Winter in Windy City: a survival guide to colder months

by Jenna Pirrie, business manager

Surviving winter in Chicago is one giant game, and the only prize for winning is retaining your sanity (and fingers and toes). There are plenty of rules and essential strategies, most of which are fairly simple if you have played the game your whole life. But for students from warmer climates, winter survival strategies sometimes feel as complex as learning Greek.

The first roadblock for Rebecca Arliskas, junior TESOL major from Arizona, was buying a coat. “My roommate makes fun of me because I ordered it online. It was a foreign concept to me to be able to go to a store and buy an appropriate coat for Chicago.”

Peter Cooper, sophomore youth ministry major from San Diego, California, said layering was the first thing he had to learn when he transferred last winter. “I did not understand the importance of [it] … it is not about having one big winter coat, but it is about having a few layers and the air trapped between them.”

Unlike newcomers to the game, Megan Gillespie, sophomore applied linguistics major, has been surviving Indiana winters since birth. She said, “If your hands are cold, do not blow on them … the moisture in your breath makes them colder in the long run.”

Personal strategies are equally important in this game: find out what helps you the most. For Cooper, gloves are essential, while Arliskas, who says she is miserable as soon as her ears get cold, gives a hat a higher priority. Others would emphasize the importance of wearing leggings or long johns under jeans, keeping your neck warm at all times or taking advantage of wool socks.

But staying warm and dealing with the physical effects are only half the game. The psychological effects of the lack of sun, especially for students raised in the South, can be a surprise. Consider taking vitamin D or getting a full spectrum sun lamp, and research Seasonal Affective Disorder if the winter doldrums seem worse than usual. Sometimes simply being aware of the psychological effects that can come with a cold and dark winter can help you get through it.

Being active and finding joy in the season is also an important strategy. Arliskas recommends bundling up and spending some time outside at least every few days. “If you stay inside for three months, you just aren’t going to feel good about yourself.”

“Do not isolate yourself,” advised Melissa Mancari, senior elementary education major from Clearwater, Florida. “If you are surrounded by people going through the same thing together, it makes it more fun than depressing.”

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