1.1. The Area
Corvallis is the county seat of Benton County in central western Oregon. The city’s population is mostly dominated by individuals associated with the university, which is the major local employer. Mega college town vibes.
Corvallis is about an hour and a half or less from Portland. Corvallis is about 45 minutes north from Eugene and about 45 minutes south of Salem. Other close by cities that students may frequent include Albany and Philomath.
Super cool is that Corvallis is less than an hour away from the coast! The Hatfield Marine Science Center (part of OSU and lots of CEOAS people work there) is located in Newport, OR, and it is absolutely worth a visit. There is an octopus to greet you.
1.2. The Climate
Corvallis and the greater Willamette Valley enjoy a relatively mild climate. The winters are cool and quite wet, while the summers are dry but not too abysmally warm. Think California but with less personality.
You’re gonna need some solid rain gear – a jacket, waterproof or resistant backpack, rain boots, bicycle mud protectors, another jacket. A whopping ~50% of the annual precipitation occurs from just December to February.
It’s not just a hilarious and never-gets-old kind of bit that the Pacific Northwest is cloudy and rainy all the time (it’s just more like those three months only). Prepare yourself for some long stretches without the sun in the winter. Increase your indoor lighting, take some vitamin supplements, and watch out for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you feel like the grey skies are getting to you, the Student Health Services has a SAD therapy light to help you adjust – free for all students!
No casual winter gear is necessary. Winter and early spring are just a bit too warm to promote much snow. There might be a couple flurries each year, but they rarely last for long. A significant snow storm might happen every few years, but probably not (also see: climate change).
However if you do need a snow fix, you can always flee to the mountains. There are plenty of snow parks and ski areas that line the Cascade range, and winter sports are quite popular within the CEOAS graduate student body. Significant snowfall at high elevation usually begins in December and lasts through April.
Spring is great. No complaints, comments, or suggestions.
Summers are warm, usually in the high 70s to low 90s. July and August are usually aggressively sunny, as if the climate is self-aware about what it made you go through in winter. Precipitation is quite low during this period, and the sustained dryness makes wildfires somewhat prevalent further south in California and other parts of the state. The Willamette Valley can temporarily be quite smoky for a couple weeks of the summer. Be prepared for this if you are particularly sensitive to air quality issues.
1.3. Transportation and Getting Around
Most graduate students rely on cars for traversing Corvallis. Outside of the immediate downtown area, the stores, parks, and other points of interest are quite sprawled out across the town, Southtown, Philomath, and Albany. There are limited public transportation options for longer travel, such as to Eugene or Portland, which usually means that at least part of the journey is most conveniently made by car.
For shorter distances, bicycles are a great and popular way to get around town. Corvallis is very bike friendly, with lots of designated lanes and paths. Many graduate students and faculty commute to OSU on bikes. The vast majority of buildings on campus have bike racks to lock up and even some bike lockers that students can sign up for.
Bicycle theft is infrequent, yet still an issue to be proactive about. The Oregon State University Public Safety office has a bike registry where students can record their frame serial numbers in case a theft and recovery occurs.
On campus, the Dixon Recreation Center also has a bike shop with maintenance and repair services available for modest prices.
There are plenty of regular bicycle shops in town (just Google and be immediately overwhelmed). However, for a graduate student budget, the Corvallis Bicycle Collective comes quite recommended. They sell used and refurbished bicycles along with a wide assortment of parts. The Collective’s shop is also home to a DIY repair workshop, free to use and staffed by mechanics and volunteers able to give advice and guidance. These workspaces are an excellent way to work on your bike without personally owning all the tools and gadgets necessary for tinkering!
Walking is an often pleasant but limited option depending on where you live in Corvallis. The CEOAS section of campus is 15-20 minutes away from the downtown and anywhere from 15-30 minutes or more in the areas of town where graduate students most frequently live. Outside of the winter months where rain makes walking a little… damp, it’s a decent way to go between the most centralized points of town. However, Corvallis is geographically not well-laid out for walking to be your only means of transportation.
1.3.4. Public Transportation
Corvallis has a fareless (free!!!) public transit system called the Corvallis Transit System (CTS). The bus system has about a dozen routes criss-crossing throughout the city and Southtown area providing decent, but somewhat limited coverage. A real-time bus tracker is available online at the local government website for help with timetables and finding bus stops. The transit system is very popular around workday commuting schedules (especially going to campus) so plan ahead and leave a bit earlier than otherwise needed. Note, service is usually reduced on weekends with some routes not running on Sundays. Nevertheless, the bike-friendly Corvallis public transit system is a solid way of supplementing personal transportation across the city.
There is a seasonal late-night bus service known as the “Night Owl”, which is open to the general public, fareless, and serviced by three routes, covering most of Corvallis. The service days and times may be subject to change, but they are typically Thursday-Saturday from 8:45 pm -2:45 am. The buses stop at any designated CTS stop, as well as specific Night Owl stops. The Night Owl does not operate during OSU’s winter and summer breaks.
If you need to get to and from Philomath, the CTS has a contract with the city of Philomath to provide service between Philomath and Corvallis called the Philomath Connection. The service runs Monday through Saturday, with some exceptions.If you are interested in getting from the Willamette Valley out to the OR Coast, you can take advantage of the Coast to Valley Express. This service has four trips daily and runs Monday through Sunday all year.
1.3.5. Getting to the airport
Groome Transportation is the primary and most frequently operating airport shuttle service. The shuttle departs every two hours and stops at three different locations within Corvallis. One-way travel from Corvallis (any stop) to PDX is $39. Though this cost may be intimidating at first appearance, this is a competitive price to airport parking. Many students use service both personally and if travelling for research purposes. In this latter case, shuttle services can be arranged for by the travel agency contracted to OSU and potentially supported by research funding (ask your advisor). If you live far away from one of the Corvallis pick-up/drop-off locations, you can drive to the Albany Groome Transportation hub and park your car there for the duration of the trip – free of charge.
The closest Amtrak station is in Albany. Unfortunately, there is no longer a connecting service to get from Corvallis to Albany’s station. However, the Albany Amtrak station operates Monday through Sunday from 8 am to 5:45 pm. The Albany station is one of several stops in the Amtrak Cascades service.
1.4. Community Building
Some people might feel comfortable with their program cohort since you’ll be taking a lot of similar classes but take time and effort to meet other new people in CEOAS and all around OSU. There are many events on campus that you can attend/get involved in. Some organizations that often have great programming are the Memorial Union Program Council, the Associated Students of Oregon State University (ASOSU), the Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE, AFT 6069), the School of Arts and Communication, and of course CAGS!
OSU have clubs and groups you can join, its a great way to meet people outside CEOAS. There are international groups that organize parties, sports and cultural events related to their country (http://oregonstate.edu/seac/sos/find_org). If you are looking for more CEOAS specific types of clubs, take a look at the “Getting Involved on Campus” page on the CAGS website.
For CEOAS Graduate Students, Dawes House is the most communal space that we have! Feel free to take advantage of the space whenever you see fit.
There are many coffee places on campus that are actually a lot cheaper and tastier than The Beanery. You can look them (plus regular food options) up on the OSU website. Almost every coffee shop in town gives you a discount for bringing your own mug.
The Woodsman in Philomath is a great Thai place disguised as a lumberjack bar! A great place to take visiting family/friends to show them the more eccentric side of Oregon!
For late night study sessions, it’s good to know that Dominoes (conveniently located just across the road) has a 1-topping medium pizza carry-out deal for $4.99!
DOWNLOAD THE STUDENT SURVIVAL KIT APP FOR COUPONS. Many places in Corvallis offer discounts, mainly food, but also other services.
1.6. Things to do
In making use of your freetime, Corvallis is no New York City or Yellowstone wonderland, but nevertheless there’s plenty to make do with. The town’s location between mountains ranges, its proximity to the ocean, as well as the closeby cities of Eugene and Portland facilitate an eclectic range of things to do. There’s something for everyone! Here are some ideas:
- Start your farm-to-table cuisine dynasty at the downtown Farmer’s Market! Produce, hot food, and crafts set up stalls every Saturday (see food section for more details).
- Go beer tasting! Northwest Oregon is home to many-a-fine microbreweries, including several in Corvallis itself! Graduate student local taphouse faves include Block 15 (beer) and 2 Towns (cider).
- Take a hike! Bald Hill Natural Area, Mary’s Peak (in Siuslaw National Forest), and the McDonald Research Forest are among the most trafficked local trails, just outside of Corvallis! Or, if you’re looking for a more remote trek, take a look at any Oregon hiking guide and be overwhelmed by the amount of great outdoor areas!
- Float the Willamette! Inner tubing, canoeing and kayaking are an awesome hot-day getaway to our own backyard Willamette river! Be mindful of river water levels and any hazard alerts.
- Play disc golf at Willamette Park!
- Go dance at the Peacock (a bar/club downtown) AT LEAST ONCE!
- Concerts are always happening in Eugene, Portland, and Corvallis!
- Go to the beach! *cue Nicki Minaj*
If you enjoy hiking, look into buying “Corvallis Trails: Explore the Heart of the Valley” by Margie Powell. It has a set of 60 hikes within 1 hour of Corvallis, including a lot of beautiful, lesser-known parks. There is also a nice folding map of hiking trails around Corvallis that you can buy at the Co-op or Peak Sports (Published by Sky Island Graphics, 2011). Also, this is a nice website.