Surviving Your First Winter As an African International Student

by | May 7, 2022 | Admissions

Your first winter abroad is going to be particularly challenging.

As an African student, you are probably used to a tropical climate. In other words, you are not accustomed to extreme weather fluctuations. However, if you are planning to study abroad, you need to be prepared for harsh weather conditions. 

Continents like Europe and North America experience severe winters. In Canada, for instance, the winter season lasts for five months, beginning around November and ending around March. 

We have compiled tips that will help you brave it and continue with your studies smoothly. 

Understand Local Weather Conditions

While doing your applications, keep in mind that weather conditions are not homogenous in the countries that you are interested in. Some regions are warmer or colder than others. In the United States, for instance, the northern states (such as Michigan, Maine, and Vermont) experience harsher winters than southern states (for example Louisiana, Kentucky, and New Mexico).  

If you cannot tolerate extreme cold due to reasons such as health, it would therefore be wiser to apply to universities based in the American south instead of the American north. You can easily learn about the prevailing conditions in a given region by using weather apps such as AccuWeather. 

Purchase Essential Winter Clothing and Accessories

It is practically impossible to get through winter without the appropriate clothing and accessories. What exactly constitutes good winter clothing? Below are some winter essentials for international student: 

  • Winter jacket – This is probably the most important piece of clothing you will need to survive winter conditions. A winter jacket should be warm, waterproof, and durable. If the jacket is not waterproof, it will be hardly sufficient to shield you from the falling snow. There are many brands of winter jackets available across all price ranges. While some cost hundreds of dollars, you should be able to find an affordable one within the 50 to 100 dollars price range. 
  • Winter boots – Just like a winter jacket, your winter boots must be warm and waterproof. In addition, they should have a very good grip, otherwise you will not be able to walk on the snow without falling. This is key because falling accidents during the winter can lead to serious bodily injuries. Brands such as Sorel and Ugg have winter boots that retail for anything between 100 and 200 dollars. 
  • Winter gloves  – Because temperatures usually drop to negative levels during the winter season, you have to find a way to protect your fingers from frostbite. Warm gloves are useful when walking outdoors. In general, the best gloves need to be flexible so that you don’t have to take them off every time you need to do something with your hands. 
  • Scarves and hats – While not essential, these accessories can be useful in keeping you warm. You can easily find these at affordable prices in your local store. 
  • Moisturizers and lip balms – Because the air is normally dry during winter, it is important to keep your skin and lips moisturized.

Winter Activities

While the harsh weather can compel you to stay indoors for the entire season, there are several activities that you can get yourself involved with. Below are some examples: 

  • Ice skating– Ice skating is an activity that involves using a special set of shoes to glide over ice. The activity is very popular in countries that experience winter seasons. If you do not know how to skate, you can easily get someone to teach and practice with you. 
  • Sledding – Sledding is a winter sport that involves sitting on a specially designed sled and sliding over snow. The sport is easy to learn and provides an excellent opportunity to do something outdoors during winter. 
    • Skiing – This is another popular winter sport that you can partake in. To go skiing, you will need a pair of skis that are a bit similar to skates. 
    • Snowball fighting – Snowball fighting is a harmless game that involves forming balls of snow and throwing them at your friends. The game is quite popular, especially when the winter season is beginning. 
  • Building snowmen – Building snowmen is another fun winter activity that you can take part in. All it entails is using snow to build a figure that looks like a human being. 

These are just a few of the many winter activities that you can take part in. Remember that the winter is not all about lying indoors on your couch watching television. There is much to be done outdoors despite the cold. 

Minding Your Mental Health During Winter

If you are not careful, your mental health can take a hit during winter. After all, winter encourages isolation and there is little sunlight, and this is not good for anyone’s mental wellness. 

To keep your mental health on balance during the winter, make sure you are getting enough exercise as well as participating in some outdoor activities. In addition, you can get Vitamin D supplements to make up for the absence of nourishment from the sun. 

It is also important to get in touch with other international students and do group activities together. These may include things such as cooking meals and performing art pieces. 

Staying Safe During the Winter Season

It is important to understand basic safety precautions that you need to follow during the winter season. For example, if you plan on driving, you need to understand that roads get slippery. This means that for your own safety, you need a four-wheel drive car that will not skid in the ice. If you are not an experienced driver, you can opt to use cabs when you need to travel around. 


As mentioned before, the winter season is characterized by dry air. This means that you need to hydrate to keep your body in good health. Consume plenty of hot beverages such as coffee, tea, and lemon water. 


Winters can be a difficult time for international students who are not used to extreme weather. However, there are plenty of measures you can take to ensure that the weather does not derail your health or your studies.

Purchasing proper winter clothes, getting involved in outdoor activities, and socializing with other international students are great ways to ensure that you make the best of the winter season. 

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