Oberlin Blogs

The Story of How I Braved 19 Degree Weather for Dinner

February 18, 2024

Julia Xu '27

I’m somewhat of a picky eater, so scavenging for something to satiate my sophisticated palate (such as chicken tenders or a fruit smoothie) can be a challenge on weekends, when DeCafé opens late and Rathskeller (affectionately referred to as “Rat") is closed altogether, meaning I am left deprived of my favorite breakfast and late night snack choices. (For a more detailed look into dining options, check out Evan’s review of all the dining halls/options on North Campus!)

So, after an afternoon of hard work (doing my laundry and responding to a few emails), I figured I deserved a proper dinner that wasn’t just my Cheez-Its collection that I had built up with extra meal swipes throughout the week. 

One of the perks of living in Barrows is how close I am to Wilder (or Wilder Hall). By close, I mean about a three-minute walk, two if you’re really in a hurry. Underneath Wilder, you’ll find the Rat, DeCafé, and also Umami, which is one of my go-to locations when I don’t feel like making the suuuuper arduous five-minute trek to Stevie (or Stevenson, our main dining hall). 

Umami is especially convenient because it’s one of the dining options you can online order for (the others are the Rat and Azzie’s, or Azariah’s Café). You can customize it through the Mobile Order app and get an estimation of how long your meal will take to be ready instead of waiting in line to place an order in person. I went with my usual, a hot bowl with regular rice, crispy chicken, spicy teriyaki sauce, and veggies. It was ready in about four minutes—I hadn’t even changed out of my pajamas!

It had snowed last night, which was lovely to admire in the comfort of my dorm, but by the time I was ready to leave, it was a not-so-lovely nineteen degrees out. Nearly enough to keep me indoors and abandon my patiently waiting meal.

Just kidding! I’m not a quitter. Luckily, being from Connecticut, I have a well-stocked arsenal of winter clothing to choose from.

Since coming to Oberlin, I’ve met quite a few people who have never seen snow before, a concept that I still find baffling. So, if you’re from a relatively warmer place (a surprising amount of people are from California), you might want to heed my next fashion suggestions.


My pants are almost exclusively jeans, which isn’t great for winter because fun fact: denim tends to “absorb” cold temperatures and transfers the cold onto your skin. To combat this, I usually wear leggings underneath and pick a heavier pair of jeans to go on top so they won’t blow around in the wind. If you’re like me and love jeans but don’t wear or own leggings, I’m sure fleece-lined tights would work, or even better, some sort of thermal underwear. 

(Now, if you’re one of those warm-weather people, you might be thinking, “Julia, why are you talking about underwear on the internet?!” Let me emphasize that it is under space wear, as in clothes you wear underneath other clothes. Usually, thermal underwear is pretty light, fairly inexpensive, and gender neutral. I think they should be a staple in any pragmatist’s fashion repertoire. Unfortunately, I left mine at home over break…)


Next, I put on one of my thicker sweaters over the shirt I was already wearing, since the sweater was kind of loose-knit which is bad protection against breezes. I don’t have a big puffer coat, though those are probably ideal, especially if they have hoods and zip up past your chin. Instead, I almost always go with my trusty leather jacket (which is why I do so much layering). However, if it’s really freezing or I’m not in the mood to layer, I’ll wear the jacket I stole from my dad, which is fleece-lined and provides great insulation. Then I remembered I had lent my dad’s jacket to a friend who needed to make the cross-campus walk back to his dorm while it was snowing, so I went with the leather jacket.

In terms of cold weather-friendly materials, leather isn’t too bad. A thick or high-quality leather jacket can be better than a cotton one in my opinion, but when it gets really cold out, you’ll need to wear something warm underneath regardless. Also, leather is windproof—that’s why it’s so popular with motorcyclists! 


I recently got a pair of gloves with finger holes in them (not fingerless or “touch screen” gloves, which everyone knows are a total LIE), and now I keep them in my backpack at all times. Basically, they have holes cut into the thumb and index fingers so you can still use the pads of your fingers to type while the rest of your hand is completely covered. They’re thick and go past my wrist, so as long as I’m wearing long sleeves, there’s no part of my arm exposed to the air or wind.


Next was my favorite red scarf, which is a pretty thin material but super warm. It’s pretty wide, so I fold it in half and then tie it in a way that covers my neck and chin, leaving it loose enough so that I can pull it over my nose if necessary. Since coming to Oberlin, I’ve discovered that there are many ways you can tie a scarf, some of which I probably couldn’t figure out if I tried. I’ve just been wrapping my scarf around my neck and fiddling with it until I was satisfied, but there are a bunch of online tutorials if you’re curious that I’m personally too impatient to watch.


Finally, I picked out a thick pair of socks that would cover my ankles to wear with my sneakers. While lots of people like boots for the fall or winter, I found that socks that went up to my ankles (or higher) in tandem with leggings underneath my pants actually kept me warmer. In sum, as long as you layer and minimize bare skin exposure to the cold, you’ll be okay. (Pro tip: if you’re not into hats or earmuffs to keep your ears warm, headphones will do the trick!)

Anyway, I successfully retrieved my dinner and refilled my water bottle while I was at it—both of which I carried in my cute Oberlin tote bag. (The red “O!” logo matched my scarf, which I made note of and am now going to be wearing as a combo more often.) Fashion can be functional, and the fact that I am sitting here looking as great as usual with an empty takeout container (and an empty bag of Cheez-Its…) is proof of that!

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