Folks, here is a blog where I am branching out a little bit. Not food! Not travel!
I have heard numerous stories from women who have landed in the US soil and not being able to do anything. Especially from those folks who have been working in India and been socially very active. I know, being on an H4 visa is no good. The majority of the H4 population is a large chunk of highly qualified women. They are just overthinking about this situation instead of finding a better way to make use of this scenario. When I was researching about this topic few months back, I even saw reports of suicides and divorces amongst the H4 crowd. Some of the women simply could not handle their situation and decided to return to India. I felt appalled reading those stories. Nobody wants to leave their roots, family and career but somehow it happens just to secure the future. But how can a visa destroy someone’s life? You made your choice to accompany your partner, who is amongst the select few to recieve the H1B visa. Now, does that necessarily mean you should bear with the consequences of it? No. Rather, find a solution to deal with it and overcome it.
You know what? there is always light at the end of the tunnel. My blog will be for all the H4 visa holders and what all to expect when you relocate to the USA and how to make use of this time productively. You are really not losing your independence the moment you set foot on the land of free. This could be a reaffirmation to myself and my fellow H4 friends that we are not cursed. You will know why as you read along.
I am on H4 visa and in the beginning, there were a lot of things which I had to get used to. Of course, it wasn’t just leaving the much-desired job back in India. There were moments of frustation and depression at times. Feelings that there is no purpose in living the life of a dependent housewife. All these rantings were channeled towards the poor husband who had “n” number of reasons to console. Now if I think about those initial days, I feel really sad and silly about myself. Because ladies there are so many options for you to take up as an H4 visa holder. If you are considering moving to the US on an H4 or any other visa which does not allow you to legally work, here are some things you need to be mindful of.
I worked in India as an HR professional for two years. I got my job soon after my post graduation and I was indeed very happy about it. My dreams had wings and it flew to heights. I wouldn’t deny the fact that I still do have dreams. Even though I moved to the US with my husband for his better career opportunity, I never stopped dreaming. Initially, it was hard as anyone else would feel. As soon as you arrive in a foreign land, you will feel that the things are happening very fast. We get astounded by the culture, food, places, and people. These all would only last for a while. After that, you will be back to square one. You will start missing your family, video conferencing with them would be hard, friends support will be lesser etc.
Firstly, people have an assumption that not able to work means- not able to meet new people. Is it really the case? I don’t think so. Well, I was lucky in that way because I landed in Houston, Texas. I need not explain more to those of you who know about Houston. This is where a large number of Indian diaspora live in Texas. I made many friends in the community where I lived. We formed groups, and used to connect with the society in plenty of ways. Likewise, if you want friends and do not want to stay lonely, walk up to them and talk. There is no harm in being an extrovert where it is necessary. Also, collect contacts before you start your journey from India. I am sure, you will find at least one or more acquaintance staying in the US whom you can call and talk at least once in a while. This my personal experience, I contacted one of my long lost old schoold friend before leaving to the US. She had already relocated and had lots of tips to share with me before I embarked my journey to the foreign land. Reconnecting with her was one of the best things I have done in my life. You know what? She is one of my best friends now. We connect through phone calls or whatsapp very often and share our stories and thoughts. Like I said, never hesitate to contact your school or college friends in the US. The bonding will become stronger. Also, there is a very useful website called Meetup where you can look for something you like to do and find a meetup near you and this way you might get to know people and even make friends.
Another effective way to meet new people is through the Indian communities. You can search for Indian groups in your locality through Facebook and Google. You will never miss India if you join such active groups. They will conduct meetups, and celebrate festivals with great pomp and ceremony.
Secondly, this is the best time to indulge in your hobbies, and work on things you are passionate about. I have friends who took up music and dance lessons just to keep themselves busy, and to make use of the free time. The US is a country where you will find plenty of resources. You name it, you will find it. I have a couple of friends who are ardent lovers of arts and crafts. I am not an artist but I tried my hands on paintings and drawing. That’s when I knew about Michaels, a large specialty store for arts and crafts in the US. They also conduct plenty of arts, crafts, baking and lifestyle related classes for free, or at a minimal price. You never know, you may find your long lost friend in such classes. 😛
Thirdly, be ready to spend a lot of time on your own. Your husband/partner might be at work for longer hours and the biggest enemy of every H4 woman – ” the depression” might slowly creep in. What would be a best solution to this? “Control your mind ” there is nothing bigger than that. Why not do some online certificate courses? You will not realize how your time goes. Financial problems? Never mind, take up some free online certificate courses from renowned universities. There are couple of free online courses that you can take up from renowned universities like Harvard, Stanford and MIT too. I am passionate about photography. I had learned the basics of photography during my graduation. To brush up those skills, I attended an online photography class from Shaw Academy and it helped me in not only learn new skills but also spend time . Here are some websites which you can visit for free online classes – Udemy, Coursera,EdX,Khan Academy etc. You don’t feel like taking up any special technical skill courses, take up a soft skill course. Learning a new language is always the best bet.
You all must have heard about TEDx talks. I have heard about it during my college days. TEDxtalks are highly motivational and inspirational. If you really feel low, the best medicine to boost yourself up is to watch a TEDx talk video on Youtube. There are a plethora of topics that you can choose from. To be honest folks, it did not stick with me because my attention span is pretty short and I couldn’t continue further. But am not saying it is not efficient. It is super interesting . Nevertheless, you all can try and let me know how it worked for you. I am eager to know your favorite topic.
Fourthly, take up some volunteering position with NGOs or schools or libraries. Volunteering is sometimes tricky because you can only volunteer for an NGO or a position posted open for volunteering. So sometimes, you may not receive call backs. But there is no harm in applying. This is a chance to feel useful and also to give back to the community. I stay busy with my volunteering works at the city library now; earlier, I used to volunteer for a couple of virtual organizations in the HR field. I meet new people daily from varying backgrounds, cultures, interact and hone my interpersonal skills. Moreover, volunteering is considered of great value in the US. With God’s grace, you happen to receive your H4 EAD, you might as well have a good point to mention in your resume. And in case you go back to India, you surely can speak about your volunteering work experience to prospective employers and highlight the skills imbibed. I search for volunteering opportunities through Volunteermatch.org. You will find plenty of options in your area of interest, near your place of stay, virtual or physical office etc.
Also, some people forget about LinkedIn as soon as they leave their job. LinkedIn is a resourceful social media platform. It not only helps you in landing your dream job, but also gives you opportunities to participate in dicussions and join forums of your interest. LinkedIn also has free online courses to build your career. Interesting right? I learnt about LinkedIn online courses when I was searching for some HR related courses. Believe me, it is super effective, and you learn a lot from it.
Another best bet for those of you who know that you are going to stay here for a long time, and do not have major financial constraints, can confidently go back to school.There are plenty of state universities and community colleges where you can enroll for classes and update your skills. There are millions of students in India, who dream about studying in the US. Very few of them gets their dream fulfilled. Of course, applying from India means higher amount of fees and people end up buying educational loans. Whereas, a person who is staying in the US can apply to their respective state universities for any course and can avail an in-state discount. In state discount is nothing but a concession from the regular fee structure. This is applicable to only those who have stayed in a state for more than one year. When you enroll for a program in the school, you have to change your visa status from H4 to F1 visa. And F1 visa holders get OPT (Optional Practical Training) on completion of the course which allows job seeking.
Last but not the least, engage through social media. This is something I learned after moving to the US. Social media is so powerful these days. If you have the skill to write, paint, cook, photography, a tad fashion sense – then you are a blogger. Join Instagram, Twitter or start a blog of your own on WordPress. You will not know how time passes away. I started blogging about my travel diaries in the year 2016 through the free wordpress website. This is a very convenient and user-friendly platform for those who are planning to take baby steps in the blogosphere. You have multiple options to customize your website and even keep a check on the number of viewers who visit your blog post. Checking the statistics still, gives me a lot of excitement. I am delighted when people read my posts and leave feedbacks.
Are you a person who is not camera conscious? You can even start a video blogging channel on Youtube for free.
If you are really serious about blogging, you can buy your own domain from websites like godaddy.com, ibibo.com etc. But I wasn’t big on buying domain paying a lot of money. That is when my friend introduced me to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) which allow you to get the domain for a very reasonable price. AWS offers reliable, scalable and inexpensive cloud computing services. I got my domain just for $0.50 for a month ( which will sum up to about $6 for an entire year). $0.40 per 1,000,000 queries for the first 1 Billion queries will be charged as per usage and traffic to your website. So if you have a lesser traffic website, then you may end up paying only about $0.51 per month. To be frank, it is more than sufficient for a beginner. This blog site www.snapsavorscribble.com, is hosted on AWS. It not only helped me in building my own website, but also gave me a chance to learn more about cloud computing and its wider aspects.
Like I said, there is a wide horizon waiting for you to explore even without a work visa. I am positive that I have written something useful and helpful for all those who are new to this country. The one important thing you can do whenever you have a sad time is to talk to your partner or family about your feelings. This would help you cope with it. Why did you make such a decision? You made this decision to stay together with your spouse rather than living in two different countries, explore the quality of life in a new country, and support your spouse in his/her work. My husband always says that my identity and self-esteem is not predicated solely on my job or the salary that I bring back home. Now this may sound very cliched, but this is truth – “Work shouldn’t define you, you should be able to define the work”.
Enjoy what you are doing without losing confidence. Even if you are a mother, try to create a space for yourself. You never know your kid could be a icebreaker. I totally understand if there are situations where you feel miserable and not able to support your husband financially. But think about the positive side, money isn’t everything. You have all the time in the world to be with your family. Start learning new things and start appreciating things which you would have never even thought it existed. All these visa hassles and hurdles are ephemeral. Don’t overthink it and make your life short. Enjoy and relax!
I will leave you all readers with a question. Now do you really think it is bad enough to be on H4 visa? Share your opinions and thoughts. I am always eager to know your thoughts and ofcourse open to a debate too if it may occur.