This is an open letter to a seminary student’s wife who is here, for one year, on a J2 visa. I’ll call her Jane. Her visa does not allow her to work, nor to enroll in credit courses as a student. I brainstormed with myself about what she could do here in Princeton for the next nine months. The “wisdom” would also apply to any stay-at-home spouses. Maybe you have some suggestions! if so, please comment. (If you can’t figure out how to comment, email me…)
My first question to her is, what do you want from this year? To learn something — a new language or a skill? To make new friends? To barter your services to eke out your budget? Your volunteer help is always welcome at our church, but rather than monopolize you we want you to spread your wings wide!
Here are some ideas.
Since English is the language of your home country’s schooling, teach English as a volunteer to accumulate credits and experience for later ESL employment. Try the YWCA and the Princeton Public Library, start as an assistant.
Volunteer in a nonprofit office with the specific goal of learning something: software programs for office or photos. Try the Princeton Senior Resource Center or Arts Council of Princeton. You could go off the seminary campus and try out the opportunities at the university, such as at the Carl A. Fields Center. The university’s International Center has a wide array of opportunities.
Volunteer at a school in exchange for free or reduced-price classes.
Volunteer at a library to learn the basics of a librarian’s job.
Network to find a professor who will let you sit in on his/her class.
Join a musical group that will let you in for free. The Handbell Choir requires no previous experience and you would learn lots.
Learn a new skill or just keep in shape, perhaps with a municipal recreation class.
Take advantage of the plethora of free concerts and afternoon lectures, perhaps focusing in a particular area. Drill down into the schedule of Westminster Choir College to find the student and faculty concerts, perhaps making friends with someone who will let you audit their course. You have to ask for the schedule of the free ones. Or attend lectures at department that schedules a lot of them, like the Center for African American Studies.
Another option, devote time to online study using the resources from the Princeton Public Library (Here is a good link of the library’s online resources for ANYone to follow.)
Learn about early childhood education — perhaps for your own future children — by apprenticing yourself to a nursery school teacher. No doubt you would pick up some bartering opportunities for babysitting jobs!
Hang out at the Princeton University Art Museum (perhaps even take the docent’s course?) to sponge up everything you can learn about art. Shown above, one of Princeton University’s outdoor sculptures, Richard Serra’s Hedgehog and the Fox. For this sculpture, you experience “a passage” as you walk through.”
Jane — as you “pass through” Princeton, I hope you will find that there are soooooooooo many wonderful opportunities to acquire a new skill or explore a new area of knowledge. Surely you will get the very most out of this year, and that you will be a blessing to those you meet!