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Certain fields of work demand of employees a high degree of flexibility. That's always been the case in the academic world, and maybe it will always be so. Often, you only reach the coveted permanent position after having had several jobs at different universities. Until you reach that point, however, life outside university doesn't stand still. Relationships develop and partners have jobs in different cities; maybe they also have children later, and commuting suddenly becomes a necessity.


For six years I've been commuting by train from Berlin to Münster and back again for precisely these reasons. My week comprises almost almost 1000 kilometres, eight hours and a lot of hassle due to regular delays. But the mental and physical stress don't only affect me, the commuter. From Mondays to Thursdays my wife is a single mother, and my son often asks when I'll be coming home at last.


Commuting does have positive sides, though. During the time I spend in Münster I can concentrate completely on my work. On the train I prepare my lessons, read theses or write articles. During the breaks between semesters my family has priority. We organize things as skilfully as possible and plan any important appointments for this period. Having a talent for planning is simply part and parcel of commuting. It wouldn't work, though, without the flexibility offered by the employer. I'm very grateful – as far as my Institute is concerned – that a balance between family life and career is accorded a high priority. But there's room for improvement in any system, and Münster University could take greater account of school holidays when planning lecture periods.

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