Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

January 22, 2023

Upperclassman Cornellians Share How They Cope With Harsh Ithaca Winters

Print More

As the Spring 2023 semester unfolds, students prepare to endure the frigid upstate winter for the next several months. Alongside their heavy workloads, obstacles include ample snowfall, icy roads and walkways, freezing temperatures, harsh winds and rain.

Students who have already experienced Ithaca’s winter in previous years have learned to acclimate. Many have discovered strategies to cope and even find joy in the cold. Whether it’s ways to stay physically warm or tips for fighting winter time blues, the seasoned spring semester veterans have it covered.

Taylor Brown ’25 is preparing for her second winter in Ithaca. While she is accustomed to the cold as a native New Yorker, her experiences at Cornell have led her to seek ways to tolerate Ithaca’s winters with more ease. 

“The winters in Ithaca are unmatched,” Brown said. “But as long as you dress in layers, avoid the metal panels on the bridges and don’t walk down the slope while it is snowing, you’ll be okay. I also recommend going to Goldie’s Cafe in the Physical Sciences Building. They have the best hot teas.” 

Staying warm and avoiding an unplanned trip down the slope aren’t the only difficulties that Cornellians face. Students often find themselves confined to their rooms to study due to a rigorous course load as well as limited options for outdoor activity.

Andres Murillo ’24 has found enjoyment in the winter seasons at Cornell, but he doesn’t deny the challenge that it entails. 

“Winters can be a bit tough here,” Murillo said. “I hate the fact that sunsets are so early. It can be 4 p.m., and I feel like the day is already wasted because I haven’t even done any homework. It can make you feel unproductive, and as a result you get more tired and burnt out.”

These sentiments are not unique to Murillo. As gloomy winters clash with the rigors of college coursework, students commonly experience winter blues or its more serious counterpart, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is triggered by unstable melatonin levels. Such instabilities result in inconsistencies in appetite, mood and sleep patterns. 

In response to mental health issues that rise during the winter, Cornell students have created organizations and resources to aid individuals who struggle to cope. 

The Yellow Paint Society is a student-run organization that advocates for the mental well-being of Cornell’s community through art and its therapeutic assets. Fátima Martínez ’24, vice president and social media manager of YPS, originally from California, has had to learn to adapt to the harsh upstate winter. 

“I think society makes a lot of us think that we are just lazy when we exhibit symptoms of SAD,” Martínez said. “Unfortunately, we tend to develop an ‘if only I just keep pushing through’ mentality that causes us to be in denial about the mental health impacts of winter. This only makes it harder for us students to overcome seasonal depression.” 

YPS makes sure to host meetings every week that include paint sessions where art materials are provided for students. The meetings are held consistently for students to check in and chat with each other, according to Martínez. 

While winter proves to be treacherous, Cornellians actively seek ways to cope, warm up and make the best of their college experience. 

“Winter [in Ithaca] can be nice,” Murillo said. “It’s just about trying to keep your days more exciting, whether it is hanging out with friends, joining clubs or embracing the seasonal activities. Just find things to keep yourself preoccupied besides studying.”