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Hanover winters are infamous. Stories circulate about hair freezing (and breaking off with a sweep of a hand), the unhealthy cup ramen diet, and just an overall sense of misery that accompanies the short hours of daylight and overwhelming cold. But there are other stories, too. Hanover in the winter is a battlefield, and those of us going through the winter together will bond.

Leeya with her friends and a snowman
Leeya with her friends and a snowman they made in front of McLaughlin, Winter, 2016.

Last year, the winter was mild. That said, it was still colder than anything I had ever experienced. I spent a lot of time fast-walking with my hands in my pockets, face down and hoody up to protect my face from the cutting wind. But when I stopped and looked around, it was beautiful. The first bout of snow I saw, I sat in the kitchen with my final essay untouched, entranced by the settling snow for an hour or two. During the term, I waded through snow purposely, made my first snowman with some friends, and had more than enough snow ball fights- all of us red-faced, hands burning with numbness but still exhilarated. I was lucky for a mild winter, not just for these experiences, but also because it has prepared me for worse. This is what I learned.

 

First, make lunch and dinner plans. During the winter, I did not want to set foot out of my as much as possible to avoid the cold. My game plan was simple: live off of the Mclaughlin Shin ramen. But after a while, I felt lethargic and really nostalgic for fresh food. Dinner and lunch plans with friends forced me to leave my dorm. With friends, the walk to FOCO felt shorter, the cold was less grating, and both the walk and the food were refreshing.

Second, invest in good winter clothing. It’s a large lump sum for the most of us. It’s hard to imagine those numbers equating to a single article of clothing. But trust me, it’s a necessary investment. Given that most of us take summers off, you will be wearing that coat for a lot of your time at Dartmouth: the end of fall, all of winter term and the first several weeks of spring term over the course of four years. Layers help, but can become too much in the buildings where the heater is turned on full blast. Find a good coat, boots, heat-tech leggings to go under your jeans, gloves and a scarf.

A patch of black ice.
What a patch of black ice looks like. Black ice can be fairly inconspicuous, so don't try running to class.

Third, black ice exists. One day, I was heading to class late and exhausted. I was rushing towards my class when my boots slipped on the concrete and I fell into a half-melted pool of ice-cold water. My jacket was covered with mud splatters and my jeans were soaked through. I got up, turned around, and went back to my room. Even if you are late, don’t rush. Be careful on the sidewalks or you’ll be late, cold and bruised.

Fourth, moisturize. Moisturizing is not just for soft hands or nice skin- it is a necessity. I hated the thick, oily feel of moisturizer. It stuck to my hands and legs, essentially a thick second skin of oil. I never saw the need to put on lip balm. After a few weeks in, my lips were cracked and bleeding, my hands had cuts along the lines on my palm and fingers, and my cheeks burned pink from the wind, stinging whenever I stood in the shower. I learned my lesson. Moisturize before you head out the door and before you go to sleep. If needed, reapply through the day. It helps.

Fifth, get out and have some fun. True, the days are short and it’s freezing, but you can only rely so much on sun lamps (which are great, both as a mood booster and a mini heater, and are available for free). The best parts of winter term were the snow ball fights, building snowmen, skiing and ice skating. If you push past the cold and try to enjoy everything else, you start to realize just how much you can do to exercise, de-stress and make lasting memories.

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