A Texan’s Guide to Surviving a Cambridge Winter

Category Student Voices

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Neurobiology
Angelica Carrillo Class of '24
Authored on December 07, 2021

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Coming from a small town in West Texas meant that there were a lot of things that I had to adjust to when I made the move across the country to Cambridge. New experiences were all around me and I was ready to take them all on headfirst, except for one: an East Coast winter.   

I won’t lie, the weather was the one thing that terrified me the most about making the move to Harvard. I was confident that in time I would find good friends and build a community on campus and that classes would be great, but as someone who is used to 100-degree days, the idea of freezing winters absolutely petrified me. I personally consider 70 degrees to be cold so I couldn’t imagine experiencing freezing temperatures and treading through several feet of snow to get to class.   

Here are a few things you need in order to be prepared for a Cambridge winter.   

1) A heavy winter coat. I vividly remember my first-year roommate looking at my peacoat and laughing when I said this was my winter coat. Please don’t make the same mistake of thinking that all coats are suitable for winter because they aren't. Around Fall it is important to start looking for a thick, well-insulated coat!  

My friends from Texas and I shopping for winter coats

As a first-year Harvard supported me with the Winter Coat Fund which allowed me to go purchase a winter coat without putting a financial strain on me. This fund is available to every student on full aid. My friends and I went to TJ Maxx in the nearby mall but with a quick Google search, I’m sure you can find other affordable options nearby!  

When in doubt ask your friends who are used to cold winters to help you! My roommate was from Chicago and was happy to take me and two other friends from Texas to pick out coats that would keep us warm and cozy.  

2) Gloves. Believe it or not the worst part of being cold is not being able to feel your fingers. Just avoid this completely and buy yourself a nice pair of well-insulated gloves or mittens! I recommend buying ones where you can still use your phone so that you don’t have to take them off every time you need to send a message. I also got these at TJ Maxx when I purchased my coat.  

Always keep them on you and carry a backup pair in your backpack just in case you are like me and always lose one glove. It doesn't take long to walk most places on campus, especially as a first-year student in the Yard, but there is nothing worse than walking from the dining hall with one glove and something to carry.  

3) Beanies or other headwear. My biggest mistake last year was not wanting to wear a beanie or something on my head because I didn’t want to mess up my hair. This was such a rookie mistake according to my roommate from Chicago.  

Now I won’t be caught outside in the winter without my beanie because it really does make a huge difference when you’re walking to and from classes.  

4) Layers: Despite becoming more accustomed to the weather, I still wear thermal leggings and shirts under my outfits for the day. I find this to be a great way to stay warm and not have to wear multiple jackets. My friends who are used to the cold never stop teasing me for this but at least I don’t mind since I’m always warm.  

I find that this works best for me, but I know that some people prefer to wear layers that they can take off easily, so they are not hot when they get inside. Decide what method of layering is best for you and stick with it!  

5) Warm Drinks and Good Friends. I have found an amazing community at Harvard that has helped Harvard feel like a home away from home. Given, it is much colder than my real home but the people are just as warm and welcoming.  

That being said, there is nothing better than having a good snowball fight and grabbing a warm drink afterwards with your friends. My friends and I love to grab a hot chocolate from L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates near Harvard Square. 

While it may be freezing, it is my favorite Harvard winter experience thus far. Just bundle up and prepare to have a great afternoon of fun in the snow.  

My friends and I in front of the John Harvard Statue after playing in the snow

All things said, from what I have experienced this and last Fall, the weather is not as terrible as you would expect it to be. It is surprisingly tolerable for short amounts of time and I’m slowly growing more accustomed to the weather.  By no means is the list above exhaustive of everything you will need to prepare for the cold, but they are the most helpful things that you might not know if you are from a warm place. Also, keep in mind the winter coat fund that Harvard provides for eligible first years to purchase winter gear!  

Although I have not yet experienced an intense snowstorm, I am confident that the weather is manageable even for a Texan like me who hates the cold, especially if you have your friends by your side.  

 

 

Angelica Carrillo Class of '24

Hi there! My name is Angelica Carrillo and I’m a sophomore in Eliot House. I’m concentrating in Neurobiology with a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights. I am also on a premedical track. I am originally from Odessa, Texas which is a small town in West Texas.

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