Midwestern Winter Survival Guide

As someone who is originally from South Carolina, a state that stays fairly warm for most months out of the year, I was not at all prepared to experience a real winter moving to the Midwest. Southern winters are temperatures hovering in the 40s or 50s and maybe one or two days in February where it snows and the roads get icy enough to cancel school. You wear a sweater underneath a jean jacket and call it a day.

That is not at all what a Midwestern winter is like, and towards the end of my first semester at Iowa, I quickly realized that. If you are not from the Midwest, you probably came to the same realization during the post-Thanksgiving break snowfall. Winter in the Midwest is several months of slippery sidewalks, the air cold enough to sting your face and losing feeling in your fingers.

Here are some things that I have learned in my three years living in the Midwest to help you survive the coming winter. It will only get colder from here, folks.

1. Puffy coats are your friend.

My roommates looked at me like I had three heads freshman year when I referred to my distressed jean jacket as my coat. Your North Face jacket is not good enough for temperatures in the single digits with wind chill. You need to invest in a good coat and learn how to layer. I would recommend buying two or three winter coats if you can of varying lengths. I have a shorter coat for when it is like above thirty degrees, but not warm enough for a jean jacket or sweatshirt, and then I have a longer coat that comes down to mid-thigh for those days when it hurts to breathe a little bit. I am even thinking about getting a knee-length one for really brutal days. Figure out what works best for you and also for the weather.

2. Driving during winter is different (and can be dangerous).

This is probably a no-brainer for most people, but as someone who comes from a place where it rarely snows and when it does, everything shuts down, I realized that I had never really driven in below-freezing temperatures with ice and snow on the roads. It requires a whole other level of preparation that you might not even think of. If you park your car outside, you might need to get an ice scraper or a snow brush to clean off your car when you need to use it. If you are traveling on a cold day, even if you are not going very far, you need to think about what would happen if you got stuck in such cold temperatures. You might want to put blankets in your car. Some people put kitty litter in their trunk in case they get stuck on ice. If you are not used to preparing for winter, it might seem weird, but you need to think about stuff like that for your safety and the safety of others.

3. You need winter boats.

Just like with the coat, I came to school with combat boots that I planned to use both as rain boots and winter boots. That plan did not last long. Where there is snow, there is ice, and all it takes is one wrong step in the wrong shoes (or even the right ones) for you to slip and slide across the ice and fall. Also, your feet will get cold if you are not wearing the right kinds of shoes. Get some winter boats. Your feet, your ego and your butt will thank you for not falling on the ice.

4. Accessorize (smartly)!

Winter can be a fun chance to accessorize with a lot of cute hats, gloves, and patterned scarves, but make sure that you are choosing to wear things that are cute and warm because what is the point otherwise. Iowa’s wind can be brutal, and when snow is getting blown into your face down the front of your new warm coat, you will want a scarf protecting your face and earmuffs or a hat protecting your ears.

5. The University will probably not cancel class.

This was a shock to me coming here. I am from a place where a flake of snow on the highway means that school is probably canceled for the next three days. That is absolutely not the case at Iowa. It would take very severe weather for the University to cancel class, and anything short of that usually comes down to professors deciding whether or not to cancel. Be prepared.

6. It’s not all bad!

Snow can be really fun if you have prepared and can stay warm. Looking out the window right before winter break to see fresh snow is really exciting, especially if you come from a place where snow is not a common occurrence.

Make sure you are being safe and practical so that you can enjoy all of the winter wonderland fun that can be found in the Midwest!

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