Newcomers agree that Newfoundlanders know how to get through an emergency.
Almost 90 centimetres of snow was a lot for Newfoundlanders who are used to storms, but for newcomers, it was an even bigger deal.
Mélanie Fournier arrived in St. John’s in December to attend Memorial University. The 25-year-old education student from Augsburg in Germany says she underestimated the storm at first.
“I was like, ‘Why is everybody making such a fuss about it?’” she said.
Fournier lives on campus in one of the residence houses in Burton’s Pond. On Friday night, she saw a Facebook post that resident assistants had been shoveling all afternoon and were exhausted. They were asking for help. Fournier says although she was ready for sleep, she decided to go outside and help shovel instead.
Ahmed Hassanin is another new member of the community. He also read the Facebook post and didn’t hesitate to join in. The 23-year-old from Giza, Egypt, who had come to Newfoundland less than a month ago, says he didn’t mind shovelling at all, since it was a first for him.
“I hate to say this, but it was a little bit exciting to see that much snow,” he said with a sheepish smile.
Hassanin says winters in Newfoundland are quite different from what he is used to, with temperatures during the colder months still reaching 10 to 15 Celsius in Egypt. He even waited until after the storm to tell his family about it, so he wouldn’t scare them.
“They have no concept of what a snowstorm would be like. I mean, it was a very bad snowstorm, but they would imagine it being much worse,” said Hassanin.
Fournier says her family viewed the events as less tragic. Germany has barely seen any snow this winter, so the reactions were quite jealous.
“My boyfriend was like, ‘Oh man, I wish we had gotten some snow over here in Germany,’ ” Fournier said, laughing. “I mean I will always have a cool story to tell when I get back home.”
“Everyone being super nice and helping each other, that’s a good experience.”
Similar were the reactions of exchange student Laura Garcia Lopez’ family. Lopez is a 16-year-old from Burgos in Northern Spain who is attending Prince of Wales Collegiate for a year.
“Well, my mom was freaking out a little bit,” she said. “She was like, ‘Be careful with the snow!’ The rest of my family was like, ‘have fun!’”
Even though her home city is one of the coldest in Spain, and she had been warned about Newfoundland winters, Lopez says she was still surprised by the amount of snow.
The high school student says she used her time off from school to go sliding, and she even had a barbecue outside. She started to have cabin fever after a few days. Still she wouldn’t mind getting more snow, but mostly because of the community spirit it sparked.
“Everyone being super nice and helping each other, that’s a good experience.” said Lopez.
This was something all three students agreed on: How well Newfoundlanders worked together during the storm.
“I would describe Newfoundland in general as a community,” Hassanin said. “It’s a community where everyone usually tries to help people and it’s somewhat like a big family.”