A pair of individuals walk past Curran-McNeill Hall during a snowstorm. Many students say that they would rather walk than drive their cars across campus in the winter.
Promethean File Photo by Jean Germano
Editor’s Note: This is part five of a five part series surrounding the life of international students on the campus of the University of Wisconsin Superior. The previous four parts were published throughout the 2019 school year, prior to the global spread of COVID-19.
Coming to the United States as an international student usually means staying in one general area for anywhere between a few months to several years. Therefore, one of the last things international students might consider before attending college in the United States is the weather.
The holiday season goes hand in hand with winter in the United States. For students moving from warmer countries to certain parts of the U.S., like our home here in Superior, winters can seem long and overwhelming. While watching snow and building snowmen can be some of the most fun winter activities in northwest Wisconsin, many international students worry about how to prepare and adjust to the cold, wintry weather they will face at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Even before departing their home countries, students must consider what clothes they will bring with them. Based on their understandings and impressions of Superior before their arrival, they may not recognize the severe cold. “Fortunately, there are heaters indoors, I guess everywhere here. I feel we cannot survive without heaters during the winter time here. With heaters inside the room, it’s just like summer, said Jiratchaya Chantangtermpong, an international student from Thailand.
While it’s warm enough inside, students should not be fooled by the interior temperature. The difference between inside and out can be striking. “I can wear shorts and a t-shirt when I am in the dorms, but it feels really different once I go out,” said Chantangtermpong. Consequently, thick clothes and enough layers should be prepared.
In order to save money, many international students choose to shop locally for winter clothing. The belief that they care more about their outer appearance than the feeling of their body does not hold true in Superior. Rather, students intend to stay warm and not get sick.
While the first freezing temperatures begin appearing in October, snow usually begins in November. After the snow begins, students must begin paying attention to their safety. Heavy snow and extremely low temperatures are normal during a Superior winter, which makes walking across campus much harder.
As Tsubasa Sasaki from Japan notes, “It’s always too hard to walk during the winter in Superior. The ground is so slippery, and if you don’t pay attention, you might just fall down…it hurts so bad, especially when there’s invisible ice on the ground.” For this reason, boots are highly recommended.
Though having a car is more convenient for going out during the other seasons, it is not quite as fun of an activity during the winter. According to AAA, winter storms and bad weather account for nearly half a million crashes and over 2,000 road deaths every winter. Many of the students I talked with said they would prefer walking to school than spending more time cleaning off and driving their cars.
Severe weather is also a common issue during Superior winters, and it is something that UWS has worked to get ahead of in order to protect students and faculty. The UWS SAFE Alerts system plays an important role in delivering safety messages to members of the UWS campus community. “Everybody who has registered their cell phone with the campus would receive a text message that would mirror what the announcement would be. There are also the options to get a voice message on your phone if you signed up for that. For any type of emergency…we can make announcements from our office that goes campus-wide. That would probably, in most cases of immediate threat, be our first means of notification to the campus community,” said Gary Gulbrandson, the now former director of Public Safety at UWS.
Lindsey Dahlberg, the Environmental Health and Safety Director on campus, shared some additional information about SAFE Alerts. “SAFE Alerts work hand-inhand with a system called Alertus. Alertus will take over all the digital signage on campus, along with any computer screens (see photo below). If we had a threat or weather emergency, we can use that system and anyone who has their computer screen up would have to acknowledge it for it to go away.”
Since blizzards and severe weather conditions make it hard to commute in Superior, motivation is an issue for many students. Fewer daylight hours make it hard to stay active, especially student without a vehicle, like Yeonjin Oh from South Korea. “Honestly, winter makes people lazy. When I think about getting up and walking to school in such cold weather, I always feel stressed and just don’t want to do that. During the winter here, people have to have better and stronger motivation.”
To combat this lack of motivation, some students have been trying to plan out their big milestones. Other have stuck with their friends by walking to school together, taking away from the dullness of winter.
Though winter in Superior can be long, international students become accommodated through adaptability and effort. By knowing what to expect and preparing well for the season, winter can be as enjoyable as summer.