In my home country, Venezuela, there is no winter. We have only two seasons, rainy and dry. When I first got to Pennsylvania, I knew I had to brace myself for the cold. And even though I lived for two years in Uruguay where there is an actual winter season, it never gets as cold as PA and it never snows.
Just last Thursday, November 15 I saw snow for the first time! It was a whole new experience, I know this might sound (or read) corny but I felt like I was in a movie. In spite of the cold, I loved it; but the season is already warning me that I need to take measures in order to stay warm and take care of myself.
These are a few tips on how to prepare for winter on campus:
1. Wear proper shoes/boots
I have these beautiful suede boots that I got in Uruguay, they’re knee high and they have a sort of chunky sole. I love them. I thought they would be warm enough for a first snow situation, but guess what? They’re not. Suede gets wet, making your feet wet, making them frozen, that is something you definitely don’t want, especially because it can actually be dangerous and at lower temperatures, you can actually freeze your toes and have them fall off. Ok, I’m being too dramatic, but you get my point, frozen feet is something you really don’t want to have.
Make sure the sole of your shoes or boots is rubber and that they do not slip in the snow. I saw a man later on Thursday trying to walk in the snow with moccasin leather flat soles and he was sliding all the way, that is something you want to avoid because you might fall and hurt yourself. You need to be safe while walking from class to class.
2. Wear two pairs of socks
I was only wearing one pair of socks, which were actually tights. How ignorant is that of me? If I could have foreseen the frozen state of my feet that day I would have worn like 4 socks, to be honest. This tip is related to the first one, no frozen feet. That just might be my winter campaign.
Really, stock up on socks. If your feet are warm, the rest of your body is too. I’m a commuter and I spend most of the day on campus, I don’t have a dorm and I have to wait for my aunt to pick me up once she gets off work or take the train back home, I need to stay warm and dry or I will die. (Overly dramatic again, I know, but it rhymed).
3. Use lip balm & moisturizer
My lips are falling off as I write this. I was not prepared for what this weather would do to my skin. Winter dries up the skin, and it can make it feel itchy and irritated, that is one problem you don’t need on top your academic obligations. Buy a drugstore balm or Vaseline and keep your lips moisturized, it’s also a fashion look so don’t be shy and wear it with pride. It is also a good idea to use some kind of moisturizing cream for your face before going out, or while at home or in your dorm use coconut oil to re-hydrate your skin. I’m also wearing lots of hand cream because the combination of cold and dry can really tighten my skin and it’s even hard to grab the pen to take notes in class. In conclusion, take care of your skin, winter can cause great damage to it.
4. Wear gloves and a hat while outside (or coat with a hoodie)
I am beginning to see the importance of the hat in the winter. If you are not wearing one and snow falls on your head, it will melt making your hair wet, which is a cold starter. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t carry a blow dryer in my bag – maybe if you live on campus and you have one. You should definitely use it once you get to your dorm to dry out and keep warm – so I must keep my head dry or else, knowing myself, I will catch a cold.
Extremities are very important to keep warm, I talked enough about the feet, now it’s time for the hands. Keep them warm, it will make your whole body feel warmer. I already had the opportunity to experience the cold with and without gloves, and trust me, they make the difference.
5. Wear a scarf
It will keep your neck and chest warm and if the wind is blowing hard you can wrap it around your face to keep it protected. No frozen feet, no frozen hands, no frozen face!
6. Layer up
This is what I’ve been told and it works and you should do it. Don’t just wear a shirt, wear an undershirt (warm material), then a longer sleeve second undershirt, then your shirt, then a sweatshirt, then your coat. Does it seem too exaggerated? That’s what I’ve been doing and the cold is not being able to penetrate those layers, so my verdict is that it works and if you suffer from cold weather the same way that I do this is a great way to stay warm and be like: “Cold? Me? Ha! I got this!”
This is what I’ve learned so far about "the musts" in order to stay warm and dry while on campus (and everywhere else, pretty much) These might be tips everyone who grew up in this area knows, but if you’re an international student like me, or come from a country where there is no winter you might want to take notes and prepare yourself, especially because you are not used to this weather and it might be a shock the first time. If you are very familiar with the winter and have any more ideas you can leave them in the comment section.
Enjoy this new season, and stay warm!