Fresh Perspective | Welcoming Spring

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Staff Writer

It is a beautiful day in Oakland as the sun and 60-degree weather melt away the last few bits of snowy mush that the winter season left for us. Students leave their heavy winter coats at home as they scatter around campus to soak up the sun. Some even set up their hammocks and spike ball nets around the Cathedral lawn. Students enjoy what feels like the first day of spring after a long winter season that has left us all feeling a little dreary.

With spring break just around the corner, the seasons are changing and the cold winter months are ending. As someone who can feel their mood, appearance and mental state drastically change during winter, I am more than grateful that we are on the brink of having warmer days ahead. I checked the weather app last Monday and was shocked to see the temperature above 20 degrees. As I have gotten used to the unpredictable weather of Pittsburgh, I took advantage of this beautiful weather.

I started my day at 8 a.m to get ready for my first class. The sun was shining through my window and the birds were chirping. I stepped outside without my trusted winter parka for the first time in months, and it was like a breath of fresh air.

After my morning class, I sat outside around campus waiting for a friend to meet me, and I listened to a podcast while soaking up all the sun. After hitting the library and getting some food, we did some work outside by Soldiers and Sailors and let the sun hit our skin. The campus was buzzing with smiling students and everyone seemed to have had the same idea as us — to spend as much time outside as we can.

Once the sun starts setting earlier and the temperature drops, I can tell how the next couple of months are going to look for me mentally.

Even though I am not diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, I still feel how my mental health and appearance change during winter. I find myself getting into depressive episodes where I don’t want to leave my bed, I sleep more often than I usually do and I fall out of my routine. I often find myself being less motivated to go outside, especially when the snow and cold wind are enough to keep me inside and less motivated to do my schoolwork.

For people who love winter and everything that comes with the season, the cold and snow may be their favorite thing this time of year. But as a person who thrives in the spring and summer seasons, I tend to fall into a rut for a couple of months because of the weather.

This is normal for many people, especially college students. We have a lot on our plate between classes, extracurriculars, work and athletics. The stress we already face on a daily basis is enough to cause a couple of mental breakdowns here and there, but this combined with Pittsburgh’s miserable winters is the cherry on top of the cake that nobody really wants. With much of the spring semester under our belt, the arrival of spring and spring break is a breath of fresh air for many students, including myself.

One of the things that drew me to Pitt as a prospective student was how beautiful the campus looked in the spring. Even though I’ve visited Pitt many times over my life and have been here as a student for almost two years, nothing beats the campus in spring. During my first year, the COVID-19 pandemic kept most of us inside our dorms. But after spring hit, I was finally able to see what campus was like during the warmer months. There were weeks when my friends and I did our classes outside on the green spaces around campus while we blasted music from a speaker, and played volleyball or threw the frisbee around. It was refreshing to know that we can still be safe during a pandemic while also enjoying campus life when the weather is nice.

Even if the long winter season of Pittsburgh left us all a little down in the dumps, and it may not be completely past us yet, the few days of gorgeous weather is a sign that spring is right around the corner. Brighter days are ahead for Pitt students, including myself.

Julia Smeltzer writes primarily about mental health and college experiences. You can reach her at [email protected].