Winter storms have blanketed the small town of Holland, MI and freezing temperatures are held stubbornly low. How is this affecting students trying to attend college? What is the reason for this volume of snow? Will it be transforming any time soon?
For students of Hope College, it is likely relieving to hear that there will be a minor increase in temperatures in the upcoming weeks. That is not to say the snowfall will come to a halt. Laurie Chapman (’25), a Hope exchange student expressed that, “It’ll feel nicer, compared to what it has been.” She also mentioned that it will still be mid-20s, which is still below freezing. “This weather is definitely an adjustment to what I’m used to back home in the UK.” The weather in the United Kingdom typically consists of rain and an average temperature throughout their seasons. Therefore, moving to Michigan for college and adjusting to its vast changes in weather across seasons can prove to be a challenge.
Michigan is a very snowy state, which is especially clear in the Upper Peninsula, near the Great Lakes. During late fall and winter, colder air, often originating from Canada, flows over the moderately warm waters. This follows onto the production of lake-effect snow and so encourages snowfall to fall directly downwind of the lakes.
This snowfall came as quite a surprise to many residents of Holland, as there had been a low expectation of receiving snow at all this winter. This is due to how Michigan winters have slowly been getting warmer, with less snowfall, throughout the years. “There’s no doubt that the winters have gotten warmer over the last several decades. Not a surprise to anybody who’s lived up here for any length of time,” says Jim Keysor, meteorologist at Gaylord’s National Weather Service office.
Students at Hope have found the snow challenging to deal with when trying to attend classes during the week, make trips to the grocery store or make it home to see family on the weekend. Class was even canceled for a day because of how unsafe the weather situation became. Still, across the duration of the past couple of weeks, there has been little-to-no improvement, which has been challenging for staff and students just trying to go about their day-to-day life. Luckily, the staff at Hope have been ever so accommodating for those who need extra support during these tough times.
“It feels like Hope is well prepared for this sort of situation,” Bailee Dunham (’27) reports, with a sense of admiration for the hard work the staff at Hope are putting in to assist students through this climate. “[The international advisors] were offering free coats, hats, scarves and gloves, and small acts of kindness like that really go a long way in these times.”
It is especially important to remember students who come from diverse backgrounds, who may not have ever come into contact with snow before. They are unaware of the mental and physical demands that come from living in a state that is known for receiving such cold temperatures, and that is only one of the big cultural shifts they experience in moving to Michigan.
Bella White (’26) believes that “Winter is a battle.” Between the struggle to roll out of one’s warm covers in the morning to braving the wintery weather in order to attend classes, students truly have a battle to face. Due to it being the beginning of the semester, students have only just returned from their Christmas break and should be roaring with energy and motivation to go into this new year. However, with the colder weather, it has become more enticing for students to remain indoors. This inner battle takes a toll on a student’s well-being, as they struggle to remain motivated to attend classes.
During these colder times, reaching out to peers and family can be helpful in finding comfort and community. Hope has resources to help students cope with mental illness, including those that may be triggered by the winter season. CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) provides free counseling for any Hope students and is open Monday through Friday 9am-12pm and 1-5pm. Call the office (616-395-7945) during business hours for either in-person booking sessions or virtual.