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11 Tips For Surviving (and Thriving) In A Chicago Winter

Whether you’ve grown up with annual blizzards or you’re still waiting to see your first snowflake, Chicago winters can be intimidating. We’ve put together some of our best advice for how to keep your spirits up, even when the temperature drops.

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1. Layer up

The difference in temperature between the outdoors and building interiors can be pretty drastic. Wearing multiple layers (think shirt, sweater, coat, scarf, and beanie) can help keep you warmer outside *and* allow you to make it through a lecture without burning up.

PRO-TIP: This is a great way to use some of those free shirts you got during Wildcat Welcome!

2. Grab some wool socks and boots

Of all the clothing items you need, a solid pair of boots and warm set of wool socks rank among the most crucial. Feel free to reach out to peers for specific brand advice, but we (#noncorporate) suggest getting any pair of relatively waterproof boots with a decent tread on them. That said, most campus sidewalks stay salted through the winter, so slippage shouldn’t be a huge concern!

3. Don’t feel rushed to buy all your winter clothes before you arrive on campus

While fall in Evanston can be chilly once we reach November and December, the majority of deep winter weather doesn’t come until the start of the new year in Winter quarter. Feel free to stock up on winter gear whenever you want, but know that you have more time once arriving on campus to get a sense of what you might actually need to pick up. In the meantime, feel free to bust out that banana outfit you've been dying to use!

PRO-TIP: If you are a student who identifies as first-generation and/or low-income, free loaner winter coats are through Northwestern Student Enrichment Services (SES).

4. Get familiar with the shuttle schedule


It’s never NOT a good time to ride the bus, but the lovely, free on-campus transportation services become especially valuable to those looking to avoid the cold in the wintry months. Check this site for the full scoop on route schedules: the Evanston Loop, Campus Loop, and CTA #201 run the most frequent routes in Evanston, and the Frostbite comes up on especially chilly days. vroom vroom!

PRO-TIP: If you want to have an extra advantage, check out DoubleMap , an up-to-the-second shuttle tracking app that’s available on desktop and mobile devices!

5. Go ice-skating


Contrary to popular belief, winter isn’t just a time to avoid the outdoors. Ice-skating is a wonderful winter tradition that you can partake in at a variety of locations: a rink is constructed on campus at the Norris lawn every winter (with frequent free or discounted skating days), and Millennium Park in Chicago (accessible by the Chicago Express & Intercampus Shuttles!) boasts its own famous in-season ice rink.

6. Take advantage of the Norris’ winter events

Norris Student Center also hosts tons of free entertainment in the wintertime. From hot chocolate bars and free movie nights to self-stuff plush animals and mug decoration, there’s always something to do even if it's snowy out.

7. Find your sunny spot on campus

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder associated with depression and related to seasonal variations in light, and can have a real impact in the winter months. One of the best ways to minimize the impacts of SAD is to place yourself in an environment that is sunnier or brighter, such as spaces with natural light. Current students suggestions include the Music Library in Deering, the Kellogg Global Hub, the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts Lobby (affectionately known as S.S. Bienen), and the 1st and 2nd floors of Pancoe!

For more information on sunny spots, check out this link.

8. Grab coffee/tea/hot chocolate to-go from the dining halls

Every dining hall serves a variety of warm beverages year-round, but did you know that those (free! unlimited!) drinks don’t have to stay *in* the dining hall? If you bring a thermos or insulated container with you, you can get unlimited hot drinks for free #openaccessmealplan #unlimitedswipes

9. Bake something in your residential hall kitchen


Nothing combats the cold weather like some freshly baked cookies (or other baked good of choice). Every single residential building on campus has some form of communal-use kitchen, often pre-stocked with an assortment of cookware. Cooking can be a great stress relief and bonding activity!

10. Take time for yourself

Self-care is important year-round, but in the darker winter months, it's especially important to prioritize your own mental wellness and activity. Whether it's staying in and catching up on Netflix or intentionally scheduling downtime (read: dance time) with friends, taking time for your own benefit is huge in the winter.

11. Enjoy the snow!!!!

While it's certainly cold and wet, there's no denying the natural beauty of fresh snowfall. Build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or just take some selfies and enjoy the simple beauty of winter!

12. And who knows, you might even get some ~unusually warm~ weather like we have for the past two winters!

Sometimes life (and global climate change due to human fossil fuel consumption :( ) hands you a 60-degree winter. There's always a twist with Chicago/Evanston weather, but your NU sweater will keep you warm through it all!

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