For those of you who've never experienced winter in northeast Ohio (like me before I moved here), it can seem a terrifying prospect. But any winter is totally survivable with the right attitude, a pair of good boots, and a closet stocked with hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters, socks, thermal underwear, nose warmers, ear muffs, leg warmers, knee socks — JUST KIDDING. Especially about the nose warmers, though I'm betting they would be amazing. Anyway, one of our Californian interns, Caitrin, is on hand to walk you through her winter survival guide.
One of the questions I get asked most frequently by prospective students and their parents is "So, how are the winters?" Though it may seem hard to imagine now with the long summer days where it is sunny and bright out and maybe a bit too hot at times, winters in Oberlin can get pretty intense. I'm originally from California, where it pretty much stays in the 50-80 range all the time and to say that we have seasons is a stretch. That being said, I was extremely excited to get to Ohio and to experience seasons for the first time.
My first fall was wonderful, and it was definitely cemented as my favorite season. The trees all changed colors and became beautiful and vibrant. It was the fall I had read about in books and the fall I had always wanted. I knew that choosing to go to school somewhere with seasons was the right choice.
Then came the winter.
I had no idea what was in store — I mean I had some idea but, man, for someone who hadn't experienced a real winter and then decided to stay in Oberlin for winter term (i.e. the coldest month) I ended up learning a lot about cold weather living, very quickly. To spare others (especially those from the west coast) my woeful first winter, I want to share the dos and don'ts of an Oberlin winter.
Do: bundle up and invest in wool socks. Now for everyone coming from the East Coast and Midwest and places where it actually snows, this seems like a no-brainer. But for those woefully un snow educated Californians, wool socks will save you. Not only are they great for sliding around in Warner main space and dancing in, but they will keep your feet warm and toasty. While we are on the feet, invest in a good pair of winter boots! I remember my first year I didn't want to "look dumb" and so rarely wore my snow boots, but when you are walking everywhere (to class, to your dorm, to meals) in several inches of snow, having your feet feel frozen and numb is not fun. Who cares what you wear as long as you are warm?
Don't: continue to bike when it is overly snowy and icy. I have seen people do it. I have seen people succeed. I have also seen people eat it and wipe out hard. It's really not worth it. Just walk.
Do: use your hot coffee or tea as an extra hand warmer. Double duty: a drink to warm you from the inside out and the outside in!
Do: take advantage of the fun things you can do in the snow! I didn't get to have snowball fights or build snowmen when I was a kid, so I would drag my friends outside to do these things with me. Though they might have been reluctant at first, very soon after we got outside they would be happy I made them come with me and we would have a grand old time. One of my favorite memories was from a couple years ago where we had a massive snowball fight at midnight on North Quad and people walking by would join us for a couple minutes and then continue on their way.
Don't: forget to bring an extra towel or bath mat to put your snowy, salty boots on. It helps minimize wet spots you step in when you're just wearing socks (you know that horrible feeling — your feet are warm and toasty and then BAM wet and cold in a matter of seconds) and also keeps your floor nice and clean and dry.
Do: remember to cover your ears. Fuzzy earmuffs, fleece headbands, and hats with flaps will save your poor cold, frozen, and forgotten ears from being bright red and stinging with cold. Hands will also thank you for wearing warm gloves, and never underestimate the power of a nice scarf!
Don't: stand under the icicles and look directly up at them. Don't be Michael Scott. You are smarter than Michael Scott.
Don't: eat too much Domino's and Pizza Hut. When it is cold out, it can be tempting to not want to walk anywhere and to just eat food that can be brought right to your door. This is a bad idea for your wallet, for your body, and for your mind. Too much pizza can take its toll. Trust me on this one.
Do: take some time to walk alone (or with a friend) in the snow and really appreciate the beauty of Oberlin in the winter. Many times students forget to stop and take a moment and really take in the magical atmosphere around them of Oberlin, soft, quiet, and covered in snow.
Overall, though I came out of my first Oberlin winter ready to see sun and grass again and possibly a little colder than I would have liked, I still thought the season was magical. I loved staring out the window and watching the snow fall and would act like a little kid running around my dorm telling all of my friends that it was snowing! Would they get annoyed? Yes. Would they tell me that the thrill would wear off? Most definitely. Has it? Not a chance. I'm entering my senior year here and I'm still beyond excited for the winter and more snow and more chances to build snowmen.