Richardson: The cold doesn’t scare me away

Julia Richardson, Op-Ed Contributor

I visited Northwestern right after the polar vortex. Being from Southern California, one could say it was a bit of a harsh first introduction to Chicago weather.

I remember standing in the hallway of a building that I now know to be Fisk Hall during the Medill tour and being introduced to Dean Charles Whitaker by my tour guide. He greeted us warmly and then asked where we were from.

I said, “Southern California,” to which he replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I knew that these reactions were warranted, given the fact that I was coming to one of the coldest parts of the country the day after the polar vortex. I remember laughing at that moment because then, it really did seem like a joke. I knew that if I somehow ended up at Northwestern, the weather would be a large adjustment, but I wasn’t thinking too hard about it.

But now, it’s a different story.

Months have passed since the polar vortex and even now, when I tell this story, I get asked why I still wanted to come here.

It usually went something like this: “So, have you chosen a college yet?” “Yeah! I’m going to Northwestern!” “Oh, where is that again?” “Chicago!” “You know it’s cold there, right?”

Every so often I would wonder if the cold was actually a deal-breaker and the only thing I could ever associate with my experience with Northwestern.

Of course, a lot of these exchanges were all in good humor, but it always surprised me why people thought I could base a decision as big as going to college on a single factor.

Why should the weather be a deal-breaker if I love the school I’m going to? Everyone seems to assume that people who live in California should want to stay there.

There is this assumption that if you’ve grown up in a consistent environment, you would never want to leave it. The thought is that people who live somewhere comfortable should be content to stay there. But what they do not realize is that these people can benefit from the change, and it helps to make them more well rounded. I think change is good and that it is essential for us to grow.

While the endless warm days were surely something I took for granted, I’ll admit they also came with their problems. While the 70-degree days in the winter are a blessing (there have been multiple Christmas days on which I remember wearing shorts and a tank top because it felt like summer), 100+ degree days are not always the best things ever. The temperatures would often cross over to being uncomfortable and unpleasant, unless I was sitting in a cold pool. In my opinion, what looks like a desirable situation from the outside is not always perfect on the inside.

Two weeks at Northwestern and a rude awakening later, I am beginning to realize how much of a wake-up call this is actually going to be. I’ve heard for months that the winters here are rough, but I still don’t entirely know what to expect and I don’t think I can be fully prepared. But, I am also realizing that the change is exhilarating. I want a different experience from the one I grew up with.

While the warm weather and beach aspect of California is nice and I may be telling a different story when it’s -10 degrees here come January, I have never actually gotten to experience seasons. I’m excited for the leaves to change and to see the first snowfall.

Sure, there may be days where I don’t even set foot outside because of the cold, but even that is an experience in and of itself. I have been forced to adapt in more than one way and I am almost regularly reminded of why I chose to make the leap and come to Northwestern. Although it can be challenging becoming familiar with a new place in a short amount of time, it is not a bad skill to have. Not to mention the exposure to a whole different part of the country that I would not get otherwise.

Julia Richardson is a Medill first-year. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.