Blog.

Read about the International Spouses at UC Berkeley in the UC Berkeley News 

and in the Daily Californian.

Berkeley Wife Renata teaches Piano

November 2014

 

Renata is a classically trained piano teacher graduated from the Conservatory of Vilnius, Lithuania and recently moved to Berkeley. She gives piano lessons in students’ homes or at the studio in English, French and Russian for beginners, intermediates and advanced players of all ages. Renata previously worked as a Piano teacher in France. Are you interested in taking lessons? Check out her website.

Berkeley Wives 2.0

June 2014

Coralie and Sarah are taking over

 

Hi Everyone! The Berkeley Wives will live on. Sarah and Coralie are taking over. In the following, they are introducing themselves. Please feel free to contact them with your questions anytime. 

 

We are two spouses of Berkeley postdocs. When we arrived in Berkeley, we were so happy to find a group of spouses in the same situation like ours. The Berkeley Wives Group is a great pint of contact for new spouses in Berkeley, as well as for those who have been here for a while. It gives them the opportunity to create some new contacts and friendships.

 

Doro, the founder of the Berkeley Wives, decided to pass on the torch to someone else and we will try to do our best to continue what she has built. We hope that the group will help you starting your new life away from home.

 

So let’s meet, share our experiences and discover the American culture together !

 

We will continue to schedule a Berkeley Wives Happy Hour at least once a month. We will also keep you up to date about what’s going on in Berkeley and the Bay Area, and share some useful tips. In the mean time, if you are up to doing something together with some other Berkeley Wives, you are most welcome to send us an email and we will share it on the Facebook page so that anyone can join.

 

It is very easy to reach us. You can like our page on Facebook, send us a personal message, or you can contact us on berkeleywives@outlook.com

 

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are looking forward to hearing from you and to meeting you !

 

Sarah & Cora

 

 

Do you want to know more about Sarah and Cora ?

 

Sarah:

 

About myself :

My name is Sarah, I am from Austria and I moved to the Bay Area at the end of May 2014. My husband and I will stay in Berkeley for at least one year and I would like to use my time here for gaining more experience in my profession but maybe also to take the chance and try something different.

 

Hobbies and sports?

I like to play tennis and I love being outside hiking or just sitting in the park enjoying the sun. I am always interested in exploring new cities and I love to travel the world.

 

Best places in Berkeley?

My favorite place in Berkeley is the Indian Rock Park. It is a small rock in the middle of a nice neighborhood. On top of the rock you can sit and enjoy a wonderful view of the Bay Area, SF and the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Do you have any tips for other Berkeley Wives that are new in town?

Shortly after I arrived I went to the Berkeley Wives Happy Hour and in my opinion it was one of the best things I could do. I met very nice people and I realized that I am not alone. This gave me a lot of self confidence and I already made friends. Therefore the best advice I can give is to connect with Berkeley Wives and go to places where you meet people.

 

 

Cora:

 

About myself :

I’m Cora, from Switzerland. When my husband has been accepted as a postdoc at UC Berkeley, we had two options. Either decline the offer, stay in Switzerland and continue our quiet life there. Or move to California for a few years and seek a new experience and adventure. We definitely chose the second option!

 

Hobbies and sports?

I love travelling, reading, cooking, going to theatre,…

I like spinning, running, yoga. And because golf seems to be part of the American culture, my husband and I just began to take some golf classes.

 

Best places in Berkeley ?

I like walking through the Campus, and reading in the amazing Doe library. I also like eating a frozen yoghurt on Bancroft Avenue or have a drink at Eureka on Center Street.

 

Do you have any tips for other Berkeley Wives that are new in town?

Don’t stay at home. Jump on any occasion to meet new people.

 

What I have learnt so far ?

I love the American way of thinking : « There are no difficulties, but only challenges ». So think positive and enjoy your life here!

 

 

 

Time to move on.

April 2014

 

Dear Berkeley Wives Community,

 

After three years of Berkeley Wives' happy hours, blogs, facebook posts, photos, and many, many good memories, I have decided that it is time for me to move on: The May Happy Hour at the Beta Lounge on May 28 will be the last Berkeley Wives Happy Hour organized by me. I am very grateful for all the support I have received over the past three years. The Berkeley Wives became so successful because so many of you came regularly, contributed blog posts, liked facebook posts and told other international spouses about the Berkeley Wives.

 

However, this does not have to be the end of the Berkeley Wives. I am looking for a volunteer to take over the Berkeley Wives from the summer onward. If you are interested in doing that, please email me at berkeleywives@gmail.com. If possible, you should be here at least for the next 6-12 months.

 

You should be able to organize one happy hour per month (the happy hours should be held in the evening), write at least one blog post per month (you don't have to write all the blogs yourself, you can also recruit other spouses as writers) and post to the facebook page at least every other day. If that's something you would like to do and you want to take the Berkeley Wives to the next level with your new ideas and inspirations, please let me know. I'd be happy to meet with you.

 

Again, many, many thanks to everyone who came to the happy hours and contributed to this great community, a group of strong women who are now not only in Berkeley, but all over the world. I will always be grateful for the nice times and really hope that someone will continue with this group.

 

All best,

Doro

Polish, sparkle, beauty-time

Nail Salons in Berkeley

March 2014

 

Berkeley has a variety of nail salons all over town. Over the past 3 years that I have lived here, I tried a couple of them and wanted to share my experience. I am not a nail polish expert by any means, but every now and then I like to get a nice manicure and pedicure. Here are the salons that I have tried to so far and my impression of them.

 

Annabella Nail Salon: This basic salon is located in downtown Berkeley. The reason to go to this place is the unbeatable price only - for $27 you can get a manicure and a pedicure. You can just walk in and do not need an appointment. They seat you on massage chairs while you get your hands and feet done. The atmosphere, however, is not so relaxing. The staff is not unfriendly, but does not really go out of their way to treat you special, either. The salon does not have any nice decorations. Neither does it look like they care much about the looks of the place. Annabella Nail Salon is a great option if you need a quick (and cheap) fix for your nails, but it is definitely not a spa treatment.

 

Polished Nail Salon: The Polished Nail Salon is on Shattuck Avenue towards the Gourmet Ghetto. It is always really busy, so it is best to make an appointment to get your nails done in one of their nice massage chairs. The atmosphere is a bit nicer than at Annabella. The staff is very friendly. If it is your birthday, they will apply additional decorations to your nails (if you like that, of course). Prices are a bit higher than at Annabella. I once got a shellac manicure there for $35. The manicure was flawless and lasted for 3 weeks. I think the Polished Nail Salon is definitely worth its money and offers good quality and very friendly service.

 

SoleMates: This salon is in the heart of the Gourmet Ghetto. It is located right next to Saul's Delicatessen. SoleMates has the best atmosphere, it is a really nice salon with friendly staff. They offer free tea and coffee and organic products, if desired. The price is pretty steep, though. A mani-pedi runs at about $40. Other treatments can cost even more. SoleMates is a true, relaxing spa experience, though. If you need a break and some me-time instead of a quick beauty fix, this is definitely the place to go.

What to expect when you're expecting in Berkeley

February 2014

 

Many Berkeley Wives are using their time in the Bay Area to have a baby. Berkeley Wife Francesca just had her daughter a couple of months before she left to move back to Europe. We interviewed Francesca to find out about her experience being pregnant and having a little one in the United States. Thanks Francesca for sharing your story!

 

How did you end up in Berkeley and when did you have your baby?

I moved to Berkeley from Italy for the most classical reason: my husband’s job. He got a postdoctoral position in Computational Biology at UCB and on January 2012 we both moved to Berkeley. We spent two years in the Bay Area and during this period we have experienced the most exciting event of our lives: becoming parents. Our little baby girl Viola was born in Berkeley on September 15th, 2013.

 

What was your experience with the pre- and postnatal care provided in the U.S.?

 

My experience with pre- and postnatal care was really good. Through my husband’s job we were both covered by HealthNet HMO. I chose an OB from the Alta Bates Summit Center located in Berkeley. My doctor and her staff were very friendly, competent and skilled.

 

My OB checked me once a month and weekly during the last month. I also had a blood tests and an ultrasound every trimester, plus a nuchal translucency ultrasound and a prenatal genetic testing.

 

During the labor the hospital staff was great. They were really supportive and made me feel comfortable. Since English is not my native language one of my worries was not to be able to explain my needs clearly during labor but everyone was so nice, calm and professional that at the end I had no problems.

 

The first day at home after the delivery a nurse from the hospital came at my home to check how the baby and I were doing. After one month from the delivery I had a postnatal visit with my OB.

 

Did your insurance cover all costs or did you have to pay fees out of pocket?

 

Yes, my insurance covered most of the costs. I only paid 10$ for the first visit with my OB and around 80$ for other optional tests.

 

 

Do you have any tips for Berkeley Wives who are expecting?

 

Enjoy your pregnancy because it’s an amazing moment for a woman !! And even if you can be worried because far away from your relatives and friends, Berkeley offers a lot of support groups for moms. We followed a childbirth class and a

breastfeeding class offered by the hospital where you can meet other expecting moms/dads (unfortunately these classes were not covered by our insurance, but it was a reasonable cost). The Alta Bates offers also a support group for moms and baby from 0-6 months with weekly meetings with a midwife. Again every Thursday at the YWCA in Berkeley there is a play time for babies where you can meet and chat with other moms. And once every month there is the Berkeley Moms Meetup where moms and babies meet to play and have a good time together in a playground or park in Berkeley. So you are not alone with your baby!!!!

4 Bay Area Must Haves

January 2014

 

If you are new in the Bay Area, you should be sure to get the following five Bay Area must-haves. They make your life so much easier.

 

  1. Fleece coat: They told you California is sunny and warm, and it sorta is for most of the time. However, when the fog rolls in or the sun goes down, it gets really, really cold. A fleece coat comes in handy for those cold moments. You can get good deals for North Face fleeces in the North Face Outlet in Berkeley.
  2. Clipper-Card: This public transit pass allows you to use all means of public transit in the Bay Area, from BART, muni, bus, and even ferry. You can buy the Clipper-card at every Walgreens.
  3. Earthquake Survival Kit: Lately no big earthquake has struck Berkeley, but every now and then you feel a little rumble. It is advisable to prepare if/when the big one hits, so buy an earthquake survival kit just in case.
  4. Rainboots: Again, they told you it is very sunny in Berkeley and in fact - it is! But every once in a while it rains; and when it rains, it pours, sometimes for days. So better get some fun rain boots. Target often has great deals.

A time of yes

By Maria Stoop, November 2013

 

It’s 1 PM and I sit on the couch with the crumbs of a just-finished lunch on a plate right next to me. Before lunch I sent off a few documents to one of my clients. I will send out another document tomorrow and will send out a bill before the end of the week. This is the life of a self-employed wife.

 

My name is Maria. I am 30 years old and am originally from The Netherlands, where I met and (eventually) married my American-born husband. I wasn’t planning to be self-employed when I arrived in Berkeley five months ago, ‘trailing’ behind that same husband-now-grad-student. I hoped to get a job at an employer, with fixed hours, some colleagues and perhaps even some benefits. Maybe I’d find something in educational publishing, like I did back home, or maybe something in translation or editing. This job would provide regularity and structure to a life turned upside down. I hoped for a regular paycheck, too, preferably big enough for our now one-income family.

 

However, the first positive response of the more than 70 job applications I sent, was a contracting gig. Someone needed a Dutch translator to go to a client in San Francisco. I sent them my resume and they said yes. I worked, I billed, they paid and suddenly I had made my first self-earned dollars, but no idea how to handle them legally. After some research I got myself a business license, became a sole proprietor and found another client.

 

Once my husband’s classes started, it became clear that I really needed some interaction with other people in order to stay sane. That was when I started going to BSPA meetings. There I asked for ways to interact with other freelancers and business owners and started working together together with Zoya Street and Eiko Kielty soon after. We started VEG: a group for those people UC Berkeley spouses and partners who are self-employed.

 

If I look back on the days since our arrival in July, things seem to have fallen into place extraordinarily well. I spend most of my time productively, have met (and still meet) lovely and interesting people. While this place is not yet ‘home’, it feels like I belong more every single day. It’s becoming harder to remember how it felt when I worried that I might not find anything to do. Already, I can barely recall the creeping sense of boredom and uselessness, although I know it kept me up at night. What I do recall is what my husband told me before we moved; the lesson he learned as an expat and emigrant: “Whenever someone offers something – anything – say yes.” I’ve been trying!

 

 

More about VEG: http://villageentrepreneurgroup.wordpress.com/

More about Maria: www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=178146365

 

 

Moving Through Transitions

By Yvonne Lefort

October 2013

 

My work as a career consultant and intercultural trainer brings me into contact with many people in career and life transitions. At UC Berkeley, where I have been working as a consultant and teaching a course called “Creating A Fulfilling Life in America,” I have met many international spouses and partners going through intercultural, career and life transition.

 

Some have never lived or even traveled outside their home country, and living far away from friends and family is a daily challenge. Finding a place to live, setting up the apartment, opening a bank account and knowing where to shop or get a good haircut are some of the practical challenges of living in a new place, but there are also psychological challenges. Most people from other countries experience some degree of “culture shock” and loneliness, while others can get paralyzed with fear, depression and anxiety, and not know how to “get out” of what may feel like a big, black hole.

I often refer people to William Bridges’ book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Every transition, according to Bridges, begins with an “Ending.” When you move to another country, you experience many endings: an end to your job and to the sense of identity you got from your work, an end to time spent with close friends and family, and an end to being in a culture where you know the norms and can feel safe and comfortable, to name a few. You may go through a period that Bridges calls the “Neutral Zone,” where you feel lost and confused, unproductive, and not sure who you are anymore. It’s not a comfortable place. But in this period of confusion, there is growth happening as you begin to sort through who you are, what’s important in your life, and what you need to have to feel fulfilled. Your new identity is trying to take shape. Eventually, you will experience a renewed sense of energy as you begin to get new ideas and take action. You have moved through the neutral zone to a new beginning!

 

I have witnessed this process with the spouses and partners at UC Berkeley with whom I have had the privilege to work. To them and to you, I say, “Step Outside Your Comfort Zone.” It may feel scary because you don’t know the culture, your English isn’t perfect and you have an accent, or maybe you’re not used to starting up conversations with strangers. I understand, but don’t let this stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Take your inspiration from some of these spouses:

Satu, a spouse from Finland, applied for work authorization but her application was denied. So, she decided to form the “Language Café,” an informal language exchange where people meet weekly at a coffee shop to practice different languages.

Mila from Mexico is a marine biologist. After volunteering at a nature center, she applied for a grant from UC Berkeley and received a sum of money to start a program on sustainable living called “Nature Village.” (http://www.naturevillage.org). She received an award for her work from the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Sustainability.

Ernani from Brazil is a high school physics teacher and musician. Since he couldn’t work on a F-2 visa, he decided to join a band and volunteer at a children’s science museum.

Doro from Germany didn’t know anyone when she first arrived in the U.S. and wanted to meet new people. She started a social group called the “Berkeley Wives” and created a website (http://berkeleywives.jimdo.com), and now she has a membership of almost 300 spouses.

 Kathy from Chile is a veterinarian who volunteered at an animal shelter for several months before getting a part-time job as a veterinary assistant.

Kirsty, from Australia, loves to sew and make her own clothes.  She started writing her own blog, “Tea and Rainbows” (www.teaandrainbows.com), to show off clothes she has made and talk about sewing techniques, patterns, fabric and anything else crafty.

 

These are just a few examples of spouses who have created or seized opportunities, taken risks, and stepped outside their comfort zone.  You can too.

If you’re a new mother, find a mothers’ club to join where you can meet other moms to share the joys and frustrations of motherhood. Or, start your own new moms group.  

 

If you’re looking for work, learn the American way of networking and asking for informational interviews, and begin to make contact with people who can help advance you in your career. Take job search classes to learn how to write an American style resume, interview for a job, and “toot your own horn.”

 

If you are unable to get work authorization, find other ways to make your time in America meaningful and fulfilling. Is there something you’d like to try that you’ve never had the time to do? Is there a class that you could take or certificate that you could get to upgrade your professional skills? Can you think of some ways that you could be of service to others and volunteer your time? Or perhaps you’ve been too busy with your career to just take the time to have fun and relax. Allow yourself to do what makes you feel good and what makes you come alive. 

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your life in America!

 

Partners@Berkeley - now with Diana

Berkeley Wives linkedin group has a new name and a new manager

October 2013

 

The Berkeley Wives have been on LINKEDIN for quite a while now. Now there are some changes :-) The Berkeley Wives linkedin group has a new name. From now on, the group is called Partners@Berkeley. The group also has a new manager. I am very, very excited to introduce Diana as our new linkedin group manager.

 

 

1. Diana, you are the new manager of the Berkeley Wives Linkedin group "Partners@Berkeley". Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 

I was born in Italy but moved to Belgium just after graduating from high school. I studied at Ghent University, gained a Master in Art History and worked about five years in the international contemporary art sector. I was an exhibition curator, gallery assistant, press and communication associate, museum guide, and much more. One year ago, I married the love of my life and moved to Berkeley, where he works as a postdoc in environmental engineering. I speak five languages, love travelling, hiking, cooking for friends, and watching movies. 

 

2. Are you currently looking for a job in the Bay Area? What do you think are the challenges that international spouses can face on the American job market?

Moving to California with my husband was for me, beside a chance to gain valuable life experience, an opportunity to give a boost to my career. However, I found out that starting or even just continuing your professional development in a new country is not an easy thing to do. First of all, not everyone is eligible to work in the US. If you hold a visa that allows it, you need to get through the procedure of getting a work permit first. Then you need to adjust your search and application strategies to the American standards and culture. If that wasn't yet enough, and especially if you moved to a place like the San Francisco Bay Area, you have to face the disadvantages of a highly competitive job market with way more qualified job seekers than in many other world regions. Luckily, you are not the only one in this situation, and you can relay on many--and often even free--resources to increase your chances to succeed. Volunteer opportunities, classes, specific websites, and... this LinkedIn group are there for you!

 

3. Why should someone join the Partners@Berkeley linkedin group? 

 

Anyone who followed his or her partner to Berkeley and is getting (or got already) through the experience of taking his career with him, is welcome and should definitely join this group. Whether you have experience to share or need help to find your way in the new professional environment, here you will get the opportunity to connect with other people in your sector, give and get useful tips, find valuable resources, discuss career-related topics, and extend your professional network.

 

Start your own business!

Meet Emilie who made her dream come true.

September, 2013

 

In March 2012, I've left my home country to accompany my husband in San Francisco, working as a postdoc at UCSF.

 

Since I was pregnant when I came here and my work authorization took for ever to be issued (in my relative perception of time...), I've decided not to wait for it and make a drastic change to my career (I was an environmental engineer). Thus I've started devote my time to realize my dream: as a craft and people lover, I've been creating my own craft workshops company. That was the perfect timing to start this adventure since I was able to work from home taking care of my big sleeper baby boy.

 

The concept of my Business Craftifice is to offer craft workshops/parties at the people's place so they can meet, craft and relax at home, or anywhere they'd like to be (cafe, craft room, etc.) for their special occasions or get-together.

 

As a spouse, I know that our situation is not always the easiest. Stop your guilt trip! We’re gonna go back to work later. Now, it’s time to enjoy trying new things we would never have the chance and time to do if we were not expats :)

 

I would be so pleased to teach you unusual techniques, like felting, modeling, paper crafting and upcycling techniques you’ve never practiced.

 

Most of the workshops are 3-hour workshops of 2 different types:

 

  • "Make & Keep: For your get-together, everyone crafts together but on their own project
  • "Make & Give"A crafting party where everyone collaborates on one project offered to the celebrated person.

 

I'm currently working on the Halloween & Christmas crafts: greeting cards, felted ghosts, and Christmas ornaments. Check out my website and facebook page!

http://www.craftifice.com/

 

Hope to see you soon,

Emilie

Write your own blog!

August 2013

 

Berkeley Wife Kirsty from Australia did something that many of us dream about: She started writing her own blog “Tea and Rainbows” www.teaandrainbows.com. In our interview, she shares her experience about being a blogger. Get inspired! Maybe we will see your very own blog in the world wide web very soon?

What is the title of your blog and what is it about? The title of my blog is Tea & Rainbows, and it's a place where I show off the clothes I've made and talk about sewing techniques, patterns, fabric and anything else crafty.
What are/were your biggest challenges and successes with the blog? The biggest challenges for me were/still are the web design aspect of the blog (making it look pretty!) and having people judge what I do. People can use the internet as a mask to say some pretty awful things, and I was quite nervous about that happening to my blog! As for successes, having people tell me that I inspire them to try sewing is the best part of all, for me.
What advice do you have for other Berkeley Wives who want to start their own blog? My advice to others wanting to start their own blog is: just do it. Really! I put off starting a blog for well over 6 months because I didn't know how to make it look professional, and I was scared to try. Blogs are so easy to make, though, and platforms like Wordpress and Blogspot do most of the hard work for you. If you have good content, people will forgive a dodgy background or some poor font choices. My other piece of advice would be to utilise social media as much as possible. Make a Facebook account for your blog, a Twitter account, and interact with other people in your field as much as possible. Be a part of the blogging community, and people will notice you and check out what you're doing. What you get from blogging depends entirely on how much you put in

Cocktails, please.

July 2013

 

Summer time is cocktail time. Berkeley has lots nice cocktail bars. We wanted to list some of the best ones for you here, so on your next date with your hubby or your ladies night out, you know where to get a delicious Long Island Ice Tea, Mojito, or Moscow Mule.

 

  1. Revival: This bar and restaurant right by the Berkeley Downtown BART station has a large cocktail menu. The bar tenders are knowledgeable and can recommend drinks that suit your taste most. During their Happy Hour Revival offers draft pints for $1 off, well cocktails and the cocktail du jour are $7, and their featured house wine is $5 a glass.
  2. East Bay Spice Company: This Indian themed cocktail bar and restaurant is on Oxford Street. They offer their own uniquely designed cocktails and small Indian food plates. The East Bay Spice Company has a high end ambiance. Cocktails are around $10.
  3. Mint Leaf: The Mint Leaf Indian Bistro is right across from Cheeseboard. Mint Leaf has a daily Happy Hour from 5 pm to 7 pm. Their individual cocktail selection only costs $5 per drink (they offer home made Sangria or Tamarind Margeritas, for example.) Beers are $3. They also offer a discounted appetizer menu during this time. On weekends they also have live music.
  4. Hotsy Totsy: The Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany is a real American dive bar. Their bar tenders know what they're doing. They offer Pisco Sours, "20th Century" and all other classic cocktails you can imagine. This is not a fancy place, but more a cool hang out spot where you can get an affordable drink and have fun with your friends.  Cocktails are under $10.
  5. Ivy Room: The Ivy Room recently changed ownership. This bar now offers signature drinks like the Revolta, Kamasutra, or the Raccolta. Some of their drinks even come with burning jalapenos. Both the Ivy Room and the Hotsy Totsy are in walking distance to UC Village. Cocktails are mostly under $10.

Life after Berkeley - Moving to a new Country

June 2013

 

Lucia from Spain and Karen from England were Berkeley Wives members from the first hour. Recently they moved away from Berkeley. Instead of moving to their home country, they moved to a new country. Lucia and her family moved to Oxford (UK). Karen and her husband moved to Copenhagen, Denmark.

 

Lucia and Karen are sharing their experience about moving to a new place.

 

What do you like best about your new home country?

 

Lucia: Hmmmmm, still trying to find, but for now what I like best about my new country is how close is from my home country. The architecture is something that I like very much, as well as the respect for old things. What I like the most from this country is that it is my beloved friend Karen's home country.

 

Karen: So far Denmark has been treating us well!  I love the way everyone cycles everywhere.  It's hard to meet people here but when you do they're really friendly and helpful.  Almost everyone speaks perfect English which makes it really easy to get by (possibly a little too easy - not too much motivation to push yourself to speak Danish!!).  Also, although danish pastries are called (literally translated) Vienna Bread here, the bakeries and cakes here are amazing!!


What do you think is the biggest challenge in the new country?

L: The biggest challenge for me is the weather. We are almost in June and I am wearing a scarf, and the prediction for this week is just rain and more rain.

 

K: Finding a job here is proving really tough for me, but I guess that's the same everywhere at the moment and there are systems in place here to provide support to accompanying spouses which is helpful.  The Danish Language is also something in a league of its own (to put it in as polite a form as I can manage)!!  I'm taking intensive lessons, (which is also a good way to meet other people in the same situation), so hopefully I'll start having the confidence to try using it in public soon without fear of mortifying embarrasment!

 

How did you organize the move to the new country?

 

L: Well, my husband's new company paid for the moving expenses as well as the flight tickets, so we did't worry very much about the costs. Apart from that we tried to buy some old good furniture to bring with us, cause here it is very expensive, also winter clothes. We also take the opportunity between the two contracts to make a trip all around Florida with our 9 month old daughter. 

 

K: The company my husband is now working for here in Denmark were really helpful and organised all our immigration paperwork for us, just told us which forms to fill in and we had to just submit them to the Danish embassy in San Francisco, so that was great and really easy.  They also suggested some websites to look for apartments, and when we chose one we thought looked good they sent someone to check it out for us.  It was nice to have somewhere to live sorted out before we moved here. In terms of moving our possessions, we got some quotes from different moving companies and in the end went with a company where I packed all the boxes myself and then they just checked the contents (for customs) and shipped them.  They took a couple of months to arrive but everything arrived safely with no breakages :o).

 

What do you miss about Berkeley?

 

L: What I miss about Berkeley is my friends, the people there, the smiles in their faces, the sun, the bay and the sea, the wilderness of the surroundings, the gardens, the  temperature... Berkeley Bowl...Golden Bear swimming pool...San Francisco.

 

K: So many things!  As with all moves, friends are what we miss the most, skype just doesn't cut it but we're learning to cope (yet again! - that's one thing that doesn't get easier the more countries you move to!!). Moving here in the winter the californian sunshine was sorely missed for a good few months, but thankfully the sun has arrived here now for a little while at least.
Another thing we really miss is the wide variety of affordable places to eat so many different types of food.  Here in Denmark it's much more expensive to eat out and there's not so much choice. 
Oh, and if Copenhagen could import the fruit and veggie section of Berkeley Bowl and a Paper Source store I would definitely not complain!

 

Do you have any tips for other Berkeley Wives moving to a new country?


L: I would recommend to buy things that are going to be cheaper for sure, enjoy as much as you can the outdoors with good weather, visit Hawaii before leaving and don't panic.

K: I think everything works much more smoothly the more planning that you do, so do as much research as possible, but at the same time being super flexible is also really important, especially in the beginning when things won't work the way you expect them to and you have to figure everything out all over (whilst everything takes 10 times longer to figure out than it would in your own country/language).  I think it's also important to have fun in the process and make some time to explore your new area instead of just focusing on all the (many many) practicalities that need dealing with!

Discover Alameda

May 2013

 

If you're looking for something to do on a sunny day, drive down to Alameda, the charming town right next to Berkeley. This beautiful community has lots to offer and is a very family-friendly place.

 

Outdoors:

The Memorial Crown Beach Park is a great place for a barbecue. The park does not only offer great views of San Francisco, but also a long (but narrow) sand beach with shallow water for the little ones to play in. The park also has a beach volley ball field and numerous barbecue grills.

 

Shopping:

Downtown Alameda has lots of little quirky shops. Juniper Tree Vintage sells real vintage clothing from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. If you ever watch the TV show MAD MEN and love the clothes the actors wear, this is the place you can find them. Another cute shop is Daisy's. This store sells cute decoration items and gifts. If you prefer mall-shopping, you can head to the Alameda South Shore Center. This mall has all the major store chains and restaurants.

 

History:

If you'd like to learn more about California history, you can check out the Alameda History Museum. It's free!

Enrollment in Berkeley

Elementary and Middle Schools

April 2013

 

Step by Step:

  1. Find out in which BUSD-zone your child will attend school (zone depends on your Berkeley address.)
  2. Submit the Parent Preference Form along with:
  • The birth certificate of your child (official translation necessary if the birth certificate is in a language other than English);
  • Your original invitation letter from the the department or institute your spouse is working at;
  • A copy of your rental or lease agreement for your Berkeley address;
  • A letter from the your spouse's department confirming your Berkeley address
  • Your child’s school report (English translation if necessary);
  • Vaccination record (Polio, DPT, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, chicken pox, please check Berkeley School District’s website for details).
  • If your child is entering Kindergarten or first grade, you must also bring a California Health and Disability Prevent form signed by a physician and an oral health assessment form signed by a dental professional (both of these forms are available at the Berkeley Unified School District Office at 2020 Bonar Street.)

For more information, stop by the Berkeley Unified School District's office at 2020 Bonar Street. If you don't live in Berkeley, but in El Cerrito, Albany, or Kensington you must contact the school districts for these communities. El Cerrito and Kensington belong to the West Contra Costa district, Albany has its own Albany school district.

Life after Berkeley – Returning back home.

Interview with Katharina and Petra, March 2013

 

While many of us just arrived in Berkeley, some of us have already moved on. Petra from Germany has lived two years in Berkeley before she, her husband, and their baby daughter recently returned back to their home country. Katharina and her husband spent one and a half years in Berkeley. In December 2012 they also moved back to Germany. Moving back home is not as easy as it seems: From organizing the actual move, throwing goodbye parties, up to planning a new future – moving time is busy time. Petra and Katharina were so kind to share their experience about moving back home and have helpful tips for other Berkeley Wives packing their bags for their new beginning in their home country.

 

How did you manage the move?
Petra: We did a Moving Sale and advertised all of our items for sale on the postdoc list serve. We also published our sale ads on the Berkeley Wives facebook page and gave some of our things away to friends. We did not mail any of our belongings back home, but rather took an additional suitcase on the plane. We flew with Lufthansa: With this airline even babies under two years of age can take a piece of luggage on the plane at no additional cost. Also: Don’t forget to cancel all utilities (electricty, gas, etc), your phone contract and your apartment in time.

Katharina: Luckily, another German couple rented our apartment and they bought a lot of our belongings, such as pots and pans, our couch, and our bed frame. We took photos of the remaining things and advertised them on Craiglist and on the Berkeley Wives facebook page. Then we also organized a Moving Sale before we moved out of our apartment. Since my husband and I did a roadtrip before we left for Germany, we mailed everything we couldn’t take with us on the plane home with USPS. On the USPS homepage you can calculate the exact price for each box.

 

How was the new start back home? What was nice and what was hard?

Petra: We returned in the winter after having spent a long vacation in Miami, the cold weather was pretty tough. Also, our baby struggled with the jet lag a lot, which was hard on us as well. At the same time, it was wonderful to see all of our friends and family again.

Katharina: We returned back home on Christmas Day and it was a little stressful: We spent a lot of time seeing family members and friends. Everbody wanted to hear where we would go next and what our plans were. I felt like a stranger with my family and friends. We lived three weeks with my mother. Only when we moved to our new hometown Biberach into our own apartment, I felt like I actually arrived in Germany and was not going back to Berkeley anytime soon. Now I have to find a job and make new friends. Unfortunately, Biberach is a small town and something like the Berkeley Wives group does not exist, so it’s not as easy as in Berkeley to meet new people.

 

What do you miss about Berkeley?

Petra: I miss my friends that I met there and of course the Berkeley Wives. The weather was great, everbody was so kind there. And: I miss the good Sushi in California a lot!

Katharina: I miss my friends, the sunshine, good food, and the open and friendly ways of the people there.

 

Do you have any tips for Berkeley Wives who are returning home soon?

Petra: Do a big trip before you leave the United States and really enjoy that vacation before you return home. Setting up a new place and getting readjusted to living back home can be stressful.

Katharina: Start selling your belongings early on Craigslist to ensure you can sell everything you want to get rid off, including the small things (like tupperware, for example).

 

Networking

By Zdenka Amadio

February 2013

 

If you are reading this blog, you are either already in Berkeley or planning to relocate here. Making decision to accompany your spouse abroad is not easy and requires some time to adjust. Maybe you had to quit your job to come here and now you are facing another decision: “What am I going to do”? You might wonder what other opportunities there are to lead an active, enjoyable life here. The purpose of this article is to give you some ideas where to find information about social gatherings and personal development resources, but most importantly to encourage you to take action!

 

Step one: socialize. Berkeley Wives is not only a website, but a community of spouses who are probably in a similar situation as you. This is an excellent source to tap for networking, making plans and re-creating your future. The monthly Happy Hour takes place at various locations throughout Berkeley. Click “Like” on our Facebook page and you will get updates about events. Even though coming to one of those events for the first time might feel uncomfortable, remember that we are all in the same boat and we are happy to get to know you.

 

Sooner or later you will learn about Yvonne Lefort and her class “Creating a fulfilling life in America”. Attending this ten-week course is a great opportunity to meet with other spouses and learn more about American culture as well as immense help when it comes to re-creating your life in the Bay Area. Moreover, an inter-cultural discussion is held every Friday at the I-House Cafe. It's another great way to connect with other spouses and share your experience. To find out more information, join the “Creating a fulfilling life in America” Facebook group, and check out the monthly events calendar where you can find many other activities that are organized by spouses, for spouses.

 

Do you enjoy social gatherings but you are looking for something more active? If working might not be an option for you because of visa issues or because you are not eligible to work in your field, there is nothing wrong with taking some time off and thinking about what else you might want to do. You should probably spend this time abroad rediscovering yourself, which can be quite challenging. A transition is not always easy and you might find yourself restless and confused when it comes to your own personality and career development. At one social gathering organized for spouses I learned about the Jewish Vocational Service in San Francisco, which provides assistance to people who are going through a career transition or are simply looking to improve their skills in the current labor market. This organization welcomes people of any race or religion and offers a variety of training programs which adhere to high standards. I'm often impressed by Americans' ability to sell or promote their own accomplishments. Learn from Americans what they are good at. You can get a chance to practice and enhance your skills, and moreover these workshops are free of charge. So why not to take an advantage of that?

 

Volunteering can also be a career opportunity. If you are looking for some non-profit organizations for which to volunteer, you might try Idealist.org, where non-profit organizations post events information and volunteering opportunities. You can search by location and field of interest. Volunteering is not only about giving back to the community, but also great way to meet people and engage in activities where you might enhance your professional skills or gain some new ones.

 

Meeting new people often requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Getting to know them and learn from them is exciting and rewarding. It also creates a positive experience which can help you to integrate into your new home. A good friend of mine who I met here in Berkeley once told me that life is not always about reaching the goal, but about enjoying the journey.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget

January 2013

 

Grocery shopping can be quite expensive in the United States. Depending on where you're from, some of the prices might seem really high to you. There are some places where you can get good produce and groceries for a small amount of money in Berkeley. Please find a list of the best places below.

 

  • Berkeley Bowl: This local grocery store has two locations in Berkeley. Fruit and Vegetables are very cheap. If you're looking to buy other groceries, however, it might be a bit on the expensive side.
  • Grocery Outlet: This grocery outlet store offers groceries with a big discount. It is comparable to ALDI or Lidl in Europe. You can get great deals here.
  • Monterey Market: Small local market offering fresh vegetables, fruit, and other fare for the small budget. They also offer some international foods from the UK, India, Germany, etc.
  • Ranch 99: This Asian discount supermarket offers fresh fish, Asian foods, groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables for low prices. They will even fry the fish for you at no cost, fresh!

Do you know of other great stores that might be useful for fellow Berkeley Wives? Let us know!

 

Berkeley Wife Renata teaches Piano

December 2012

 

Renata is a classically trained piano teacher graduated from the Conservatory of Vilnius, Lithuania and recently moved to Berkeley. She gives piano lessons in students’ homes or at the studio in English, French and Russian for beginners, intermediates and advanced players of all ages. Check out her website. Renata previously worked as a Piano teacher in France. Are you interested in taking lessons?

 

Contact Renata at renataciurlionyte @ gmail.com.

 

 

 

A Day in Santa Cruz

November 2012

Santa Cruz is a fun destination for day trip. Whenever we have guests from home we will take them to the board walk and the beach right by the roller coasters. We never really explored the rest of the city, though, so one day my husband and I drove down towards Santa Cruz to explore more.


On our way there we stopped at the Big Foot Museum. This tiny museum in the middle of a thick Redwood forest is all about the creature "Big Foot" which allegedly lives somewhere in the American wilderness. The museum is made and presented by people who believe in the existence of this creature and they show pieces of "evidence" as well. The entrance is free, so if you want to learn more about "Big Foot", you should definitely stop by.


We then drove on to Capitola Village, a picturesque community right next to Santa Cruz. The colorful houses right by the shore and the beautiful beach are amazing. Many cafes and restaurants offer spectacular views of the water. We had lunch at the "Fog Bank" right by the water. This affordable bar and restaurant has nice seats outside and a dive bar feel inside. Try their Octopus-Sandwich!


After our lunch we drove a couple of minutes to Santa Cruz and took a walk on West Cliff Drive, right by the water. The views are incredible and the path is flat, so it's easy to walk, bike, or even roller skate. Finally we moved on to Downtown Santa Cruz where we strolled around the many shops, bookstores, and bars. The downtown area has a very European, pedestrian friendly feel.

 

After all this walking we needed some rest and rented a private hot tub in the Tea House. The people are really friendly there and the facility is beautiful. While you soak in the hot tub you can enjoy some freshly brewed organic tea - very relaxing.


Before we drove back up to Berkeley we had dinner at MoBo Sushi. This place can get crowded so bring some extra time for the wait. The Sushi is super delicious and definitely worth the wait.
We had a great time in Santa Cruz. If you are bored over the holidays, you should definitely take a drive down there and check it out.

Sole Consoli from Italy.
Sole Consoli from Italy.

Turning loneliness into Creativity:

My experience on how I’ve settled in America.

By Sole Consoli.


Hello everyone!

 

My name is Sole and I am a Berkeley wife! I’ve decided to write this short blog in order to share my experience with you on how I dealt with my state of transition when I first arrived in California.


My husband and I moved to Berkeley almost 3 months ago. We are both born and raised in Rome, Italy and this is our first experience abroad as a married couple. Moving to the States has been our dream and when we moved here we had great expectations. However, life hasn’t been so easy when we first arrived in town. We had to find an apartment, open a new bank account, buy new furniture, get a new social life and so on. We both realized pretty soon that settling in the new American reality was a challenging task. Moreover, I really missed our families and friends and this made me homesick and quite depressed. While my husband started his PhD in Economics at UCB almost immediately, I found myself alone the majority of the days, staying home and trying to find a place for myself away from the housework and a huge amount of spare time that I couldn’t use productively.

 

Once I decided that I didn’t want to be sad anymore thinking about how much I was missing my previous life, I’ve kind of accepted my new social status as an accompanying spouse. I wanted to re-create my own routine and to start having my own job!

I have a master degree in applied linguistics and my dream is to teach italian to foreign people. That is why, I started to looking for any kind of activity related to teach italian. Everyday as soon as I got up I started to look on Internet: Italian Dep. studies, Italian language schools, tutoring...everything! It was a tiring job especially because sometimes I had to stay in front of my PC the whole day!! Until one day, all of a sudden, I found this website about an Italian school in SF, offering volunteering activities for people who want to interact with the Italian culture.

 

The next day I decided go to the school to introduce myself and as soon as I was telling the headmaster about why I wanted to volunteer, she welcomed me and let me in. The day after, while I was there thrilled about a new adventure close to begin, she asked me if I wanted to join the school staff once my work authorization would have been approved. Of course I said yes!!! I was so happy about that and so my husband. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I wasn’t feeling like a fish out of water, unable to face my new life. I’d finally found what I was looking for: the perfect “American dream”!

 

Sole.

Best Views in Berkeley

September 2012

 

Being in the East Bay allows you to have great views on the city of San Francisco as well as the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Find below the best view points in Berkeley (great to take guests):

  1. Campanile: Take the elevator up the Campanile on campus (free for students and UC Berkeley staff). You can get a great 360-degree view of Berkeley and San Francisco. If you go at 8 am or noon, you will get to hear the bells. Some students of the Music Department play them at these hours.
  2. Inspiration Point: In Tilden Park, Inspiration Point allows for great views into the city. You can park your car close by and walk (about 15 minutes). The path is paved. No picnic area, unfortunately.
  3. Indian Rock: Climb up Indian Rock. The rock is a great hang out spot. You can park in the neighborhood around the rock quite easily. Sometimes rock climbers show off their skills at this huge Berkeley landmark.
  4. Rose garden: Beautiful rose garden in North Berkeley. Picnic area available across the street (you can reserve them).
  5. Berkeley Marina: Drive down to the Marina and walk out on the pier. It’s windy, you should definitely bring a coat. Skates is a fancy restaurant nearby and right on the waterfront. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks on dinner, come in for one of their fabulous Mojitos. The restaurant offers also great views from inside.

A trip to the Russian River- Canoeing, Champagne, and Swimming.


Doro Unger-Lee, August 2012


My husband and I recently spent a weekend at the Russian River. We had a great time there, so I thought I'd write up what we did in case you're looking for something to do for a day trip or a weekend-get-away. The Russian River is only 1.5 hours away from Berkeley. We decided to spend the night there and booked a private cottage via the website airbnb.com. There are also many hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Cabins and campgrounds. In the summer time, you should make sure to reserve many weeks ahead of time since it can get very busy there. Alternatively, you can just drive back home for the night, since it's only a little more than one hour away from Berkeley.

Saturday we spent canoeing. You can rent a canoe at Burke's Canoeing for $60 per day. In one canoe you can fit up to three people, but it's better for two (there is no actual seat for the third person). The canoeing was a blast. You do not need any prior canoeing experience to do it and they provide you with a life jacket. We brought a cooler on board with drinks and snacks for our canoe ride. You can pull your canoe in every now and then to go swimming and to hang out on the beach. Although the river is busy with canoers, it is not too busy. You can enjoy the ride, swim, take breaks and picnic. The river is often very shallow, so that is safe for kids, too. The whole canoe ride including breaks can take about 4 to 5 hours, depending on how many breaks you take. When you get to the final destination, Burke's provides a bus to pick you up and drive you back to the beginning where you can pick up your car.

After our canoe trip we went out for a beer at Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville. They have a large beer garden and delicious homemade beer. They also serve burgers and other food. Then we had dinner at Trio in Guerneville. This quirky place offers sandwiches and also fancier fare with live music. Guerneville also offers many pricey restaurants if you're looking for a more luxurious dinner. Boon Restaurant was recommended to us by locals, for example.

On Sunday, we had breakfast on the sunny patio of Garden Grill. This lovely and affordable place offers delicious breakfast and good coffee. We then went for a hike in the Armstrong Redwoods Park. The trees are humoungous and the trails are very pretty. You can just go for a simple walk or a more strenuous hike. They have maps on hand at the ranger station.

 

After our hike we went to the Korbel Winery. The largest American champagne producer Korbel offers free champagne tastings (you can try four champagnes) and free guided tours on the premises. The tour is interesting and the champagne delicious. Definitely worthwhile checking out.

Sunday afternoon we went swimming at Johnson Beach. You can rent an umbrella for $6 for the day and bring your own food and drink, but they won't let you bring alcohol or barbecues on the grounds. The food they offer is very cheap, though: hamburgers are $2.50, large beers are $3, ice cream cones are $1.50. Swimming is excellent. You can also rent canoes and inner tubes there. Make sure you bring some flip flops, the beach and the ground of the river consists of pebbles which can be painful on the bottom of your feet.

We loved the Russian River, it's sunny, affordable and close by and offers so much fun. You should go :)

 

Sabrina & her daughter Lisa.
Sabrina & her daughter Lisa.

Diapers, Dinner and Other Domestic Disasters: Notes on Life as an Expat AND a Stay-At-Home First-Time Mom by Sabrina Koerver Schmidt

 

May 2012

 

 

I have now been in the US for almost 6 months and I want to share with anyone interested my thoughts on life here as a stay-at-home first-time mom. First, you need to know how I felt about coming here:

When my husband and I first learned that we would be coming to Berkeley, we we’re both extremely excited. Perhaps me more than him, since I work(ed) as an English teacher in Denmark and US culture and history is a big part of the curriculum in high school. Now I was finally able to get a chance to discover this great place and base my teaching on first-hand experience!

However, I quickly experienced a sense of panic and grief over the prospect of the move. At home I was very happy with my carrier and had just been back to work from my maternity leave one whole school year and was getting the hang of a routine, juggling both job and family. Our daughter was thriving in the nursery and it almost seemed that she had grown and learned something new every time I picked her up after work. How was I going to stimulate her to the same extent? I am not educated in the field of child-rearing… I have a master’s degree in languages!! Wouldn’t we be driving each other crazy spending so much time with each other?

Furthermore, both my husband and I have a great family and many friends back home. We enjoy the company of our friends and we also enjoy going out just the two of us, going on dates with each other. How would that be possible when we would know absolutely no one, whom we would trust with our daughter? I was already dreading the nature of our marriage after a whole year without being just us….

Here is how it went so far:

1.     We moved into an apartment at UC Village. A bit far from many cool places in Berkeley, such as the Gourmet Ghetto, Campus, nightlife and much more, but it was by far outweighed by the many, many families here in the exact situation as me: a stay-at-home parent, new to the area and wanting to make friends, for myself and my child. UC Village is absolutely perfect for that!! Lisa (the daughter, not yet three years old) quickly learned some English words. Cookie was the first, but soon words such as thank you, good morning, excuse me, 1-2-3-4 quickly followed. She is acutely aware of Danish and English being two different languages.

2.     I immediately signed Lisa up for gym classes at the village: twice a week at first, which meant that we would have plans these two days. Then I also learned about the Thursday meetings at the YWCA (on Bancroft), which again meant that we would have plans and getting out of the house, meeting other people who have made the move to Berkeley. From these three weekly outings we met a lot of new people whom we began seeing on the remaining two weekdays.

3.     A routine, whether back home or in a new place, will eventually feel like a routine. I can’t go to a new play ground every day, but I try not to go to the same one every day. I also try to remind myself that this year is a priceless gift, which we would never afford in Denmark: me being at home and discovering Lisa growing and learning new things every day, while Peter is the sole provider of the family. She has been weaned off the pacifier by us (wow, that is huge – our daughter is really growing up) and currently we are going through potty training (an even bigger deal, WOW!!)

4.     I try to take time to do something for myself during the day: I’ve been blessed with a child who still naps during the day. Sometimes up to two hours, during which time I can read, keep track on my friends and family on facebook, check mail, watch something on Netflix, continue work on Lisa scrapbook of her year abroad, or, or, or.

Not every child naps, and Lisa had a phase a few weeks back where she didn’t. That was tough!! I then decided to join a gym. I joined the YMCA (at which you can seek membership at a reduced rate if you have no income). Life in America is good and it is starting to show… My clothes have shrunk...! And not being the same size as I would like to be is frustrating!! The gym gives me a reason to leave the house and think of something else than dinners, diapers and other domestic disasters. YMCA also has a child-watch programme. Drop off your child and work out knowing that someone is looking after your child. This is great J

If I can pass on any advice to parents moving here from a non-English speaking country, these would be it:

1.     Be aware of the fact that your child will react to the move, just as you yourself have had a reaction in one form or another. In my case, I discovered that Lisa would be very angry and annoyed whenever I spoke to someone. She would start screaming and try to get my attention, pulling me away. At first I thought she was ‘just’ misbehaving until it dawned on me that her world had been limited to literally just two people whose language she could understand. Back home she had good friends at the nursery and adults whom she liked and trusted, as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles. Now she only had me and her father. No wonder she was frustrated when I spoke with a stranger in a language she didn’t understand.

2.     Make time to be together as a family. Back home weekends would be the time to clean the house, do the laundry, catch up on work, visit friends and family and much more. Here, the weekend is the time we are together all three, so we want to make the best of it. We have done trips to San Francisco, to Tilden Park, to Point Reyes, to the Golden Gate Fields, to a baseball game on campus and much more. Coming from Denmark, the weather here is absolutely lovely and we want to make the most of it!

Oh, and the relationship? It’s doing great! Of course things are different, but who said that changes can’t be good? Besides, our time abroad is limited. Before we know it we will be missing the California sun, turning right on a red light, being greeted by the cashier in every single store, having my groceries packed in bags for me and everything else that contributes in making life almost a dream here J

Hope you enjoyed this. I will post something on different playgrounds in the area and other fun family activities that we’ve tried out. 

 

Finding A Job in America: 

A trailing spouse from Sweden’s story of success

This interview was conducted by Yvonne Lefort, a Bay Area career coach and intercultural trainer. Yvonne also teaches a course for international spouses at UC Berkeley called “Creating A Fulfilling Life in America.” Her website is http://yvonnelefort.net.

If you’ve ever looked for a job, you know it can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience.  If you’re from another country, finding a job in America can be even more daunting.  You’re immediately at a disadvantage because you don’t have American work experience, your social and professional network is in your home country, your understanding of “how things are done” in the new culture is limited, and English is not your native language.  That’s enough to keep some people from even starting to look for a job!

These challenges, however, did not deter Asa, a trailing spouse from Sweden, from looking for work soon after she arrived in the United States.  Asa came to America in December 2011 to follow her husband, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley.  She immediately applied for work authorization, and once she got her two small children settled in pre-school and received her authorization, she began her search.

I interviewed Asa about her job search and how she successfully landed two job offers within four months. Here’s a summary of the interview: Read more...

A Portable Identity 

- Interview with Intercultural Transition Coaches and Book Authors Charise and Debra.

May 2012

When you move to a new place as an accompanying spouse, your life can change dramatically. Debra and Charise are co-authors of the guidebook "A Portable Identity" and offer coaching services for men and women accompanying their partner to a new country. Berkeley Wives interviewed the two transition experts:

Moving abroad for your partner's career can be challenging. What do you think are the three major challenges for accompanying spouses?

Accompanying spouses face various challenges when they move overseas for their partner’s career, but we can think of three challenges that are all encompassing. First is the need to build a structure for your life in a new and foreign place. Second is the loss of support you had prior to moving -- from family, friends, and community. Third is taking on the status of being dependent on your partner, especially if you were previously employed. All three of these challenges are tied in with identity-- with your roles and relationships, how you view yourself and how others view you.

How can accompanying spouses overcome these challenges?

We talk about turning challenges into opportunities. We really don’t use the language of “overcome” in relation to challenges. Challenges raise questions, such as: “how can I go about rebuilding a structure for myself?”; “what are the pieces that seem to be missing in my life right now?”; “what type of support do I need and what is my ability to access support?”; “how do I feel about being dependent?”; and “what would promote more of a sense of independence for me?” .

Of course, this kind of questioning requires effort and willingness to take charge of change; and while we advocate for more services and resources for spouses to meet the challenges of the mobile lifestyle, the reality is that it’s primarily up to you to have a positive experience. We specifically wrote our book in a workbook format with exercises for gaining an in-depth look at your own situation, to understand the impact of moving on your identity, and to make choices for a meaningful way of living wherever you are located.

Many of the accompanying spouses here at Berkeley are not eligible to work. Do you have any advice on how they can manage the transition from being employed in their home country to having a lot of free time at their hands abroad? How can they re-define themselves when they used to define themselves via their job?

The reality of actually not working once you move is often much different than what you thought it might be like when you were thinking about making the move. You might have thought it would be nice to take a break from working or even if you were not too keen on the idea you may have thought you would eventually adjust to the change in your employment status. Either way, if you find that you have too much time on your hands, an important first step to re-define yourself in your new environment is to clarify whether you miss the structure that work provides and/or the importance of work to your identity. If you find that it is the structure of work that you miss, you can then begin to focus on creating a structure to your day based on those things that you like or are important to you. If it is the meaning of work to your identity that is missing, it is important to determine which factors (such as making a difference, utilizing a particular skill, or being surrounded by other professionals) are essential to you to re-create in some fashion in your new locale. When it appears there are only two options, i.e., working or not working, challenge yourself to shift perspective to other possible opportunities that may be available to you.
Resistance keeps you stuck while acceptance gives you power. When you accept the situation exactly as it is, you immediately engage your personal power and gain power over the situation. Acceptance doesn’t mean you have to like it or that you have to sit idle… instead it allows you to see the situation as it is and then you can set your intentions and begin taking steps or making changes that align with who you are.

 

Do you have any career advice for the spouses who ARE eligible to work? How can they use their expat-status as an advantage for their applications?
Successful relocation is an opportunity to tap into your strengths as well as possibly other internal resources that, until you relocated, may have been dormant or unknown to you. When thinking about how to illustrate your skills and abilities to a potential employer, take some time in self-reflection to acknowledge all it took for you to make the move happen. Highlight strengths you engaged, such as organizational skills, your ability to demonstrate flexibility, or meet an ever-changing deadline with grace. Also consider those qualities that you discovered within yourself in the process of moving, such as the willingness to step out of your comfort zone to navigate change, the ability to learn a new language, and the ability to effectively work in a diverse cultural setting based on your global view of the world.
Highlight your abilities and downplay your liabilities. Accentuate your strengths and what you can add to the organization while minimizing not having a specific skill desired or that you may be leaving in a few years due to your visa status or expected length of assignment.

 

Many international spouses have trouble adapting to their new life abroad after the "honeymoon phase" is over. Do you have any advice on how they can overcome feelings of depression, homesickness, and loneliness?

 Of course there will be feelings of depression, homesickness, and loneliness, and these usually coincide with having an identity in transition – one way to describe this state is that you’re “neither here nor there”, your identity is in limbo, no longer what it was prior to moving and not yet gelled into something stable in your new location. It helps to know that these feelings are typical at this time, and that you are, in a sense, grieving your former identity, who you used to be. You may be missing friends and family back home, the culture that is familiar to you, the job or endeavors you were doing, and an overall feeling of how your life was fulfilling.

 

The truth is it’s not possible to skip over this state of transition or to ignore these coinciding feelings -- they actually need to be embraced. The tendency is to want to push them away or get over them. Bring them close -- allow your feelings, listen to what they are telling you. Maybe you want to share them with someone, or with yourself by writing in a journal or through creative expression. If you feel stuck or lacking in motivation, you can seek out coaching or counseling services, depending on what you need. At the same time that you attend to your feelings, invest in your experience as an expat. Explore, be willing to take risks, make connections, find out what you are interested in and also what you have to offer in your new location.

 

 

Jobhunting 2.0:

How Social Networks help you find a job!

 

Interview with Marita Roebkes

Marita Roebkes is the founder of XeeMe, a social media software company focusing on social presence management. Originally from Germany, she now lives in Palo Alto. Marita is not only a successful business woman, but also a woman that went through an intercultural transition. As a member of the international community, she is aware of the challenges that international job seekers face on the American job market. The Berkeley Wives interviewed Marita about the role of social networks for job hunt.

Which advantages and challenges do you think do international women face on their job hunt in the U.S.? Being from a foreign culture and knowing about cultural differences is an advantage that international applicants bring to th U.S. job market. This is particularly interesting for international companies who particularly look for applicants with experience from abroad. International applicants also have to face numerous challenges. There is a lot too learn when you want to work for a U.S. company. You will experience a tremendous culture shift. I see the main differences to European business culture in the way people present themselves and the way people interact in the American business world. Everything is done more politely, even criticism is phrased more politely. I think the difference in social manners is the biggest issue for applicants from abroad.


How can international women emphasize their advantages and address their challenges? Just be frank to yourself and others and talk about the problems you see for yourself on the U.S. job market. Use social media for this purpose and ask people online that you think might be able to help you with your individual challenge. It‘s important to ask for help BEFORE you are desperate for a job. Also, there a tons of international networking groups out there, which you can join for free. You can meet many nice people there who will be open to sharing their experience as a foreign job hunter in the U.S.


Why are social networks so important for the job hunt? Social networks are a great way to contact people. When you have a problem, a question, an idea or a solution, start a blog and write about it. Join groups of customers of companies you would like to work for or join groups of fellow job hunters and experts in the field you would like to work in. You can use social networks to brand yourself and to connect with others. A social network can be a platform to sell yourself to potential employers.  Please note: Your profile photo should be your brand and should be consistently the same on all your social networks.
Which social networks are a MUST for the job hunt? linkedin is a given, being on facebook and twitter is equally important. Look for online communities specific to your business area.


What information should not be shared on social networks? There is no strict rule. In my opinion, I would not share anything on a social network that I would not share with my neighbor. However, it is not smart to divide between private and business social networks. Everything should be connected. If you don‘t want to share some of your posts, tweets or comments with everybody, start your own private group on facebook and share your private information only with the people in that group. The most important thing is to be yourself and to be authentic - and not to badmouth your current or previous employer - on all social network platforms.


Do you think social networks are just a trend or a stable institution? Social networks are just another set of tools. In regards to what‘s in or what‘s out, I would say it depends on what you want to use a particular social network for. Whatever network is useful for you and your career, is the one you want o use.


Share some of your wisdom: What personal advice would you give international women to be successful in finding a job? The economic stuation in the U.S. is tough at the moment. Finding your dream job can take longer know than it used to. My advice is not to cut ties to your home country. Think of what you could do for companies back home over here in the U.S. and stop talking about your level of experience and what you have done in the past. Think outside the box! When you apply for jobs, know that potential employers will look you up online. It‘s smart to combine all your social network presences together with a XeeMe and put that on your application, particularly when your name is hard to find online, for example John Smith.

 

 

 

 

Read! Learn! Get Fit!

by Kirsty Maurits

March 2012

 

Ever since I moved to the USA, I've had a lot of spare time on my hands. At first, this seemed too good to be true - all the time in the world to spend as I pleased. Even my brother told me I was "living the dream". But after a while, it gets boring, am I right? So here are some things you could do to fill those long hours while hubby is at work!

1. Read! The Berkeley Public Library is a great resource, and it costs nothing to join and get a card. You can even reserve books online at home and go and pick them up when they're ready. And if you're not sure what to read next, http://www.goodreads.com will give you recommendations based on what you've enjoyed in the past.

2. Learn a new skill! Is there something you've always wanted to learn how to do? Or something you wish you were better at? Now is the time to improve it! There are a lot of different classes you can take in Berkeley. If sewing is your thing, Stonemountain and Daughter on Shattuck offers a range of classes. Craft stores like Jo-Ann and Michael's also offer classes on a range of crafty things. There are numerous places that offer cooking or baking classes. Berkeley Adult School offers a range of courses ranging from dance to computing, for quite reasonable fees. Whatever you're interested in, there's a class somewhere!

3. Get fit! The YMCA is a great place to start for fitness, and if money is tight, you may qualify for financial assistance. Once you become a member, you can go as many times as you like to use their facilities, so it's a good deal. But if gyms aren't your thing, you can use the great outdoors as inspiration. Walk or jog around Berkeley and you may find new and exciting places you never knew existed. There are a nice number of hiking trails and walking paths for you to explore and enjoy.

So if, like me, you're starting to get cabin fever and need a new way to fill your time, I hope this helps!

How to start your own business with ETSY

March 2012


Have you ever thought about starting your own business while you are in Berkeley? If you are a crafty person, there is a safe way to be your own boss: You can sell your crafts on etsy.com. Etsy.com is an online platform where people from all over the world sell their crafts: From handmade quilts, to paper decorations, knitted hats or hand-sown clothing. On etsy you can also sell vintage items and supplies for different crafts, you can find anything and everything on etsy.com – in every price range. Berkeley Wife Karen from England recently started to sell her crafts with etsy.com. Her etsy-shop is called “Justmycuppa”. If you have questions for her, email her at justmycuppashop @ gmail.com.

 

What kind of crafts do you do, Karen?

I do mainly items with some element of cross-stitch in their design, such as decorative items that can go around the house.  I also make stationery for weddings and baby showers and plan on making cards and notelets in the future as well.

How did you hear about etsy.com?

I don’t really remember the first time I heard about etsy. I got really into it when I was planning for my wedding. There is so much cute stuff on there I kind of got obsessed with it ;-).

How can you start selling crafts on etsy.com? Does it cost anything?

You need to make something first of all and then take good photos of the handmade items so people can see why they should buy them. The etsy-account itself is free. For each item, you have to create a separate etsy-listing which costs 20 cents. If someone purchases your listing, etsy takes out a small percentage of the listing price. You can use your account for selling items, but also just for buying handmade things. There is no fee associated with purchasing things from etsy.com. If you want to sell your crafts, you have to set up a PayPal account as well. PayPal doesn’t charge much to use their services.

What is your advice for other Berkeley Wives who would like to sell their crafts online?

Now that I started my own etsy-Shop, I think I should have done it sooner. It doesn’t cost much and you can just give it a go and see if you sell something. It’s a lot of fun!

 

 

 

 

Apartment Hunting

by Kirsty Maurits

March 2012

 

When I found out my husband and I were moving to the USA, one of my first concerns was, understandably, finding somewhere to live. If you're not lucky enough to be able to get a University apartment, or you'd simply rather find your own apartment, here are some tips and resources I found handy when I was apartment hunting.

First of all, http://www.padmapper.com. This is the BEST resource out there for finding your new home. You can filter your results based on rental prices, bedrooms, whether you want a room or a whole apartment, and a whole lot of other criteria. I started looking on here before we even arrived in the US, to get a good idea of prices and locations, and I think it helped a lot.

Think about location. How far do you want to be from everything? How far are you willing to walk? Where's the nearest supermarket? What areas are safe? These are all things to consider when looking for your new home. http://www.crimemapping.com is a great resource for checking out which areas of Berkeley (or other towns) are safest. In general, though, North Berkeley is the safest and nicest part of the town.

Have everything ready. A letter from your spouse or partner's supervisor, detailing their salary and position is a great idea, since you won't have any pay slips yet. Passports or other photo ID will be needed, as well as visa information. I put everything into a folder and brought it with us to every apartment we viewed, so we would be ready to fill out an application on the spot.

When looking at apartments, don't be afraid to ask questions. Make sure it has heating or cooling, that any appliances and lights are in working order, and that it's secure. Make sure you know how long the lease is for, whether or not you can have pets, or any other criteria you might have. Even if you're only living there for a year or two, you want to be comfortable and happy!

It can be stressful, trying to find somewhere to live whilst juggling new jobs, possibly children and trying to orient yourself in a new city as well, so I hope these tips will help you in your search and take a little of the worry out of your big move!

 

 

Valentine's, Galentine's and VDay
February 2012

February 14th, Valentine's Day, is coming up. All Stores are decked out with red hearts, roses and heart-shaped chocolate boxes. According to Wikipedia Valentine's Day is originally a holiday honoring Saint Valentine. Popular sources link some Greco-Roman February holidays alleged to be devoted to fertility and love to St. Valentine's Day. And I guess that's how it came to be a day where we exchange gifts with our partners or spouses. Have you heard about VDay and Galentine's Day, though?

I just recently found out about Galentine's Day through the TV show "Park and Recreation". Gal means girl. Galentine's Day is on February 13th, not 14th! It's a day where you show your female friends how much you cherish their friendship. You let them know how important they are to you and you can exchange gifts. See below the video of "Galentine's Day", if you want to learn more.

VDay on the contrary has a more serious meaning. It is not an abbreviation of Valentine's Day. It also has a different meaning: V-Day stands for the global movement against women and girls. V-Day defines itself as "a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. VDay is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery." It is important to acknowledge that while we are lucky to live here happily in Berkeley, many women throughout this world have to suffer. If you want to get involved and support the VDay Movement contact them here.

Hi, I'm Kirsty from Australia
Hi, I'm Kirsty from Australia

 

 

 

Meet Kirsty - Our latest addition to the Blog-Team!

January 2012

 

Hi everyone! My name is Kirsty, and I'm a Berkeley wife! I moved here from Australia about four months ago now, with my husband Luke. He's doing a postdoc in Psychology at UCB, so we'll be here for at least a year, and more likely two.

I'm 27 years old (almost 28! Argh! 30 is approaching WAY too soon), and I come from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. Adelaide is a small city, known for a few things: Churchs, pie floaters (a minced meat pie on a bed of mushed peas) and frog cakes (a rich creamy cake, shaped like a frog that comes in pretty colours)! It's summer in Australia right now, and my family are very jealous of me shivering over here while they sweat over there! My hobbies include sewing, crocheting, reading and playing video games. I currently volunteer at Berkeley Animal Care Services, because I love animals - especially cats. I left two pet cats behind in Australia, and I miss them every day. Eventually I'd like to be able to get a part-time job in Berkeley, when my work permit comes through.

It's been a bit of a wild ride, leaving everything behind and moving to a new country - as I'm sure you can all appreciate! Finding an apartment, learning my way around Berkeley and finding a way to occupy my mountains of spare time have all taken time, but finally I'm starting to feel a bit more settled, and I'm happy to call Berkeley my home. I look forward to sharing my experiences in Berkeley with everyone!

 

 

 

We're looking for Bloggers!

January 2012

 

We are looking for international women who would like to write for our blog. Getting adapted in the United States is not always easy and can sometimes come with strange, interesting or even funny expriences. Let others take part in YOUR story and tell us how you found your apartment, how you discovered the city or which other new things you have found. We are interested in what your life here is like, what you miss from home and what you expect to get out of your life here. Don't worry if your English is not perfect, this is not about grammar or vocabulary. It's about helping each other by sharing stories others might be able to benefit from. Email us today if you are interested, we look forward to hearing from you. Our email is: berkeleywives @ gmail.com!!

 

 

O Silent Night –

When the Holidays make you homesick

December 2011


The winter holidays are coming up soon and many of us cannot fly home to spend these family-oriented days with their loved ones. You mail gifts home and write cards, but still it seems you miss home much more than usual. A familiar song or a nice letter from a dear friend from your home country might make you cry. Not knowing how to spend Christmas or Hanukkah without your family can make you depressed.


I did some research on how to overcome homesickness and here are some tips I got from experts at other university’s or other online resources:


Things are different. Yes, things are different in America. Some differences we embrace, others we just can’t seem to deal with. Instead of pointing out and complaining about the differences all the time, try to just accept that things are different here and use the energy you used to use for complaining for something more valuable.


Think positive. Think of all the good experiences you can make in America and give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. You are courageous for going abroad and starting over. Many women would be too scared of doing it. You did it and – yes, it’s not always easy, but – you are doing a great job!


Be patient. You can’t make tons of friends, find an awesome apartment and a great job right in the first week. Think of how long it took you to establish relationships at home. Be patient and tackle you new life in California one step at a time.


You are not alone. You are not the only one that’s homesick. Talk to your friends, neighbors, or classmates about it and tell them how you feel. You will be surprised with how many of people in your closest circle feel just like you.


Get Involved. Sitting at home by yourself all day and feeling sorry for yourself won’t change your life. Try to get out and visit some new places. If you don’t have anybody to accompany you, go by yourself: Do a walking tour in the city or check out a museum. If you want to meet people, look for a volunteering group or join a Meetup, you will soon meet many new faces. Last, but not least: Contact the BERKELEY WIVES! We look forward to meeting you and will help you getting settled in.

 

 

 


Home, sweet home.

How to furnish your house on a budget.

November 2011


When you come to America, you most likely won’t bring your coffee maker, microwave and dishware with you. Buying all these items new will cost a lot of money and might not be worth spending if you are only in Berkeley for a limited time.


A great option to stock up your household with necessary kitchen and other equipment is the Equipment Loan Center offered by the University Section Club. For just $10 you can rent everything from forks, pots and towels for one year or longer.


If you don’t want to rent, but rather looking into buying something used, check out Craig’s List. There’s nothing that you cannot find on this free online advertisement listing. Another option for buying used items are the local thrift stores Goodwill, Out of the Closet or The Cellar Thrift Store.They also have selected furniture.


Last but not least, post an ad on the Berkeley Wives’ community board. Tell us what you are looking for and maybe someone else will sell or give away just that. Have fun shopping!

 


Rebecca Rapple: THE resume expert!
Rebecca Rapple: THE resume expert!

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Resume Expert

Rebecca gives advice for international job hunters!

October 2011

 
Which challenges do international applicants face on the US job market?

Today, everyone is facing challenges in the job market -- in many fields, there simply are not enough jobs to go around! And, beyond that, international applicants face challenges beyond the average American job seeker (but, they also have advantages!), whether that is challenges from language barriers, employment eligibility, the lack of a network or simple discrimination (as much as I hate to admit it, its important to acknowledge it!).

The key thing to remember - especially if you ever feel overwhelmed by the challenges -- is that there is ALWAYS room for people who can solve problems. And, this is where you will find that you have unique opportunities to excel! (And we are about to discuss how to position yourself to do it most effectively!)


Could you name some advantages that international applicants have on the US job market?

As with all candidates, each applicant will have their own personal advantages, from their personality, skills, qualifications and experience. Don't downplay any of the things that make you shine. But, when thinking about international candidates as a whole, there are four unique advantages that you bring to the job search.

  1. Take Advantage of Your Unique Background - When coming to the United States from the outside world, you are going to bring experience with companies, languages, ideas and even fields that the average American can't compete with. Identify what makes you (and your background) unique -- and highlight how that will help you make the company stronger.
  2. Solve Problems with Communication - I can't tell you how many American companies are struggling with relationships outside of our boundaries. Whether from international partnerships, outsourcing or sales, American companies struggle to effectively communicate. You can solve a company's problem by translating for them -- both in terms of language and culture. They will LOVE you for it!
  3. Offer Innovative Companies an Advantage - Innovation thrives with diverse input. Your experiences with another culture and another language mean that you inherently have a different vantage point than the people in the company. Use this to your advantage by sharing ideas on how to change things for the better.
  4. Jump into the "Outsider" Network - One of the things that I was most shocked about when I was living outside of the US, was just how immediately bonded other Americans became immediately. They were happy to for me and for other "outsiders." Joining this group is a really good start, perhaps you can think of a few other opportunities to meet other people in your position? Then, speak up! Know what you want and don't be afraid to ask for help. Most people will be happy to help you however they can.


How can international job hunters address potential problems that employers might see from looking at their application material (for example: language skills, no American job experience, lack of network)?


This is a great question that requires a pretty long answer. The best way to go about addressing these problems is to follow this three step process:

  1. Perform an Honest Evaluation -Job seekers need to do an honest evaluation of the potential and real problems related to their job search. For example, if the job seeker is fluent in English with a conversant accent, language would be a “potential problem” -- however, if her language skills aren’t at a comfortable level (problems at the grocery store, asking for directions, etc.) then it would go in the “real problem” pile.
  2. Address Potential Problems - Once you identify the potential problems, find ways to show employers that they are not an issue. Sticking with the language example, you could make a video and add it to your LinkedIn profile or pro-actively submit writing samples, or start a blog online where you showcase 6-10 of your top ideas. There are tons of ways to achieve it, but the end goal is to show (rather than tell) (http://theresumerevolution.com/tip-n-trick-tuesday-show-the-skills-the-job-requires) that you have the language skills that the job requires.
  3. Deal with Real Problems - Now that you’ve covered your potential problems, its time to address your real challenges. The best way to do this is by identifying opportunities that will minimize your challenge. There are fundamentally two ways to do this: first is to find a job description that would not expose you to your challenge and the second is to find a supportive environment in which your challenge is lessened. Let’s take a look at an example of each. Continuing with our language theme, if language is a challenge, finding an opportunity that minimizes communication, or focuses on a type of communication you can understand easily (writing vs. speaking, etc) is a great choice. There are a wide range of opportunities like this - from working in the back of a bakery to crunching data. Your other choice is to seek communities of people who have the capacity to help you overcome your challenge. Like, a team of software developers who also happen to speak Spanish. In this supportive environment, your challenge will be able to be accommodated more easily than elsewhere!

Challenges that international candidates face can be solved by picking the right opportunity and thinking about what employers might be worried about and showing them that there is nothing to be worried about!

What are the three main characteristics of a top-selling resume?

Top selling resumes are unquestionably an important part of the application process, but make sure its not the only thing that you focus on! Its also important to get your emails opened, to follow up and to be confident in your interview.

But on to the top three characteristics of a winning resume:

  1. Tell A Story From the Employer's Frame of Reference - Winning resumes tell a story (http://theresumerevolution.com/lighthouses/lh-super-hero-story). But not just any story, they tell the story of why you are going to be the organization's Super Hero! In other words, how you are going to help the company. Its not about you, your history or your experience... its about THEM and how you are going to help them achieve their goals.
  2. Short & Scannable - The average person spends 5-15 SECONDS looking at your resume. So, the best resumes are short (http://theresumerevolution.com/resumeonepage), sweet and highlight the most important information in easily accessible ways. If you look at your resume for 5 seconds, what do you see?
  3. Demonstrates Investment in the Company - Employers are literally receiving dozens, if not hundreds, applicants for most positions. You need to stand out from the average application by showing real investment in the company. You can do this by doing research on the opportunity. This is best done through co-branding (http://theresumerevolution.com/tip-n-trick-tuesdaybecome-memorable), which ensure that you stand out, in just the right way!


Share some of your wisdom: What else do you think is worthwhile knowing for international applicants when it comes to applying on the US job market?)

The job market in the United States doesn't always follow the rules of "nice people." You may not hear back from a company, they may not follow through with you as promised, and they may try to offer you a salary lower than you deserve. Its important for you to, independently of your job search, decide what you want and need from a job and to then be your own biggest advocate. Even though it may be hard, don't get down on yourself at all. The job search (and especially an international one) is not a reflection on you! But, perhaps you could benefit from some more of my (many) tips and tricks!

 

 

 

 

Pumpkins, Spiders, Candy Corn–

Halloween in America

October 2011


Scroll down for links to FREE Halloween activities!


You can’t escape the Halloween spirit in Berkeley. The grocery stores sell pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, department and drug stores sell plastic skeletons, Styrofoam skulls and costumes of all styles. And, above all, there is candy, candy, candy – everywhere. If you stroll through Berkeley, you will also see numerous decorated houses in Halloween spirit. Big artificial cobwebs cover houses, carved pumpkins grin at you with their carved faces and here and there a witch’s hat that might peek out the window. (Unfortunately, these days there are also numerous REAL spider webs around everywhere. So watch your head when you walk around outside).


What does Halloween stand for and what do you traditionally do on Halloween? Halloween is celebrated on October 31st every year. It includes costume parties (scary costumes!), trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins and visiting haunted houses. Halloween allegedly started in Ireland as a Catholic vigil observed on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.


Nowadays, children dress up in costumes and trick or treat: They go from door to door, knock and say “Trick or Treat!”, which means you have to give them candy (a treat), or they will play a trick on you (so better stock up on chocolate and gummibears before it’s too late). For adults, numerous costume Halloween parties celebrate the occasion. Dress up as a witch, a cat, a strawberry or whatever you want – and go out and have some fun.

 

Enjoy some Halloween activities this year:

 

Discover the ghostly sight of San Francisco:

FREE Halloween Ghost Walk


Boo! Celebrate at the FREE Halloween Party


Only for brave ladies: Haunted House in San Leandro


Pick your own pumpkin – great for kids:

Piedmont Pumpkin Patch

 

The American School System

by Yvonne Lefort

September 2011

 

Today, while riding on BART, I read the book Understanding American Schools by Anne Copeland and Georgia Bennett. This book helps parents of school-age children understand the American educational system. It provides information about different types of schools, the structure of the school system, the academic curriculum and grades, your role as a parent, and daily customs in the classroom, to name a few of the topics covered.

 

I found it interesting to read about what American teachers value and to think about how these values carry into adulthood. For example, American teachers (in general) believe that individualism is good and should be taught. They encourage every child to be unique and highly value any sign that a child thinks for him or herself. Children often will be encouraged to express their opinions even if they differ from the teacher’s opinion. American teachers also believe that children should be “well-rounded.” This means that getting good grades is only a part of being a good student. Being “well-rounded” means doing extracurricular activities (non-academic activities, like sports, art, music and community service), being a good friend, and being a happy and friendly person.

 

So, if you need answers to questions about the American school system from pre-school through high school, I recommend this book.

 

Yvonne Lefort, MA

Instructor, “Creating a Fulfilling Life” at UC Berkeley

Intercultural Trainer and Career/Life Coach

www.yvonnelefort.net

 

 

 

 

Networking - Make Friends and find a Job.

September 2011

 

Finding a job in America can be challenging when you come from abroad. You have to re-write your resume in English, learn what U.S. employers expect from your cover letter and have to find out where to look for jobs.

 

In order to proceed with your career in the United States, it is important to know the "right people" - and by that I do not mean that you need to know the bosses of every company in the Bay Area. Knowing the right people means to establish a network of men and women who work in your field, who might be able to tell you about great job opportunities, share their experience with you and give you tips for your job hunt.

 

Online job networks and many associations offer networking events. These events are open to people who want to establish or increase their network. Many people come by themselves, so it is easy to get in touch with the other guests - don't worry, you won't be standing around alone ;-).

 

A great networking opportunity is coming up very soon in Palo Alto: The German American Business Association offers a fun Young Professionals Networking Mixer on September 27, 2011. To sign up, follow this link.

 

Good luck on your job hunt - and get the network rolling!

You scream, I scream, We all scream for

ICE CREAM

September 2011

 

As you have probably noticed, there are numerous great ice cream places in Berkeley. We wanted to list some of the best ones for you, so you can enjoy some ice cold treats in the warm months ahead. And remember: In the U.S. you can sample several flavours, before you decide which one you choose.

 

  1. Ici: Fabulous local ice cream place on College Avenue. There is ALWAYS a line. Not on the cheap side, but delicious and home made.
  2. John's Ice Cream: Right downtown, you can get scoops for a dollar. Their flavours range from birthday cake (?) to almond mocha fudge. Delicious.
  3. Gelateria Naia: If you don't like American ice cream, try Gelato. At Naia, you can choose from classic flavours like Gianduia, Stracciatella, Pistachio, Zabajone and Nocciola. Yummy!
  4. Lush Gelato: For the more adventurous among you. Offers flavours like dark chocolate with pepper or Caramel balsamic. Right across from Cheeseboard Pizza.
  5. Tara's Organic Ice Cream: Again - this is for ice cream lovers who want to try something entirely new, for example Basil ice cream, blueberry mint ice cream, or Turkish coffee flavored ice cream. ALL ORGANIC.

 

American Court Wants You!

August 2011

 

The other day we went over to my husband‘s old house to help his former roommates straighten up the place before they moved out. While the guys figured out whose beer glass was which, I flicked through a pile of mail to see if my husband did get anything to his old address. I was surprised to find a piece of mail addressed to my name and I was even more surprised to see who had sent me this letter: The courthouse in Oakland.

All sorts of thoughts went through my mind: Did I forget to pay a parking ticket? Was there a problem with my greencard application? Did I do anything to offend the United States? (The last question I could eliminate because I was being a good alien and celebrated July 4th with stars and stripes plates and dressed in all blue, white, and red.)

So what the heck was this letter about?

I opened it and found out I was invited to be a jury member for an upcoming trial. I was confused. I am not American, how can I part of a jury within the U.S. legal system? Wikipedia says about jury duty: Jury duty is service as a juror in a legal proceeding. When a person is called for jury duty in the United States, that service is usually not optional: one must attend or face strict penalties. So what was I supposed to do? I took a close look at the letter and flipped it around. On the back of the letter, I could not only inform the courthouse that I had a new address, but also about the fact that they „got the wrong guy“ (or girl).

In case you get a letter like that (if you have a California driver‘s license or ID card, your address is automatically in the court system), check off the box „I am not a U.S. citizen“ and mail it back to the court. That way you never get this request again. Hopefully...

Donate books, beer, and band aids.
Donate books, beer, and band aids.

Trash Art:

Books, Beer and Bandaids
July 2011

 

If you are a dog owner, you probably have walked your dog on the beach right behind the Golden Gate Fields before; but have you discovered the hidden art treasure on the little peninsula right behind the beach, yet? If not, take a quick stroll and follow the dirt path leading towards the water and you will discover some amazing sculptures - all made out of trash!

The sculptures are very large, but you can‘t see them from the mainland. They are made out of old industrial trash such as old metal, broken concrete pieces, or wooden planks. When you walk around there, you will see a dragon, an old man reading the paper, a six feet tall trash-mermaid reaching her hands out to you, and many other impressive pieces of trash art.

Walking towards the sculpture assembly you will not only see that many drifters and homeless camp out there (they are friendly, no worries), but you will also notice a wooden sign that says LIBRARY. When I revisited the trash sculptures last week with my husband, one of the campers saw us being somewhat surprised to find a library in the outdoors. He showed us around and told us that the men and women who camp out there have set up a library in a handmade wooden shack. The library shack is open to all the campers and drifters who live near the sculptures and they have quite an amazing selection of books. If you or your friends have books to give away, you can donate them to the outdoor library. Also, the outdoor campers are always open to other donations. The man we met said that they could always use band aids, books, food, and...  - erm - beer ;-). CHEERS.

Thank you Simone for introducing me to this hidden treasure in the Bay Area in April!


 

Expecting? Women's Health in Berkeley

Medi-Cal and WIC

By Gabriela Garcia-Escobar


 Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid health care program. This program pays for a variety of medical services for children and adults with limited income and resources.

 

I have experience in using Medi-Cal as a pregnant woman, so that's what I'm going to explain.

 

The first important thing to know is that you must be a resident of California to get Medi-Cal.

 

If you are pregnant or have a child less than five years old you have free medical services that includes all prenatal care for the mother, delivery and medical services for your children. (The income guidelines are different for children under age 1, children 1 to 6, and children 6 to 19)

 

If you need Medi-Cal because you are pregnant, first you need to get the certification of your pregnancy. I went to an office of “Planned Parenthood”. They gave me a paper with the result of the test that told me about my pregnancy and how far along I was in my pregnancy. You will need that paper to apply to Medi-Cal.

 

You also need a proof of identity (photocopy of California drivers license, passport, school identification, birth certificate or other), a list of all income/money received by the person applying and a list of your expenses.

 

Your monthly income and the value of any other funding must be below the level allowed for Medi-Cal eligibility. The amount of income allowed by Medi-Cal depends upon your individual situation.

 

The following groups can now receive Medi-Cal regardless of the family's financial situation:

  1. Children age 1-5 with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level
  2. Children age 6-18 with income at or below 100% of the federal poverty level
  3. Pregnant women and children under 1 year of age with income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.

 

Here you can find the instructions and application form in different languages:

http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/pages/medicalapplications.aspx

 

And here are the County Offices:

http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/Pages/CountyOffices.aspx

 

 

About WIC

 

WIC is the Women, Infants and Children program that provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

 

Who can apply?


For Women:

  1. Pregnant (during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after the birth of an infant or      the end of the pregnancy) 
  2. Postpartum (up to six months after the birth of the infant or the end of the pregnancy) 
  3. Breastfeeding (up to the infant's first birthday)

 

Infants (up to the infant's first birthday)

 

Children (up to the child's fifth birthday)

 

Residential requirement: Applicants must live in the State in which they apply.

 

Income Requirement: to be eligible for WIC, applicants must have income at or below an income level or standard set by the State agency or be determined automatically income-eligible based on participation in certain programs. WIC Income Eligibility Guidelines 2011-2012.

 

Nutrition Risk Requirement: applicants must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist who must determine whether the individual is at nutrition risk.

 

WIC State Agencies: http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/Contacts/statealpha.HTM

 

I have had a great experiences with both programs, excellent attention from people who work there, they explained me everything, guided me and the doctors services are really great.

 

Anyone who needs support for their pregnancy or children should check these resources out.

 

References:

Medi-Cal

WIC

 

 

 

Visit a Museum for Free!

July 2011

 

In my course at UC Berkeley called “Creating a Fulfilling Life in America,” I like to let spouses know about all the wonderful museums in the Bay Area. At the beginning of every month, many of the museums have a free admission day. You can save a lot of money by planning to go on these days.

 

For example, I took my husband, my 13-year old son and my son’s best friend to the Exploratorium (http://www.exploratorium.edu/) in San Francisco on Wednesday. This museum is located at the Palace of Fine Arts and is a must for hands-on science enthusiasts! With many interactive exhibits, it’s easy to spend 3 hours there. For 2 adults and 2 teenagers, it would have cost $54, but on the first Wednesday of the month, it’s free! I thought it would be really crowded, which it was. However, the museum is big enough that it wasn’t unbearable. When my son and his friend spent an hour inside the Tactile Dome (which costs extra but my son and his friend said it was really “cool”), my husband and I relaxed outside by the beautiful lake, watching a mama duck and her little ducklings swim by and turtles pop up their heads.

 

For a list of free admission days to other Bay Area museums, visit:

http://sanfrancisco.about.com/od/museums/ss/freemuseumdays_3.htm

 

Have fun exploring all of the Bay Area’s museums!

 

Yvonne Lefort, MA

Instructor, “Creating a Fulfilling Life in America”

Career Counselor

www.yvonnelefort.net

ylefort@yvonnelefort.net

 

Walk much?

July 2011

 

When I am at a new place, no matter if I actually live or spend my vacation there, I enjoy discovering the area by foot: Walking around lets you see things that you would not have noticed driving by in a car. Also, last but not least, walking can be a great way to exercise. In Berkeley, you can discover really nice neighborhoods and enjoy scenic views by taking one of the many pathways and steps up and down the Berkeley hills and other fun areas within Berkeley. The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association published a map that shows you where all the paths are and what you can see on your way. The map costs $6.95 (plus tax) and can be purchased via their website or in local book and grocery stores (I saw it in Monterrey Market, for example).

 

If you want to go explore in San Franciso, join one of the free walking tours offered by San Francisco City Guides. Local volunteers show you around their favorite places in the city, off the beaten tourist tracks. Not only can you learn about beautiful places and views in the city, but also about the history of San Francisco. I joined a walk around and within the Ferry Building in San Francisco once and it was really interesting – the volunteer guides are knowledgeable and can tell you so much more about San Francisco than any guide book.

 

On meetup.com, there is also a San Francisco City Walk group that meets every Saturday to go walking and explore. Howard, the tour guide, is really good about describing the level of the walk (moderate, easy, or strenous) and makes sure no one gets lost. The meetup-group is also a great way to meet people, if you are new in town.

 

Allright, everyone, put on your walking shoes and let’s go!

 

How to make new friends - ONLINE
June 2011


Moving to a new country is exciting and fun, but it is even more fun when you make new friends in your new home town. How do you go about to meet new people?

Truth be told, it is not always easy to make new friends when you come from a foreign country. When you are not in the possession of a work permit, it might be even harder for you, because you don‘t have a place to go to every day, while your spouse is attending classes or working on campus.

The internet can be a true helper for this challenge. One of the websites I frequently visit is www.meetup.com, for example. On this website, all sorts of groups of interest literally „meet up“. All you have to do is to sign up for a free account and contact the groups that interest you.
You can participate in walks around San Francisco, get to go out with fellow brunch lovers from all around the Bay Area, or practice your language skills at one of the many foreign language get togethers. You can also attend meetup-groups for Americans wanting to learn your language and share some of your knowledge with them (I attend the German Stammtisch in Berkeley, i.e.).

Another great way to meet people online is the social network InterNations (www.internations.org). This is a social network for expatriates in the Bay Area. They meet once a month in San Francisco, each time at a different location in this great city. You can meet people from all over the world while discovering great bars in San Francisco. Their social network as well as their events are also great networking opportunities if you are looking for a job or an internship. They also offer online forums on their website, where you can ask fellow InterNations-members questions in regards to employment, apartment hunting, or good places to dine in the Bay Area.

Last but not least - contact us, the Berkeley Wives. Even if you are not a spouse of a UC Berkeley student or employee, we welcome EVERYBODY, husband or wife, UC Berkeley or not. We don‘t care. We want to meet you!

What are your experiences making new friends in the Bay Area? If you want to write about your life as a foreign spouse here in Berkeley, let us know! We welcome new bloggers :)

America smells. Sweet!

June 2011

 

When we first moved into our apartment, I noticed a strong smell in our kitchen. It was not the smell of a piece of rotten food or anything disgusting: It just smelled really strongly like – VANILLA. For the longest time, I tried to find out where the smell was coming from. We did not bake any vanilla cookies, nor did we have vanilla flavour for baking around. Although I must say I got used to the smell and liked it (there is worse smells to have in the kitchen), it bugged me that I could not find out where it was coming from. To make a long story short: I accidentally bought vanilla-scented trash bags.

I did not even know those existed. After making that discovery, I noticed how many products in America are scented or flavored: From chocolate flavored coffee, over scented toilet paper, up to refrigerator deodorant or dryer sheets – everything comes with exciting sounding scents or flavours, such as French Vanilla, exotic breeze, or Brazilian nights. What does a Brazilian night smell like? Just sniff your towels. You have no clue what an exotic breeze is? Just use your dishwater detergent.

In my homecountry strongly scented household products are still rare. Since I did not want all these artificial smells inside my house, I had to learn to read the labels and tags on products more closely. A good rule of thumb is: The brighter and more colorful the packaging is, the more likely it is that it comes with a Brazilian Night or an Exotic Breeze.

 

What are your experiences with the American world of products? Did you make any discoveries that you would like to share with the Berkeley Wives?

 

Estate Sales

April 2011

 

A move to the United States across the Atlantic is expensive. Therefore, furnishing your new home on a budget can be challenging, but does not have to be. A great way to find inexpensive furniture, kitchenware and other household items are estate sales. The estate sales are mostly advertised on Craig’s List and easy to find because of the big ESTATE SALE-Signs showing you the way.

 

An estate sale is an event where everything in an entire house is for sale: You walk in and everything you see – literally everything! – has a price tag on it. From the bookshelves to the strainer, from the Picasso-Print and the flower pot – everything can be purchased. You can get a spoon for 50 cents or a real Persian rug for a thousand bucks. If you’re into antiques, you can find great deals. These sale events mostly happen on the weekends, starting Friday morning. My advice: go there early on a Friday. The good stuff goes first and the earlier you get there, the higher your chance to get a bargain.

 

Also, bring some time and a steaming cup of coffee. These estate sales are very busy and lots of people show up, often queuing outside the house. Hence, you might have to wait a while. Some estate sales are crowded with people looking for the same thing you do. The short time of waiting is really worth it and you can get a great addition to your household for little money; but don’t forget to bring cash. Most estate sales do not accept credit cards.

 

It is also a nice treat to check out the homes these estate sales takes place in. You can get to see great mansions overlooking the Bay Area. If you have the time and are interested in saving money – estate sales are your way to go.

 

Doro from Germany, blogging from Berkeley

Berkeley Wives at the NPA Conference 2012

March 2012

 

Doro Unger-Lee, founder of Berkeley Wives, and Yvonne Lefort, intercultural trainer teaching "Creating a Fulfilling Life in America", spoke about spousal support at UC Berkeley at the Annual Meeting of the National Postdoc Association. Other universities throughout the U.S. now understand, how important partner and spouse support for postdocs and graduate students is.