My First Winter in Vermont: Dispatches from a New Medical Student

uvmmedicine blogger Allison Tzeng '22
uvmmedicine blogger Allison Tzeng ’22

From the sunny confines of Northern California, Vermont seemed like some idyllic, pastoral land, not unlike a setting you may find in Anne of Green Gables. It was a far and distant state—almost entirely foreign—in my eyes, having lived as a native West Coaster my entire life.

The one and only time I had visited Vermont was for the interview, a brief two-day excursion. But something about my experience in that short amount of time rang true within me, and a certain something about the campus told me that it was the one. And so, to the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine I came, with two suitcases, a boyfriend, and a cat in tow.

Quite quickly, one of the things I had to learn was to adjust what I considered “cold,” and what is not worthy of being deemed as such. In northern California, the coldest the temperature ever dropped was a toasty 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Here in Vermont, I’ve experienced temperatures plunging to the single digits, when the cold bit at my face, and each breath I took came in sharp, painful gusts. By listening closely to the altruistic advice of classmates and colleagues, I learned to buy winter tires for my Subaru (an iconic Vermont car, I was told), and to purchase a warm pair of boots to accompany my feather-down coat. I quickly learned all the indoor passageways of the school to avoid stepping outside in the biting wind and took note of the trending clothing brands here (Patagonia and L.L. Bean instead of the more temperate Brandy Melville I knew).

I slowly became more accustomed to life in quaint Burlington. There is a certain charm to the tiny city as a blanket of snow shrouds the streets and as Christmas lights twinkle merrily among the pristine white expanse—my first time experiencing a white Christmas. To keep the cold at bay, my friends and I sign up for hot yoga sessions in one of the numerous yoga studios around town. We hole ourselves up in the warm confines of the brand new Larner classrooms to study, or else we choose an apartment to all pile up inside to sip hot chocolate and watch movies upon finishing our exams. On weekends with no studying to be had, we cross the border into Canada and explore the cobbled streets of Old Montreal.

Though I sometimes find myself wistfully reminiscing about my sunny days back in the Bay Area, I also find my first months at the Larner College of Medicine to be an exciting experience in which I gained new friendships, new life experiences, and a copious amount of medical knowledge. I found classes to be engaging, and our instructors to be more than happy to provide additional help and resources. And I constantly find myself marveling at the vast expanse of forests, mountains, creeks, and rivers; the possibilities for hiking, snowboarding, or mountain-climbing are endless in this state.

As I settle into the warmth and comfort of my blankets for the long winter ahead, a cup of hot chocolate in hand and candles flickering within my living room, I watch the snowflakes dance across the frozen expanse outside.

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