I’ve never actually seen snow before. I’ve lived my entire life in the Middle East, so the seasons I’ve experienced range from summer, summer, and summer to—yes, you guessed it—summer again.

Before moving here, I didn’t even own a single sweater. Gloves and boots always just seemed like a fantasy under the unforgiving boiling sun. Layers? Who does that?

When UTM students around me learn about my little secret, it becomes everyone’s personal mission to scare me away from my desire to run about like a crazy child in the snow. “Last year was the worst winter ever!”, “You’ll get so tired of the snow—it looks so icky after a while!”, “You’re so lucky you’ve never experienced Canadian winters—you should run away while you can!”, and so on.

Come on, guys, stop trying to pop my bubble. How bad can snow really be?

It finally snowed about two weeks back. To all you cynical winter veterans out there, it probably marked the beginning of your most hated season. Me? I just stood speechless and stared out my window. It wasn’t just snow—it was a beautiful, fluffy blanket of crystal white snow all over my backyard, covering every bit of the grass, and it was absolutely stunning.

I just couldn’t wrap my head around it: somehow, I went to bed and then woke up in a completely different world. In the space of a night, the entire city had been transformed into a winter fairy tale. It may be cliché, but I’ve never seen anything that can be considered as beautiful as snow in my entire life. And yes, I’ll admit it—I took a ton of pictures. I’m one of those annoying international students who felt the need to flood your Facebook news feed with my wintry photos.

This first snowfall was a glimpse into Canada’s infamous wintry weather for many new first-year students. Asma Fadhl, a life sciences student, has been enjoying every minute of winter so far and was even found outside making snowmen while most people huddled indoors. “I’m from a country where the closest thing we get to snow is ice from the freezer, so obviously I was really excited to see snow for the first time,” she told me. “Winter so far has been lovely—minus the wind. I’ll love it as long as the wind doesn’t blow me away on my way to class.”

First-year comp sci international student Maram El-Salamouny is amazed by the snow. “It’s just so pretty and it even glitters,” she said. “Snowflakes are literally the definition of beautiful and they actually look like how they’re drawn in pictures—I never expected that!”

Some are gearing up for the upcoming potential snowball fights. “I’m just waiting for the snowball fights and building snowmen—that’s what I’m going to love doing this winter,” said Reem Matar, another first-year life sciences student.

Obviously, snow isn’t all fun and games. I’m just a summer child and I have absolutely no idea of what kind of a winter I’m about to go through. I approached other first-year students who had moved to Canada a few years back to see how they’d adapted to this country’s harsh winters and what tips they could offer.

Myra Farooq, a first-year student enrolled in English, hasn’t lost her enthusiasm for winters at all. It remains her favourite season because of the snow. “Be well prepared. Don’t worry about looking weird in big jackets and hats and scarfs—make sure you dress warmly,” she recommended. “I was so excited for my first winter—even though it was really cold, the snow was absolutely magical.”

Shamama Zehra, a first-year computer science student, enjoys winter because of all the merriment. “Even the season’s typical dark colours that everyone wears cheer me up. The sales are pretty great, too,” she said. “Despite having gone through four winters here, I’m not very adept at building snowmen yet—mine look more like snowhills with carrot faces, and no necks at all.”

But Zaryaab Rauf, a first-year social sciences student, has been through several winters and isn’t as enthusiastic as everyone else. “I wouldn’t say that I like winter as much as summer,” he said. “Yes, winter makes the city look like a winter wonderland, but summer is definitely the best season.”

It’s obvious that Canadian winters are harsh, and perhaps after surviving a few of them, I too might become a winter cynic. But at this point, I’m proudly enjoying every minute of it. Although the sun has managed to melt away the remnants of our first snowfall, it’ll be back. And when it snows again, I’ll be outside building a snowman.

  • Katarina Kaneff

    The snow you want for snowmen and snow balls is that damp packing snow. You’ll get to see how many different types of snow there are!
    Another thing you may want to look into is long underwear. A lot of people wear them for winter sports or when you’re expecting to be outside for long periods of time. My favourite kind are the wool blends because the natural fiber breathes unlike some of the synthetic stuff. They also help a lot with dealing with the wind. Natural fibers are the way to go usually because you won’t end up as a sweaty mess.