What We Can Learn from Squirrels This Winter

Here at Andover, Winter Term is an infamous slog through dipping motivation and rising academic challenge. Night comes early, it’s hard to spend time outdoors, and, most tragically, squirrel sightings drop to near zero. Work ramps up even if you’re still acclimating to new teachers. Endless assignments pile up like snow over dead leaves. Our usual energy-boosts get lost like acorns under the snow. All of a sudden, no one wants to laze around on the lawn or walk downtown. Your socks are wet. That coffee addiction is finally catching up to you. But soon, the sun will linger above the horizon: we only have a month left of this term! If we want to hold out until spring, we need to consult our experts—the squirrel population—on surviving the winter months. Let’s follow our Sciuridae friends to warmer days.

Squirrels put on a layer of fat by eating as much as they can in order to stave off the cold. We can do the same. By putting on adequate clothing and eating well, you are protecting not only yourself but your whole community from your winter grouchiness. Prioritize staying warm. But at the same time, don’t let the cold stop you. Don’t let it freeze you to your bed until 8:15 a.m., keeping you from breakfast. You don’t want to add to the strain no matter how innocuous skipping breakfast seems. Study after study shows that eating breakfast will heighten your cognitive ability and attention span. It’s free grade inflation! Plus, we should eat and sleep well to keep our immune systems strong, especially during a pandemic. It’s also easy to shun sleep in favor of otherwise-scarce social time, but we need sleep in order to talk to one another without yawning every few sentences anyway. 

And let’s be honest: campus feels smaller during the winter as we huddle indoors. This isn’t an absolute downside—squirrels nest in groups during the winter, too. Nests high up in the trees often hold several hidden squirrels trying to get through the cold together. For better or for worse, winter pushes people closer. Let’s try to approach our circumstance as cozy instead of cramped. Watching a movie wrapped in blankets with dormmates is better when it’s cold outside. That hot chocolate munch hits differently when you need to defrost. The takeout you eat with your roommate tastes better when you need some comfort. Limits breed creativity; maybe you’ll find yourself wrapped up in a new project or waving to new people. 

Squirrels, being social creatures, also carefully organize their communal food supplies, storing acorns in covered pits to sustain one another during the most dire winter days. We could all benefit from similar preparedness and organization. This lull right before the home stretch is a perfect time to access free resources like the Academic Skills Center, revisit your course syllabi, reevaluate your support systems, and consolidate your remaining assignments into one to-do list. You’ll save effort in the long run, enjoying free time while the less-prepared catch up on what they’ve missed. In the blizzard of homework, we should always shovel incrementally rather than letting heaps of snow build up on our doorsteps. The more that sticks, the more packed down it all gets, the harder it is to oppose. If you’re in a vicious cycle and the snow seems to have no end, consider asking for help from a teacher or advisor! There’s no shame in being in over your head; the snow at Andover comes down hard.

It’s easy to denounce winter, but this term is what we make it. The days may be short, but that just means we have more time to gaze at the stars. Plus, the twelve-hour day is on its way. So let’s huddle together and brave the next month—if the squirrels can do it, so can we!