Entering my third winter at Andover, I know just how easily this term can break you. In my first year at Andover, I foolishly ignored what I considered to be hyperbolic pessimism about this coldest of terms. Fall Term had promised a fresh start, and three months of freedom would wait just beyond spring’s finish line. But Winter Term was—and still is—hard.

Winter promises bitterly cold winds, icy paths, inflexibly packed syllabi and an overflowing Isham. Mountains of snow mirror mountains of homework, and grim skies reflect even grimmer spirits. The first few snowfalls bring joy, but their brilliant whiteness soon turns into a gray slush and causes our beautiful campus to resemble 19th century London’s smog-shrouded streets. I promise you, this term will make you feel like Oliver Twist—“please sir, I want some more” time to work on this essay because I have a lab due and three tests tomorrow and the flu...

Yet, despite it being cruel, unforgiving and dark—not unlike Mordor or Chemistry 580—Winter Break also happens to be my favorite term.

Winter Term can make you. Though the desolate detainees of Isham plead in vain for their one phone call, and the walk from Bulfinch to Graves, once merely an annoyance, is now a constant peril, there is hope. With significantly fewer distractions at hand—no grass on the Great Lawn to bask in nor sun-soaked paths to stroll—it is easier to turn to our books with a hot cup of coffee.

For me, this term is a break from the busy social obligations of the fall and spring and the distractions that accompany the beginning and end of the school year. During my Junior year, I gave in to the pervasive pessimism and stigma of Winter Term, and my grades suffered for it. Lower year, I tried to not get mired in the despondent atmosphere. As my Upper Winter begins, I know I must capitalize on this unique opportunity where the phrase “just a few more weeks” is true for the duration of the term. We should use the rigors this term presents to supplement our studies. It passes by before we know it. We can either surrender to the term’s harsh doldrums or embrace the rigidity and brevity of our winter, and use it to power through our never-ending assignments. Choosing the latter makes all the difference.

With the recent schedule change, this is our very last short Winter Term. Relish it. Brevity makes it strangely invigorating. We are students at a highly competitive school, and as a group we are not likely to back down from a challenge. And that is exactly what Winter Term is. None of the warm, pretty scenery of Fall Term. No one is giving us lemons and telling us to make the sweet lemonade of Spring Term. But the charm is in the challenge. We are placed at the foot of Mount Everest and told to climb—climb as fast as we possibly can—in order to reach the top to see the incredible view below. The challenge is to keep from slipping and falling on the steps of Sam Phil—it’s embarrassing and it hurts. A lot.

Leah Shrestinian is a three-year Upper from Andover, MA.