Coming to Arizona State was a crazy decision on my part. I'm from Delaware, and besides visiting campus for one day in April of 2018, this was technically my first time living on the West Coast over 2,000 miles away. I don't regret it at all, but what I do regret is not properly informing myself about the area. There are things that happen in Arizona that do not occur back home, and if I had braced myself for monsoon season or the abominable heat at night, maybe August would have gone a bit smoother.
This is what I knew about Tempe: It's hot for most of the year and it's in the valley. Wow. There are so many elements that are missed if you are from out of state and have only seen Tempe on a tour day, like me. This may seem like common sense, but there is so much to learn about each place around the world, and you can get blindsided if you don't do your research.
Did you know that it rains in the hot, dry, desert valley that is Phoenix? I sure did not. It didn't make sense or occur to me than anything, but hot, sunny weather would ever happen, but to be fair, most of the year is hot and sunny. The official dates of monsoon season are June 15 to September 20, but the peak time for this disastrous weather is mid-July to mid-August. Monsoons aren't all just rain and high winds. A few times last semester in August when I walked outside, the sky was dark, the air was visibly dusty and humid, and there was a huge wall of dust in the distance. Rain will pour down from the sky out of nowhere and bring a dust storm, thunder, and more along with it. So be safe, always check the weather, and buy a raincoat and umbrella.
Along with the crazy weather last year, I began to get very sick. In college, everyone is sick all the time, so I figured it was just something I caught from sharing a drink or being in close quarters with thousands of other people each day. I went to the ASU Health Services many times in those first couple months and no doctor could figure out the deep-rooted cause of my continuous enlarged tonsils. Finally, I was prescribed an inhaler, steroids to calm the inflammation, and a recommendation to buy myself some Claritin and a nose spray. I was a new person after a couple of days. I also noticed the importance of changing my air filter every couple of months. It turns out what I thought was mono was allergies. I had never had allergies back home and didn't give it a second thought. I took the medicine each day and felt amazing. One time I skipped the Claritin for two weeks, and like clockwork, my tonsils swelled up again, so now I take it each day to stay alive. Tempe does not have terrific air quality, so be cautious even if you don't typically have allergies, or you'll end up like me — sick, missing out on living life, and not having fun on the weekends.
Since I'm from the beach when it is hot outside people wear bikinis, shorts, and typical summer gear. When I got here, I noticed there was a different summer dress code. Besides college kids wearing shorts and minimal clothing, the adults I observed walking down the road were all wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts. I was baffled. However, I now understand it protects their skin from the harsh UV rays, even if it is 110 degrees outside. The UV rays emitted in Arizona from the sun are very intense. I didn't get rid of my chest sunburn until October when it got slightly cooler outside. I will never wear pants and long-sleeves in such intense heat, but, applying sunscreen every couple of hours isn't a bad idea.
This may make your skin crawl, but if you take any of this information to heart, remember this: The cockroach population is out of control here. Since they can survive in basically any temperature and will outlive humanity, their presence is horrifying. One night I woke up to find a huge roach on my windowsill (which spans my entire bed, mind you). Then, I lost it. To this day, I have never found it and it's probably alive with a whole new clan out there just waiting to get back into my bedroom and attack. I remember those first couple nights at ASU walking around campus for all the free events and seeing them everywhere. That's not an exaggeration. In Delaware, I hadn't seen one for years. Now it's like they were making up for all that lost time.
Basically, during my first month here, I was adapting to the new city, climate, huge lectures, and pure independence. Even though I wasn't aware of monsoon season, my newfound allergies, the intense UV rays, weird ways in which people protect their skin, and the frightening cockroach clans, I finished nine months here mostly unscathed. If I could have read some candid, first-hand information, I would have. Would I have bought an umbrella? No. But if you're reading this, you are getting the information you need to justify that pre-college purchase. Good luck, future Sun Devil, and don't forget the bug spray!