Corvallis Trailing Spouse Phenomenon: An Inherent Part of Our Local Biosphere

“Our decision to move to town was one we made together, after lots of reflection and conversation. I never felt like I was being forced to come to Corvallis,” said Andrew Morgan, a 30-year-old Philadelphia native. Morgan moved to Corvallis one year ago with his partner so she could attend grad school at OSU.

Andrew Morgan and Erica D'Alessandro

The first thing a trailing spouse like Morgan wants you to know is that he doesn’t like to be referred to as, well, a trailing spouse.

By definition, the term “trailing spouse” describes a person who follows his or her partner to another city for a work assignment.  Indeed, these people come to Corvallis primarily for the advancement of their partner’s career, but the term “trailing spouse” carries the connotation that they were forced to give up everything and move here against their will. In fact, most couples’ decision to move here is quite mutual.

Morgan’s first impression of Corvallis was that it felt quaint and safe.

“The pace of life seemed slower than what we had grown used to living in a big city on the East Coast. We were blown away by the atmosphere of the Saturday market. The farmers’ markets we experienced back East didn’t have as much live entertainment or such a wide offering of produce,” he said.

Despite a degree and experience in English education, Morgan admitted that finding a teaching position here was challenging. He did, however, land a position as an educational assistant for high school students with special learning needs.

“I’m happy that I found the job I currently have,” he said. “I work with an amazing group of co-workers, my students continue to inspire me, and I’ve learned a ton about how to better help students with special needs.”

Relocating to Corvallis has been an overall positive experience for Morgan who became almost immediately acclimated to the community by getting involved in groups like bicycle polo.

He added, “We chose Corvallis because we knew how easy it would be to access state parks and forests.”

For those like Morgan who thrive on outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and trail running, Corvallis might be a perfect fit.

However, for some the move here required more of an adjustment. Sydnie Callahan, a 25-year-old office assistant, moved here from Utah about 10 months ago so her husband could complete his residency at Good Samaritan. Callahan describes Oregon as being very different from both Utah and her hometown in southeastern Idaho.

“When I first moved here, I did not feel like I fit in. People were friendly, but I was often told that it was obvious I wasn’t from here, mostly because of the way I dressed, acted, styled my hair, and how I talked,” she said.

Besides missing her family and friends, Callahan confessed the hardest parts about moving here were getting used to the lack of sun, the plastic bag ban, and finding a job. After graduating from Utah State University with a degree in journalism, Callahan worked as an event planner and public relations specialist, but found it disheartening when she couldn’t find a similar position here.

“I could not believe how hard it was to find work here. I applied for over 100 jobs and only had four in-person interviews,” she said. “I started applying in July and didn’t find a job until December.”

Claire and Brad Anding

Callahan is growing fonder of Corvallis, its changing seasons, local stores and restaurants, and the general small-town feel. One of the major influences in making her feel connected to the community is her church and the opportunities it brings for participation and fellowship.

Community involvement has helped other trailing spouses feel at home. Claire Anding, a 26-year-old, Louisiana-born Southern gal echoes this view: “Working for a community bank has helped me feel more connected with the community; moreover, it has provided opportunities for volunteer work, which has probably had the largest impact of feeling a part of this community.”

Anding and her husband, an ex-Navy nuclear submariner, moved here in December of 2010 so he could complete his degree on the GI Bill. Moving around is a natural part of the military lifestyle, but moving to Corvallis proved to be especially tricky.

“It took us by surprise just how small this town really is,” said Anding.

When asked if she feels like she fits in, Anding admitted, “Not especially. I’ve noticed that we have gravitated to befriend other non-Oregonians in particular. While we do feel more like a part of the community than when we first got here, I do not think we will ever consider Oregon home; there seems to be a sense of Northwest hubris.”

Anding has, however, found outlets for the hobbies she loves.

“I really enjoy reading, which is great for Oregon considering the weather keeps you inside the majority of the year. I’ve also found new hobbies I enjoy here, such as hiking and wine tasting.”

She added, “It was quite an adjustment moving from the East Coast to the West. Although we’ll never be 100 percent sure this was the right move for us, we made it work, had some amazing experiences, and met some amazing people.”

On how she and her husband deal with feelings of guilt, she said, “I think it’s reassuring to him to know that if roles were reversed, he would have done the same for me.”

 

By Bridget Olson

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