Winter has settled in comfortably on the Hill once again. Snow is sparkling on the bare tree branches, bikes are stored safely in the Ytterboe basement and the tile of Buntrock is perpetually covered in sand and salt tracked in from outside. Winter is certainly ready for us, but not every Ole on the Hill is ready for winter yet. It can be a tough adjustment, especially for those experiencing their first-ever subzero temperatures and 4:30 p.m. sunsets. I traveled south to come to St. Olaf, and it still isn’t easy. So here are my suggestions for a smoother, happier, warmer welcome to winter.
Take care of yourself. Wear a coat, a hat and mittens. Your clenched fists stuffed up your sweatshirt sleeves do not count. Wear mittens. You are never too cool for mittens or too warm-blooded for mittens or too anything for mittens during a St. Olaf winter. If you do not have mittens, invest in a pair. They will serve you well, and you will be happier and healthier and so much warmer. It’s pretty shocking to see how many people are still running around without mittens – why? There’s no reason for this madness. Gloves are good too, if that’s what you’re into.
In addition to your mittens, invest in sleep. Your health and wellness are more important than finishing every last word of the assigned reading for tomorrow. Part of the college experience is being busy as you explore everything you can in a vibrant learning community, but another part of the experience is learning when to take a break. You are a human being, not a human doing.
Take care of each other. In a campus climate where sexual assault is a daily topic of concern and conversation, and where depression and anxiety are commonplace, it’s easy to feel isolated. But you’re not alone. Oles, reach out to one another. If a friend has been down lately, ask her if she wants to talk about it. If somebody has had too much to drink, don’t leave him alone in a room or behind at a party. If your roommate from California hasn’t invested in mittens yet, lend her your extra pair.
Most importantly, if you witness a situation in which somebody might get hurt, step in. Do not be a bystander. We’re all in this together, and it’s up to us to remind each other of that whenever we forget.
Do not freak out. Just because your friends begin to panic about final exams or 15-page papers does not mean that you have to. That may sound like a no-brainer, but it is truly so easy to get caught up. Freaking out about registration and finals are certainly a normal part of the college experience, but trust me: your time will come. Don’t work yourself into a frenzy because it seems like everyone else is, and that you must be doing something wrong if you are not. Instead, do the opposite. Take a nap. Spend time with a friend. Go to bed when you are tired. Remember that you are in college, and that a B is a good grade. Curl up with a copy of your favorite college newspaper and take a study break. Shop online for a new pair of mittens.
Take time to enjoy this bright, beautiful cozy new season. Spring is only six months away!
Ashley Belisle ’15 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Mahtomedi, Minn. She majors in English and Spanish.