Jackie Phelesteen’s story

jackie

I arrived in the US three years ago in October 2012 accompanying my husband who is pursuing PhD degree in electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I am on F2 visa which doesn’t allow me to work.

I am a very social, outgoing person so I knew from the very beginning that I couldn’t stay at home. I decided that I eagerly needed to find something to do. I started by meeting Jennifer Recklet Tassi, the program manager of MIT Spouses and Partners (S&P) who invited me to attend the group weekly meetings. I looked for English classes on-campus and joined them. Soon I became a very active member of S&P, volunteered for all kind of events and activities, made lot of friends and became very busy.

Also, when Jennifer knew about my background in Software Development, she offered me a volunteer opportunity to develop a database for S&P. That was an awesome experience for me. I learned new skills and new programming languages. I felt good about it as it kept my mind refreshed.

But on the other side, I was not satisfied with my professional progress. I thought it will not be good for my career to have a gap in my resume especially looking at the long time that my husband has to spend in US doing his PhD. I started applying for jobs online, but every time the recruiters called me, after knowing that I am on F2 visa, they apologized that currently they can’t sponsor a visa. I also contacted friends from my nationality that have lived here for a while, hoping that through networking I can get a sponsorship to change my visa.

I kept on volunteering for social activities and events but that was not enough for me. So I started to think right and looked for volunteering opportunities related to my career beside my regular social activities. I talked to lots of people and finally one friend who has a patent and is trying to build a start-up based on it, asked me to join his team as a volunteer. Currently, I am working with the team, utilizing my knowledge and skills, keeping my resume updated with great experiences and building on my career. I feel satisfied about my career progress while simultaneously filling my life with social and professional experiences and finding the balance between the joy of life and the career.

I believe one day I can find the job of my dreams. While looking for that job, I also keep enjoying my social life surrounded by my friends and family who have been a great support for me.

To all the readers who are in the same boat, all I want to say is believe in yourself, follow your dreams, you are a STRONG person.

Jackie Phelesteen

Sweta Jaiswal’s Story

sweta

The idea of living in the United States was very fascinating and exciting for me. When my husband got an opportunity to work here in 2011, I didn’t give a second thought to the move. We had completed an year of marriage and we moved to California, leaving behind my career and social life in India.

After coming to US, I started enjoying my stay. The impressive traffic rules, random people greeting you on the road and beautiful weather were few reasons to fall in love with the place. Although our initial plan was to move back to India after couple of years, but I liked this place so much that my heart desired to stay longer.

I was on an H4 visa so couldn’t apply for jobs. But I took it in a very positive way. I think, being on H4 visa gave me more time to explore places like library, parks and roaming on local trains and buses. The rule of not being allowed to work on H4 visa was not a “curse” for me. After all it was our mutual decision to move to the US knowing all the consequences for my career. For couple of years , we travelled places like Hawaii, Alaska etc. not leaving behind a single long weekend. After enjoying my stay in US for a while, I started thinking about my career. I wanted to get a job and had never thought of studying. But getting a job without having US education looked difficult. We all know life is not an apple-pie and to get something we have to give something. So, I started looking into various schools and their different programs.

After some struggle and frustration, I got admission into a Business & Management program from UCSC-Extension. After getting the admission, I applied for F1 visa. I enjoyed studying in US as I felt that the education system is more advanced and well organized here. I applied for OPT on F1 visa. OPT means Optional Practical Training and on OPT you can work for a company to get practical training. Though F1-OPT gave me the opportunity to restart my career, but it was not easy to get a job in Silicon Valley as I had no software background. But, with a positive attitude and full enthusiasm I kept looking for jobs everyday and gave my best. Eventually I got a job in a mortgage bank. I was delighted as my efforts finally paid off. Now, I have completed four years in US, my heart is full of love and I have no regrets of anything.

Sweta Jaiswal

Quora: A better addiction

A scenario: You are on a dependent visa in US and your New Year resolution is to find a job with visa sponsor ship, or it is to crack the GMAT so that you can get into your dream University. Each day you make a to-do list so that your day goes as planned, however you open your laptop to do the first task and notice that a friend has sent you a message on Facebook. You reply to that friend and two hours later you realize that you are still on Facebook.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Though we all love these social networking sites, but we agree that these are highly addictive and if we want to achieve our goals we have to avoid wasting too much time on them. However, one cannot work for long without breaks and we tend to open sites, which are not informative and in turn waste our time.

We want to introduce our readers to Quora, an awakening and informative website. It is a question and answer website where the community of users ask questions and provide answers. The concept of Quora relies on user-generated content and it has gained popularity among experts in numerous fields. It is different from yahoo answers or other question and answers based websites as it focuses on intelligent answers from experts who are actually knowledgeable in their field.

It has a voting option and the answers that are more useful and informative are voted up by the users. This voting system keeps the best answers visible and puts the best answers first. It has also helped to cut down useless questions and answers.

One can find answers to questions, which do not have answers on search engines (e.g. google search). People login with their Facebook, twitter account which give their answers more authenticity. Many CEOs of various companies are on Quora and they give answers to questions asked about their companies. Even President Barack Obama is on Quora and has connected with people while answering questions on his health care agenda.

Quora is a very intellectual experience. People share what they have learned from their experience and also their opinions. The site has more that 500K topics on which people have asked millions of questions. The site gets more than hundreds of millions of views per month.

People like Quora more than Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites. Most of the social networking sites are fun based but Quora is different as it has tons of great content and useful stuff. You want a job in a particular company; ask the question on Quora on how to get into it. You want to get admission into a particular University; ask the question on Quora on how to crack the admission process. You will get advice on all these topics from experienced professionals who are willing to share solutions that really work.

Quora is also highly addictive but it’s a better addiction as compared to other social networking sites. It entertains as well while supplying quality information. We believe it also motivates you in a way. It gets you connected to the people who have achieved something in life. That is definitely a good motivation to pursue your goals.

Mrunalini Gadewadikar’s Story

MrunaliniHello, my name is Mrunalini Gadewadikar. When I recall my story about how I got a job in United States, I find it quite interesting. My husband was a student in US and after marriage I moved to United States on a dependent Visa status. This visa did not allow me to work or pursue higher studies because of which I was at home most of the time. In the beginning, I enjoyed living in this country but soon it turned into boredom. So, I decided to do something worth with my career. I started from scratch, achieving one thing at a time. I first prepared for TOEFL entrance exams and then GRE. Initially, preparation for these tests required much effort but gradually I started working hard and was able to clear all the exams. It took me one year to get admission in a Master’s program at a University. The time spent at the University was very memorable for me. I enjoyed my time making new friends and gaining new experiences.

During those days, my husband could spend little time at home as he was very busy with his office work. So, I also started getting more involved in the University as a student. When I got my F-1 Visa, I started working on campus to gain some experience and it did help in getting some cash into my pocket. I was independent again and felt like a new self. In the last semester of my two-year Master’s program I got an internship. That was one of the best experiences for me as now I could work in the United States and learn their work culture. But soon my F1 visa expired and I was on OPT status. I did not get the job when I was on OPT and it was very disappointing for me. I was on H-4 visa again as I could not find any job during my OPT so I had to look for job all over again with my new visa status. But I did not lose hope and applied in all possible directions to get the interview call.

After one and half years, I did receive an interview call from a small university. I passed through all phases of interview and was offered the appointment letter. They sponsored my H1B and I officially started working. I was really happy and confident. From that day till today I am working and during this journey I was also blessed with a baby boy and my employer supported me during my pregnancy. Now my son has started going to day care and I am working again.

My advice to all the readers sailing in the same boat is to not hesitate in taking risks. Try all the possible options and one day your efforts will pay off. My route was pretty long but today when I look back, it was worth it.

Mrunalini Gadewadikar

TOEFL tips by Shruti Garg

shruti

In August 2014, I appeared for TOEFL exam and I could clear the test with good marks. My education in English and three years of stay in US helped me to pass the test easily.

But some preparation is needed to get good marks even if you have a background in English. The Official Guide TOEFL iBT book is enough to make you aware of the format of the test and prepare well for the test. Apart from the knowledge of the English language there are few more things which you should brush on to get better marks in this test.

In the listening section, it is important to have a fast writing speed as you need to write down what you are hearing so that you can refer to it while answering the questions. Taking notes while listening is very important as sometimes the speaker talks about technical stuff which is difficult to remember. In our daily routine, we hardly write anything on paper as most of the times we work on computers, so getting back into the habit of writing fast is important for getting good marks in this section. A very minor thing which I would also like to mention is that at the test center I was given only pencils to write and I found my writing speed is slower with pencil as compared to pen. So, in case you have such an issue please do take care of it by practicing.

For the speaking section, do not plan too much as you won’t get much time. Make sure that you do not speak too fast and finish the sentence. In my opinion, you perform the best in speaking section if you let it be instantaneous. In this section, they grade you more on your clarity of speech as compared to content of speech.

For the reading and writing sections, follow the Official Guide and you should be able to get through it.

In the end, I would advice you to stay calm on the day of test as this test is time bound and it is important to be relaxed during the test so that you can perform your best in limited time available.

Shruti Garg
From India
TOEFL Score 106/120 (Year 2014)

Meetup.com

When we move to a new country, we feel desolated and desire for company of others. But, often we hesitate to come out and network/socialize with new people. Mostly we want to be with people who have common interests, share same passion, views and values. Many times we don’t know from where to start and remain stuck in four walls of the room.

There is an online networking site Meetup.com where people can find and join the group of their common interest, such as hobbies, career, business, politics, health, movies, jobs etc. and then they meet offline through meet up. It is very simple to use. All you have to do is to enter the postal code of your city and the topic you want to discuss with the group. The organizers of the group arrange the time and venue for meet ups. Some groups are very active and some are not.

If you are unsure of the group, you can choose the group listed after entering your location. If there isn’t any group that interests you in the site then you can start group of your interest too. You need to choose the location, the group’s name and a short description what a group is all about. You can also specify certain rules for your newly formed group. And, then like the facebook page of meetup and post about your newly formed group there. If you have a twitter account, you can also tweet about it. This way you can reach out to the most people to join your group. It will also show your leadership skills through your ability to organize and lead the meeting.

Finding a venue to hold your event can be the most difficult part. You can decide the place for offline meeting in conference room, restaurant, parks etc. You can also take the help of eVenues.com to decide the place for offline meeting. This website helps their customers to find and book meeting and events spaces. You can book a meeting place directly online by eVenues.com, without contacting any officials for booking your venue.

Meet up group helps to network with likeminded people and professionals of your area. Just because you are out of job, or not working doesn’t mean you can’t network with the people who have the one. It is important to build a network of professionals of your field as they are helpful resources in job search. You find out about the opportunities.

It’s certainly a great site to see what might be available in your area, and perhaps organize a Meetup group of your interest yourself.