First Snowfall

Freshmen share how they plan to navigate their first winter on campus, while one writer recalls her first winter at dear old Dartmouth.

by Eliza Helmers | 1/12/22 2:20am

web_snowball_fight_2_courtesy
by Michaela Ledoux / The Dartmouth Staff

Now that we have officially begun 22W here at Dartmouth, inaugurated by the traditional school-wide snowball last Friday night, I think back to my first winter here in the still North. At that point, I had been living in Puerto Rico for almost five years, so I was very nervous about how I would adjust to the snow, ice and freezing wind. For the seniors who still remember, 19W was especially cold, and the temperature seemed to be hovering perpetually in the negatives.

But for some students, especially those like Noor Najeeb ’25, from Detroit, Michigan, the winter weather isn’t very daunting.

“I’m used to the cold, actually,” Najeeb said. “I love the cold! I’m excited to be knee-deep in the snow.”

This sentiment was echoed by Eilidh Haakanson ’25, from Kodiak, Alaska, who explained that despite it being -10 degrees Fahrenheit when she left home, it’s still been one of the hottest winters on record in her hometown, potentially due to climate change.

During my freshman year, I remember how eager I was to come back to Hanover — despite the cold — and see some of the new friends I had made during the fall. While I had enjoyed the time off with my family, six weeks was long enough to turn my relaxation into boredom.

Katherine Clark ’25 described a similar experience.

“I was definitely pretty excited to come back,” Clark said. “I mean at some point there was not a lot of stuff to do [at home]; I’d kind of gotten bored of it.”

Yet, despite our excitement, neither of us returned early to spend New Year’s on campus, which is what Najeeb ended up doing. She celebrated a quiet evening in Hanover, enjoying the cheerful holiday decorations and peaceful atmosphere on campus.

“Honestly, it felt like its own little world, and it was just really great to experience overall — I just wish it lasted longer,” Najeeb said. “I love the Christmas tree, and especially when they turn the lights on, it just feels so festive. I really hope they keep it up!”

During my first Dartmouth winter, I had grand aspirations of skating on the pond and sledding through the golf course, something that I had only ever seen people do in movies. Haakanson, Clark and Najeeb have a similar mindset, each back on campus with a couple of items on their winter bucket list.

Clark, for example, is looking forward to skiing on Dartmouth’s skiway, while Haakanson will bravely attempt the polar plunge during Winter Carnival. Najeeb is excited for all that her first Hanover winter has in store for her. 

“I want to do everything I could possibly do this winter, as long as the weather permits!” Najeeb said. “I’m also really excited for Winter Carnival, and I honestly don’t know too much about it, but I heard that there might be an ice skating rink, and I love to ice skate! I’m not great at it, but I think it’s a lot of fun, and it’s a cool bonding activity.”

In fact, after Friday night’s traditional snowball melee — organized, of course, by Dr. Seuss and Robert Frost — there seems to be excitement in the air that can serve as a distraction from the hectic start to this term. Both Najeeb and Haakanson mentioned that they are organizing more snowball fights with their friends. 

“A couple of my friends and I were planning a snowball fight, and we are getting official with it and making a roster,” Najeeb said. “The planning process has been really fun, and it’s also been a really nice way to distract myself from the rigor and the challenges of online classes.”

“I definitely have some snowball fights planned outside, with masks,” Haakanson added.

While many things here on campus have changed over the past three years, it’s nice to see that some traditions, like several hundred people hurling snowballs at each other past midnight, seem to last. Yet, despite the comfort that this continuity brings, it’s also easy to see how much has changed in such a short time. During my freshman winter, my biggest concerns were my classes and my friends — there were no public health crises on my mind.

Unfortunately, for everyone on campus this winter, the specter of COVID-19 looms large. According to Najeeb, however, the best thing we as a community can do is maintain hope.

“We are doing the best we can, and so I guess just maintaining that hope and just trying to stay in the swing of things is the best we can do at the moment,” she said.

As I enter my last Dartmouth winter, with snowballs flying left and right, I remember how it felt to step off the coach into the freezing cold for the first time. I remember the excitement, the nervousness and how happy I was to be back. To the ’25s, and everyone experiencing a winter on campus for the first time — savor all the good times this term has to bring, despite the challenges!

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