Smith College adds a mandatory class for first years: “How to Survive New England Winter”


Tyra Wu ‘19 Associate Editor

After multiple reports of hypothermia and a very close encounter involving a snow plow at full speed, a crosswalk and one nearly flattened student, Smith College has decided to add a mandatory class for first-year students on how to survive the New England winter. This class will teach these winter newbies about the many strange phenomena of winter. The course aims to cover topics like layering, wind chill and even includes a special lecture titled, “The Deadly Dangers of Black Ice and How to Avoid It.”

At first, Smith College administrators believed that students did not need additional education on the topic and would acclimate quickly, but feedback from bewildered students has since convinced them otherwise.

“New England winter is a unique beast,” Sarah Price ’18 said. “It’s not enough to have a winter coat and boots, you need to know the survival skills.”

Many students unfamiliar with New England weather arrive on campus severely underestimating the brutality of the winter. One student from California foolishly thought she could get through the winter wearing a lightweight fall coat, but abruptly had that delusion shattered. Another student mistook the snow salt for soy sauce.

“They never do tell you just how bad New England winter is,” Carla James ’20 said. “I mean, we had a snowstorm in March, what kind of abomination is that?”

Students have also expressed surprise at the length of winter in the New England region, where the weather is very unpredictable and the cold can last through the month of April.

“It gets to the point in the year when you feel like it should be spring, and yet here comes another snowstorm,” Ally Rigatoni ’19 said. “Plus the snow sticks around afterward so it’s half grass, half snow and all sadness.”

The class will focus on several different winter-related topics including winter skincare tips, driving tips and how to dress. There will also be a special lecture from a visiting professor from Amherst College titled, “Wintry Mix: The Weather from Hell.” The course aims to dispel common misconceptions about winter. It will be taught Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week from 9:00 to 10:20 a.m. Professors from several departments, specifically those who grew up outside of the New England region, have been invited to contribute to the course.

The culminating final project for the course will include a Bear Grylls’ style contest in which students are dropped off in a random location in the middle of winter and must find their way back to the Smith campus. Students will be graded on speed as well as endurance. Only thirty percent will receive A’s and make it back to Smith safely.

Through this class, Smith College administrators hope to alleviate the culture shock that often comes with Smithies’ first winter. Furthermore, they hope to appease concerned parents and reduce the number of questions that they get during campus visits about the do’s and don’ts of winter. By the end of this course, Smithies are guaranteed to be ready to take on the harsh New England weather.