A Southern Girl's Guide to Surviving Your First Real Winter

I had no idea what cold really was before moving to DC. My 55-degree winters that occasionally dipped into the forties and- gasp- maybe even the thirties were the Bahamas compared to the Washington, D.C. climate I live in now.

Sure, I’d been on vacations before where it was freezing, but that was maybe a week with borrowed ski gear from my cousins before heading back to the safe humidity of Houston. LIVING in the cold for months on end was a whole different story. Yes, I know everyone from Boston and up thinks Washington is a walk in the park compared to their usual winters, but I’m not used to this yet! And I know a lot of other students at AU aren’t either.

Luckily for everyone, I survived my first real winter, and am now going to pass on my newfound knowledge and wisdom to the new students struggling to get through the cold.  

  1. 1. Your Coat is Not Warm Enough

    I’m sure you already have a coat you use for winter. Maybe it’s even a warm one. But trust me, it’s not gonna work. If you could wear it in your previous, warmer winter home and not start sweating immediately, it’s not warm enough.

    It can be a hassle to buy a new winter coat, expecially because they can get expensive, but it pays off in the end. A really good winter coat can last you all the way through college and beyond, making it a practical investment. Also, honestly, you’re just going to be absolutely miserable without one. Warmth is an absolute priority.

  2. 2. Prepare for Snow

    If you come from an area with relatively warm winters, I’m going to assume you don’t really get snow (I know, I’m so smart). If you talk with a lot of people in Washington, they’ll tell you that it doesn’t snow nearly as much as it does in most places farther north, and that snow is relatively easy to deal with. This is BS.

    It’s true there's not as much snow as Boston or New York, but snow is snow, and it’s ALWAYS hard to deal with. Snow boots and snow gloves are a must, and be careful where you walk! Ice is difficult to see and can easily send you sliding to the floor.

    As much as I’m warning you about the snow, don’t let people's comments about “better” snows where they’re from discourage you from enjoying the weather. Snow is the BEST part about having a colder climate, and you should take full advantage of it. Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels – the whole works.  

  3. 3. Ignore the People in Shorts

    While we’re on the topic of ignoring people's advice, make sure you pay absolutely no attention to the people (men) wearing shorts in 30-degree weather claiming they’re “from Boston, so this isn’t cold at all!” They’re lying. Or robots. Either way, disregard everything they say.

    First of all, it’s so extra of them. You don’t see ME cruising around in a hoodie and jeans when its 80 degrees just because “I’m from Houston so it’s not hot at all!”

    Second, just because they claim to not be cold doesn’t mean you can’t be! Everyone adjusts to temperatures differently, and if you’re shivering and pulling out sweaters at the moment the leaves starting changing color, then that’s how it is. Embrace it, block out the haters, and move on.  

  4. 4. Health is a Priority

    I don’t know if it’s because it’s cold, or because it’s college and everyone here is a walking bag of germs, or a mix of both, but it’s SO easy to get sick! From the flu to the common cold, some sort of illness is going to hit, and you want to avoid it as much as possible.

    Stock up on Vitamin C or Emergen-C, and I repeat point 1, stay warm! While a coat is helpful, make sure you also wear scarves, gloves, and a hat when the temperatures get really low, and invest in a thick pair of socks. It’s a small move, but it makes a big difference, especially when you realize your new pair of booties don’t do ANYTHING to keep the cold out, even though they’re super cute.

    If you DO start to get sick, make sure you drink warm fluids, eat your fruits and veggies, and most importantly, get some rest. It sucks to miss going out with friends, but it sucks even more to have to go to the doctor because you’re hacking up a lung.

    Be healthy. Get rest.

  5. 5. Have Fun!

    I’m whining a lot about the cold, and it's true, the cold can be pretty miserable. However, one of the best things about living in an actually cold environment is getting to do all of the stereotypical winter stuff without overheating!

    Cuddle up under a pile of warm blankets, drink hot chocolate and apple cider, wear cozy pj’s. Embrace the season! I know for some people this time of the year is their favorite, but for me, and I’m sure many others, winter can become something that is endured more than experienced. You can’t avoid it, so you might as well learn to enjoy it!  

So there you have it! The main takeaways from my first real winter. Hopefully, these tips help you survive and thrive in the cold. I certainly wish I’d had them my freshman year.