The Experience of Winter

Coming from California, the most common question I would get from my friends at home focused on the contrast in weather patterns: “why would you go across the country to a place with worse weather when you can stay in the ever-pleasant California Sunshine?”. It was never a question I took seriously, as I naively assumed that an Ithaca winter couldn’t be that challenging even for me. In fact, I even took some excitement in my first snowstorm, as well as my first snow day the following morning, during the end of the first semester of my Freshman year. Although my college experience has been more than a little modified by the COVID-19 pandemic, I have still been able to experience the better part of two Ithaca winters.

Cornell Engineering student SamI will not lie, as someone who is used to very mild winters that include a couple rainstorms and maybe a few days in the high 30s, an Ithaca winter is quite jarring. However, on my second go around, and my first where I get to see the joys of spring at Cornell, I have come to realize how important and valuable my true winter experiences have been. I was right to believe that I could manage the winter weather despite being a native Californian, and it was particularly challenging, but the experience as a whole was humbling. I understand the importance of a good coat and a solid pair of boots, as well as the many different small ways that life changes when the cold, snowy weather arrives.

I know that my exposure to harsher winters seems incredibly mundane and sheltered, likely because it is. But it stands out to me as a humorous example of the kind of invaluable perspective-broadening events that I have found plentiful at Cornell. I can still recall vividly the dialogue on Indian and American politics I had with one of my international suitemates on the second day of school, or the conversation I had with a friend studying food science where we talked about our favorite cheeses. These are a few of the myriad interactions I have had with people of different backgrounds, interests, or identities during my time at Cornell, not to mention the countless other experiences that the environment offers.

Reflecting on the apprehension that my friends had for Ithaca weather, I can now say with certainty that their bewilderment had some basis in reality. But I also contend that I am an ever so slightly more complete person because of my choice to live somewhere with inclement weather. More generally, I have grown to appreciate the opportunities that Cornell has given me to broaden my perspective in more ways than I could have predicted.

—Sam, electrical and computer engineering