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Q. What kind of educational and employment opportunities will I have overseas? And what can I do to prepare ahead of time to make the process easier?

— Moving to Aviano

A. As military spouses, no matter where we go in the world, our careers have to be like our lives: flexible.

“I just reinvent myself with each move,” a friend and fellow military spouse told me. At one assignment, she taught at university level, at another she was a sailing instructor. During another, she completed her master’s degree. Now living overseas, she is helping her military community and bolstering her résumé with volunteer experience. “It is fortunate for me that I enjoy a variety of new challenges,” she said. Variety and challenge are the watchwords of military spouses.

“Spouses need to have a realistic expectation of what the employment situation is like overseas before they get here. It’s not like being back in the States by a long shot,” said Janet Farley, a military spouse stationed in Germany and the author of “The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success” (Impact Publications, October ’07).

In some foreign countries, spouses cannot work off the military installation at all, and jobs on base or post can be limited, said Farley, who also writes the monthly “Job Talk” column for Stars and Stripes. For information and for planning ahead, she recommends contacting the employment readiness representative at the family service center for your new location.

“Some spouses have found that being overseas affords a great opportunity to continue their education or training,” said Farley. She added that financial aid is sometimes available for military spouses who want to go back to school. Most overseas installations have college or university extension programs where spouses can take classes, and online programs can be accessed anywhere. For information, contact your installation education office or go to www.military.com/spouse. To search for scholarships for military members and dependents, click on “Scholarships” near the bottom of the home page.

Q: A big question I hear at my base is “I want to work full time, but I’m feeling pressure from my husband’s unit to participate in activities as a spouse. What’s expected of me? If I don’t participate, will it hurt my husband’s career?”

— Air Force Wife

A: As I understand it, the idea of a military wife being responsible for advancing her husband’s career went out with white gloves. All spouses are not wives anymore, and many military spouses have their own careers.

I certainly believe husbands and wives should support one another. That’s how marriage works. However, participating in unit activities may not always be the way you choose to be supportive. Those decisions are up to you and your husband. The “pressure” you describe is inappropriate if it’s implied that your participation affects his career.

From another perspective, the pressure may just be other spouses encouraging you to get involved. Whether your involvement is social or service oriented, friendships are the fringe benefits. Making friends with other spouses will help you feel at home in your community, adapt to military life, and survive deployments.

Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She and her family live in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein, AB. Send questions or comments to her at spousecalls@stripes.com

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