Illustration by Alisa Santikarn for Varsity

Asking for an Australian friend: what is a puffer jacket? Can looking like the Michelin Man pass as a deliberate fashion statement? Is it even possible to be simultaneously warm and fashionable? How many lamps can I switch on before I get called out for not caring about the environment?

These are questions I did not expect to be preoccupied with as I began my first year of university. And yet, here we are. Despite being aware of the UK’s reputation for constant rain, the grim reality of English weather hit me like a truck.

With great horror, I discovered the choice clubbing outfit of English girls dashing to another abysmal Wednesday Cindies: it remains, perennially, a mini skirt and tube top, regardless of the thermometer’s dive to well below zero degrees celsius. Before learning that this questionable tactic was to avoid the cloakroom fee, and that alcohol jackets are very popular and relatively warm here, I began to feel quite alone in my plight.

Was I the only student feeling the burn of this bitter winter wind? Are Cambridge students naturally nocturnal, and therefore unbothered by the ridiculously short and dark days? Was I destined to forever be the odd one out, remaining wrapped up in three layers plus coat, scarf, and beanie, only peeling off my layers in a hard-boiled-egg-esque manner once certain I could trust the relative warmth of Dangerspoons?

Following a few conversations with my corridor-mates, I realised I was not alone. My Australian background had not, in fact, made me an anomaly in this country of supposed cold climate deniers. From passing “winter blues” to seasonal affective disorder, it seems that virtually all students suffer to some extent from the shift in seasons.

Although no longer confronted with high school’s gruesome 8am starts, our late night outings, the 3am grind, and early morning rises ensuing a weekend of intense procrastination, means that we are essentially nocturnal creatures. Our access to daylight is limited, and shorter, darker days only aggravate the situation. Tasks my friends and I used to enjoy or find manageable have become near impossible. The shrill cry of my alarm clock at any other time of the day triggers instinctive feelings of dread.

When waiting until 4pm to switch on the library desk lamps started to feel like an achievement, I began to search for ways to solve my seasonal worries.


Mountain View

New year, new me doesn’t happen overnight

How best, then, to remedy a bad case of the winter blues? There are a number of relatively legitimate solutions to this issue. For momentary seasonal angst, taking vitamin D supplements, exercising regularly, and getting as much natural sunlight as possible by increasing time spent outside or sitting next to windows while working can be helpful. If you think you may genuinely be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, get in touch with your college welfare officers or your college nurse; you might be encouraged to consider light therapy or even Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

My own methods to combat what I have identified as a simultaneous case of winter and week five blues are more light-hearted and questionably effective. They involve: amassing a tragically big collection of lamps in my room, makeshift corridor-bowling sessions with friends (my current preferred method of exercise when I haven’t the time or motivation to hit the gym), industrial-size jars of vegemite (not for everyone, I’ll admit), and a ridiculous amount of Uniqlo heat-tech thermals. If all else fails, try moving to Girton. I hear it’s warmer up there.

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