Snow Days at Rollins

Adam Lipus, 2nd year Global Health student

If you decide to attend Emory and you are expecting some good old southern warmth throughout the year, think again.

Now, just to be clear here, I’m talking about Emory’s climate in a literal sense. In a metaphorical sense, you will find a great deal of warmth in the company of your classmates, professors, and staff. In fact, the #1 reason I came to Emory was the people—their passion, their humility, their talent, and the camaraderie.

But on with the topic at hand. As an ambassador, I am tasked with responding to questions from prospective students. So let’s address a couple that have just come in:

Q: Are you seriously writing a blog post about the weather right now?

A: Yes.

Q: That sounds boring, don’t you think?

A: Not necessarily!

Q: Will you turn this into a metaphor at least?

A: To some degree, yes.

It turns out that Atlanta can get cold. Like, really cold. I got an inkling of this fact when I came to Visit Emory! in March 2013 and was greeted with two blustery days in the 30s. Now, I grew up in Idaho. Don’t even try to tell me that I just can’t deal with the cold. In my hometown the only time we cancelled school was when the temperature was colder than minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and they couldn’t start the bus.

What I am talking about, though, is a matter of expectations. The first thing you need to realize, if you come here and you are not from The South, is that The South is not homogeneous. Take the weather, for example. This last week, our school and our city shut down due to snow and ice while Orlando enjoyed temperatures in the 60s and 70s six hours south of us. While people sat on Mickey Mouse’s lap or watched the Magic play the Heat or did whatever else they do in Orlando, our week as Rollins students looked like this:

Monday. Today is full of anticipation. We are hearing about this (inexplicably named) Winter Storm Pax that is barreling towards the southeastern United States. We get distracted from our homework because we keep going to weather.com to indulge in their hyperbolic headlines. We also spend ten minutes watching the Weather Channel’s online videos that have nothing to do with weather but whose titles are full of capitalized letters; the videos are about things like polar bears who become friends with somebody’s dog, and we cannot resist. Turning our attention back to the weather, we are reminded of the Snowpocalypse of two weeks ago, when the leadership of Atlanta decided to taunt the numerous forecasts predicting snow and ice to hit the city on a Tuesday at midday. Atlanta decided to keep everything open even so. Snow and ice hit the city on a Tuesday at midday. Atlanta realized it should close things now. Everybody freaked out, panicked parents hit the roads to try to pick up their kids from school, things like this (link: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/29/22492664-thousands-still-stranded-on-atlanta-highways-after-snow-catches-south-unprepared?lite) happened, and Atlanta became a national laughingstock. Back to the present: even though it’s only looking like rain this time around, the city decides to shut things down on Tuesday just in case. Emory is no exception; school is off tomorrow.

Tuesday. In what some of us affectionately refer to as the “Snoverreaction,” we all stay home from school even though it really is only raining outside, and not even that much. We scoff condescendingly at the political nature of the decision to shut the city down. Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity for us to catch up on summer practicum applications, or theses, or studying, or whatever needs to be done. We are professionals who are efficient with our time. We find ourselves doing things like shampooing that part of the carpet where we spilled something last month. Emory notifies us that campus will be closed tomorrow, too, because it really is looking like conditions will be hellish for real. Overnight we get freezing rain and snow.

Wednesday. It’s looking pretty bad outside. Nobody is on the roads. We again recognize the opportunity to catch up on work and multitask by doing chores around the house. But our schedules are all out of whack with all of these closures happening. We do not feel like ourselves today. We forget to do stuff, we feel stupid, we get nothing done. We start to panic slightly over the fact that we are inexplicably falling behind even though nothing new is happening with school. We have been inside for a long time and are beginning to go insane. Emory notifies us that school will again be closed tomorrow.

Thursday. We wake up sluggishly, get up sluggishly, and eat breakfast sluggishly, if at all. This is happening even to the morning people. All of the sudden it’s late afternoon and we do not understand what has happened to the day. We finally divulge to a couple of trusted classmates that we are feeling some mixture of panic, grogginess, and disorientation. They tell us, “Me too!” We are happy to hear about their misfortune; it helps us know that we are not alone. However, this insight does not improve our productivity. In fact, we can sort of see ourselves getting used to this new life. By the evening the snow has largely melted off, though, and we receive an email saying that Emory will be open the next day. The grown-up in us says something like, “It is for the best that we go back to school now; after all, we are paying for this opportunity with the goal of improving our skills and professionalism.” The child in us would like to have snowball fights indefinitely.

Friday. We return to our routine, although not easily. We see friends on campus that we have not seen in what feels like months. People are squinting. We remember that we enjoy leaving the house and doing things like walking, or other forms of exercise. It is Valentine’s Day, too. This matters to some of us, but not all.

So what is meaning of all of this? There are three take home messages:

  1. Regular exercise and sunshine is an important part of a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
  2. Winter-appropriate clothing DOES apply to you if you decide to attend Rollins.
  3. We are all in this together, and don’t beat yourself up during those times that you do not feel like the professional you may aspire to be.

On a personal note, this whole experience was a valuable one in preparing me for my summer practicum. I will be in Bolivia, during their winter, in a place called El Alto (roughly, “The Heights”). At over 13,000 feet, it has the highest elevation of any large municipality in the world. I will need to function when it is below freezing and there is no central heating. So:

4. See everything as an opportunity and part of the adventure.

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