Weather Warning! Making The Transition To The Windy City

When we received our acceptance letters to Northwestern University, the first line read:

“Congratulations and welcome to the class of [insert graduation year here]! On behalf of the Northwestern faculty, students, and alumni, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you have been admitted to [insert school here].”

Here’s what the letter should have said:

“Congratulations, you’ve been accepted to Northwestern University, located in Chicago, Illinois, a city that boasts one of the coldest and windiest winters in the country!”

Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be the most welcoming opener, but a warning might have been nice. If you’re from the south or somewhere that’s mostly hot, like me. Whether you’ve visited a cold weather state before or not, snowy winters and unrelenting winds are a new experience. Needless to say, living in them for an entire season is a major adjustment.

By now, you’ve probably had to make some major adjustments to your wardrobe (Yay extra shopping trips! The cold can’t be all bad, after all). Chances are you’ve also been caught at least once not wearing enough clothes during an unanticipated cold autumn day, and on such day been subjected to a few of those, “she must not be from here” stares. Native northerners are accustomed to what some of us southerners consider to be frigid fall temperatures. Don’t worry! It’s normal to be confused and cold during this scary, windy time. But I’m sure you don’t want to make a habit of it. So here are some tips to help guide you through the transition from the Sunny south to the Windy City!

1. The first question most of us southerners who have bravely flown north for the winter is usually, “What can I wear?”

The most important thing to remember with autumn and winter is to layer. It is always better to be over-dressed than to be under-dressed, you’ve heard this for all occasions, and it’s the same for climates. Long sleeved tees and tights WILL be your best friend this time of year. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because your class is in McTrib and you live in ISRC, you can risk going outside in one short-sleeved shirt and a light sweater. The only thing that will come from that is a bad cold and a horrible, Rudolph-esque, red, stuffy, nose!

Keep in mind that while warmth should always take precedence over style in Chicago weather, there are ways around the bulkiness of winter clothing that can be quite fashionable. You may also find that you aren’t always limited to dressing for weather that is in the 20s and 30s.

“There are nice days here when it gets into the 70s and you can wear shorts and you can wear skirts and dresses,” says freshman and Florida native, Lauren Kravec. “Bring a mix of clothing…. if you want to wear a dress… wear leggings. There’s a lot of ways to incorporate things even if it’s cold out.”

2. Have fun with your wardrobe. On a particularly cold day, throw on a pair of leggings with that miniskirt that you were afraid you had brought for no reason. Bam! Instant cute winter look! Or go out and buy that over-sized cashmere sweater that you were eying at Victoria’s Secret. You may be surprised at when and how you will be inspired by a cold-weather look that turns heads everywhere!

3. Never assume with Chicago weather and to always make sure that you are prepared. Stay as up-to-date on the weather as possible to keep tabs on any overnight changes in the temperature. A warm day today does not guarantee a warm day tomorrow, something we will see this week when the lovely 73? weather we all enjoyed on Wednesday promptly dropped to a chilly 50? on Friday! Have coats, umbrellas, everything you need to ensure that you are ready for whatever comes along. In Chicago, whatever is exactly what you will get. This is something An Phung, a freshman from Austin, Texas learned.

“I didn’t have boots...I ruined my favorite pair of shoes… [And] I also forgot to bring an umbrella.”

4. Getting out of the house is crucial. Those of us from warm weather fear that there will be little or nothing to do as the temperature drops, and the colder it gets, the more we will want to stay in. The truth of the matter is, that Evanston and Chicago are both cities that are alive all year round and offer more than enough activities for everyone. They’re used to the cold, even if we’re not.

“Keep an open mind coming in…. there’s so much fun stuff to do if you look for it...you don’t have to look that hard,” Phung says.

Many students recommend stopping at one of the many coffee shops in Evanston. Popular places include the Unicorn Café and Caffeine Café. You can also check out Northwestern’s own Norris University Center, which boasts a myriad of eateries, coffee shops, and even fun night time activities that can serve as excellent diversion for students who may not feel like venturing too far out into the city.

Being new in town, you’ve probably been given a few helpful hints by well meaning classmates who are from somewhere up north. Take every piece of advice they give you. The advice may not come in handy right away, but if you pay attention to what your friends and classmates have to say, when you are faced with an unusually “subzero” situation, you’ll know just what to do!

Good luck!