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Shivering at Columbia
Michael Foss, Alum
Columbia College 2003

Arriving at JFK in January of my first year at Columbia, just back from the winter holidays, the flight attendant announced that it was -35 degrees with the wind chill in New York. At first, I hoped that she had made a mistake, but upon going outside to the taxi stand, I realized that it really was colder outside than anything I had ever experienced. I almost turned around and got on a flight for the University of Miami, but thought that I'd stay for at least a day before abandoning Columbia for warmer climes.

Though I'm from Seattle, where the winters are relatively mild, I was used to the cold after going to boarding school north of Boston, but had never experienced cold anywhere near as intense as the cold of a New York winter. For some reason, the cold in New York is more bitter than anywhere else that I have ever been and the winds that roar down the Hudson and over Columbia in winter are brutal.

The cold continued throughout my first winter at Columbia, and to make matters worse, the hot water and steam were frequently out of service in John Jay that year. I can remember a few mornings trying to decide between a cold shower or just skipping class and getting back into bed. My warm bed often won out over calculus in a frigid classroom in Mathematics Hall. I was forced to flaunt the fire safety rules that year and purchased a space heater for my room (from the Columbia bookstore), which helped me survive that winter. Frequent trips to the West End with friends and other campus watering holes also made the winter more bearable that year. It was certainly a time to be thankful that Columbia had a small campus with everything an undergraduate needed within a few blocks.

Still, the winters in New York had their moments, and I did grow to enjoy them, from the beauty of campus under a fresh snowfall (spectacular from my room on the 13th floor of John Jay overlooking Low Plaza), to the lights on College Walk and all the excitement of the holidays in Midtown.

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