Oberlin Blogs

How a California girl survives winter

September 29, 2009

Alice Ollstein ’10

Yesterday was the first gross, cold day of the year and my mood immediately plummeted. I became grumpy and listless, unmotivated to do homework or even leave my house, knowing it would soon look like this on campus:

A little bit of background:

I'm from Santa Monica. For me, winter lasts from December to January and consists of a sweatshirt and maybe a hat. I didn't really own socks before coming to Oberlin. Running socks, but not warm winter socks. All my heavy clothing I inherited from my sister, who went to Kenyon College, just a couple hours from Oberlin. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit her freakish tolerance of the cold. Laughing, she would tell me of running to class in flip-flops...in the snow. This is not a family tradition I have upheld.

Also, I spent last winter in Arizona and Mexico on the Border Studies Program. This was me in the dead of "winter":

Additionally, as much as I love my off-campus house, it's very old and very cold. The high ceilings and spacious rooms I've enjoyed up until now are turning against me, as are the large, beautiful windows. I can always turn up the heat (something not always possible in a dorm room, where temperature is often only regulated by opening and closing the window) but I'm also paying for the heat, which adds a whole new dimension to my dilemma. Cold fingers and toes vs. an astronomical utility bill...

So basically, if I ever knew, I have now forgotten how to get through the many cold, grey months Oberlin treats us to each year. Perhaps over the course of writing this post, I will recall or invent enough tricks to get me through till spring.

1. Warm food and warm beverages:

Goodbye salads, hello stews. Also, hello to the ultimate comfort foods of mashed potatoes, tomato soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches. A big hello to chocolate. And how could I forget the tea, coffee, hot cocoa, mulled wine, and chai that will gently bear me through the harsher weeks? Thank the lord I eat in Keep Coop, just across the street from my house, and can dash over at any time to snack on leftovers or make my own food in the large and well-equipped kitchen.

2. Laughter:

When the weather gets me down, reading for class becomes a painful exercise. To clear my head and get me smiling again, I have to seek a little hilarity before I buckle down and attack my work. One reliable method is simply talking to my housemate, a member of the funniest improv group on campus -- The Sunshine Scouts. Whether we're mocking the skinny, timid boys on campus or playing Marilyn Monroe with our floor vent, she always cheers me on up. When funny friends cannot be found, I either watch the Office, starring Ed Helms (Oberlin class of 1996) or turn to the Internet for my jollies. Favorite websites include:


3. Getting out of Oberlin

Whether it's joining a service trip to Mississippi for Fall Break or simply having a night out on the town in Cleveland, getting away from campus has already been a welcome relief for me this fall. Not that there isn't plenty to do in Oberlin, because there certainly is. I guess I just have a mix of the Winter Blues and Senioritis, both of which are eased by mini-adventures here and there.

That's all I have for now, although any suggestions/tips/amendments are welcome. I heard that eating Vitamin D gummies from Whole Foods all winter long keeps depression at bay, so I will perhaps explore that delicious option. Keep smiling, Obies.

Responses to this Entry

4. Embrace the snow!

Build forts and igloos in in Wilder Bowl and North Quad with your friends when class gets cancelled (rare, but it happens!). Have snowball fights. Play Lap Tag in the snow. Sled down Mt. Oberlin on Stevie trays. Make snow angels. Take beautiful photographs of six-foot icicles on Peters and other pretty, snow-covered things. Get a pair of snowshoes and play accordingly. Learn to cross-country ski. Get out to Boston Mills/Brandywine ski resort on the other side of Cleveland...or drive/catch a Greyhound to Seven Springs in Pennsylvania.


Posted by: Yitka on September 30, 2009 11:18 AM

This is helpful!
I'm in North Carolina, and I've been wondering what the Oberlin winters are like (I've also been reading your blog because, in addition to violin, Spanish and writing in general are areas that I would like to explore furhter in college). Thanks for your southern perspective and fun reads!

Posted by: rebecca on September 30, 2009 2:28 PM

Ah yes indeed, the advent of cold weather! I came to OC from also-cold NH but now make my home in SoCal for the past 30 years, so I can relate, as my blood thinned out.
One element not commented upon yet but to me of equal import to actual cold is the early darkness. This will be especially evident post-Halloween with the coming of "daylight savings time" which in my opinion should be abolished. When I was there, we had a thing we'd stolen from Wesleyan, the Communal Moan, held in late November/early December. Everyone would gather one early evening in front of Mudd and just groan, mutter, occasionally shout, let it all out-- about the cold, impending finals, afternoon darkness, cabin fever or doldrums, whatever else seems to beset people in those soul-sapping times. For a while this event was on the official OC calendar as a sanctioned activity, but I think it gains its strength from semi-spontaneity. Perhaps it should be resurrected. I just ran ads in the Review (easy since I was arts editor) and made some PSAs for WOBC. That seemed to do it.

Posted by: probyn gregory on September 30, 2009 4:20 PM

Perhaps you should take some time in Cleveland. The Botanical Society has two huge glassed in areas mimicking 1. the rainforest and 2. the climate in Madagascar. The rainforest one has lots of rare butterflies. But, more to the point, its really warm.

Posted by: Albert on October 1, 2009 12:02 AM

Awesome post! I hate waking up with cold fingers and toes. And as non-green as it is, I do love walking into the super-heated buildings.

It's funny, one of my great friends on campus is from LA and she loves the snow and the winter. She totally rocks the winter socks.

I love winter drinks! Mmmm. Chai would be solution-to-winter.

Posted by: Aries on October 1, 2009 7:42 AM

Your blog caught my eye because my kids know winter as something you drive to. I was pleased to find you are another Santa Monica Obie. Chloe

Posted by: Chloe Bird on October 1, 2009 3:27 PM

I just read this! Eeeee. Marilyn floor ventstravaganza to commence just after we treat ourselves to some McFluffies.

Posted by: Avital on November 16, 2009 3:59 AM

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