Embracing the Cold: Adapting to Hanover’s Weather
Students from warm climates reflect on dealing with Hanover’s cold weather.
Fall is right at its climax: Pumpkin-flavored desserts at Foco have soared in frequency, Gile hikes are occurring daily and round two of midterms are hitting students at full force. But as we approach the end of fall at Dartmouth, many students are already whispering about the cold and the coming winter: with excitement, nostalgia and for some, dread.
As someone born and raised in the California Bay Area, the shift in seasons has already been somewhat of a shock: The feeling of my cheeks freezing is rather unfamiliar (and unwelcome), the pouring rain has caught me off guard, and I have somehow caught two viruses back-to-back and made three Dick’s House trips within the last month.
It is comforting to know, however, that I am not alone in my need for adjustment.
Devon Schindler ’27, another Bay Area native, has also found the fall transition so far to be a challenge.
“I wake up a lot in the [early] mornings for rowing, and it’s getting closer and closer to being freezing when I wake up,” he said.
Moreover, the difficulty of this transition is only amplified by the fact that many of his peers are much better adapted to the cold, some of whom are still braving the weather in shorts.
“I’ve been made fun of [by people from colder places] for whining, which I don’t think is legitimate,” he joked. “I’ve just adapted to a different climate. You had 18 years [of a] head start, [which is] not exactly fair.”
However, not all students from warm climates are finding the shift difficult. Matthew Monroe ’27, from central Florida where it is “full-on summer year-round,” hasn’t found the fall to be too much of an adjustment yet. Rather, it has been a welcome change from his hometown.
“I think it’s very nice to have a change and get to experience having new seasons and seeing entirely new environments,” he said. “Feeling the cold and the cooler weather and actual fall is just so beautiful.”
Schindler agreed, citing the Upper Valley foliage to be a major plus despite the often dreary October days.
“There’s a lot of beauty in the cold seasons, even though they can be depressing too,” he said.
For first-years, this fall provides their first taste of New England cold. But for upperclassmen, they’ve had plenty of experience in handling Hanover’s shifting weather.
Elizabeth Frey ’24, who is from “one-degree-north-of-the-equator” Singapore, found the transition to the cold her first year to be “a lot more difficult than [she] anticipated.”
“What I didn’t realize was how cold I got walking between classes,” she said. “That was kind of a big surprise to me.”
Moreover, she had to scramble to build her wardrobe, as growing up in Singapore meant that she did not have the winter clothes that many of her peers had acquired throughout the years.
Since attending Dartmouth, Frey has also built a habit of checking the weather app, something she never had to do before in a “consistently hot” environment.
“It’s a daily routine now,” she said. “What you can wear out depends so much on the actual temperature outside.”
But why, exactly, can the cold weather be more than just a slight clothing inconvenience?
According to Mark Thornton, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, the cold can have both psychological and emotional effects on students.
“When you have a lot less daylight, a lot of people will experience some amount of lowered mood because of that,” he said. “And in the most serious cases, that would be seasonal affective disorder.”
Nina Prakash ’25 has also noticed in past years that the change in temperature can impact how people socialize.
“I think [the cold] just made everyone less social and less inclined to go do things besides stay in their dorm,” Prakash said. “That made people kind of keep to themselves a little bit.”
And, according to Thornton, the more people stay inside, the easier diseases can spread.
“You see more flu, you see more colds, you see more COVID,” he said. “That’s one way that [the cold] can affect students’ physical health which, of course, is also tied into their mental health.”
But despite an inclination to hole up, Thornton explained that finding new ways to socialize in the colder months can be essential to maintaining our physical and emotional well-being.
Thornton teaches PSYC 43, “Emotion” — a class in which students track their emotions over time in a daily diary, where he consistently found that “socialization, for all the Dartmouth students, is one of the biggest predictors of whether they’re feeling good or bad in general on a given day.” He also cited Dartmouth-sponsored winter activities and sports as an incredibly helpful aspect in creating social spaces year round.
However, for those who may not want to spend too much time outdoors, there are always communities to join indoors. Frey learned that making an effort to spend time with friends indoors can be incredibly important.
“I’ve been more open to just staying in with my friends and watching a movie instead of just sitting alone,” she said.
As ’27s look ahead to the winter, they shared mixed emotions around pursuing items on their winter bucket lists and adapting to the cold.
Schindler is worried about the side effects that might come with the winter.
“The creeping anxiety that [the cold] might affect me has affected me,” he reflected. “[I’ve been] worrying about the fact that I might not get sunlight or that it’ll be freezing cold, and I’ll have to trudge to class in the winter.”
However, despite this anxiety, he is finding parts of Dartmouth’s winter to get excited about, such as the campus snowball fight on the night of the first snow.
“[I’m] definitely looking forward to that,” he said. “[I’ll be able to] practice my baseball arm, my dodgeball skills.”
Despite the colds and rain-soaked treks I’ve endured, I’ve realized that there is still so much warmth to be found in this chilly period of transition. Whether I’m picking out a red scarf to toss around my neck, slurping up one of the four Foco soups every day or marveling at a particularly radiant, orange-leaved tree on my way to Baker Library, I’m learning to see the beauty that emanates from all corners of this campus.
And as I look ahead to my first Hanover winter, I remain timidly optimistic. There’s always the possibility that I may be forced to make many more journeys to Dick’s House, or that I may have to learn how to keep my facial features from freezing the hard way. But I know that even if the cold does knock the wind out of me, metaphorically or physically, I won’t be alone in the snow.