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Got a Room? Will Work Out!

people running marathons and a person watching Netflix

We’ve all been there before. You’re cuddled up in bed at 3 in the afternoon, already wearing PJ pants and well into yet another Netflix marathon. The snow is falling hard outside, making it difficult to even leave your room. An open bag of pretzels leans up against an empty jar of Nutella. As the credits roll, your finger hovers over the “Next Episode” button…

Well it’s time to get moving! Though the gym may be a far trek from your room, it’s easy to stay active in one room. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your body healthy, even with a 12×12 foot room.

1. Get the Heart Rate Going!

This chart is perfect to add some cardio after sitting for so long. Luckily, none of these exercises require any weights or equipment. It’s easy to do and is a perfect alternative to running outside or on a treadmill!

cardio workout chart

2. Tone Those Muscles!

This month-long routine is perfect to tone your muscles in a smaller space. It only lists crunches, sit-ups and squats, but if you stick to it for the whole month, the results are awesome! Do this first thing in the morning or right before being to bed and you’ll be getting fitter – in the comfort of your own room.

crunches and sit-ups workout routine

3. Put in a Movie – No Really!

Another great idea on how to stay fit in a small space is simply pressing “play”. Look on YouTube or purchase a workout DVD for some heart-pumping exercises that can be done only a few feet away from your TV. It’s like having a personal trainer right there in your own home!

a woman doing yoga

Be sure to check out WSU’s Wellness Pinterest board for more ideas on how to stay happy and healthy during these dreary winter months!

–Melissa VanGrinsven

The Ultimate WSU Graduation Checklist

a checklist note

The first item on this list–don’t panic– is the most important to keep in mind.

Graduation is coming fast, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve likely woken up in a cold sweat at 2a.m. having visions of poorly formatted résumés and a mental to-do list as tall as Mount Everest. But stay calm—here is everything you need to remember, all in one place.

  • Check Your DARS
    Make sure your pie is green and you’re all set for graduation.
  • Go to the Résumé Cart
    Make sure your resume is top-notch for future employers to see. The Résumé Cart is available in Lower Level Kryzkco.
  • Apply for Graduation
    Don’t forget to apply for graduation! Keep in mind that Winona State needs 6-8 weeks to process your application.
  • Learn to Write a Good Cover Letter
    There’s lots of good advice online about cover letters, or even better, visit Career Services for tips and sample letters.
  • Find Out About Your Loans
    Most students take out at least one loan to finish school. Make sure you know when your first payment will be, and in what amount, before you graduate so you have no surprises.
  • Sign up for a Job Search Site
    Although jobs sites like Indeed and Monster will likely send you a plethora of emails each day, sometimes it’s worth finding out the types of jobs that are out there, and you can grab the chance to apply.
  • Line Up Letters of Recommendation
    Future employers are undoubtedly going to want to see letters of recommendations and a list of references. Email your boss or professors, or even better, go to their offices and chat with them in person in order to get the best recommendations you can.
  • Check Your Credit Score
    If you plan on opening a credit or buying a car, a house or any large purchase after graduation, you want to make sure your credit is where it should be to do so. Your bank might have programs that can send you a free credit report or you can always go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com for a free credit report once a year.
  • Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts
    If there’s anything, and I mean anything, on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media accounts that you wouldn’t want to print out and show a future employer, take it off your profile.
  • Visit Career Services
    Career Services can help you in a variety of ways, whether you plan on heading into the job market or you plan on heading to graduate school.
  • Buy an Interview Outfit
    Make sure your closet is stocked with at least one or two outfits that’d be appropriate for an interview. Check out the Warrior Professional Pinterest board for interview outfit tips for both guys and gals.
  • Order Your Cap and Gown
    Thankfully, we can wait on this one for a while. However, as graduation nears, make sure you hit the bookstore to purchase or rent your cap and gown.
  • Thank Your Parents/Guardians/Supporters
    Last, but most definitely not least, thank those that helped you through your college career. Whether it was financially, emotionally or academically, we’ve all surely had help these last years. Make sure you thank your parents, guardians, friends, and supporters for their encouragement.

Now that you’re thoroughly stressed out, take a deep breath and know that all of this means you SUCCEEDED in college. Your hard work is now all coming together, and the stress of the list above will be worth it when you walk across that stage.

–Leah Dobihal

A Student’s Guide Sustainable Frugality

dollar sign and eath

Doing good for the environment doesn’t have empty your wallet.

While I’m not one who lives paycheck to paycheck, I know the value of living frugally. I budget carefully and think through my purchases. Sometimes though, it seems like buying eco-friendly products and living green are too expensive for a college student’s budget. For instance, there’s no way I could afford to drive a hybrid car or put solar panels on my apartment roof. But there are ways to have the best of both worlds: this is a student’s guide to sustainable frugality, saving you money and the environment too.

1. Using a Glass Water Bottle Instead of Buying Plastic

The average 24 pack of your basic, glorified tap water is around $3. Let’s say that you go through one of these packs each month. In a year you will spend $36 simply for the convenience of water in plastic bottles. This isn’t too bad for your bank account, but it is bad for the environment because you alone have added 288 plastic bottles to landfills in a single year. Think about how many plastic bottles would be wasted if all the students at WSU, let alone the entire US population went through a 24 pack of water a month! Alternatively, you can get a glass water bottle for about $12 at Target. After four months of reusing the glass water bottle, the bottle has paid for itself and now you are saving $24 a year, plus there is zero plastic waste.

2. Make Your Own Cleaning Products with Natural Ingredients

When you want something really clean, your first instinct is probably to reach for the product with disinfecting chemicals cooked up in labs. But in fact, Mother Nature already perfected two powerful cleaning solutions: white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Mix either one with water (on a 50/50 ratio) or use hydrogen peroxide on its own, and you have a natural all-purpose cleaner for counter-tops, glass surfaces, carpets and even your toilet bowl. You can get 128oz of white vinegar for $3 and 32oz of hydrogen peroxide for just $1 at the grocery or drugstore. Let’s compare that to spending $2 on a 24oz bottle toilet bowl cleaner and $3 for a 26oz bottle of counter-top disinfectant. On the surface, it doesn’t look like much of a difference, but the savings are apparent when you drill down to price per ounce. At $2, the commercial toilet bowl cleaner comes out to $0.08/oz and the commercial disinfectant at $3 cost about $0.12/oz. The vinegar costs $0.02/oz while the hydrogen peroxide comes out to $0.03/oz. The commercial products are 4 times as expensive as the natural ones! Remember, too, that you have to dilute the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide with water so your purchases will go even further. Over a year, you will spend a bit less on cleaning products by making your own natural recipes, but the real savings come from avoiding harsh chemicals that can actually make you sick even while your house is spotless.

3. Switch Incandescent Bulbs Out for CFL Bulbs

This is a well-known energy saving tip but when you see the sticker price at the store, you might think otherwise. It’s true that you have to spend some money upfront to purchase CFL lightbulbs but you will save energy and money overall. Let me take you through the math. At Target, you can get two GE 60-Watt Incandescent Soft White Light Bulb for $2.50 while two GE 60-Watt CFL Soft White Light Bulbs will cost $8.79. Say you need 10 light bulbs for your entire apartment, so your total bill would be $12.50 for incandescent bulbs and $43.95 for CFL bulbs. That’s a big price difference! But you can see the savings already when you look at how long the bulbs will last. GE claims that the CFL bulbs will last 13.7 years while the incandescent bulbs will only make it 1.4 years. With the cost of replacement, you would end up spending $9/year on incandescent bulbs, but only $3/year on CFLs because they last so much longer. That is a yearly savings of $6. Now let’s factor in energy usage. The average Minnesotan uses 793 kilowatt hours (kWh) each month and the average cost for residential electricity in Winona is $0.11/kWh (http://www.electricitylocal.com/states/minnesota/winona/). At that rate, your average monthly electricity bill is about $87. Now, each incandescent bulb uses 60 watts, and if you used one bulb for 10 hours a day, that one bulb would use 0.6kWh. At ten bulbs for 10hrs/day, you would use 6kWh each day. Using 10 incandescent bulbs for 10 hours a day for 30 days would equate to 180 kWh/ month. The total cost for all that energy is $19.8/month. Meanwhile, each CFL bulb uses a mere 15 watts, so 1 bulb for 10 hrs/day would use .15 kWh. At 10 bulbs for 10hrs/day, the energy consumed would amount to 1.5kWh, and at 10 bulbs for 10 hrs/day for 30 days the total would be 45 kWh/month. The total cost is just $4.95/month. That is a savings of $15 each month—your $90 bill is now $75. In a year, you’ll save $180. As you can see, the savings add up quickly!

4. Eat Seasonal and Local Foods

It’s the dead of winter and we’re all longing for spring to arrive. While at the grocery store you might reach out for a nectarine or some grapes just to remember that there is warmth world. But hold up—those warm-weather fruits clearly aren’t in season here in Minnesota. No, they had a long journey to your local Hy-vee from California, Mexico or maybe even Chile, an expense you’ll see at the register when you pay $3-4 per pound for those nectarines and grapes. Even though eating fresh produce is healthy for you, eating produce when it’s in season helps the environment by lowering emissions produced by shipping foods thousands of miles and saves you money too. Not to mention that that oranges, strawberries and peppers taste better when you get them in season. Eating local produce is even better because again there are reduced shipping costs—both monetary and environmental—and you keep your dollars in the local economy. Supporting local farmers at the Winona Farmers Market is an important way to build community, which in turn supports your life as well because all businesses thrive when people have money to spend.

5. Cut Down on Food Waste

Speaking of food, let’s talk about how much money you lose by wasting food. In the U.S, 40% of the food produced gets thrown away each year at every stage of production from insect damage to commercial “beauty standards” for produce to spoilage in your fridge. All this wasted food costs Americans $43,052,480,000. That is a huge number to wrap your mind around, but think about it this way. If the average American family of four spends roughly $1,252 per month on groceries, as a single college student you might spend about $300 at the most. If you threw out 40% of the food you purchased, you would basically toss $120 in the trash—that’s some serious cash! A big reason people throw away food is because it spoils before they can use it. Here are few apps that can help you help you eliminate your own food waste and save money:

  • Green Egg Shopper lets you track your food purchases by how soon they will spoil and then alerts you when foods are almost expired
  • Love Food, Hate Waste provides portion planners and helps find recipes for the ingredients you have in your cupboards
  • 222 Million Tons helps you shop smarter by giving you templates for grocery lists based on how many people you’re shopping for and what they like

Even if food isn’t actually spoiled, most people will still toss it if the expiration date has passed. While expiration dates have good intentions to reduce food-borne illnesses, the fact is that any bad bacteria is already present regardless of the date printed on the package. Expiration dates are really more of guidelines for grocery store shelf-stockers—for you, the consumer, most foods are still perfectly good to eat even if the expiration date has passed.

–Elizabeth Meinders

The MBLGTA College Conference and A New Normal

logo for the 2015 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference

MLBCTACC is a mouthful of an acronym, but it is also a life changing experience!

I’ve done a lot in my journey toward being the best social justice activist I can be and I strive to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of their identity. This past weekend, this journey took me once again with Full Spectrum: Winona State University’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance as we ventured to Normal, Illinois for yet another year at The Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC).

This year, the conference was titled “Narrating a New Normal.” Throughout the weekend attendees went to a variety of workshops, keynote speakers and networking events to expand their knowledge, professional circles and viewpoints on many issues surrounding the LGBTQIA community from intersectionalities (referring to social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that overlap for an individual or group and can lead to interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage) to acceptance in the dominant culture. There was also a discussion about how to navigate the workplace as a LGBTQIA person or as someone who stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community. If you are interested in learning more about the LGBTQIA community and their issues, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is an excellent resource that is fun and engaging without being preachy.

The weekend started on Friday evening with a welcome and keynote speaker who was none other than Laverne Cox, a black transgender woman, whom you probably recognize from her role on the Netflix Original series, Orange is the New Black. She spoke about her experiences growing up and how they shaped the women she is today. Being able to see a person who continues to inspire me so much in my work speak was a life-changing experience.

Other speakers I got to see throughout the weekend included the self-identified “deliciously disabled” Andrew Morrison-Gurza, a Disability Awareness Consultant who works to highlight the lived experiences of people with disabilities to show that it is a universal experience that we should all embrace, and J Mase III, a black/trans/queer spoken word poet and educator, as well as many other people who work toward improving the world for all people no matter their differences. Each brought something to the conference and lent their expertise and stories to help those of us in attendance better understand intersectionality and the lives that are different from our own.

Trying to summarize everything I learned this past weekend is near impossible. So I’ve decided to pull together some of the main points:

  • You can’t talk about one marginalized group without talking about the others. Intersectionalities are important to address, because only together do they give you a picture of a person’s identity and therefore a picture of the lived experiences of those individuals.
  • To those who like to refer to themselves as “allies” – know that you can’t just be present at the protest. “Ally” isn’t a label you hang around yourself; it’s a verb, as in “I am being an ally”. Being an ally means actually working towards equality for all people, and it’s is something that you have to constantly be doing as you stand in solidarity with minority groups.
  • Education is the key to change – and we should always be open to that education.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. As social justice advocates, we aren’t always going to know everything and we are definitely going to make mistakes. The way to deal with those mistakes is to be open to being corrected!

These points merely scratch the surface of what my second MBLGTACC taught me and the experiences and memories it left me with. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it feels to learn so much and be surrounded by people who genuinely want the world to be a better place. Imagine if everyone took the time to get active and take a stance against structural and social inequalities in our society – the positive impact it would have would be absolutely incredible.

If you would like to hear more about my experiences at MBLGTACC or get involved with Full Spectrum, please contact me! My email is GBowling09@winona.edu.

–Garrett Bowling

In the Aftermath of Resident Assistant Decision Day

Banner that says "You got what it takes"

Just remember that no matter what category you are in, you can achieve such great things in the future!

The time has come and gone: Resident Assistant Decision Day is over. For some it was a very joyous event, but for others it may not have been what they expected. As someone who has been through this exact same process, I have a message for you whether you got the RA job or not.

For those who got RA positions…

Congratulations! You are about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime! Being a Resident Assistant is one of the most rewarding jobs on campus in my opinion because you are in a role to impact future residents’ college careers. You have to realize that you are now a campus leader and your residents will be looking to you for help, information and friendship next year and you are fully capable of all of this.

Tips:

  • Get cracking on ideas! Start thinking of events, door decs, and bulletin boards that you can do next year!
  • Get in contact with your new staff, especially the returning RAs, for helpful advice.
  • Have fun & welcome aboard the res life ship

For those who got alternate positions…

Do NOT let this get you down! There is no such thing as being “JUST” an alternate, you have a very good chance of getting a position in the next year. You have to keep your chin up and be proud that you made it that far, you put yourself out there and made it up there. You’re at the final steps to becoming an RA just keep telling yourself that!

Tips:

  • Start thinking of ideas in case you get a position next year!
  • Talk to your Hall Director and ask what you can do to get more involved while waiting for a position.
  • BE INVOLVED in the Resident Assistant 1 class and show that you are willing to work just as hard as students with positions.

For those who did not receive a position…

You can’t give up! The RA process is a very competitive process and you tried your best! As a freshmen I did not receive an RA position.  Instead of getting discouraged, I met with my Hall Director and asked what I could do to improve, got more involved my sophomore year of college and now I am an RA. The key is not to give up, you are capable of this position and as long as you try your best and go at it again, anything is possible!

Tips:

  • Meet with your Hall Director and see what you could do to better your chances next year, be open to any suggestions.
  • Get more involved on campus next year, take a good look at getting involved in Hall Council.
  • BE POSITIVE! You are still able to try again and improve on your results now that you know what to do!

–Emily McCaleb

The Reward of Abandoning Your Comfort Zone: Dancescape 2015 Edition

photo composite of two dance productions

This in an overlap of the two final images in the piece “Ode to Swimme” choreographed by Jacqueline Paulsen. Photo courtesy of Doug Sundin.

 

Upon entering Winona State University as a freshman two and a half years ago, I never suspected that I might get involved with the Theater and Dance department. Actually, I never thought I’d be in a dance performance period (unless you count the one I did in third grade with the cute yellow tutu). But here I am, post-Dancescape after nearly six months of sweaty rehearsals and the remnants of last night’s stage makeup still under my eyes.

Although I have played guitar and sang for people many times without getting nervous, I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous on opening night. But as the first three notes of the song “Spacedrum” went off and the hot lights went up, all the nerves faded. It was just my fellow dancers, the choreography and me. I was in the piece “Mindswarm,” choreographed by WSU Senior Pedro Lander, and “Ode to Swimme,” choreographed by faculty Jacqueline MarkevitchPaulsen.

dancers caught in motion

The piece “Mindswarm” was about being unable to silence all the voices in your head. Photo Credit: Pedro Lander

 

I was also really nervous to show my friends and family what I’d been working on for the past six months. Since I haven’t been a long-term dancer, they didn’t know what to expect. Both the pieces I was in were very modern and nontraditional, but it seemed all my friends and family loved it.

To say that Dancescape was just a rewarding experience for me would be a bit of an understatement. Not only did I meet some of the most kind and welcoming people in our Dance department, but the studio also became a safe space for me where I could work out personal issues, anger or sadness through movement. I’ve heard of the healing powers of dance before but sheesh—I had no idea how effective it could be.

Working with my fellow dancers was an inspiring experience. There’s just something about looking into my friend’s eyes as we dance together that makes us feel like a true team, devoted to the piece and devoted to each other. A lot of the choreography was shaped collaboratively between choreographer and cast, so it was exciting to be a part of the whole creative process.

Over the past four days, I’ve heard the same review from everyone: this year was the best Dancescape they’ve ever seen. I feel so proud to be part of such a creative, collaborative and loving group of people and even more proud to be part of a show that left impressions on many.

I think over the coming months, I’ll miss the Memorial 300 studio, the walls of mirrors, the soreness of dancing on the black floor in bare feet and the way dance allows me to throw both my mind and body into something freeing and wonderful. Dancescape was a terrifyingly new experience that pushed me about ten paces out of my comfort zone—but it was so rewarding for the very same reasons.

–Kim Schneider

Valentine’s Day Isn’t Just For Lovers

a valentine's meme featuring hans solo

And you know what, that is ok too!

As Valentines Day quickly approaches, I’m sure most of us single people can’t help but dread it just a little bit. What’s the point of Valentine’s Day with no significant other to spend it with? Your plans might probably something along the lines of getting a tub of ice cream and sitting down to watch a romantic film by yourself, but I would like to share a little piece of advice that I learned awhile ago: Valentine’s Day isn’t just for the lovebirds.

Valentine’s Day is about really just about love and luckily for us, love isn’t an emotion reserved for those with significant others. Think about it: you love your parents, you love your siblings, you love your grandma, your roommates, your best friend, your dog – the list could go on and on. Valentine’s Day should be about showing all the people in your life how much you care about them.

So here’s a few thing you can do instead of watching that movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.

  • Pick up the phone and give Mom and Dad a call. I can guarantee they’ll appreciate hearing from you, even if it’s just to say hello and to let them know that you’re doing well.
  • Buy some chocolate for your best friend who may also be “significant other-less” then share it together while chatting on the couch, because no one should have to eat chocolate alone.
  • Make your roommates dinner, and yes, ordering Domino’s counts.
  • Grab that squeaky toy your dog loves and or the feather wand your cat can’t get enough of and the play with your pet all day until they’re tired and curl up next to you for a nap.
  • Most importantly. make sure you set aside a little money to so you can show some self love by indulging in the half price candy the day after.

If you surround yourself with the people who mean the world to you, and I can assure you that you won’t spend February 15 regretting the fact that you ate an entire tub of ice cream and cried for 2 hours over The Notebook. Furthermore, you should revel in the fact that you are blessed with people who love you every day of the year and not just on February 14.

So, you can either choose to be the Valentine’s Day Scrooge or sit back and realize that, yes, not having someone to go on a romantic date with may be disheartening and at times very frustrating, but there are so many other people in your life to love and they wall want it just as much as you do.

–Garrett Bowling

Creating Res Hall Romance

strings of lights around a window

While you can’t use candles in the dorms, rope lights make a pretty good substitute.

 

While there are plenty of good date night opportunities around the city of Winona, your res hall can actually be perfect for a romantic rendezvous this Valentine’s Day. Hey now, don’t look so skeptical! It’s true, and here’s how I know.

The first Valentine’s Day my boyfriend and I shared came just two months after we started dating. Not ready for an all-out celebration, we opted for a simple evening in my res hall room. He came over around 8pm and we curled up together to watch the sweet romance between Llyod Dobler and Diane Court unfold in the classic romantic comedy Say Anything. Honestly, it was just as fun as any of the more elaborate Valentine’s Day’s we’ve had because we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.

If you’re also thinking about going the route of a low-key movie night, here are a few tips for creating romance in the res halls:

1. Clean Your Room
It seems obvious, but a clean room is always more inviting than a messy space. Vacuum the floor, take out the trash, spray some air freshener— particularly if you want to make a good impression on a date who has never seen your room before. Even if your date has already seen your messy side, they’ll be sure to notice the extra effort you made to pick up your socks and make your bed.

Respectfully Relocate Your Roommate
A big part of romance is being open and emotionally vulnerable, but sharing your thoughts and feelings can be awkward if your roommate is sitting just a few feet away. So, make arrangements with your roommate to have the room to yourself for a few hours. Do this ahead of time so as not to make your roommate feel exiled from their own room. You want to wake up on 2/15 with two successful relationships, not a romantic partner at the cost of a roommate.

Nix the Overhead Lighting
Because nothing sets the mood better than the harsh glare of overhead lighting, amirite? WRONG. What you want is a softer glow from a few table laps or maybe some rope lights strung up around the room for an amorous atmosphere. Hey, a cozy dimness might be cliché, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

Pick the Right Movie
There are probably literally a million romantic movies out there so choosing the right one is important. Don’t test your date’s patience by choosing a movie that gets you feeling lovey-dovey but has them counting down until the credits roll. Also, I’d advise against The Titanic and The Notebook because, while they’re classic love stories, they’re also tear-jerkers. And, let’s be honest, no one cries as prettily in real life as people do in the movies.

Of course, these things are not necessary to falling in love—that’s just what happens when two people connect on a deeper level—but they can help make the evening special. This year, my boyfriend and I are planning a Valentine’s night-in very similar to that one our freshman year. And it’s going to be just as sweet this time around too.

–Elizabeth Meinders

Good Grief, I’m Graduating!

students at commencement ceremony

Fill out the application and you’re one step closer graduating.

I have waited for this day for four long years. The day I could fill out the graduation application because this is my final semester. In just a few months I will be saying sayonara to the student status that I’ve held for the last two decades (Wow, that’s a long time!).

Ok, so it’s not the same as actually graduating with the cap and the gown and the diploma in hand, but it’s still one step closer to that momentous day. Though I had mentally prepared and set aside some time, the application was surprisingly simple to complete. In just a few clicks, having reviewed my degree completion information and indicating the mailing address for my diploma, it was done. The whole thing took all of three minutes and then I was looking at a redirect screen with the message “Thank you for submitting your application”.

For some reason, I thought there would be more to it—perhaps because this such a big deal in my life, I expected the application to exude the same gravitas. But this was not the case. In fact, it was much more like I was announcing to WSU that I was graduating than asking for leave to do so. I guess this makes sense because as a nervous, naive freshman, I needed permission to attend the University. Now as a confident senior, I know that I’ve truly earned my degrees and I am ready to take those few steps across the stage into the next phase of my life.

While you technically have some time to apply for graduation, you have to submit the application by midterm to be eligible for provisional academic honors and get your name in the Commencement program. I advise you to get it done as soon as possible —it takes less time than ordering a cup of coffee, and who doesn’t want to see their name printed in the program?

Whenever you decide to fill out the application, don’t be fooled by its mundane appearance. It does have a special meaning to it—savor that and hold on to it through these last weeks until the big day, May 8, finally arrives.

–Elizabeth Meinders

To Choose a Major, Perchance to Dream

a college student works with small children

I thought that this could be me in 5 years, but I was so wrong!

Imagine if you will…an ordinary man– not unlike yourself– who wakes up every morning and goes to the office of the job he hates. Despite hating every minute at this job, he stays, telling himself that if he just sticks to it for 12 more years he’ll get the retirement benefits and move somewhere exotic. Although this is true, his day-to-day life is still miserable, and his work lets him down over and over again. More and more often, he contemplates quitting, but he still has ten more years to go.

This is a story true for a large sum of Americans. This could be our parents, our aunts, our uncles, our friend’s parents, sometimes even our teachers. But this will not be me and it shouldn’t be you.

Choosing the right major is vital to your post-secondary education success happiness. Luckily, there’s no big rush to declare if you’re a freshman or even a first semester sophomore. You’ve got some time to figure it out. However, if you are approaching your junior year the time to choose is coming quickly, and odds are you’re feeling anxious, confused and lost. So I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be okay.

A lot of people make picking your major out to be the end all decision that determines whether you succeed or fail in life, but in reality picking your major shouldn’t be stressful. In fact, picking your major should be easy. Because like it or not, we all know exactly what we want to be when we grow up.

I came to Winona four months ago with a passion for writing and a major in English Education/CALT. I told myself over and over being a teacher would be great. I would love being a teacher. There was no better career for me. And I believed this for about two weeks. But in the panic of studying for the MTLEs, trying to sharpen my public speaking skills and attempting to figure out what grade level I wanted to teach, I realized this was too much for me. So I went searching for help from the CAL adviser.

He was happy to make an appointment with me and when we sat down he asked me one important question: “Why do you want to teach?” I mulled the question over, desperate to impress the head of the CALT program, and proudly replied that I had a passion for writing and felt that I could really contribute to a classroom environment because of my knowledge.

He shot me down without hesitation, and I mean that in the best way possible. He told me that if I wasn’t passionate about teaching kids and willing to deal with the extra hours after work, the angry parents, the unwilling students and the bureaucratic red tape, that I should reconsider my major. Teaching is a noble job, but it’s not an easy path to take. Despite not impressing the head of the CAL department, I was relieved. He’d told me what I’d known all along. I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, I didn’t have the patience or want the time commitment. I wanted to write and only write.

I was terrified, naturally, as no freshman wants to come in and lose their major right off the bat especially with no real back up plan. I tried all the different venues of finding a new major, including:

But at the end of the day it all came back to writing. It was all I could think about and all I wanted to do, but no one can deny that’s scary. No one knows the job outlook for broad majors like that. You could be employed right out of college or you could be unemployed for more than six months. It’s a scary tossup. Or so I thought. If you’re having the same feelings towards a major you’re interested in, try going in and talking to the head of the department, because you may be surprised at what they tell you.

The professors I spoke with over in the English department as well as my orientation teacher all stressed two key messages, and I think that these are the most important things to remember while choosing a major.

1. If you do what makes you happy, you’ll never work a day in your life.
2. Anyone can get a degree, it’s how you apply it that will find you your job.

So, if you know what you love and you know what makes you happy, then that’s exactly what you should pursue. Don’t worry about what other people will think and don’t worry about what your parents or friends say: worry about what makes you happy, because that’s how you’ll truly be successful in life.

Because at the end of the day, you are the one that has to live with your decisions, not them. You have the capacity to do amazing, wonderful, powerful things with your dreams. You just need to be brave enough to follow them.

–Hannah Carmack