From surf to snow: Student recalls her first snowfall

In this November 2012 photo, Erika Park, BHS’18, laughs as she experiences her first snowfall during a Nor’Easter. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

For most people, the first nor’easter of the season is sure to bring up all sorts of logistical dilemmas and emotions: Some love the snow, others hate it. But when the first winter storm marks the first snowfall of your life? That’s a different story.

In 2012, it was Erika Park’s story.

Park, BHS’18, is a native of sunny Southern California—the stuff of movies and songs and notions of endless summers. So, she was in for quite the culture shock when winter descended on the East Coast.

In 2012, winter came a bit earlier than usual. A nor’easter rolled up the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic region on the tail of Superstorm Sandy. The storm, which hit in early November, only dropped a few inches of snow on Boston, but in some places it exacerbated damage to structures weakened by the natural disaster.

Still, those flakes were the first Park had experienced—a moment captured by one of our photographers.

Another photo from November 2012 caught then-Bouvé freshmen Sam Sui (left), Erika Park (center), and Gurpreet Sagoo (right) laughing as Park experiences her first snowfall during a nor’easter. Photo by Brooks Canaday/Northeastern University

“It was so surreal,” Park recalled. “That was the first time in my life I saw snow coming down from the sky. I’d seen snow before, at ski resorts in other parts of California, but I’d never seen it coming down like that.”

A few years later, Park was in for another surprise—indeed, one for which even native New Englanders were caught off-guard. Two winters ago, blizzard after unrelenting blizzard buried Boston in a record amount of snow—108.6 inches.

At first, Park thought this was normal. “For the first couple days it was fun hanging out in the dorms with my friends, but then … it got a little old,” Park said with a laugh. “It’s just really not something I would have been able to experience, though, if I weren’t in Boston. It was history in the making.”

Park’s family at home almost didn’t believe her when she called to tell them about the weather.

“No one in California even knew this was happening,” she said. “They didn’t believe me until I sent them pictures. When they saw those, they were shocked.”

While Park may not have had experience holing up in a blizzard, she did have experience preparing for other natural phenomena. “You have to be prepared with water and food in all these situations,” she said. “In California, we don’t prepare for blizzards, but we prepare for earthquakes, and the basic necessities are the same: You close your shutters, you make sure you have food that won’t go bad.”

She doled out some other advice for warm-weather students this winter: “Invest in a really warm parka,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many parkas I’ve been through because they don’t always last. And be prepared with boots and lots of layers. The hardest part for me was not knowing how to dress for outside and inside classes. The answer is lots of layering.”