What Now?

A comment from a graduate student spouse…

“Being a student spouse/partner can be exciting, but also has its own challenges.”

The intention of this section is to acknowledge the difficult transition that many partners experience when moving to the Ithaca area. Every person is different, but we have noticed a range of emotions and patterns that most student partners experience. Our intention in sharing this with you is so you know you are not alone! We have also included some tips designed to help you through your time here.

Arrival – Welcome to Cornell!

  • You may feel excited, eager, nervous, or overwhelmed. All are normal! It can be difficult to be in a new place where you don’t know anyone. Your partner will have a built-in network (no matter how small!) in his or her program and you may be feeling a little lost.
  • Tip: Attend orientation and welcome events with your partner or family and start learning about the resources in the Cornell community.

Settling In

  • You may be exploring, discovering, adapting, and beginning to face obstacles. Give yourself time to get acquainted with this new place. Some grieving for your old life might occur, and that’s okay!
  • Tip: Take a walk through the Cornell Plantations, check out festivals and events in Ithaca. Make a list of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes area attractions, events, parks etc. you want to see before you leave and start to do it!

Reality Bites!

  • You may be feeling strained, overworked, and without support from your partner or family. Grad school can come with long hours of work at the library or lab, and a long day with your own career or at home by yourself can leave both student and partner feeling fatigued, lonely, and resentful.
  • Tip: As you both settle into a routine, the excitement you initially felt can start to wear off.  Be kind to yourself and your partner/spouse and focus on your future together!


  • You begin to adjust to change. You make friends and start building your support systems.
  • Tip: Seek new and meaningful rituals to share with your partner like morning coffee or exercise. Join in at the Big Red Barn Graduate & Professional Student Center or seek out book clubs, religious communities, sport leagues, or volunteer opportunities in your community. If you need to, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Talk to a trained counselor.

Realization – I am OKAY

  • Celebrate! You’re making the first tentative steps towards thriving. You realize that you are an important part in your partner’s journey as a student, and that you have your own networks, communities, rhythms and routines established.
  • Tip: Take time to reflect on your new life, and the highs and lows that you have gone through. You might still need to seek out help. Continue working on your support system and stay involved!


  • You begin contributing, helping others, and reaching out in your community. You are working, studying, and/or contributing to your new life. You have ways to express creativity. You feel that this is your new home.
  • Tip: Continue celebrating even the smallest of things. Host a potluck for new people in the community. Invite them to share in your favorite Ithaca activities. Remember what it was like when you first moved here!

Leaving Cornell

  • You are preparing to say farewell to good friends and a good home.
  • Tip: Look through photos of your time here. Revisit your favorite places. Spend time with your closest friends. Take a deep breath and prepare for the next journey. Stay in touch!

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