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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.

Picture of Flowing River

The following story is an anecdote from my First-Year Trip in 2015 (gee, that sounds like a long time ago). It taught me the importance of packing a Nalgene bottle in my camping gear.

It feels good to be in dry clothes, I thought to myself. After a long day of getting soaked from whitewater kayaking, it was nice to finally rest and wear warm gear. Our trip had setup camp near the river and we were finishing up dinner. My trippees and I were very grateful for the respite.

As I sat contentedly munching on a piece of Cabot cheese, I reached for my water bottle. The Cabot cheese was pretty salty, and I was thirsty. Raising the water bottle to my face, I tried to hold back my disappointment.

Empty … again? I thought to myself.

“I've got to go fill up my water bottle.” I announced.

“Really Jon? But you just collected water an hour ago.” Asked my fellow trippee. She was holding an orange Nalgene bottle with a 1000ml holding capacity. She only needed to fill up twice a day.

I looked at my wimpy plastic water bottle that I had bought from the airport duty free store. I started to regret not buying a larger canteen. Shrugging my shoulders, I replied:

“I can’t help it, this bottle barely holds any water in it.” With that, I rose from my seat, and set out for the river.

As I walked along the trail to the river, I had some trouble navigating the path. With the sun setting, it was hard to see where I was going. Despite the lack of natural light, I made it to the river. I could hear the rush of the flowing stream.

Gee, I sure do hope I don’t trip and fall into this water, I thought to myself. You see, the thing about collecting water is that you have to collect it where the water is flowing the fastest. That way, you can ensure that the water is fresh. The only downside is that you have to traverse on top of wet rocks in order to reach the flowing water. It’s hard enough to not trip on the rocks when it’s broad daylight. But when it’s already dark, that’s a real challenge.

“Well, here goes nothing,” I mumbled as I precariously traversed on top of the stones. With some close calls, I had made it to the middle of the river. Balancing on a wet rock, I filled my bottle with fresh water.

“Hey, this wasn’t so bad. I’ve filled my bottle without falling.” I spoke too soon. As I rose from my position to walk back to camp, my foot slipped on a wet rock. I ended up falling hard on my rear into the cold water. Although the water was shallow, I was completely drenched.

On the bright side, at least I still have my water bottle, I thought to myself. I still managed to keep hold of my bottle.

Wet, cold, and shivering, I walked back to camp. After reaching our campsite, I searched my duffel bag for a dry set of clothes. As luck would have it, there weren’t any. I had drenched my last set of warm clothes by filling up my water bottle! To say the least, I didn’t sleep very well that night.

Looking back on this experience, I laugh at myself for not buying a large canteen. Had I done so, maybe I wouldn’t have needed to collect water at night and fall into the river. Moral of the story: If you don’t like to sleep in wet clothes, buy a large canteen before you go on your DOC First-Year Trip. It will be one of the best decisions you ever made!

Hope you're enjoying your summer and best wishes!

Jonathan A. Lu '19

 

Picture of a humorous College Supplies Checklist. List says: Netflix Account, Ramen, and More Ramen.

Welcome back to campus! By this point, most of you have probably returned from First-Year Trips and are enjoying Hanover. If you haven’t already gone shopping, I highly recommend that you take advantage of the free shuttle bus to West Lebanon and buy the following items:

School Supplies: After you’ve settled into your dorm, make sure you visit West Lebanon’s Walmart so that you can pick up some school supplies. Be sure to stock up on pencils, erasers, and a LOT of notebooks. Seriously, you’ll be doing a lot of writing at Dartmouth. I personally went through ten notebooks in my Math8 calculus course.

Munchies: While you’re at Walmart, make sure you pick up a family-sized bag of your favorite potato chips. Also, maybe grab that 24-pack of instant ramen noodles while you’re at it. While you can certainly find most of your favorite snacks at Collis or at McLaughlin’s/East Wheelock’s snack bar, these snacks tend to be “well portioned” and “snack sized.” Go all out and buy a family-sized bag of your favorite snack to satisfy those late night munchies.

Portable Fan: You may have noticed that your dorm doesn’t have air conditioning. It turns out that most Ivy Leagues don’t have air conditioning, which is fine, it will get cooler in the next few weeks. However, if you’re sweating buckets and need to cool down, make sure you buy a portable fan from Walmart or Best Buy.

If you missed the shuttle bus to West Lebanon or forgot to buy any of the above items, don’t worry. You’ll be able to order all of these items online with an Amazon Prime Student Membership. Best of all, you get a 6-month free trial and all of your Amazon Prime orders will arrive in two-days!

Hope you’re enjoying your new home and best wishes!

Jonathan A. Lu ‘19

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