What puzzled my Indian friends and family the most when I decided to go to school in Iowa wasn’t how I was going to survive outside the buzzing metropolis of Mumbai, but how on earth I intended to deal with the severe change in weather — from sunny and 32 degrees Celsius (that’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round to the blistering cold of the — what can seem to be — never-ending Iowa winter. My take on this wasn’t so much, “What am I going to do in the cold?” but, “Oh sweet! Four seasons!”
The end of summer (August and September) in Grinnell means chilling out at bonfires on Friday nights, and discovering that marshmallows can potentially explode if you don’t take them out of the fire quickly enough. At the Iowa State Fair (the fairest of all fairs, they say), you can find 40 different food items on a stick and possibly fall into a sugar-induced coma after a couple hours sampling goodies. This first month and a half at Grinnell is also the perfect time to make Dari Barn ice cream runs: my personal favorite is the grasshopper with chocolate chip cookie dough toppings.
Fall is my second favorite season of the year, largely because the changing colors outside are beautiful. As a wonderful stress-relieving fall study break, I collect giant piles of dried-up leaves with my friends and take turns jumping into them. We yell curses at our piles of homework that refused to be flattened, unlike the leaves beneath us. Autumn has also brought us some great stargazing nights with heart-to-heart conversations and snuggles in the cornfields. It’s also around this time of year when the first big student-led theatre and music performances are staged.
The dreaded winter brings snow (and lots of it), but inspires Grinnellians to let loose their creativity. In the midst of building an architecturally sound — and fairly awesome — snow fort following the very first snowfall of the season, my friends and I noticed three Grinnellians some 30 feet away from us building something of their own. Upon closer inspection, we discovered a five-foot-tall Easter Island head, carved out of the plowed pile of snow off the dining hall parking lot.
My favorite event of the winter is the end-of-semester Grinnell firefighters’ pancake study break. The night before finals week, the Grinnell firefighters come to campus to make pancakes for stressed-out students. With about 17 different toppings to choose from (or, if you’re like me, you don’t choose at all — just pile them on), you can’t help but feel deliciously warm and content.
As spring sets in, many choose to study outdoors — be it lying on the grass on South Campus, reclining against an open window on the North Campus loggias, or happily perched in a tree. Springtime in India — well, as springlike as it gets — is also when we celebrate the festival of colors, Holi, which we celebrate here too (by popular demand). Imagine an afternoon of running around throwing colored powder on your friends, ducking away from Grinnellians armed with water-guns, and hoping you don’t get thrown in the paddle pool.
So now I know how to respond when people raise an eyebrow when I say I go to school in Iowa. As a wise and weathered second-year student at Grinnell, I can tell them no, we don’t actually freeze to death, and yes, Iowa really is that awesome.
Sunanda Vaidheesh ’12 is undeclared and from Mumbai, India.