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When going away for extended periods, we place our personal lives on hold to a certain extent but not everything waits for the end of the trip. During that time many things may happen; relatives or friends may become ill or die, close friends or relatives may marry, or go through some other lifechanging event. You or your partner may become pregnant or you may face divorce or separation.
If you have to interrupt your fieldwork, for family reasons or any other personal reasons, you may have to pay the cost of that trip. You have to work out the best balance between work and other aspects of your life. The University and the RCLT, however, do take seriously their responsibilities to ensure that you are supported through any difficulty. You should also take into consideration the possible consequences of interrupting your fieldwork.
The University and RCLT do not expect you to regard your research more important than your family and personal relations.
Questions you need to know the answers to:
- Am I keeping in contact with my family, friends and loved ones enough?
- Do they know the best way to contact me in the case of an emergency?
- In the event of a personal loss of friend or relative, have I thought about what to do?
Roughly half way through an extended fieldtrip to PNG I heard that my grandfather was very sick and likely to die. I was sorry to be away in the field as I had previously told my family that if my grandparents needed me to assist them at some stage I'd be happy to do that. But by the time I heard what was happening, the family had already sorted out a plan of care so it didn't make sense to rush back to help. As his health and mental state deteriorated, it became clear that returning from the field to see my grandfather again before he died would only increase the burden on my grandmother. Because I was in a very isolated place, it was several weeks after my grandfather's death before I got a letter from my father letting me know that he had finally passed away. Of the thirteen cousins in my family, I was one of only two to miss the funeral. I don't know whether or not I would have chosen to come back for the funeral if I had known sooner but having better communication in place would at least have given me the choice. Now when I travel out to a remote village I try and make sure I can take a satellite phone along and check in weekly with family. I think they find this very reassuring too.
-- Tonya Stebbins