Ming DeMers/Sun Staff Photographer

Preparing for their very first Ithaca winters, freshmen find themselves swapping hoodies for heavy jackets and snow boots.

January 25, 2023

Freshmen’s First Winter: A Culture Shock for Students From Warm Climates

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Although seasoned Cornellians have learned to manage Ithaca’s winters, freshmen from warm climates are learning to navigate the snow and freezing temperatures for the first time — some students expressed excitement to engage in winter activities, while others miss their hometowns’ warm weather. 

Ellie Gardner ’26 lives in Ithaca year round and offered a word of warning to her peers who now find themselves swapping hoodies for heavy jackets and snow boots. 

“I would say that winter weather in Ithaca is erratic,” Gardner said. “You can get snow, sleet and sun all in one week. But the winters are always cold and last into March!”

Miami native Camila Morata ’26 is excited for the new experience, despite the warnings from locals.

“I have always wanted to experience winter, especially snow based on seeing Christmas movies and winter in the media,” Morata said. “However, based on what I have heard from others, it can seem intimidating not knowing what to expect.”

Catherine Zaki ’26, who also lives in Miami, said she feels lucky to experience the beauty of both warm and cold weather.

“I’ve only ever been told negative things about winter and that I’m lucky to live somewhere where it doesn’t get cold, but I think winter is super pretty,” Zaki said. “So far, I’ve really enjoyed the snow and bundling up next to a fire with friends.”

Although they have only seen winter represented in the media — which Gardner said tends to be romanticized — the freshmen are aware of the less desirable aspects of the season. 

Morata, Zaki and Nicolas Solano ’26, who is from Barranquilla, Colombia, all said they fear early sunsets and the effects of seasonal depression. 

“I’m afraid of it being so cold I’m mentally incapable of leaving the dorm for class,” Solano said. 

Cornell offers various mental health resources, such as EARS, which can help students get through the season. Gardner also offered tips for overcoming winter sadness. 

“Find an outdoor hobby you enjoy in the snow,” Gardner said. “I love to ski, hike the gorges and go to the state parks, especially Taughannock.” 

Skiing and snowboarding at Greek Peak Mountain Resort is a staple winter activity for Cornell students. Zaki said she is looking forward to learning to snowboard this winter. Her friend, who has an extra board from their childhood, promised to teach her, she said.

Other freshmen, like Nicolette Gani ’26, who is from Los Angeles, plan to take advantage of the snow on campus.

“I want to say my favorite winter activities will be building a snowman with my friends, drinking peppermint mochas and definitely sliding down the slope,” Gani said.

While winter has proven to be treacherous in Ithaca, these freshmen are excited to assimilate into the climate and embrace the new experience.

“[I’m excited to] watch the snowfall with hot cocoa, watch a movie covered up in my blankets or a day out with friends sledding,” Solano said. “One is the epitome of comfort and the other just sounds like a fun activity that can only really happen at that time of year.”