Women’s association helps international spouses

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    By Marie Williams

    At her wedding, Augusta Castro knew she would follow her husband to the edge of the earth. She didn’t realize this edge was in Provo.

    Castro left her life-long home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to support her husband who is pursuing a law degree. This semester there are almost 250 women living in what is a foreign country for them, the U.S., because their spouse attends BYU.

    Kerena Hamilton, community programs coordinator for International Student Services, said that many of these international women are not familiar with American culture and as a result, have little to do while their husbands are busy at school.

    Their challenges are many, and include language barriers, boredom and loneliness.

    Hamilton coordinates BYU’s International Women’s Association, which targets the spouses of international students.

    They provide these women with activities that develop skills and friendships, Hamilton said.

    These activities are designed to educate people about Utah culture and include Halloween parties, trips to the Zoo, and riding TRAX in Salt Lake City.

    The IWA also sponsors English lessons twice a week, which is a vital skill for adjusting to American life.

    Castro has lived in Provo for nine months and said she attends these English lessons since language is her number one problem.

    Another challenge is how her U.S. visa forbids her to work, even though she was a successful workingwoman in Sao Paulo, she said. In addition to this, her husband is at school all day, often from 8 a.m. until midnight, she said.

    In spite of these trials she said she is happy.

    “I have no time for depression and if I am feeling bad, I talk on the Internet to my friends in Brazil,” she said.

    Tracy Cheung is from Taiwan and has lived at Wymount for five years while her husband pursues a Ph.D. in Education Leadership.

    Language barriers are her most difficult challenge, and at first she was reluctant to converse with others because of poor English skills, she said.

    She said this was a lonely time but she found solace in the IWA where she met women who shared her situation.

    Cheung now has three children who often correct her English, she said.

    Cheung and her husband plan on moving to Hong Kong, but she is concerned how the children will adapt to a culture they never knew, she said.

    I wish I could raise my children in Provo, she said.

    Julia Voronova traveled from Russia to be with her husband who is majoring in electrical engineering.

    At first she said she often stayed in her apartment and was afraid that no one understood her English.

    Today she is busy raising two children, she said.

    “It has taken time to overcome the culture shock,” Voronova said.

    For IWA information and volunteer opportunities contact Kerena Hamilton at 378-9338.

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