Tales from Floridians in Hanover

Students from warm-weather climates share how they are bearing the cold.

by Adriana James-Rodil and Marius DeMartino | 2/9/22 2:15am

winterselfcare
by Jane Huang / The Dartmouth

Anything below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is not exactly a breath of fresh air for people from warm climates. Seasons seemed perpetually nonexistent back home, as first-year students from Florida. Growing up, we felt like we were missing out on fall foliage, winter snowfalls and the flowers of spring. Thus, going to Dartmouth seemed like the obvious solution, where seasons are ever-present and being “in the woods” gives us the opportunity to explore all that the outdoors has to offer, even in the cold of winter.

However true this sentiment may be, this mindset doesn’t usually last long: Putting on multiple articles of clothing for negative-degree weather and darkness befalling campus at 4:30 p.m. gets old after a while. Walking to class in the cold now has us daydreaming of a beach-filled spring break, a great distraction from the numbing feeling of cold forming around our ankles (we, too often, forget that leaving our ankles bare is a no-no).

Students like Alan Hatch ’25 from Miami, Florida have described adjusting to the colder climate as a “learning curve.”

“I didn’t really know good combinations of things to put on,” he said. “I’m going through a lot more laundry now because I’m layering so much more. The air is different here, so you need moisturizer and need to take a little more care of your skin.” 

Native New Englanders may scoff at the frigid weather, but for students from warmer climates braving Hanover winter can seem quite a task. 

Will Mallory ’25 — a Los Angeles, California native but an honorary Floridian for the sake of this article — sums up the transition for students not used to winter.

“Some of my friends are from Boston or New England or Chicago, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like this in terms of getting clothes and wearing proper gear,” Mallory said. 

Although winter does bring fun activities, such as tubing, sledding, snowboarding and skiing, it can also negatively impact students’ mental and physical well-being — especially those who have yet to adjust to the colder climate. 

Hatch, for example, said that although there has not been “a huge impact on [his] mental health,” he has noticed that he is “a bit more self-isolated.” 

“The winter has definitely made me spend more time in my room alone because I don’t really feel like walking through the snow to do work when I have a desk in my room, even though it’s boring to work in my room alone, and I’m not very productive,” Hatch said. 

Molly Fried ’25, from Jupiter, Florida, had a similar experience first acclimating to winter in Hanover. She noted that the sun setting around 4:30 p.m. “is a little bit depressing” and, in conjunction with the cold, has been somewhat taxing on her mental health.  

“It is a little bit unsettling for it to get dark out so early,” Fried said. “I like being outdoors, and the cold severely limits that. So normally, if I’m stressed I’ll go outside for a run, and you just can’t do that. It’s too cold, and so it definitely affected my mental health a little bit.” 

Faced with braving these conditions, many students from warmer climates struggle to adapt. But others like Ellie Anderson ’25, from St. Petersburg, Florida, actually prefer getting out in the cold for their well-being. Rather than staying warm, Ellie’s self-care of choice is making sure she gets outside, whether that means “going for a run, ice skating or skiing.” 

Students like Mallory also consider physical activity a cornerstone of their self-care routines. 

“It’s such a long trek from the Choates to the gym,” Mallory said. “But I try to make it a staple of my day. If you start letting go of all these routines, that’s when it can really start to pile on.” 

Whether participating in winter activities like Anderson or exercising indoors like Mallory, many students exercise to maintain their mental health. But for others, self-care can look a little different. 

Marleigh Peters ’24, also from Florida, considers winter self-care a time to counter the freezing weather outside. Rather than getting out on the slopes, she considers it better to stay cozy inside.

“I’ll lay in bed under a warm blanket,” Peters said. “It’s like a reset time where I can control my environment — how it smells and how warm I am at a given time.” 

While self-care is defined differently depending on who you ask, she noted that the key part is that students need “time to reset and realign [themselves] outside of social or academic pressures.”  

Now, for a moment of self-reflection on our part as native Floridians. Despite still being relatively new to the cold, I think we have managed to nail down a routine that keeps us warm and happy — although daydreams of being at the beach never do go away. 

Staying warm is the number one priority; keeping the heater at a toasty level three is optimal. Of course, we won’t go outside without first being armed with a heavy-duty parka, gloves, hat and a steaming hot beverage — even when the New Englander we see walking to class continues to wear shorts. Lastly, faced with the exhaustion of winter, we try to get enough sleep and have energy to brace the cold the next day — because if not, lying in bed all day seems much too tempting. While we appreciate the thrill of winter activities, the key to staying centered is being warm and cozy. 

Students hailing from warmer climates might struggle to adapt to New Hampshire winters, but we all have different strategies helping us survive. The next time the wind chill has us feeling down, let’s all take some time to reset — and hope for warmer weather come spring. 

Marleigh Peters is a member of The Dartmouth staff.

Correction appended (1:00 p.m., Feb. 11, 2022): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated a source's name. It is Alan Hatch, not Alan Ngouenet. The article has been updated. 

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