Seventeen Hours Apart

Sydney-based MBA leaves her husband behind in San Fransisco

Since she got married seven years ago, American student Jennifer Killian hadn't been away from her Australian husband for more than a few weeks on the odd business trip. Then last Fall she moved to Sydney to pursue an MBA, leaving him in San Fransisco.

“Sure, phone expenses have gone up”, says Killian, who shuffles her Australian mobile, a pre-paid phone card and Skype to stay in touch with Stephen, who is 17 hours behind her. “I normally end up calling him whenever I feel like talking to him... when I've had a great day or when he's missed out on a fun uni get-together!”.

The proportion of married MBA students has increased rapidly from about a quarter of full-time students ten years ago to up to 40% at some schools. To the pressure of shelling out close to $100,000 on tuition fees (though Killian's program is cheaper), adjusting to a new place and an intense schedule of classes, assignments and job-hunting, these students can add the challenge of keeping up a relationship with their partner.

Killian disagrees that focusing on her husband has prevented her making friends. “I don't see being married or single as a factor in making friends in the course, so much as whether you're outgoing and open... I think friends and spouses are not mutually exclusive in the case of our cohort”.

Killian met her husband 12 years ago when they were both freshmen at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. They spent school breaks apart during that phase of their relationship, and then lived apart for a year and a half after graduation when Killian was working in Chicago and Stephen in Philadelphia.

Though they're on different continents now, the pair are lucky in that Stephen's entire family lives in Sydney, so it's been “easy for him to justify trips back”. They've seen each other four times since September.

Killian's advice to both men and women with partners and families who are considering an MBA is to think carefully about which include the viability of your spouse and children relocating with you, the costs of living together and living apart, potential gains from the MBA program and how and when you'll wan to to talk to and see each other.

Killian hopes to start a family in Australia eventually. “Bottom line is, as an MBA you need a hundred per cent support from your family, no matter where you/they live”, she says.

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