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On any given Tuesday morning in the Auburn University Student Center, a group of women can be seen immersed in deep conversation marked by intermittent fits of laughter. On its face, the group may seem like a typical social club, but its roster reads like a miniature United Nations. The club's membership includes women from the United States, China, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, Malaysia, Egypt and Ecuador.
Auburn's International Wives Club may seem like a light-hearted affair, but the group fills a serious need in the Auburn community. When international students and scholars come to Auburn University, many of them have spouses who often give up professional careers to move to a foreign country where they have no friends, a limited knowledge of the language and may not be able to work.
The International Wives Club aims to help the wives of some of these students transition into American culture. It is one of the Graduate School's many initiatives designed to help international students and their families become acclimated to life in Auburn.
"One of the areas that we especially wanted to address was wives of international students who have come here and whose husbands are in school, but they are not," said Len Vining, special projects coordinator for the Graduate School.
About a year ago, Vining approached Rhonda Cattley and Mayra Ruiz about starting a group for the wives of international students.
"My husband and I moved here two years ago from California, and it was a very difficult move for me," said Cattley, whose husband, Russell, is a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. "I was no longer working, and it was hard to meet people. So I understood when Dr. Vining asked me to start this group what it was like to move to a new area and how difficult it was to make friends."
Club members typically meet once a week and swap stories while sampling cuisine from around the world. The club sometimes goes on trips to local destinations, such as the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the group had a cookout where the husbands and children could also meet and mingle.
"The thing that surprised me most was women from all over the world have the same things to talk about," said Cattley, who is affectionately known as the club's "American mom."
For many of the women, the club serves as an opportunity to simply get out of the house and practice speaking English. Ruiz, an Ecuadorean whose husband, Oscar, studies at Auburn, said her English skills have improved rapidly since the club has formed and she has a more positive outlook in her day-to-day life.
She said the club provides a much needed outlet for many of the women, which in turn benefits the women's husbands.
"Nobody wants an angry, depressed or stressed wife at home," Ruiz said. "It doesn't contribute to a peaceful relationship, and it can influence the performance of husbands in their jobs and research."
In the future, Cattley hopes the group can grow and evolve into something more than a social club.
"As a group, they have many talents, and we'd like to do some outreach in the community and get involved in some organizations and maybe give back to the community," Cattley said.
To find out more about the International Wives Club, visit http://grad.auburn.edu/wives.
Last Updated: June 14, 2013