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  • Writer's pictureIsabelle Johnsen

What's it like to date an (aspiring) archeologist?

Hey guys! This post is for that young archeologist wondering what their partner might be feeling from the other side as they spend weekends away at conferences, months away on digs, and years away at school!

So I just moved away to the UK to do a one year MSc at the University of Oxford. I talk so much about my own experience with archeology on my blog, but moving away (again…) and taking on another year of long distance (we have already done two and a half) specifically for my future career reminds me how lucky I am to have such an amazing support system. Which, naturally, includes both my archeology partner/bestie, my home besties, my sisters, my dog, and my romantic partner. Without them, I would never have the cojones necessary to continue down this path.

So I asked my partner to write this post, specifically I asked him to write about ‘what it is like to date an archeologist?’. But this post isn’t just about romantic partners, it also applies to my best friends (who I am ½ way across the world from) who accept that my passion for trying to make my dreams come true can mean months of not talking or seeing them in person. This post is a unique one, as it is written by someone on the other side of the equation!

“Lonely nights without your partner. Facetimes at odd times and hours. Not being able to be there for each other on some of your most stressful days.

I am sure for many young aspiring archaeologists and academics, this is not the kind of future that they have in mind for themselves. The unfortunate reality of a career in academia is that it can be very taxing on a relationship. The path to becoming a successful archaeologist involves many years of schooling. As there are only a handful of schools that offer PhD programs for archeology (even less when you consider specific specialties within the field that one may want to pursue), chances are that aspiring archaeologists will end up studying in a location far away from where their partner lives. Even after the many years of schooling are finished, it is not easy for an archaeologist to just pick any city and decide to get a job there. Unfortunately, jobs in archeology are not easy to come by so archaeologists must go where the jobs are available. Archaeologists in academia will have to work for a university, and as there are only a handful of schools across the country that offer archeology degrees (and even fewer with job openings), the options are slim. Archaeologists are also often transient, moving from university to university every few years. This may present a challenging dilemma for your partner, leaving them with a decision of whether to have to prioritize your hopes and dreams over their own. The transient lifestyle of an archeologist is not for everyone and can be difficult for your partner to establish a long term career and when trying to raise a family.

In my particular case, my partner is actually pursuing a Master’s in Archaeology on another continent. The time difference between her and I creates added strain on what would already be a difficult long-distance relationship. Being a grad student is more work than a full time job, leaving you little free time outside your studies. Combining that with the five hour time difference leaves us with little time to talk each day. As being a grad student at an elite level school can be an incredibly stressful experience, it can be hard to watch my partner go through hard times without being physically there to help her. Additionally, when I myself am having a bad day, she cannot always be there to pick me up. There is also the looming prospect of her going to get her PhD at a school in another country or somewhere else far away from where I work and live. That means that it may be a long time before we can truly be together again.

With all this being said, I wouldn’t change a thing about what my partner does. Her passion and love for learning and discovery is exactly what made me fall in love with her in the first place. Her happiness makes me happy. And there are ways to adjust to the type of long distance relationships that being a graduate student can create. For one, we always make time to speak to each other everyday, even if it is not always the most convenient. I will call her while I'm driving to and from work and during my lunch break. She’ll call me while she is walking to and from the library or to class. We plan fun virtual date nights together which include cooking, doing Pilates, watching TV or planning future trips together. We also send each other letters with love notes, surprise date ideas or small gifts. We make plans far in advance to see each other in person while she is on a break from school and are even going on a vacation together when she gets back. In terms of our long term future together and how we will be able to adapt to the transient lifestyle involved with archeology and academia, I cannot yet say how that will work as we have not crossed that bridge yet. But just like all relationships, this will involve compromise. We will both have to give a little but ultimately find a solution that works for both of us. At the end of the day, I cannot consider a life without my partner or a life in which my partner must live without archaeology so we will take what comes to us and make it work, no matter what.”

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