Well, congratulations; we’ve officially survived the first month of winter semester. And I can’t say I’m surprised to step out of my house and face the frigid, snow-covered streets of Ann Arbor each morning. It’s a gray-on-gray utopia — rare sunshine, very few blue skies and an ice-cold chill that occasionally makes you question your decision to come to school here in the first place.

Meanwhile, half your classmates are casually spending the semester abroad in Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Prague — insert any romantic European city of your liking — while we continue pushing through our classes in the great state of Michigan. And it’s a great state indeed, minus the gloomy weather and freezing temperatures.

But the constant Facebook albums and statuses that bombard my newsfeed each day make things in Ann Arbor seem a little bleak. It’s no surprise that we’re a community that lives online — constantly uploading new pictures, tweeting about the day’s adventures and blowing up our friend’s walls. But at a certain point this constant communication becomes wearing.

We all suffer from the epidemic at some point in our lives. It’s a syndrome that affects our generation at unprecedented levels. Especially considering how freely we allow Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to consume us. It’s the “fear of missing out” — a.k.a FOMO. We love our friends abroad, really we do. But the 760 pictures they jam into a single album and the continuous stream of #nofilter photographs uploaded to Instagram prove exhausting. As much as I want to “like” every photo in their album and throw myself a pity-party while stranded alone in Ann Arbor — I politely refuse.

The other night I was speaking with an exchange student from Istanbul, whining about how expensive it is to travel to Europe, when she simply asked, “But why worry about traveling across Europe when you have yet to see all the sites here in your own country?” And she’s absolutely right.

Living in Ann Arbor and experiencing Ann Arbor are not one in the same. A conscious effort needs to be made if we really want to challenge ourselves, explore the community around us, create our own adventures and immerse ourselves in the uncomfortable.

Staying sane during the long winter months is no easy task, I know that. But flocking to Rick’s in record-breaking numbers and hitting the South University bars like they’re the next best thing to Ibiza may not be the answer. Nor will we find refuge bundled up in our blankets all weekend, rolling around our apartments. While Facebook-stalking our beloved friends abroad. Instead, I challenge you to take a new approach to combat these dreary winter months.

Have you ventured to the Farmers Market in Kerrytown yet? It’s open every Saturday morning January through April, which means you can’t exactly use the weather for an excuse. What about dragging your textbooks and homework to a not-so-run-of-the-mill coffee shop — maybe Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room or Comet Coffee?

It’s easy to fall into a funk of repetition and hibernation when it seems like so many of your friends are off seeing the world oceans away, and you’re quite literally stuck in the snow at Michigan. But I dare you to do something different — to shy away from the repetitiveness we so often find ourselves in.

Last weekend, I had breakfast at Selma Cafe — an Ann Arbor-only, community-run cafe — for the first time. Needless to say, I busted straight into the kitchen and looked like a lost puppy in a crowd of regular breakfast-goers. But did I have a fabulous meal, meet new people and make the executive decision that I would have to return for round two? Yes. And this weekend I’ll be trekking to Mt. Brighton to snowboard on a large mound of garbage. Sure, it might not be the Swiss Alps, but there’s no harm in trying.

To my dearest friends abroad, I love you all. But if I happen to unsubscribe from your newsfeed and spend a drastically smaller amount of time on Facebook this semester, I promise it’s nothing personal.

Sarah Skaluba can be reached at sskaluba@umich.edu.

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