Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other subscribers

John’s Declassified Moving Survival Guide

It’s about that time of the summer! Every possible store on the planet is doing back to school shopping! All the stores glisten with new crayons, backpacks, and tissues galore! However, this time you aren’t worried about what your high school locker is going to look like this year. No, you’ve got a greater space to work with – your residence hall room!
If you’re anything like me, you want to know what you’re getting into before you get into it. And that’s okay! When it comes to Move-In Day, it’s a bit nerve wracking. You’re excited to go somewhere new, sad to leave your hometown friends and family behind, and you’re trying your hardest to keep everything together! Moving isn’t easy at all! That’s why I prepared this little guide, so you can make moving less of a hassle and much easier!
Here is John’s Declassified Moving Survival Guide:

  1. Start packing early – a few weeks early. Start with packing things you know you will use.
  2. You do not need to pack every article of clothing you have. Pack summer and fall clothes. When you go back for Thanksgiving Break, swap to your winter gear. You can thank me later.
  3. You can ALWAYS find free boxes lying around. This may sound gross, but the boxes from fast food restaurants are usually pretty big. If you have a friend in the fast food business, have them give you some boxes. (Hint. Try to use boxes that had only frozen food in them! This is coming from experience) Otherwise big Rubbermaid containers work well too!
  4. Label, label, label your boxes with what they’re containing. This will help you with arranging what things go where! That way you’re not digging through your boxes when you’re moving in!
  5. Get to your hall early! That way you beat the rush and you have time to move in and grab lunch somewhere with your parents!
  6. Pack only the essentials! If your belongings don’t fit in the back of a minivan or average sized car, you’re bringing too much! All the halls supply all the basic furniture, so you’ll need bed linens, towels, toiletries, some basic school supplies, and your clothes.
  7. Bring tools! You have no idea when you’ll need them! Two screwdrivers and a hammer are lifesavers! Trust me.
  8. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t bring everything. You can easily buy things when you move in at Target or Wal-Mart downtown!
  9. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Everyone is in the same position you are!
  10. Breathe! It’ll be over soon!
  11. It’s always hot when people are moving in. Always. So, wear loose and light clothes.
  12. The elevators are always packed (at least when I’m using them!). Keep calm and only use the elevator if you absolutely have to.
  13. Unpack AFTER you move everything in.
  14. After you move in, you wouldn’t believe how great a well-deserved shower feels like. It’s a real workout!
  15. Keep a positive attitude!
  16. Be open-minded!
  17. Remember, YOU are going to be living in your room, not your parents. As long as you follow steps 15 and 16 you’ll love your new space!

After the moving process is done, your parents have already hit the road, and you’re about to go to your RA’s floor meeting, make sure you start getting to know the people in your floor and building. My advice is to be outgoing (note, I said outgoing, not fake)! Worried because you’re shy? Don’t be! Everyone is in the same boat you are! A simple smile, saying hi, and introduction will always pay off!


If you have questions at all during this process, find your RA, the front desk of your building, or contact the Housing and Residence Life Office. They’d love to help you out!
Happy Moving! See you soon!!

John Otis

12 Things to do in Winona Over the Summer

At some point during your college experience here at WSU you are going to stay the summer. This may be for work, summer classes, or solely because you are already paying rent so why not live in that house. This summer, I ended up being one of those people. There was really no reason for me to drive all the way back home to Connecticut when I was paying for a house here. So, I got a second job, adopted a kitten and moved into my new home. To be honest, summer here is actually pretty great! Here’s a list of different ways to have fun during your summer in Winona:

  1.  Festivals

With lots of music festivals happening close by and even in Winona, there is always an opportunity to listen to some tunes. The Great River Shakespeare Festival’s Concerts on the Green and the Beethoven Festival are two that take place right here in town. The Great River Shakespeare Festival also hosts Concerts on the Green which is free to everyone—great for when family visits.

  1. Farmers Market

This weekly event that takes place every Saturday is a great place to get some local grown fresh produce. Meet up with some friends that are also staying and make an afternoon out of it.

  1. Lake Lodge and the Lakes


At the Lake Lodge, you can pay an annual membership fee of $10 to use their facility all year long. Paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking are available all summer. Grab some friends, or have them come down for the weekend, and have some fun on the lakes. Wifi is available to all WSU students on East Lake (the bigger lake where Lake Lodge is located) around the side closest to campus. It even reaches out on the lake! You can also go fishing off the docks around the lake.

4. Swimming


The Bob Welch Aquatic Center, the beaches (La Cane Beach, Latsch Beach) and the hidden rope swing are some of the many spots available to swim at. Hang by the pool or the beach and get your tan on or go exploring to find the rope swing. Where ever you choose to go will surely be fun filled.

5. The Climbing Center


Wabasha Hall now holds our brand new rock wall! And guess what? It’s FREE to WSU students! While you do have to rent the shoes and belay tools, it only costs a total of $5 for students. They have all the equipment so all you need to do is go.

  1. Hiking

Winona is known for its hiking and walking trails. Sugar Loaf, Jon Latsch State Park and Garvin Heights are only a few of the multiple free trails in Winona. Be in nature and get a work out while you enjoy it.

  1. Volunteering

Its hard to get some volunteering in during the school year, so why not get that in during the summer to make that resume look fantastic! Besides, it’ll make you feel good helping others. The Winona Area Humane Society is always looking for volunteers and you would get to hang out with some great cats and dogs. There is also an option to volunteer outdoors with Winona Park and Rec. Along with that, there are various other places in town that are searching for volunteers.

  1. Take a stroll downtown

Downtown is a pretty awesome place. There are tons of little shops and cute cafes to shop at and have fun in. The shops range from country décor to a knitter’s dream store, you can find everything you are looking for and even find some treasures in downtown Winona. If you don’t feel like possibly getting lost, there are walking tours available where you can learn all about downtown.

  1. Bloedow’s Doughnuts

Have a sweet tooth? Bloedow’s has plenty of doughnuts and cookies to satisfy your cravings. In addition to that, they sell bread and other doughy goods. They were even voted best doughnuts in the state! Make sure to get there early though; they go fast and only sell what they make. You will not be disappointed!

  1. $5 Movie Night

Every Tuesday, the Winona 7 Movie Theatre has $5 movies all day! They also have a deal on popcorn: buy any size drink and get free small popcorn. It’s a college student’s dream! If you only get the ticket and a small drink, your total will be around $8. Who wouldn’t take advantage of that deal!

  1. Museums

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Country History Center, Watkins Heritage Museum, Polish Museum, Elmers Auto and Toy, and the Pickwick Mill are all great and local or close by places to go to and have fun at. If you are able to drive, why not unleash your inner child at Lark Toys! Ride a carousel, eat some candy and buy some toys! As a bonus, you might actually learn something while at these places too. Gotta keep that mind sharp!

  1. Winona State Sponsored events:

Winona State has some great events that take place all the time. Take a tree tour and learn all about the trees on campus. The Cal Fremling Boat also has riding tours up and down the Mississippi. It’s a great opportunity to get on the river and learn about the ecosystem you live with. WSU also hosts a family picnic at the end of summer. Bring your family and enjoy the food!


As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Winona over the summer. You can always find something to do to have fun in your down time. Adventure is out there!

-Rachel Adam


CAUTION! Over-sized Load!

I spent my last three paychecks on clothes. I packed for two weeks. And I decided to weigh my suitcase one day before we depart. Packing, unpacking, rearranging, packing again and I’m back to the drawing board.

It’s midnight, the night before my flight. I hop back onto my computer. My eyes squinting and watering as I try to read over my three different checklists. Am I packing too little? Am I packing too much? Do I need to unpack and rearrange again? Quickly I roll last minute clothing into the sides of my suitcase. I take out my blow dryer, I add another pair of shoes, and I run though my checklists one last time. I am finally done packing. I manage to zip it up…what a relief. Now time to weigh it. I struggle to lift my suitcase as I weigh it on my scale at home. I give up. It’s time to head to the airport. Will my bag be under the recommended 50 pounds?

Now at the airport. Ready for three weeks in London. I head towards the station to check my bags. My bag weighs in at 57 pounds. Yes, that’s right… 57 pounds of clothing…for three weeks. Am I insane? No. Just a girl. Six pairs of shoes, four jackets, countless pairs of pants, shorts, dresses, sweaters, shampoo, conditioner, toiletries, towels, and…. well the list goes on, so I’ll save you some time and remind you, it weighed in at 57 pounds! I unfortunately pay the $100 dollar “overweight” fee. Why? Because, I am a girl! After the regretful $100 dollar fee is charged to my card, I think I am finally ready for London. I was ready to sweat, stumble, and trip on my journey to London.

kelly dolan pic

Finally in London. Wishing I would’ve listened to my professor. Hearing the words “make sure you pack light” circling through my head. On my way to the hostel. I squeeze myself and my 57-pound luggage onto the subway during rush hour. Everything is a blur. People are rushing to work at 9 am, and struggling to find a place to stand on the subway. My luggage blocks the entrance as it sits on my feet. I’ve lost all feeling in my toes. My feet feel like they are being crushed by a boulder. Struggling to lift it as people try to exit, an older gentleman finally directs me to where my luggage should be sitting. Next to the door, I see a small space where no one is standing-an open area that looks like it was made for my luggage. The small area is about 5 feet from me. I can’t do it. I dodge in and out of a crowd of sweaty people. The subway is moving and shaking and I can’t keep my feet stable on the ground. I make my way across the car. Frantically shuffling, sweating, and falling over my bag, I finally was able to find a place for my burden I call a suitcase.

I make it out alive. I follow the “way out” sign, this is the British form of “exit”. I regretfully look up towards the stairs of death. 20 steps. A 57-pound bag. And a 120-pound girl. You can do the math… it doesn’t add up.

-Kelly Dolan

To Litter, or Not to Litter

alexander hagen pic

If you have ever spent a single day with me, you would know how much I dislike litter. If I see it around town or on a walk at all, I pick it up. To put it into context, a person that litters is the Wicked Witch of the West to my Dorothy, we don’t get along and I want to melt them for being so rude.

To me personally, litter is pointless and makes absolutely no sense. When someone litters, they are literally destroying the earth and harming wildlife and nature with each thing they carelessly toss on the ground. So, typically I pick it up if I see it and throw it away without making a deal of it. You might ask yourself: “If you don’t make a deal of it in America, why make a deal of it in London?” Well, because it is everywhere.

London should be called “The City of Very Few Trashcans”. Which seems strange because back in 1858 there was a great stink that affected London.  People were dumping human waste into the River Thames (a very popular and central river in London). On a hot day, the sun heated up the waste causing the whole town stink.

Fast forward to 2015, a new epidemic is affecting London: litter. In a radius of 10 miles on the streets of London you will be extremely lucky to find a single garbage can. IF you are so lucky to find more than one in this radius mentioned, it would be very advisable to go out and purchase a lottery ticket, because you are clearly a very lucky person.

Garbage cans that are around town are typically overflowing with garbage, with garbage sitting around and on top. It is a very hard and un-fun predicament to be in. Everyone is littering around me and litter is found everywhere; ground, trees, fountains, subways, everywhere. I either have to carry around my trash for a long long time or set it gracefully on the ground with all of its friends. So far, I have been stuffing it in the purse I carry around till I do find a garbage can.

I only hope that by the end of the trip I have not converted into litterer. I only hope that I, Alexander Hagen, will be able to stay strong, persevere, and keep helping my main girl mother earth by not supporting this disgusting and harmful habit.

-Alexander Hagen

Seeing History Through the Oculus


I walked into St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in London, and was immediately overwhelmed. Baroque architecture (the style used to build St. Paul’s) might as well be next to the word extravagance in the dictionary. But I’m going to skip past describing all the statues, pillars, domed ceilings, paintings, mosaics, monuments, tombs and chandeliers within the cathedral, because honestly, you can Google it all. What I really want to tell you about is something you can’t experience through Google.

Within the crypt (which was gigantic, much larger than a normal church crypt—it was the entire length of the church above it), there was a small room towards the back end, called the Oculus. The room was about 15 x 15 feet. When I walked in, the room was dark, illuminated only by the floor-to-ceiling screens on three of the walls. People were scattered about, leaning against or sitting by the four pillars arranged in a square in the middle of the room. I took a spot on the floor against a pillar towards the back. My feet and calves throbbed in time with my heartbeat.

There was a film showing on a loop that gave a visual history of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Right outside the room there was a timeline of St. Paul’s and prominent events that occurred at the church. The Oculus took this physical timeline and made it into a visual history with pictures, music, and sounds. As the film started, ancient lute music played in the background and pictures appeared on the screen, with subtitles documenting the year and event.

There have been four different churches on the site, starting in 604 A.D. The Anglo-Saxons built the first church. Historians aren’t entirely sure what happened to this church, but they do know a different church was built in 693 by the Anglo-Saxons again. This one burned down in 962 and was rebuilt again in the same year. The church burned down yet again in 1087 and wasn’t completely rebuilt until 1240.

St. Paul’s Cathedral burned down for the last time in 1666, in the Great Fire that razed almost the entire square mile of the City of London. A picture of flames flashed on the screen, then the sound of fire crackled softly through the speakers, quickly growing in intensity. The projector zoomed in on the flames, the screen grew brighter, and I had to squint from the sudden brightness.

This is just one of the few striking events the Oculus covered. St. Paul’s also survived Hitler’s Blitz during WWII thanks to the courageous men and women who were part of the St. Paul’s Watch. When incendiaries hit the ground, they would run towards the freshly exploded bombs with buckets of water to put out fires before they destroyed the buildings around them.

Shortly after the Blitz picture, the film ended and the screen went black for a few seconds before starting at the beginning again. I stood up and followed the others out into the crypt to continue my tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

-Elizabyth Ladwig

Mind the Gap…and Spontaneous Pole Dancing!

When discussing London, one thing you can count on hearing is the common phrase of the London Underground’s intercom system: Mind the Gap.

rene miller blog pic


The slogan that is on t-shirts and signs, and is adorably copied by excited tourists and children pertains to the gap. It is the space between the tube car (the subway car) and the platform you’re arriving at. The words are a practical warning to a generally clumsy population.

Then why do we love these words so much? Is our love based on the friendly female voice that calls out before the car doors open? Or perhaps our love is due to the simple sound of the catch phrase that accompanies the rather complex series of underground rail systems? Or simply, us tourist love British things and go gaga for anything said with an accent that we can repeat? The world may never know.

On the tube, our class of American tourists has no shame about projecting that we were in fact, tourists. We talk and laugh on the otherwise silent car, tease about being super confused about the tube, call out our new favorite hashtag, #lostinLondonWSU, and repeat ‘mind the gap’ at least once every time we board.

I am not specifically skilled at ‘minding’ anything and thus the phrase caters to clumsy patrons such as myself.  As we were boarding the car, I did a little trip-and-catch-myself dance before the poles and guard-rails came to my rescue, preventing me from doing a hard face-plant. When the only other alternative is train surfing or bracing yourself against other riders, you chose the pole! Which brings me to my next point: spontaneous pole dancing!

To add an extra bit of awkwardness to my narrative, when first standing on the train I was totally befuddled as to which direction the train would be jolting us. With only two fingers really gripping the pole, I swiftly pivoted around it, whooping in surprise as the tour group balanced themselves out. I remained upright but a bit too twirly. Giggles abound as I recollected myself and struck a pose! It wasn’t quite a Bridget Jones on the fire pole moment, but it was a spontaneous display of my tourist awkwardness!

Thankfully, other people’s inner pole dancer emerges whilst riding the tube for not being prepared for the sudden departure. I am not the only one out there I swear! The fact that the tube’s conductors have specific announcements calling attention to the gaps in the line or staying clear of the doors means that enough people had issues with the gap to require a loud speaker to be installed.

When people say that traveling really brings the best out of you, this is not what I had expected. Sure, I assumed I would gain an appreciation for the public transportation, London’s complex design, and for its people through various methods of watching them (not creepily, I promise). What I was not excepting was being taught to be more mindful about gaps, directions, and proper pole techniques!

-Rene Stiller

Slide to the Left…. We’re in London

Now this is a story all about how my life got flip turned upside down
Midwestern, Wisconsin born and raised
on the right side is where I spent most of my days.
Walking or driving it was all cool.
Going home or down the hallway at school.

When I went to London it wasn’t all good
Everyone walked on the left in all the neighborhoods.
I bumped into everyone so I sent a quick prayer
Please don’t let me get lost in the stairs


I hope anyone who has seen the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rapped that to the beat of the theme song. But in all seriousness, London life really is opposite. Almost everything is done on the left rather than the right. Will Smith’s life was “flipped-turned upside down” when he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle; he did not know anyone or how to get anywhere. This is exactly how I felt when we landed in London.

The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was how everyone was walking on the left, at a fast pace. If I had a dollar, or rather a pound, for every Londoner I bumped into or almost took out with my suitcase I could probably afford a plane ticket back to the United States. That’s exaggerating a bit, but I did bump into people a lot.

Kayla Severson pic 1

Londoners also drive and park on the left side of the road. Traffic is always crazy, which stresses me out and I’m not even driving. However, I was impressed. Especially, with those who managed to parallel park. I can’t even do that on a deserted street.

Kayla Severson pic 2

As crazy as London is, I absolutely love it. After five days of bumping into strangers and nearly getting hit by a car or two, I am finally getting used to the whole stick to the left thing. It may be hectic at times, but it really seems to work for the city. I just hope I remember to stick to the right once I get back home.

 See you on the flip side,
-Kayla Severson

Supposition of London’s Juxtapositions

hanna larson pic1

We stepped out of the King’s Cross underground station and were met with the sight of Victorian and Georgian buildings; narrow buildings composed of rough brick in all hues and clock towers soaring overhead. We looked up at the buildings as we wheeled out luggage along uneven, cobbled sidewalks and tried not to bump into the people rushing past.

Suddenly, the light reflected off of a metal surface. A flat fronted metallic building was nestled amongst the buildings of brick and stucco. This modern building stuck out like a big silver thumb, but at the same time, it fit in with the feel of the city as a whole. London is an ancient city that is also incredibly modern at times, and this blending is what makes London so unique. It is a city full of juxtapositions.

The people here are just as diverse in their appearances and behavior as the buildings surrounding us. People of all ethnicities and races call London their home and choose here to visit. An average of 300 languages are spoken in London every day. On any given day here, it is not uncommon to hear French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many more languages. There are some days I hear more “foreign” accents than British accents. So there is no stereotypical Londoner. Some stereotypes of Londoners I’ve heard or thought of myself are that Londoners are very proper and everyone wears a bowler hat and walks with a cane or parasol.

I’ll admit, I’ve seen a bowler hat or two atop the head of a subway underground street musician, but Londoners are much more complex than that. In some aspects, they are very proper; while traveling up or down an escalator, it is proper to stand on the right side of the elevator so that people who want to pass you can do so on the left. I was promptly warned of this rule the very first time I stepped on the escalator, and a native Londoner kindly told me to please stand on the right.

However, once on the street, all bets are off. No one adheres to walking on the left or the right sides, but everyone proceeds to pursue the fastest route for them. It is chaos on the sidewalks. It is also not uncommon to see a couple French kissing on the sidewalk, causing traffic to diverge around them.

So while Londoners can be proper at times, they are very lax about other things that we in America would find strange. So while we think of London as an ancient city full of people who speak in British accents and act very proper, London is actually an incredibly diverse city full of ancient and modern, propriety and discord, and white and all the other colors of the rainbow.

-Hanna Larson

To Let What? To(il)et?

It all started after the Clink78 hostel common area closed and we ended the night with London Bridge, by Fergie. Such a brilliant song to play while visiting London right? The lights turned on and the conversation started. I got the chance to talk with people from all over the world because a lot of people didn’t want to go to their rooms just yet. One of my conversations was with a British male, born and raised.

Recently I have been becoming across green signs that said TO LET.  I asked him, “To let what?” I don’t understand why they didn’t finish the sentence. TO LET….. you go to the bathroom, or TO LET…… you go to the restroom? He really couldn’t answer my question as to why the bathrooms were called “To Let”, he told me that is something I should Wikipedia.  Another guy popped in his head and said, “It means Toilet they just forgot the I and the L. I introduced myself and he was visiting from Uganda. It was very interesting to get different perspectives from how others interpreted signs. Although his interpretation of TO LET made for a good laugh.

Turns out “To Let” means a room or property available to rent, as some bathrooms are 20 to 50 pence (cents).

I wish there were universal signs for bathroom or fire escape so basic things were not so confusing. I saw a green sign with a little white man that looked on a mission to go to the bathroom.

amanda kaiser pic 1

I thought, “That guy is running to the bathroom”– naturally because in London there is a variety of signs that mean bathroom.

amanda kaiser pic 2

Turns out that it actually was a fire exit sign, quite embarrassing, but it made me wonder if there are signs in the United States that are a little different that we have just become accustomed to? Kind of like my conversation with the guy who has lived here his whole life and could not explain what “To Let” actually meant.

-Amanda Kaiser

H.O.P.E. Academy 2015

10 days can really fly by!

We were fortunate enough to welcome many high school students to stay and learn at Winona State University! The H.O.P.E. (Harnessing Opportunities for Post-Secondary Education) Academy is a ten-day summer residential program for male and female high school students between the 9th-12th grades. The purpose of the Academy is to offer underrepresented and underserved students with a life-altering opportunity to fully experience college life.


Many of the students who were at the academy were engaged in college-level courses, workshops, and trainings to develop, explore, and hone their leadership skills to be utilized in an ever-growing globalized society.


Students got to stay in our new halls, Kirkland and Haake, for the entirety of their 10-day program. Not only did this provide them with a unique opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a college on-campus resident, but it exemplified and solidified what students were learning throughout their 10-day program! On top of this, our other campus facilities were being used for recreational purposes to create and develop relationships with peers and their college mentors!


A multitude of their programming took place in our Haake Hall Conference Room, which is conveniently right where students were residing.

On June 17th, the mentors arrived at 8:00am sharp in Haake’s Conference Room eager and prepared to learn about their new students and about themselves. Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life, Sarah Olcott, provided a few training sessions that paved the way for the college mentors to discover more about themselves and working with others. On a more serious note, the training that followed, taught the mentors about crisis management and working with underage individuals.


After a full day of intensive training for the college mentors, high school students started arriving that same night.


Throughout their 10-day journey, the Academy offered many sessions on leadership training, communication building, and life-skill activities that would serve as building blocks to help students and their families move past barriers in their life, such as racial, financial, social, and academic. Students were encouraged to move toward a successful future college experience!

We were sad to see everyone leave, and we had a blast working with each and every one of you! In addition, we are very excited to work with and meet the students in the 2016 H.O.P.E. Academy next summer!

-John Otis