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East Lansing is getting cold, fast. Here’s how out-of-state students are staying warm

November 16, 2023
Photo by Abbey Ross | The State News

As an international student from the United Arab Emirates, Michigan State University finance junior Simran Raichandani had never seen snow. 

But during the fall of her first year, she walked through five inches of snow across campus in a pair of cold, soaking sneakers just to get to the bank.

“I was taking a shortcut because it was too cold,” Raichandani said, “There was snow up to my knees and everyone thought I was crazy.”

The snow wasn't the worst part, but rather its sneaky cousin: ice.

“The amount of times I slipped and fell because I didn’t know how to deal with ice was so embarrassing," Raichandani said.

She hasn’t left her dorm on an icy day without her snow boots since.

Raichandani is one of many out-of-state students who come to East Lansing every year unprepared for the harsh winter weather. Now, she knows how to stay warm, dry and on her feet in the worst of conditions.

For her, the right amount of clothing layers is the key to staying warm outside and cool indoors.

“I used to layer up a lot and then enter the buildings on campus, there would be heaters blasting and then you’re just struggling with that,” Raichandani said. “Wearing a good sweater or hoodie and your coat is good enough.”

Students who are new to Michigan’s weather should plan ahead, she said. 

“Order snow boots and make sure you have your coat on-time because Michigan weather is unpredictable,” she said. “It might snow randomly in the middle of fall.”

Raichandani said she has a love-hate relationship with Michigan’s climate; she likes that the weather changes around and displays refreshing variety, but it can be annoying to take out winter clothes and then suddenly have a warmer period.

East Lansing Moosejaw manager Collin Tarr said preparing for cold weather couldn't be more important. Very few pieces of clothing can "do everything you need them to do," he said.

Tarr has been going on backpacking trips since he was six years old, and has accumulated nearly 300 hours of field experience as a professional outdoors guide. 

“Think about how wet it is and how much the air is moving,” he said. “On a cold, crisp day (with) no breeze and a blue sky, you can walk around in a jacket, hat, gloves and jeans and you’ll be relatively fine.”

Tarr learned the consequences of being unprepared for cold weather while summiting Mount San Gorgonio in California, where even the warmest days turned "icy cold" at night. 

According to Tarr, a warm winter outfit consists of three parts for the body: a base layer like a t-shirt, a warm middle layer like a sweater or sweatshirt and a thermal winter jacket for an outer layer. If it’s rainy, snowy or windy, a fourth waterproof layer like a poncho or rain jacket can be helpful.

“If you have those core components, you’re probably good to go,” he said.

And Tarr said quality winter clothing doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Meijer offers some base layers that are around twenty dollars, he said, which can "change the game" in terms of staying warm.

Mathematics education freshman Ahmad Kohar is from Indonesia. So far, he likes Michigan's cold and fickle weather. 

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“At home, there’s lots of mountainous areas with weather like this,” Kohar said. “That makes me feel comfortable because it makes me focus on assignments.”

And Kohar’s friends helped him prepare for the cold, including one who gave him a thick jacket.

Kohar said the best way for international students to prepare for Michigan winter is to find a place where they can experience it at their home.

“For me, I needed to go to mountainous areas lots to get adapted to this kind of weather,” he said. “You can’t let the weather distract from your major and academics.”

However, he said his thoughts about Michigan may change as the more treacherous months of winter approach.

“The days will be coming (where) the weather will be much colder,” Kohar said. “I don’t know whether I can find I (prepared) for the conditions at the time.”

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