Nearly one quarter of international graduate students in the USA and Canada are accompanied by their spouse, typically highly educated, professional women. Because they are not students, accompanying spouses’ distinctive needs and experiences are often invisible. This article focuses on an overlooked population of adult learners: accompanying spouses who enrol in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. Qualitative data are used to explore the social integration and adjustment of 13 accompanying spouses who attended an ESL class in State College, Pennsylvania, a rural university town in the USA. Specifically, we examine how accompanying spouses described their social integration and changes in roles and identities, how perceptions of sacrifice for their partner related to their adjustment experiences, how they gained entrée and navigated social spaces in the host community and what they believe enhanced and hindered their adjustment and social integration. Accompanying spouses portrayed themselves as initiators who created meaningful experiences by locating and taking advantage of opportunities and resources, including language and culture classes, to forge new identities and structure their lives. The findings can inform the design, development and dissemination of adult education and support services for accompanying spouses, especially in geographically isolated areas.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Life-span and Life-course Studies