With fall officially starting Sept. 22, we are now a month into the season. We can see it in the changing foliage, the changing wardrobes, the changing items at Starbucks and even the dining halls. We can see it in the pumpkins placed around campus and all over Evanston.
Mostly, though, we hear it. No matter where we are or what time it is, we’ll hear the complaints, the sighs, the coughs, the sniffles, the shivers, the shuffling of more layers being put on. We’re already tired of phrases like “I’m so cold” and “my face burns” and the incomprehensible gasps of people who lost their voice to the inescapable flu. Even when inside, we hear the sound of relief as people walking in appreciate the shelter.
You tell us international students that this is fall. Is something being lost in translation? Even when we translate “fall” to “autumn,” we remain in shock at what we’re experiencing. With temperatures at the 40s and 30s in the single digits and even reaching zero, we’re wondering — if this is just fall, what does winter have in store for us?
Not to say they didn’t warn us. The reaction was always the same when we told people that of all the places in the world, of all the places in the United States, we chose Chicago. (You think it’s hard to explain to Americans that Northwestern isn’t in Boston? Try explaining where it is to someone outside the country. Evanston is often left unmentioned in the explanation.) “But it’s so cold in Chicago. You’re going to freeze.”
Still, we left the comfort of our high school accommodations. Northwestern is a great school, we said to ourselves in what was becoming a mantra, and it would all be worth it. At first, that seemed to be true. The beautiful September weather, the blue skies and the wonder of the Lakefill reassured us. But now, when just walking from Elder to Tech is a journey we need to brace ourselves for, we’re thinking — maybe we really should have just gone to California. Florida. Texas. Anywhere, but here.
Those of us from places like Singapore, where winter simply does not exist, are kicking ourselves for having lost all sense of judgment and coming over here. Even those of us who thought we could handle the cold because we could walk around in a T-shirt in 41-degree 5-degree weather elsewhere are finding use for that North Face Mom forced us to buy. They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. A Winter Quarter study abroad is sounding really good right about now.
When we call home, half of us mention that we might die of pneumonia just to receive an “I told you so.” The other half of us refuses to yield and makes sure to move the phone away to mute the coughs. Unless you happen to be Canadian, this probably sounds very familiar if you’re an international student. If you hail from a place like Miami, I’m sure it does too.
For now, we’re making lists for all the pros of choosing Northwestern. Even though we’re at about 10 items, we’re not sure if they have quite outweighed the very tangible con. We’re trying to distract ourselves with the leaves (those on the ground, that is, because it hurts to look up), pretty boots and scarves, pumpkin-flavored everything and the search for good Halloween costumes. If this blog inexplicably disappears by late November, though, you can safely assume that I’ve either transferred or frozen to death.
— Sofia Rada