Elen Zanotti – A trailing spouse making a difference for others

DSCF9706I arrived in the U.S with my then recently-wedded husband in 2010, and like many spouses whose sojourn entails accompanying their partners, I came to live here with a dependent-visa (F-2). Despite not being completely informed about the restrictions of that visa, this was an overall great opportunity! My husband had a scholarship to study in his area of interest, and the only obvious decision for us was to make the journey from Brazil.

However, not long after we got here and despite being kindly welcomed by his advisor’s family and other Brazilian couples, his new routine started, and so did mine! The difference was that his routine involved countless hours studying and doing research among people, while mine… Well mine was to come up with a plan for the day! I remember the exact moment when it hit me: I had left my job, my family and friends, and I now had 24 hours ahead of me every day without a specific plan. The hardest part of it to me was that I had rarely ever been alone, and to me there wasn’t much to a routine empty of people. Every aspect of my life in my home country was highly social.

Fast-forward to three + years, I was a sitting student of Social Psychology at the M.A Experimental Program at Brooklyn College where I had to do a final project on some issue that related to, well, social psychology! I think I saw myself and my experience from a new perspective now, and one worthy of understanding from a social identity and global citizenship point of view, so that became the project for that class. I later officially started the M.A program and never lost interest in matters of migration, citizenship and identity, so I decided to do my thesis research on that subject. I have met many accompanying spouses during my years living in the U.S and it always surprises me that, despite having different degrees of adaptation to the new life, most of them really miss working and find themselves having to somewhat re-discover aspects of their identities, given the visa restrictions. I wanted to know if that applies to the vast population of F-2 visa holders and how it compares to J-2 visa holders. Hence, I’m doing just that!


If you’re interested in participating in a survey for my research, here’s the link with more information. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ISSpsycBC


About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me (michelle-at-lifeinthebay.org). I am happy to help!

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One thought on “Elen Zanotti – A trailing spouse making a difference for others

  • Helena Gaspar

    Hi! I’m so happy that I read this today. Sometimes is hard to keep going and this article was very inspiring 🙂