The Big Chill: Members of Archer’s class of 2018 acclimate to Midwest winter, record-breaking temperatures


Photo credit: Erica Dick

Snow piles up near Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Classes on many university campuses were canceled two weeks ago due to the extreme weather across the midwest.

Two weeks ago, more than 680 temperature records were broken or tied as a tremendous cold settled in over the American Midwest. In some areas, temperatures dropped below minus-50 degrees and were responsible for several deaths across the nation.

Even Midwesterners who are used to the cold were shocked when temperatures dropped to an all-time low. And for members of Archer’s class of 2018 who experienced Midwest winter for the first time, the record-breaking temperatures were a rude awakening. 

According to alumna Gracie Marx ’18, a freshman at Indiana University, Bloomington, adjusting to the extreme weather in the Midwest was “difficult.”

“In Los Angeles, I just used to throw on a sweater and be good for the day. But, in Indiana, this is definitely not the case,” Marx said “[The change in weather] definitely hit me pretty hard. One day it was 57 degrees and I was thinking ‘Oh this is not too bad’, but then I woke up the next day to 22 degrees and snow and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m not in Los Angeles anymore.’”

Alumna Erica Dick ’18, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “actually loved” the cold, but still said it posed some difficulties in college life.

“There are so many little things that you take for granted when you live in warm places,” Dick said. “It definitely makes it hard to be social and active. All of a sudden, it [became] harder to see my friends who live walking distance, I [couldn’t] go for runs outside and a lot of the roads closed. Little things like that are what make the adjustment most difficult.”

The polar vortex also prompted university and school closures around the midwest. Classes at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, were canceled from Wednesday, Jan. 30, to the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 31, while classes at Indiana University, Bloomington were just canceled Jan. 30.

“All my professors have been super considerate,” Marx said. “Even though classes were only canceled on Wednesday, my 8 a.m. class was canceled on Thursday because my teacher didn’t think it was safe for us to be walking [around] in four-degree weather.”

Dick said canceled class meant sleeping in, watching movies and getting extra work done. Drinking hot beverages and layering clothing was “necessary.”

“The wind chill was minus 47 degrees on Jan. 30. [I learned that] exposure [of the] skin for more than five minutes could lead frostbite. Layering was definitely a must,” Dick said. “But I think what was the most important was preparing myself with the right mentality. Getting a happy light, making sure I had good snacks on hand and surrounding myself with people who brightened my day were the things that really got me through.”