometimes moving away can have a really positive impact on you professionally, because you meet so many different people.”

Sarah Chickering
Seattle