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Guide is resource for international spouses

You're in a foreign country and you want to find work. Who do you talk to? Where do you start? At MIT, such questions come up regularly as spouses of international scholars hunt for jobs (every year there are some 950 foreign nationals at MIT who are here through their husbands or wives).

Now these questions and more are addressed in a resource guide recently completed by Mieke Burggraaff, herself the wife of an international scholar, and Dana Bresee of the International Scholars Office.

The Passport to Paid and Volunteer Work: MIT's Resource Guide for Spouses of Foreign Nationals consists of an information booklet and three reference binders.

The booklet, which is available in the Office of Career Services (12-170), the International Scholars Office (4-105), the International Students Office (5-106), and the Office of Special Community Services (20A-023), includes more than 20 of the most common questions asked by international job-seekers followed by brief answers that refer to sources where more information can be found. For example, a job-seeker curious about how to write an American resume would be referred to various books and courses on the topic.

The three reference binders, currently located in the Office of Career Services, contain more in-depth information such as articles, flyers about upcoming workshops, and bibliographies on more than 10 topics. These topics include job-search techniques, volunteer groups, self-assessment, and improving language, computer and typing skills.

The resource guide grew out of other career-related initiatives begun by Ms. Burggraaff since she came to MIT a little over a year ago from Holland. For example, while attending her first meeting with the MIT Wives' Group, Ms. Burggraaff asked others there if they were interested in working. "We started talking about the job search and being in the US in general," she said, "and at some point I realized that compared to some of the members I had more experience in this area."

Since organizing workshops and training programs is her profession as well as her hobby, she decided to organize a program at MIT on the job search. The result was a nine-part workshop-two hours per session-last April and May on career planning for international spouses. In addition, she began a Job Search Support Group for the same people.

Eventually, however, Ms. Burggraaff realized that as new internationals came to MIT and joined the support group, she was getting many of the same questions. "And since I'm only going to be here for a limited time, I thought it would be a good idea to get things a bit more institutionalized," she said.

As a result, she and Ms. Bresee submitted a proposal for the resource guide to NAFSA, the Association of International Educators. Last December they received a grant from the organization, and together with funds from various MIT offices set to work on the guide.

To that end Ms. Burggraaff emphasizes that she received a great deal of help from six volunteers who are members of the Job Search Support Group. In addition, she said, "one of the nice things about this project is that it brought together a number of different offices at MIT."

In addition to those offices cited earlier, Ms. Burggraaff said the following organizations or individuals also supported the project with financial aid or information: the MIT Wives' Group Office, Dewey Library, the MIT Family Resource Center, Jay Keyser (Associate Provost for Institute Life), the Technology Community Women, the Women's League, and the MIT News Office.

Finally, Ms. Burggraaff hopes that international spouses find the resource guide helpful and "looks forward to comments, opinions, and suggestions" on the project. She or Ms. Bresee can be reached at the International Scholars Office at x3-2851.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 22).

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