Wait? It Snows Here?

How I survived my first New England winter
APR 2020
Paul
G.
Architecture

It was 7:00 AM. Okay, 7:08 AM because I always hit my snooze button at least once. Since Thanksgiving break had just concluded, I was feeling well rested for the first time this semester. I appreciated the break from thinking about the final projects that were threatening my next few weeks. As part of my morning ritual, I opened the blinds to let natural daylight into my room. Instead of the glowing sun, there was a sight that caused me to gasp.

Crap! I screamed internally.

It was snowing. Upon the sight of the frozen tree outside my window, I was flooded with the phrases I had been told this past summer as I was preparing to move to Massachusetts.

“Good luck with the cold.”

“Are you going to survive?”

“Have you ever seen snow?”

Yes, I have seen snow. I know that it’s cold and when it melts, it makes everything damp. However, having grown up in Orlando, Florida, and staying in-state for my undergraduate education, I have never lived in a place where it snows. My friends and family, while happy that I would be attending MIT, were concerned that the winter would break me. When I was visiting Cambridge for MIT’s Open House last April, my Uber driver laughed at me when I mentioned where I was from.

“Give me a call if you’re still here after your first semester.” He chuckled and then proceeded to lecture me about how to dress for the cold.

It is worth noting that, as I am writing this, it’s only January. Scientifically, winter has just started, and it will only get colder from here. Although I have been told this particular winter has been “mild” thus far, I have survived my first few snow days, which, for me, is a big accomplishment. Because I feel prepared to make it through these next few months, I thought I would share some tips for those who are anxious about moving to the Northeast.

Must-Have Items

Since coming to New England, I’ve started a collection of items that I find essential to my survival. Most people will tell you to layer up. Obviously, a good coat and a sturdy pair of boots are non-negotiable, but I found there are some “layers” that aren’t mentioned to us winter newbies.

Socks: You will never have enough socks. And you’ll be wearing them all the time because your feet will always be cold, even at home. Keeping your socks dry is super important. Once your feet get wet, your day will be ruined. I usually keep an extra pair of socks in my bag just in case I step in a surprise, freezing puddle.

Lotion: Coming from a place of extreme humidity, I noticed my skin dries out easily. I always carry lotion and lip balm with me. Moisturizing multiple times throughout the day will help your face, knuckles, and lips not to suffer before it’s too late.

Pockets: Obviously gloves (or mittens) are a given. However, I found my hands were still freezing on my walks outside. Having a coat with pockets can keep those gloved hands extra warm when walking. Also, walking faster helps bring up the body temperature.

Thermos: A vessel to hold and insulate hot drinks is now a necessity for me. Not only does it keep my drink warm as I travel to school, but it also gives me something to look forward to when I return home. And it is perfect for hot chocolate at night.

Where Can I Get a Coat?

If you are like me, you may have never owned this pivotal piece of the wardrobe:  the winter coat. If you don’t have any winter gear, have no fear: August through early November is a beautiful time, and you can remain comfortable with jeans and some light jackets. I urge you not to procrastinate (which is hard for us students), because there will be little warning before it gets cold. Maybe start looking at options in late October or early November. I found that stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls had great options that were quite affordable. If you like taking risks, I would suggest waiting until the Black Friday weekend, where you can find some heavily discounted options (Eddie Bauer, North Face, L.L. Bean, Patagonia are some good brands to check out).

The Days Are Short

One of the most challenging aspects of New England winter is the shortened amount of daylight. With sunset beginning at 4:00 PM, I feel sleepy and unmotivated earlier in the day, even with the incredible amount of work I still need to complete. I do not claim to be a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) expert, but I will say that I do feel “sad.” The best way for me to combat this is by taking care of my personal health. The cold can be tiring, dehydrating, and depressing. Get sufficient sleep. Drink regular amounts of water. Taking breaks throughout the day to close your eyes and breathe can be another way of combating the effects of the prolonged darkness.

I still have a long journey ahead until I make it to the spring equinox. However, I am no longer scared of winter. Some of my most peaceful memories from the semester have been seeing the snow fall delicately outside. I have learned that if you are properly equipped (physically and psychologically) and take care of your personal comfort, the winter can be a time of great personal growth. It is a time to prove to yourself that you’re capable of survival.

I guess I will also need to track down my Uber driver’s phone number, so I can let him know that I’m still here.