Photo courtesy of VSPA
Photo courtesy of VSPA

Two years ago, Katherine Sanchez left Chile to follow her husband who was accepted into the Environmental Design Master’s Program at Berkeley. Like many spouses and partners of students and other academics, her transition was not without difficulty.

“I experienced the hardships of having to leave everything I knew behind to start a new life in a foreign country,” she said. “When you first arrive, everything seems so different and hard, without friends or a network to turn to; even going to the supermarket was a challenge.”

To support people like Katherine who follow their loved ones to Berkeley, the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) office created the Berkeley Spouse Partner Program (BSPP) which now launched the Berkeley Spouse Partner Association (BSPA.)

The organization recognizes and supports spouses and partners of graduate students, postdocs and visiting scholars who are facing transition and cultural differences. It strives to help spouses and partners minimize isolation and adjust to their new environment through classes, socializing, and networking. Currently with about 100 members, BSPA welcomes new spouses and partners year-round.

“This helps the new graduate student or postdoc to be able to concentrate on their studies and research,” said Sam Castañeda, Director of the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs office. “If the spouse/partner is happy, then the student/postdoc is happy; if the student/postdoc is happy, then the faculty sponsor is happy — which then translates to more productive research activities on the part of the student/postdoc. It’s a win-win situation.”

“I realized how important being part of a community really is and this is why I became part of the BSPA,” said Katherine, who joined the association this past spring. “BSPA gives you the opportunity to be part of this community, make friends, share experiences and network.”

Regular social events will be organized this semester by fellow Berkeley-spouse-turned-coordinator, Zdeni Amadio.

A moderated listserv allows spouses and partners to communicate with one another and post announcements on a wide variety of topics. Email postings to [email protected]. To subscribe to this listserv, click here.

BSPP Website

The Berkeley Spouse Partner website offers information on:

• Banking, transportation, child care, healthcare, leisure, and support network activities

• Events such as luncheons, socials and talks given by VSPA affiliates

• English as a Second Language — subsidized courses located near campus offered by The Language Company in partnership with the VSPA Program.

• Pronouncing American English — a six-week course offered by a licensed speech pathologist who works with graduate students at Cal State East Bay.

• Love, Liliana — a question-and-answer and advice column written by the spouse of a Berkeley postdoc-turned-faculty, Liliana Cardile, who is an international journalist. Ask your questions and share your experiences about your transition to Berkeley by writing to Liliana in care of [email protected]