The Learning Curve of My First Kenyon Winter

"I never knew cold like this in LA, but I never knew wonder quite like it either."


I should have hated the snow.

I am about as stubbornly Californian as they come — the type of person who, when I say where I’m from, gets a flippant response along the lines of that makes sense for you. To me, the word “winter” always conjured the crispness of a cool 60 degrees. The midwest was the last place I imagined myself living. But when I stepped foot on Kenyon’s campus for the first time, I could not imagine being anywhere else. So I reluctantly traded in the almost-endless summers of my LA suburb for a cycle of seasons I had never before known. The flaming autumn colors burned out after a few weeks, and now the trees look like skeletons, collecting snow on each limb. But now that the shock of the first single-digits I ever felt is wearing off, I am realizing there is warmth to be found in everything — even freezing.

However, there are some things I wish I knew before the first storm came:
The sheer force of the cold can make your eyes water. Tears well up on the walk to morning classes. No one will think you were crying, though; it happens.

  • Gloves will save your life. If it’s snowing and you’re without them, dig your hands into your coat pockets, walk faster, and pray.
  • Be careful where to place your feet. I have not fallen yet, but Middle Path gets slippery. You don’t have to know where you are going, but you do at least have to know where you are.  
  • You will put on five layers for the walk to Peirce sometimes, and will have to peel off four as soon as you sit down. Especially if it’s crowded. So many warm bodies in one room can be jarring. It is possible to heat up too quickly.
  • Your face can go numb if you have nothing to wrap it with while it’s actively snowing. The Kenyon-colored scarf my grandma knitted me comes in handy. I wear it like armor as the sky falls around me.
  • This one may be unpopular, but the perfect pair of bulky headphones will keep you just as warm as earmuffs. Plus, the right song makes even the most brutal weather worth romanticizing. 

It may be freezing, but I am still feeling everything. I trudge through what feels like zero degrees to Modern Democracies in my first pair of snow boots. I have tears in my eyes when I make it to Oden Hall. When it snowed on Halloween, I remember thinking it still felt like magic — only my fourth time ever seeing thin air turn into something tangible. I had never felt colder than I did that night, even though the snow barely stuck to the ground.

Now this campus is covered in white, but the novelty of winter has only increased. I am learning to find heat in the little things – the embrace of hallmates I see on Middle Path, the smiles of professors I had last semester, my friends chasing snowflakes with their mouths agape. “We must look so stupid,” one said as we clutched our stomachs from the laughter’s ache. But there’s nothing stupid about this beauty we live in — the feeling of awe that travels down my spine each time the snow sparkles in the lamplight is worth putting on five layers just to go outside. I never knew cold like this in LA, but I never knew wonder quite like it either. 

On my first night here, I laid against the curb of the Norton parking lot and stared at the stars with a group of people who just so happened to become my best friends. It was so warm then. I looked at the strangers around me and knew they would not be strangers much longer. The air was thick with humidity and electric with the promise of a new world to conquer. Now it feels a bit thinner as we survive through the winter, but I am somehow even warmer than I was that August evening. My heart is full from these past six months, almost too heavy to carry sometimes. But it feels so much lighter watching my friends fall in love with each other. 

A few weekends ago, as my group trekked back to the buildings we call home, my friend Nina and I fell behind, trapping the snowflakes on our tongues as always while two of our favorite people kept walking, arms around each other all the way down Middle Path. Nina and I gushed at their united silhouette almost shimmering in the snowfall, snapping pictures of them as if they were our kids. It was something straight out of a network TV Christmas movie, walking just a few dozen feet in front of me.

I thought the cold in Ohio would be something like the cold I hated in California — the type of gray skies that should usually mean rain but never follow up on their promise. I dreaded snow so badly that I didn’t even dare to imagine it. Little did I know how much joy I would find in it. A few extra layers and a few loving friends was all it took for me to learn to love the winter as it comes.