After working for 3.5 years in the IT industry, I decided to take a break. My husband got an onsite opportunity and I joined him in US on the H4 dependent visa. I and my husband worked in the same organization; however there were no onsite opportunities in my field. The initial plan was that I would be in US for 4 months, then we would return back to India, and I would look out for a new job. That plan soon materialized into another plan when his project got extended and I had to stay on H4 for more than a year.
My status change from working to non-working also changed the attitude of a lot of people towards me. People whom I knew were earning less than me in the previous company suddenly started showing how superior they were to me. Working females would make statements like I can keep the house cleaner as I am a full-time housewife, I can cook better as I have nothing else to do. And I would be “Hello, I used to work 2 months back”. Of course, I never retaliated to any of the taunts/comments that people threw at me. I have the classic problem of not being able to say anything rude on anyone’s face and then later think about what/how could I have said something. Friends would ask me questions such as “Din bhar ghar mein kya time pass karti hai? (What time pass do you do the whole day sitting at home?)” “Why don’t you study in college?” “Why are you online the whole day just waiting for someone to come online and talk to you?” Initially, the word “Housewife” said to me sounded like an insult or bad word.
Mostly, I took all these attitude problems and questions in my stride and kept a positive outlook. Then there were times when I would get terribly depressed. The walls would close on me, all the ghosts seen in horror movies would haunt me in broad daylight, and I would feel like an utter failure. I would never pester my husband for all my boredom, after all staying here for an extended time was my decision too.
This article is my small contribution to all those females like me, who have willingly or unwillingly taken a break from their careers. The reasons and the duration of the break might be different. But the situation through which we are going through is the same. Mostly, this article is for all the females on the H4 dependent visa. And only females on the H4 dependent visa know how dependent they become through this visa. With a decent paying job in India, I never thought twice about buying anything. And oh, the freedom to buy and shop is so valuable to any girl. My husband would never stop me from buying anything in the US. But the ability to shop from your hard earned money is quite different than asking him to buy something for you. Some of you who have been in the US know most of the things covered in this article, but I am hoping that this article proves useful to girls who have newly come to US on H4.
Stuck on a H4? Don’t say so. Here’s how you should utilize your free time:
1.Volunteer: The first thing that comes to mind when you say H4 is that people cannot work on this visa. So, what now? Volunteer. Look up sites such as Volunteermatch.org and Idealist.org and find volunteer positions in your area. Find the work that best suites your likes and spend your time there. You can choose the schedule of your volunteer work. These jobs won’t pay you anything. But they will help in: a. Maintaining a schedule. b. Give you peace of mind that you are doing something worthwhile with your time. c. If you get a volunteer experience letter, then you can account for the free time when later applying for a job.
My friend A volunteered at a school here. It was a very enriching experience for her. I found several writing opportunities through Volunteermatch.org. It’s great to spend time writing articles. In fact, I am very busy in my work.
2.Internships: Several companies accept college interns to work for them for a certain time period. If you have some experience in a particular field and find an internship opening, then you can apply to work voluntarily for the same. My friend was working as an Instructional Designer in India and after coming to the US she found an internship opening in a firm. She applied, went through six rounds of interviews, and is now working as an intern with the firm. Read her experiences here. These firms will also not pay you anything, but they might give you gift cards to gyms and all. Again, the best thing about working as an intern is working as a full-time employee. If the firm is happy with your work, they may sponsor your H1 visa.
Check out websites such as this and this to find internship positions.
3.Further studies: For all those whose husband doesn’t mind sponsoring further education, this option is the best. You can complete your MS, MBA, or CPA in US universities.
If you are not interested in a full-time course or a degree, you can consider taking individual courses and earn credit points. Some colleges offer courses for 100$ and these will earn you a single credit point. You will need to increase the number of courses to earn more points. These credit points will definitely come in handy for job applications.
If going to college for earning a degree isn’t easy for you, take up some distance learning program. You can always search on Google for such programs in your field of study.
Lastly, there’s the option of online certifications. Females from IT background can complete Oracle, SAP, and software testing certifications.
4.Hobby classes: Find out about hobby classes in your area and join something that interests you. I was very lucky in this aspect after knowing about Friendship International. This group sponsored by the local church offers free hobby classes. Teachers train you on various hobbies such as sewing, stitching, home decorations crafts, crochet, knitting, and quilting. They provide free materials and offer free pick up and drop facility. The class is scheduled every Wednesday and is attended by people of all nationalities. I always look forward to this class as it gives me a chance to go out, meet so many people, and do something creative with my hands.
I recently came to know that the store Michaels offers cake decorating and bead jewelry making classes. I have enrolled for the cake decorating class. Whenever I do something creative, I feel like a child who has accomplished something.
5.Network: The more you network, the more you will be aware of opportunities. I have made several friends in my vicinity. These friends informed me about hobby classes, gave me shopping tips, and comforted me when I felt lonely. I also joined Orkut, a networking website and found several long lost friends. Later, I joined communities such as “H4 Marathi Mandal” and “Indian Homemakers in the USA”. Through these communities, I had 500+ virtual friends. I knew that whenever I posted a query or felt like talking to anyone, I would have company. These girls also chat online and play online antakshari.
6.Keep updated: My biggest worry of being on H4 was that I should get a decent job after going back to India. I should be able to account for the one year time I spent at home. I am Technical Writer by profession and regularly read everything happening in my field. I follow e-mail discussions, read online magazines, and keep updated with the new tools in my field. The biggest advantage of being in the US for me is the local library. I found several books on Technical Writing that would be difficult to find in India. I get these books, read them, and take notes. I regularly write articles, either for my blogs or as part of the voluntary work. I do not want to appear clueless and lost when I would apply for jobs in India.
Whatever field you belong to, keep yourself updated. You may convert your visa from H4 to H1 and while searching for jobs, you should be confident and well-informed.
7.Pursue your passion: I believe that there’s a passion in every human waiting to come out. Some of us might have found that passion, while some may find it later. You may be good at singing, cooking, painting, sketching, drawing, playing an instrument, or creative in whatever you make. I discovered my love for cooking after coming to the US. I truly believe that ‘Whatever happens, happens for the best'. I never cooked anything till I came here, and then had to cook as there is no concept of cooking maids in the US. Initially, I struggled but later found that I loved cooking different dishes. While searching for a particular recipe, I stumbled upon a food blog and through this I found several food bloggers. I now have my own food blog Swad, where I write about what I cook at home and post pictures of the cooked dishes. Food blogging serves three of my passions – writing, cooking, and photography. I have several blogger friends and we have a lot of blogging events. I love participating in all of them.
A friend of mine is taking her photography hobby very seriously. She has a Canon S2 IS digital camera and captures Mother Nature’s phenomenal wonders through her lens. She shares her work on Flickr and gives a chance to people to appreciate nature’s beauty. Whatever is your passion, find it and pursue it. You will never feel alone if you are engrossed in something.
8.Exercise regularly: The one thing that my dad said to me when I was leaving for the US is “Don’t come back fat”. I always remember this. It’s natural that if you sit at home and eat, you will put on weight. Sometimes you might eat because you are bored, or eat without noticing while watching TV. And then when you see in the mirror, you will see a fat lady. This might increase your frustration and you may end up eating even more. I am not saying that I regularly go to the gym, but some form of physical activity is necessary. Go for a morning walk, do jogging, hit the gym, practice yoga, or play tennis. I practice meditation taught to me in the ‘Art of living’ class. It makes me calm and controlled. Go out from time to time. You will feel refreshed after breathing the natural air.
9.Follow a schedule: During my early days in the US, I had absolutely no schedule. I used to get up and make breakfast for my husband, then sleep again till 11 am, get up and chat with my parents, eat lunch at odd times, watch TV, and have bath any time before hubby came home. I soon got bored with this schedule. All of us should follow some schedule to feel positive and happy. Nowadays, I get up early, make breakfast for hubby, read the news, clean the house, do my voluntary work, and maintain a fixed schedule.
10.Be positive: Oh no, it's not my blood group. Thoughts of your family, friends, and country are bound to come to your mind from time to time. Your inability to earn may depress you at times. But, try and be positive all the time. If you are feeling lonely, then share this feeling with someone. Read books. I believe that a person will never feel lonely whilst he’s in the company of books. Try to find a positive angle to the present situation. Although I miss my family and all the functions back home, I cherish all the time I am getting to spend with my husband. Who knows, every Sunday in India might have been spent attending weddings and birthday parties? I try and be happy most of the times. I dance when I am alone, laugh out loud, take photographs, and read a lot.
11.Keep company: I see to it that there’s some form of noise when I feel lonely; this way I feel that I have company. I listen to music when I am cooking; I switch on the TV while eating. Ask a friend to visit you if you are too bored or visit her instead. Plan a potluck party with a group of friends.
12.Eat properly: This point is more as a reminder to me than for anyone else. I hate eating alone. My husband’s office is far off and he can’t come home for lunch. I often neglect lunch and eat in minimal quantities. Sometimes I chuck making chapattis and settle for Maggi, a sandwich, or an apple. I sure hope that none of you do something similar, but if you do, then stop doing it. I have now become very serious about having a hearty lunch. I play my favorite movie, add fruits in my lunch, and seem to enjoy it.
13.Learn something new: What was it that you always wanted to do but never found the time to? Learn a new activity - be it sports, a musical instrument, or a new language. There are websites such as this that teach you Spanish. You can hear the pronunciations and learn the language. I am planning to learn tennis and swimming. Rekindle the romance with your husband and sign up for some dance classes. I recently found out that a local dance school offers classes for 40$ a month.
(Updated: One of my readers, Shabari suggested this very important point.)
14. Learn driving: I did the mistake of not learning to drive. If you stay in a city which does not have good local transport, driving becomes mandatory. Most of the states require you to appear for a written test. You can easily prepare for this test using the driver's guideline book for your state. All the driving rules and regulations are defined in this book. Once you pass the written exam, you have to wait for a month to give the driving test. Practice driving in this one month and then appear for the test. A driving license gives you the freedom to go out whenever you want, you need not be dependent on your husband to take you out. Go to the library, go shopping with your friends, or do volunteer work.
This is for all the smart asses (sorry to use this word, but it suits them) who think that people on H4 do nothing but time pass the whole day. Most of these girls are highly educated and know better about how to pass their time than you lecturing them. Do consider the fact that these girls are thousands of miles away from home and family. If you are not interested in talking to them, leave them alone. But at least don’t point out the fact that they are not working over and over again. Remember, if you say something depressing, you can spoil their day.
I hope that this article would help my female friends on H4 in some way or the other. Thanks for reading this article. If you would like to contribute any other helpful fact for this article, please contact me. I would love to add it to the article and give your reference. Also, if you want more information about anything, get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you out.
Till then, be happy on H4!Adios!