If you are from a warm climate where it never snows, coming to the northern US in the winter can be a bit of a shock. However, if you keep in mind the following points, you will be able to adapt and be comfortable.
1. Dress for the weather.
The first rule of winter is to dress in layers. Buildings here have central heating, so it’s usually quite warm inside, but it can be very cold (-18 C) outside. The best way to handle this is to wear several layers. If you wear two or three layers of clothing under your jacket, you can take off layers when you get warm, and put them on when you are cold. For example, you might wear a shirt and a sweater or sweat, and if you are often cold, you might add a fleece or down vest. All of this goes under a warm down jacket when you go outdoors. Of course, when you have come inside on a cold day, you might keep your jacket on for 5 or 10 minutes till you get warm. But if you wear your jacket all the time you are inside, then you will not have an extra layer to keep the cold out when you go outside again. Don’t forget to buy warm, lined boots to keep your feet warm. Fashion boots are fun, but they aren’t much good if you have to walk through a couple of inches of snow.
2. Beware of wind chill.
Wind chill means how cold your body feels when the wind is blowing. In warmer climates, wind chill is not an issue, but wind chill can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention. It’s important to check the weather if you will be walking outside for more than 5 or 10 minutes. When the temperature is above
zero Fahrenheit (-18 C) you don’t have to worry about walking around campus. Wear your jacket, and have a hat and gloves in your pocket in case it’s windy. But if the air temperature is below
zero Fahrenheit (-18 C), a wind of 10 miles per hour means that your body feels like it is -26 C. On those days, you need to be careful even if you’re only walking 10 minutes from one part of campus to another. You should cover as much of your skin as is reasonable. Besides your layers and warm jacket, you should wear a hat to cover your ears, a scarf around your neck, gloves on your hands, and boots with warm socks.
3. Take care of your skin.
All our cold weather makes the air very dry, and students often complain that the dry air irritates their skin. There are several tips for taking care of your skin. First, buy lotion and lip balm, and use them every day. When you wash your hands, dry them well so they don’t get chapped. You may also want to buy eye drops if your eyes are dry. Second, add moisture to the air in your dorm room. The low-tech way is to put a bowl of water on your bookshelf, fill it halfway with water, and let it evaporate into the air. The high-tech way is to buy a small humidifier. A humidifier holds water and blows air across it so the air absorbs the moisture. Small ones that will fit on your desk are available at many stores.
4. Don’t be afraid of the weather.
Most of the winter, the temperature is above zero Fahrenheit, and you can enjoy outdoor activities. Build a snowman, or have a snowball fight with your friends. Watch for opportunities to go skiing or skating or snowshoeing or ice-fishing. Most schools have a recreation department that will organize activities and provide equipment so you can try them out.
Knowledge is power. If you know how to handle cold weather, it won’t be a problem.