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Lee chose to volunteer

March 27, 2012

Li Theng Lee, the founder of the Westgate Culinary Club, decided to bring together a group of people who share a common interest and passion for cooking. She topped it off by providing the members with an opportunity to socialize and learn about new cultures — and the Westgate Culinary Club was born.

The club is just four months old but it boasts of over 40 members on its Facebook page. The weekly sessions on Thursdays coupled with the trips to restaurants and grocery stores in and around the city, to explore international cuisine, are some of the activities that club members have come to love.

“From a very busy schedule I had in Singapore, I now basically keep myself engaged by doing things I enjoy and always wanted to do,” said Lee. “It’s more on a day-to-day basis now. I volunteer with the farmers’ market manager in Harvard Square; volunteer in a school where I teach math to children and also volunteer at a soup kitchen run by a group of MIT students.”

Lee used to work as an elementary school teacher in Singapore where her 12-hour–day work schedule kept her busy.

She wanted to enroll in a full-time course during her stay in the United States, but her dependent visa status posed as a restriction.

“F-2 visa regulations are actually very strict. It forbids me from working as well as take up long-term courses. It limits the things I can do. I am not trying to look for a job and to earn money but something to engage myself in and learn from,” she said.

But taking up courses which are avocational and recreational in nature are permitted under the F-2 visa status and Lee didn’t want to lose out on this opportunity. She had taken several culinary classes at the Boston Learning Center, she said. She also took some classes in the MIT and Harvard University.

“Some of these courses come with a cost so I had to manage this as I am not earning now…but I don’t mind as long as my time is meaningfully spent by taking these short classes and volunteering my services at various non-profit organizations,” Lee said.

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