MSU helps international students adjust to cold

When white flurries fell upon East Lansing earlier this week, most Michiganians knew it was just the beginning.

Last Monday marked the first snowfall of a winter season of blizzards, wind chill, icy roads, snowmen and pristine frosted trees. But for graduate student Mark Chung Kwan Fan, who is from the tropical island of Mauritius, there is no getting used to this sort of weather.

On Thursday afternoon, Chung Kwan Fan and about 25 other international scholars filled a room in the International Center to learn about how to cope with the unpredictable weather at a session hosted by the Office of International Students and Scholars, or OISS.

The seminar was hosted in hopes to educate international students about how to “physically and emotionally prepare” for the struggles of a Michigan winter.

The event was coordinated by Amber Cordell, an international student adviser in OISS, as part of the Life in the U.S. series, which takes place about once a month.

Cordell said this is a session that is dear to her, as she is from the South and has had trouble adjusting to the severe Michigan winters.

“When I first moved from Kansas City all the way up here, (it was) learning how to dress, how to drive … and how to stay emotionally and psychologically healthy with the darkness,” Cordell said. “It really scares me, and I thought, ‘Wow, if this is so hard for me, how might it feel to be from a tropical country or a place where they never get snow?’”

Bonnie Wheeler, a counselor at the MSU Counseling Center, led the session and stressed the importance of staying active, getting enough sleep, bundling up, driving safely on slippery roads and defrosting a windshield, among other things.

Students from countries, such as Indonesia, China, Spain and Mauritius, filled the room to learn about winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing — ways to stay active when it gets a bit cold.

Chung Kwan Fan said he tries to stay active during the winter by visiting the intramural sports facilities and has enjoyed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the past. He said it is emotionally stressful when he gets up and comes home from work or school — both without sunlight.

“We went snowshoeing in a cornfield … and it was beautiful how everything was white and the sky was blue; I just really enjoyed that,” Chung Kwan Fan said. “For me, usually in the winter I go in and out as fast as I can, but when I was snowshoeing, it was pleasurable to spend time outside and not rush back into a building.”

Lorena Bodella, a graduate international student from southeastern Spain, said this session was very helpful because she worries about dealing with the weather conditions.

“(It’s helpful) if we get a lot of snow (and) if I have a problem getting to the right class,” Bodella said, adding the seminar was very comforting for her.

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