Becoming winter warriors

International students learn to fight off the cold

Leaves are falling and people are wearing light jackets and carrying pumpkin spice lattes around campus, but winter is approaching soon. If you have been around before to see it, you know that a Manitoba winter is truly something. 

But imagine you’re experiencing a Manitoba winter for the first time – it would be hard to adjust to. This is the ordeal many international students have to face when they study at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). 

International Student Services (ISS), located in Sparling Hall, is the support system for international students and the place to go for those who need help preparing for winter. 

Iresha Hewa Wellalage, head coordinator of ISS, says the committee plans many events and services to help with the weather adjustment, which include workshops, trips around the city to do winter activities and free hot drinks available in the ISS student lounge where people can mix and mingle. 

“We hold a yearly workshop with Michael Bayer (an alumni of the university and a professional speaker) to come and talk about surviving the winter to the international students,” Wellalage says. “Plus we take a lot of students, not just international students, to The Forks or to cross-country ski at Windsor Park.” 

Wellalage says another major part of surviving the winter season is having proper clothing, especially for the majority of international students who have not experienced winter at all. 

“We are currently accepting donations of winter-type clothing material for our winter clothing drive, which could help many students who have only experienced tropical type weather back home,” she says. This includes used hats, mitts, scarves and just about anything winter related. 

Mariana Opudu, a Nigerian international student and science major, says she was initially unprepared with winter clothing when she arrived at the U of W earlier this year. 

“I arrived late in the school year in January during the middle of the night, freezing, with no hand gloves!” she says. 

Ethiopian international student Aleshinloye Damilola, a computer science major, is optimistic about what’s to come in the next few months. 

“At the International Student Orientation Day at the start of the year, many of them said that statistically, winter should not be that bad this year,” he says. 

Both Opudu and Damilola had similar guesses as to what the temperature would be like this year, opting for a range between -30 to -40 C. 

Environment Canada experts say winter weather in the prairies this year will be somewhat milder than normal because of a large El Nino system building over the Pacific Ocean.

Published in Volume 70, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 22, 2015)

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