International Students: How to Handle the First Winter in Your Life

January 27, 2015

How would you react to your first snow? Would you eat a snowflake in mid-air? What accessories would you put on your first snowman? If the answers to these questions spark your interest, you might be in for a fun time studying in the U.S.

Snow is sometimes taken for granted and often annoys people who have grown up with it, but all it takes is seeing a genuine reaction to snow for the first time to remind us how special it really is. Childhood memories start coming back and the urge to build a snowman or have a snowball fight emerges.

If you're coming to study in the US from abroad, chances are you might be the inspiration we need to start appreciating winter again. But what’s in it for you? What do you do with snow?

Snow 101: Eating a Snowflake

As much fun as it is to watch the gentle, white snowflakes falling and covering everything outside while you're peeking from the comfort of your room, there's so much more you can do with snow. A Terry Pratchett character from the book Mort once said:
“Have you ever bitten a red-hot ice cube? Curry's like that.”

Snow's like that, as well. The bizarre feeling of eating a snowflake in mid-air is something everyone should experience. It's so freezing cold, it might burn, but don't worry -- there aren't any dangerous side effects aside from pure excitement. It’s a magical moment with thousands of other snowflakes dancing around you, and it should be documented. Get a friend to take a picture of you and send it over to your family back home. It will almost certainly bring smiles to their faces.

Making Your Own Frankenstein Monster

Get creative and put the things that are lying around to a good use when making a snowman

Get creative and use whatever you find lying around your house to make a unique first snowman.

Get yourself a pair of warm mittens, a trustworthy companion (you get bonus points if his name is Victor), and get out there to make your first snowman.

Find a clear ground where it would be easy to roll the big snowballs and get on with it. Start with the base, making it big and sturdy, and work your way up. Here’s a pro tip: make the snowman out of three snowballs. That way, you'll have enough room to decorate it with buttons, arms, a face and a scarf, and it will look closer to the childhood ideal we all have. Use charcoal (or stones or buttons) for eyes, a carrot for the nose, twigs for the arms, and a pot for the hat.

Picture-taking is an absolute must here, so get crazy with it. Hang a stethoscope over your snowman's shoulders or make it look like your first patient with a thermometer in its mouth. Then jump back into the 21st century, and take a selfie with your first snowman to eternalize the moment.

Even More Fun: Skiing, Snowboarding and Snow Angels

Snow isn’t just about being a kid and eating it. Or making a snowman. There’s so much more about it. If you are lucky enough and you study close to a ski resort, by all means get yourself out there and give skiing and snowboarding a go. It may seem scary at first, but with a bit of practice you’ll start to get the hang of it and you’ll experience one of the most exciting aspects of winter.

If you're more of the calm type, you can go with a western classic - a snow angel. Find a place with even ground, lay down facing up and start moving your legs from side to side and your arms up and down. In no time you’ll have your first snow angel in the fresh snow. Take your time looking up to appreciate the moment and when ready treat yourself to a hot beverage.

Don’t Forget to Keep Warm

As much fun as snow can be, winter can be a bit troublesome for first timers.  If you’re not doing too well with the cold, now's the time to put your fancy knitwear to use. A nice, thick sweater to keep your body warm, a big, soft hat for the head, and funny-looking mittens will all do the trick. Don’t overlook your shoes, either. Look for a good pair of snow boots since the walk to med school may be troublesome on the icy sidewalks.

Get creative and put the things that are lying around to a good use when making a snowman

Reusable hand warmers come in all kinds of shapes and colors

Here’s another pro tip: get yourself hand warmers. These little miracles will never let you down, even in the coldest of days. All you need to do is crack the metal disc inside a few times and watch it do it’s magic. The bag turns solid and will keep your hands warm. If you’re still cold, make sure you put one on the inside of your jacket too. The best thing about these chemical wamers is that they’re reusable. Boil them for five minutes and they’ll be ready for your next icy adventure.

Now that you're ready for your first winter encounter, what’s the first thing you can't wait to try with snow? Share in the comments below.