How to Survive a Rochester Winter, from a Southerner

Whenever I tell people back home in Virginia that I go to the University of Rochester, their first response is always, “Wow, isn’t it cold up there?” The answer is yes. It’s cold, it snows all the time, and the wind can be brutal on the walk to class. But there are ways to make it bearable. Here’s my top three tips for surviving a Rochester winter when you’re used to the weather below the Mason-Dixon Line.


1. You need a coat

I don’t mean just any coat. It snows pretty often in Rochester, so it needs to be waterproof if you don’t want to be wet and freezing. I wasn’t kidding about the wind, either. If your coat doesn’t stand up to a strong breeze, you will be cold and it will not be fun. I opt for a large parka that is thick and waterproof, so I only need one coat for the whole season. Some people also prefer to layer fluffy down coats with another waterproof jacket to maximize coziness. Ask any Rochester student: a good coat is essential.

2. Tread lightly

It’s cold and it snows, so that means it’s also icy. Most of the time, the University clears the sidewalks within a few hours of any snowfall. However, sometimes it’s 2 am and you need to walk back from the library in the middle of a snowstorm. Any pair of shoes that you wear in the snow needs a rough base so you won’t slip as easily. Ice is hard to see, especially at night, so always walk carefully and watch where you’re stepping. The last thing you need after an eight-hour study session is a face full of snow. You’ll see signs around campus that recommend you “walk like a penguin,” meaning you keep your weight over your feet in a waddling fashion so your feet don’t go slipping out from under you.

3. Go inside

So maybe it was colder than you thought. You’re walking to class, wistfully dreaming about your warm dorm room. The most basic and most helpful advice I can give is to just go inside. Almost all of the academic buildings are connected by heated tunnels, so you often won’t have to go outside to get from class to class. There aren’t any tunnels to the dorm buildings, but they’re not far. And once you’re inside, you can go to your heated room and huddle under a blanket. Not every dorm building has air conditioning, but they all have heating.


At first, the cold was a shock to me, but as I’ve learned how to live with it, I’ve also learned to love it. The snow-covered campus is beautiful, and the cold air is refreshing. The only thing I don’t like about winter in Rochester is finals season. But after being here for a few winters, the cold is now just another thing on the list of why I love Rochester. No matter what weather you’re coming from, I promise that you can make it through.

About the author

Nicole Sammartino

Hi! I am a member of the class of 2020 majoring in mathematics, and a Take Five Scholar in the class of 2021. I'm originally from Fairfax, Virginia and I love the cold Rochester weather! On campus, I'm a member of the Music Interest Floor, Pep Band, and Wind Symphony, and I'm the President of No Jackets Required. When I'm not in class, you can find me in rehearsal with my trumpet.

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