This guide is meant to help all new International students get through the hard winter in Minnesota; those who come from warmer weathers will find it the most helpful.
Yes, we all know it’s cold outside; Minnesota’s weather can be challenging, but it's always charming! I come from a city where it never snows. Never. Also, the coldest it gets is around -2 Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit), so the first winter here meant a huge challenge for me. Having learnt from experience, I now share with you some tips:
Learn to walk —again
Remember Bambi walking on ice? Yeap, that could be you if you don’t wear appropriate shoes and mind your step. I’m not kidding; you might see hundreds of students walking fast, rushing to their classes in the middle of a snow blizzard or the day after, but trust me; it’s harder than it seems. The first time I tried to walk in the snow I was wearing inappropriate shoes and didn’t really mind my step. The result was an embarrassing fall that left me with bruised knees for a couple of weeks. Be very careful and, if possible, avoid ice blocks: THEY ARE VERY SLIPPERY.
Walking carefully and slower also means you need to plan ahead of time. Leave 15 minutes earlier than usual; everything’s slower when it snows, especially transportation. Don’t rush and put yourself at risk.
You will get cold feet
And I don’t mean this in a figurative way; getting your feet wet and cold can be extremely dangerous. For that reason, include a good pair of rain boots on your list. You can find a cheap pair for less than $50 in stores like WalMart and Target, but my advice is, if possible, to invest on a good pair of quality boots; not only will they be helpful on rainy days but also on days in which the ground is full of slushy, melting snow (trust me, it can get messy).
Snow boots are another must; look for a pair with insulating materials and grip soles. Specialty stores like REI and online resources can be helpful. Again, you can find cheap ones for less, but they will do a very poor job in keeping your feet warm, and that my dear friends, you’ll learn is a priority. Sites like amazon.com and zappos.com have several options available at affordable prices. I’ve found leather and natural rubber to be the most durable materials. Some fancy designs, especially for women, might include shearling and suede, but, even though suede can be snow-proof, the salt that’s spread on the walkways to help ice melt will ruin your boots. So, stay away from suede, unless you don’t mind staining you new boots forever.
This one is for females:
Avoid high heels during snowy days (and the days after)
If you are a shoe lover like me, this might be hard to do, but trust me: your ankles, knees and back will thank you, not only is it dangerous to walk with inappropriate shoes, but it also is very hard.
Get a really thick, warm coat
You want to make sure it’s waterproof, has a hood (walking against a snow storm without the right protection is awful) and is preferably made of insulating materials. The longer, the better; a knee-high length is good enough.
Gloves, scarves and hats are your best friends
Never leave your apartment/dorm/house without them. Your hands will freeze. Your neck will be cold, and, just in case you didn’t know, 30% of all you body temperature escapes through your head, so keep warm! I recently got a neat pair of touchscreen gloves that keep my hands warm and allow me to use my smartphone; I got them at Target for $20 target.com
Dress in layers
A coat and a sweater won’t do the job during the coldest winter days, but leaving your house feeling —and looking— like a snowman isn’t the smartest thing either; as soon as you enter the classroom or anywhere else, you will feel a big temperature change. For that reason, dressing in layers is the best way to stay warm while making sure you don’t roast during class time. A cotton or flannel T-shirt underneath a chunky wool or knit sweater or sweatshirt is the best. Prefer thicker materials and, if possible, choose turtlenecks and long sleeves. Jeans can get pretty cold during those days, but if you just cannot live without them, get some thermic pants to wear underneath.
Get a flu shot
The University has a program every year that offers free flu shots for all students. Make sure to get one; not only will it save you several dollars in flu medicine, but you will also avoid spreading this awful disease amongst others.
Use a moisturizer with sunscreen
Your skin will be thirsty and (almost extremely) dry during the coldest months. Last winter my nose was peeling so bad that it looked like a snake changing skin. Regardless of your skin type or condition, moisturizer is a life saver. Walgreens, CVS and the Boynton Clinic Pharmacy offer a wide variety of moisturizers at a good price for all skin types.
It’s Chapstick season
This is for both, males and females. Your lips will chap, and chapped lips not only look awful, but feel even worse. Ouch! A plain, odorless, colorless lip balm will do the job; and of course there´s also a wide variety of flavors and colors for those interested; most of them for less than a dollar! So go get a couple and keep one with you at all times (I keep mine in my coat pocket) and another one in your backpack or purse, just in case.
Cheer up and smile!
Yes, it can be rough at first and there will be days in which you will not want to leave your apartment, but think of it as a new experience not only for your body but also for your mind. Winter in Minnesota is beautiful; you really get to see many landscapes that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see back home. Enjoy! Get together with some friends and build a snowman, try making snow angels, take some pictures and send them back home! The University Rec Center has some winter sports groups you can join. Go grab a warm cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the season.
How’s the weather back home?