A lot of people tried to warn me off of going to school in the Midwest, or on the east coast. Promises of oranges and sun rays sparkling through iridescent clouds among the red bricks of the University of Southern California almost convinced me. But, somehow, somewhere, I decided that it would be a good idea to go to school in rural Ohio, where the weather fluctuates more often than I responsibly do my laundry.
Being from Hawaii, I’m not quite used to the concept of having seasons. Our one season is the buttery warmth of summer, with the largest variation being maybe hitting sixty-five degrees in the midst of a rainstorm in the thick of December. My best friends at Kenyon, from Buffalo, New York, and Chicago, Illinois respectively, laughed at my ignorance when I mentioned not being able to wait for March or “spring.” Nobody told me spring doesn’t begin until April, on a good year.
The first thing my mother insisted upon was buying me a good pair of winter boots (they set me back a whole two-hundred and fifty dollars) and a winter coat (XS, petite, because I have the arm length of an actual minion from Despicable Me). My two-hundred and fifty dollar footwear did not stop me from falling on my butt an innumerable amount of times when the roads froze over, nor did they prevent me from contracting seasonal depression. My body used to copious amounts of sunshine and vitamin D, rejected the months of slushy gray and numbing wind I tried to feed it. I steadily grew hardened to a diet of stinging ears and scratchy wool sweaters, but I by far still prefer the predictable humidity and comforting warmth of Hawaiian air. Some advice I wish someone had told me before I came here was to expect the worst. Making jokes about unending snow and the beauty of a winter wonderland grew old within the first few weeks, and the perpetual slump I seemed to succumb to in the depths of the darkest months was unexpected, to say the least. One resource I wish my college would put forth more effort into is reaching out to residents of warmer climates during their first winter and ensuring that they are doing okay. Not only is buying an entirely new wardrobe expensive financially, but the burden of mental health deterioration and the lack of awareness surrounding seasonal depression and its consequences is disturbing. While I am endlessly grateful to my college’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I believe that racial and socioeconomic diversity is not the only thing to be aware of. I agree that triggers from traumatic pasts and differing affinities is important to be attentive to. However, in addition to these issues, I believe that it is incredibly imperative for colleges to put forth more resources to accommodate geographic minorities. Radical changes such as a move from Hawaii to Ohio should do more than encourage eyebrows to raise and jokes to be made. I believe that a fair warning should be given, and students should be encouraged to seek guidance and even medical attention regarding seasonal depressive tendencies and vitamin deficiencies.
I love my college and I will never regret the move, however temporary, to the Midwest. I embrace the differences that make this new home of mine so radically separate from my old one. However, I wish that someone would have provided me with better resources to be aware of my surroundings before throwing myself into months of cold, gray, and vastly darker environments than I am used to.