Faith: The Choice is Yours

teens form the outline of a cross with their fingers

These are my friends from the youth group in my hometown that I went to throughout high school.

Religion has been a part of my life since I was a baby. Every Sunday, my family and I would go to church and on Wednesday nights, I’d go to some type of youth group event with my brother or friends. While I knew that faith is meant to be more than a routine, sometimes it felt like I was just going through the motions.

Coming to college completely changed that for me. Suddenly, it was up to me if I wanted to continue to stay active in my religion. I could choose whether to go to church or sleep in. It was up to me if I wanted to spend an evening at a college ministry event, stay in and study or go out with friends. I knew what my parents and friends would expect of me, but they weren’t there to tell me what to do. It was truly my choice.

While I am telling you about my personal faith story, the fact is that we all have this choice. I am sure many of you–whether you’re Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Muslim or non-denominational–are also from families where you were expected to go to worship services or observe religious practices. And college presents the perfect opportunity to decide if this is a faith you want to follow for the rest of your life or not.

Now for me, I went to church in the first week of college just to see what it would be like. The church, Pleasant Valley Church, was very similar to mine at home. and I actually liked it quite a bit.  I could definitely see myself as part of their community.

But fast forward a few weeks, and suddenly I didn’t think it was extremely important to go. I was confused about whether I wanted to go church consistently or put my faith lower on my list of priorities. For a few weeks, I struggled with this question. I would go to church, enjoy it a lot, but then by the middle of the week wonder if I wanted to go.

About a month into my freshman year, I went to Pleasant Valley Church’s college ministry event for young women, H2O Women: Apple Orchard. You can guess where we all went– Eckerson’s Apple Orchard! It was such a great experience and I got to know some of the girls involved with H2O. Over the next few weeks, they helped me realize why I wanted to pursue my faith. I could see their passion and fire for the God I serve and I realized that I wanted that passion too. Getting involved with a faith discussion group also strengthened my choice to serve God wholeheartedly.

In the past year, I have definitely struggled with my faith. Do I continue to actively practice my faith? Do I let it slide? But then there are always times after these doubts where I realize that I could never give up the faith I grew up with. It gets me through the stress of college and is very comforting to me. I feel like my faith helps me very much with my spiritual wellness. When I get stressed about something, I know that I can rely on my God to take care of my worries – something that I have a lot of.  I just remember that I don’t have to worry about the next day because my life is in God’s hands.

Pursuing my faith in college was something I ended up choosing.  By doing this, it became more than just my parent’s faith: it became my own personal faith. I couldn’t be happier with this choice and the benefits to my spiritual wellness I’ve gained from it. I hope that you all will think more about whether or not you want to pursue your childhood faith also.

–Sharna Miller

8 Ways to Save Money

a bank shaped like a cow

Money in your bank is definitely something to smile about!

Last week, I talked about the importance of saving money and why it is good to create a budget. This week, I’m going to give you some specific ways to save money and reduce your spending.

And they are (…….drumroll please…….):

  1. Open a Savings Account
    The first thing you need to do is to go to your bank and open a savings account. Think about it: how are you going to save money if you have nowhere safe to put it?
  2. Divide Your Paycheck
    Whether during the school year or not, you should be dividing up your paycheck between your checking and savings accounts. A good rule is to put half of your paycheck in your savings account so that it can gain interest and you won’t spend it. You should also be using some of that money to build up an emergency fund. Only use your emergency fund for large, unexpected costs such as taking your car to the mechanic shop.
  3. Track Your Spending
    Meticulously add up your receipts for one month and see how much you spend on non-essential items– like eating out or clothing. You might be spending a lot more than you realized and then try to cut back your spending on those things
  4. Make Wish Lists
    There are several gift-giving occasions throughout the year and family members need ideas for presents. So let them buy the stuff you want but don’t really need for you! Make a Christmas list and a birthday list with those non-essentials that you’ve cut out of your monthly spending.
  5. Walk Instead of Drive
    Don’t drive your car as often.  Gas is expensive, so you’ll save money by walking or biking instead (and get a workout!). We are pretty lucky that many places in Winona are within walking distance of campus.
  6. Use Your Meal Plan
    Eat in the dining center on campus if you have a meal plan.  You have already paid for those meals so use them up!
  7. Make Your Own Lunches
    If you live off campus, go home for lunch if you classes allow it or pack a lunch and bring it with you to campus. Buying groceries is less expensive than buying food at restaurants or convenience stores.
  8. Take Care of Your Things
    Take care of your things–clothes, shoes, backpack, phone–so they don’t get worn out quickly or broken and need to be replaced often.

I know these tips are pretty basic, but believe me, they work! It might be difficult at first to give up going to Mugby for coffee every morning or keeping yourself from clicking “Add to Cart” while browsing Amazon.com, but you can do it. If you start saving and keeping track of your money now, you future-self will thank you after graduation .

–Liz Peterson

It’s All About the Money, Honey

Scrabble tiles spell the word money

We all need money but there are things you can do take better care of yours.

We are all starting school and trying to figure out balance in our lives, stressing about school, social life and jobs as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one thing you didn’t need to worry about? The one thing I am choosing not to worry about would be money and my finances. And I’ll let you in on my strategy for financial zen (hint: it doesn’t include winning the lottery).

College students almost always struggle with money because we have to pay a lot for our tuition and textbooks and housing and groceries.. you get the idea. The bottom line is we usually don’t have much money. One thing college students don’t often realize, however, is that we need to manage our money a lot better than we do.

I personally live paycheck to paycheck and, honestly, that’s just not cutting it anymore. So I decided to take a personal finance class and it is helping me figure out how to stress less about money. I have learned that the key is to manage your spending and to save your money.  It is easy enough to manage your money by creating a budget. All you have to do is to record all of your spending for one month and then cut out the expenditures that aren’t strictly necessary. For instance, if you are eating out several nights a week but didn’t realize it was that often, you can decide to cook more often at home which will usually cost less than a meal at a restaurant.

The other part of the money management equation is saving. It is very, very important to save money. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t have a savings account then you don’t have emergency money for unexpected costs such as car repairs, heath care or even losing your job. This could cause a lot of trouble because if you don’t have any money set aside you’ll likely turn to credit cards which can be a dangerous road to start traveling.

An easy way to start saving is to take a portion of each paycheck you earn and put it into a savings account. Some workplaces will let you set up a direct deposit right to your savings account. The amount you decide to save every two weeks doesn’t have to be much. If you save just $10 a month, over 12 months you will have $120. That’s enough to buy a few textbooks or even a month’s worth of groceries. Now imagine what saving $20 or $30 will give you!

I’ve only been in my personal finance class for a few weeks, but I’ve already gotten a much better handle on my money. These simple tips on managing your money, creating a budget and saving money will help you immensely too. But I am not quite done imparting financial wisdom. Next week, I will share some specific ways you can save money and help to accomplish your financial goals.

–Liz Peterson

April Showers Bring May...Allergies

a woman blows her nose

Allergies are no fun, but do you know how to find relief?

We all know that feeling–the sneezing, the itchy and watery eyes, the runny or stuffy noses–and it’s often because of springtime allergies. Spring has finally sprung and now we are being bombarded with rain, pollen and the polar opposites Minnesota weather.

And frankly, the symptoms of allergies are frustrating and rather annoying when you have schoolwork and studying to do. No one wants to write a paper with a sinus headache and a box of tissues.

So normally you’d turn to your parents to figure out what medicine to take or what home remedies will help with your allergies, but now that you’re on your own deciphering between Allegra, Claritin and all the other  options can be exhausting.

Here are some helpful hints on dealing with allergies and finding relief:

  1. Nasal sprays are great solution for sneezing
    Yes, spraying a solution in your nose isn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world, but by directly applying the medicine, your symptoms actually improve faster. You can also try just washing your nose out with water with a Neti pot at the end of the day.
  2. A clean house will help with your symptoms
    Washing your sheets and changing your pillowcases often can help remove pollens or other agents that may be causing your allergies. But remember clean out your air vents too, otherwise the allergens just keep circulating.
  3. Eye drops are to be used in moderation
    Eye drops are great temporary relief for allergies and itchy eyes, but you have to remember they are only supposed to be used for a couple of days at most. Constant use of eye drops could result in blurred vision and actually worsen your symptoms.
  4. Oral medications are best when you aren’t on a timeline
    Oral medications come in pill or liquid forms and a great source of long term relief. But, they can make you feel dizzy or tired, trigger insomnia or bring on a number of other side effects. Personally, I’ve found them best to take at night or when I don’t have major test or projects to complete.
  5. Get sleep, take time for yourself and relax
    It could be as simple as heading to bed an hour earlier than normal or taking a bath to help reduce general allergy discomfort. I also suggest having a glass of tea or hot water with lemon. Simple things like this help relax your body and serve as a detox for your mind.

These are just some suggestions that I have found useful when dealing with allergies. If you want more information on exactly what medications are best for you, check out this article by the Mayo Clinic.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but until this weather clears up, I’m going to get back to my homework and my box of tissues.

–Cassie Tokach

Bienvenido, Bienvenue and Welcome to Learning a Second Language

a quote from Nelson Mandela about the importance of language

Rest in peace, Mr. Mandela, you magnificent man!

For the past 3 summers, I have worked at the Miller Brewery back home in Milwaukee, serving beer samples to people on tours of the brewery. One of the greatest benefits of working at the brewery (other than being paid to serve people free beer) is that the brewery tour is a very popular tourist destination for many people visiting the city and many of our guests were from other countries.

One day I met a family from Chile who were visiting the United States, so, as Spanish major, I saw the opportunity to test out my Spanish skills and struck up a conversation with them. They invited me to sit at their table and hang out with them, and after 30 minutes, we were telling jokes, laughing and having a great time all in their own language. This seemingly small experience was one of the most fun moments of my life. Although I was only sitting around a table and having a fun conversation, it was the connection that I created with this group of people while speaking their language that made it so special. It is for that reason that I have continued to study new languages.

Learning a second language opens up a whole new world of possibilities for yourself. The cognitive benefits alone have been shown to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, improves cognitive function allowing for easier multi-tasking and increased attention, as well as broadens our hold on language, improving the way we use and understand language (even our own). Now I can go all day rattling off reasons why learning a second language can help you mentally, but, in reality, it is not the sole reason why language knowing a second language is incredible.

In my opinion, the coolest part of knowing a second language is the new world of social opportunities that it opens up. You can do something as simple as order food at your favorite Mexican restaurant, or you can have big adventures by traveling and exploring the world. Being bilingual empowers you to break down barriers and allows you to connect with a wider range of people from different cultures. Just like my connection with the group from Chile, these interactions will help you build life-long memories and friends.

If you are interested in learning a second language, there are foreign language classes offered through Winona State. In my opinion, taking even the entry-level class provides you with a wonderful insight into new languages and even cultures. Now, of course these are all great opportunities, but let’s be real– we’re all busy college students and adding 4 credit language courses may not be a feasible option. Memorizing animals for French 101 along with the muscles in your hand for Anatomy and Physiology is not something many of you can fit into your schedule. Luckily, there are many resources and opportunities out there that can you can work into your schedule if you are interested in casually learning a second language.

  • Duolingo: My favorite language teaching website and app! I’m currently using it to casually pick up on some French. Duolingo provides free language lessons in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese or Italian for anyone of any skill level in a fun, interactive way.
  • MIT Open Courseware: Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free online courses throughout a variety of subjects (incredible, huh?!).  They offer foreign language courses in a number of different languages from Spanish to Japanese.
  • BBC Languages: This website offers visitors valuable, free language learning programs and opportunities.

¡Buena Suerte! (Good Luck!)

–Caleb Bednarski

The Dos and Don'ts of Longboarding

courtney on her longboard

While longboarding is fun, it can also be dangerous.

Longboards are appearing all around campus, and so are trips to the emergency room. According to an article at LiveScience.com, “Longboarders are at much greater risk of head fracture, traumatic brain injury and bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage) than skateboarders.”

I myself have fallen off my longboard several times, but the embarrassment of falling on campus doesn’t match the possible bodily injury that could happen.

Here are some DOs for staying safe on a longboard:

  • DO skate in the street. First of all, it is illegal in most states to skate on a sidewalk (same with bicycles). That being said, if you plan to skate in the road, you must abide by all road rules that bikes and cars do; you must indicate turns, stop at stop signs and lights, have lights- in order to be safe and legal. However, the roads in Winona are not particularly safe for longboarders. There are lots of potholes, rocks, gravel and glass that make many of our streets difficult to ride.
  • DO ride like you drive. Ride with traffic if you can. Indicate your turns and stop at all stop signs and stop lights.
  • DO ride in groups. This increases visibility and assistance if someone falls. Do not obstruct traffic in your group, however.
  • DO ride in bright colors. Drivers aren’t trained to look for longboarders like they do for bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Avoid getting hit by an a person opening their car door, or hit by a car by being noticeable.
  • DO ride around the lakes. The lakes have been recently paved and ensure a smooth ride! It is safe, as long as you avoid other pedestrians!
  • DO ride in (empty) parking lots and on campus. These open spaces without cars or cross streets are good for practice and goofing around. There are fewer chances of collisions here, but your risk of falling and get hurt remains.
  • DO wear protective gear. Helmets, wrist guards and knee pads will aid in your riding experience. Slap some stickers on your helmet if you feel like a square– better safe than sorry.
  • DO wear shoes. It may be tempting to ride barefoot, but the Winona streets will cut up your feet. Keep flat shoes on when riding, and make sure they are fastened or tied properly.
  • DO take care of your board. Check the wheels and pay attention to the looseness or tightness of your trucks. Know how to fix them with the proper tools when you need to.
  • DO stay in control. You are not the only one on the road. Know that if you goof off or try to show off, you are not only risking your life, but others’ safety as well. You are responsible for damages if you cause an accident so leave tricks, experimenting and risk-taking to safe, closed off areas.

Now for the DON’Ts:

  • DON’T ride while wearing headphones. Headphones are great to set the mood, but restrict your safety and ability to know what’s going on around you. You need to always be aware of what’s in front of you and in your periphery, but also know what is behind you. If you MUST listen to music, ensure that you are constantly looking around you.
  • DON’T ride under the influence. There are clear problems, such as loss of balance and coordination coupled with impaired decision-making, with riding while drunk or high, not to mention you probably won’t be any good.
  • DON’T bomb Garvin Heights. You won’t be able to stop your longboard unless you fall. Or are hit by a car. Garvin is the biggest hill in Winona, but also the most dangerous for longboarders. A friend try to ride it and ended up losing all the skin on his back. He was lucky he wasn’t hit by a car coming around the blind corner.
  • DON’T grab cars to hitch a ride. It’s illegal and unsafe. However, being pulled around the lakes by a bicyclist friend is actually really fun and safe :)
  • DON’T leave your longboard unattended. I once had mine stolen after I left it out on the porch at a trusted friend’s house. Just like bikes, longboards are lucrative target for thieves so keep a close eye on your board.
  • DON’T ride wet. Avoid riding in rain or after it rains. Your wheels won’t like the rain, and neither will your board. If your feet are wet, the top of your board will get slippery, which is begging for an accident.

If You Fall

If you follow these safety tips, you will be less likely to have any accidents. But if you do fall, don’t get up right away. Assess your injuries: does your head hurt, did you black out, does it feel like something is broken? Hopefully you are not riding alone and your friends can assist you. If you are alone, try to call for help on a cell phone or shout. If you are in the street, try to scoot to safety if you can. If not, make yourself well lit (such as using the flashlight on a cell phone) and make yourself as big as possible so people in cars can see you and help instead of hitting you.

If you only remember one thing from this blog post, know that you are not invincible. In fact, we are all subject to cuts, broken bones, head injuries and even death. You must know and accept these liabilities before you ride and be smart the way you enjoy this fun sport.

Happy riding, Winona!

–Courtney McCaw

Messy House, Messy Mind

an illustration from The Hobbit of dragon Smaug on a pile of gold

Smaug has nothing on me at my messiest!

All right everyone, it’s group activity time. I want all of you to picture for a moment the state of your homes, especially your bedrooms. For those of you currently at home, this task may be simplified by taking a moment to look around.  Stop whatever else you’re doing just for a few seconds and just take in your environment.

Have a good image in mind?

Those of you who just pictured a comfortable, organized space with visible floors and no dishes in the sink, feel free to pat yourselves on the back and go back to your regularly scheduled blog-browsing.

Those of you who just grimaced as you realized that you still haven’t taken the laundry out of the basket this week or have a pile of cereal bowls in the sink that is starting to make the Tower of Pisa look insignificant may benefit from a brief jaunt down Sophie’s memory lane.

For many, many years I was definitely one of you guys. I was the type of girl who lived out of a suitcase even when I had a closet full of hangers at my disposal. I let books and homework pile up on the floor until I had to choreograph a very specific jumping pattern in order to reach my bed, and I hoarded enough cups, bowls and glasses on my desk that I put Smaug and his gold to shame.

My excuses were always the same: “Sure it’s a mess but it’s my mess” and “It’s a specific type of chaos that I can thrive in” or even “Yeah, it looks bad but I know where to find everything I need.” I lived this way in my single dorm for my freshmen and sophomore years and when I got roommates as a junior I just contained the disaster to my own room and didn’t let it bother them. I figured that would be good enough.

However, at the beginning of last semester I moved into a single apartment. As my class workload increased and the rest of my free time was being devoted to my new job, I realized that the controlled chaos was no longer as manageable as I thought. Halfway through the second month I realized that I’d never actually developed any reasonable cleaning skills. The clever hopping to my bed became a tedious path that I could barely navigate as I stumbled to bed after class and the bowls around my desk were frustratingly unavailable as I woke up early for work and needed a quick breakfast.

Without me even realizing it, my home environment had become just as stressful as my school and work.

It was then that I decided something had to change, but I couldn’t just undo years of perfect chaos. I had to develop a plan.

I started slowly by cleaning each dish immediately after using it. Later, I dumped my laundry on the bed so I’d have to put it away before I slept. Every time I stepped on something I picked it up and put it on a shelf. Each task was small in its own way, but it made a difference over a couple of weeks.  Slowly, the mess began to unravel and my cute little efficiency apartment actually became visible.

It wasn’t an immediate change, and now that I’m two months away from graduating, I’m finally in the habit of just putting things away as I finish with them to the point where I don’t even think about it anymore. I even bought a vacuum cleaner for myself. Seriously, I was actually excited when it came too. I am officially that person.

When I come home from class or work to a clean apartment it makes everything feel simpler. I can focus on homework without constantly hearing my mother’s voice saying “You should really take out the trash, Sophie.” My apartment actually feels like a sanctuary instead of a cave I rent for sleeping.

I obviously can’t convince some of you lovers of chaos that having a clean home can lend to a clear mind but I will vouch for it till the ends of the earth. Just starting small with a little floor-pick-up here and there is enough to give it a go.

Just know that your environment might be affecting you more than you realize, and even if the pile of socks by your bed says otherwise, you definitely have the power to control it.

Keeping your space clear can be a quick fix to help keep your stress maintained and it can be the first step in creating an environment that actually feels like home.  At the end of a long day sometimes that’s the best comfort in the world

Unless you count hot chocolate, of course.

–Sophie Kaplan

Hear That? Your Running Shoes are Calling

guy running on indoor track

Whether you prefer the outdoors or inside, now is the time to shake off the winter blues

As March raced to a close, we finally started to feel the air begin to warm, hear the birds chirping and see the grass replace snow. So I guess that means spring is here at last!

With the frigid days and dark evenings of winter behind us, we are beginning to crawl off the couch and away from our Netflix queues to take advantage of the new season. I’ve been seeing more and more people flock to the Wellness Center and the lakeside running trails to take in the sunshine and fresh air and to assess the damage the long winter has done to their levels of fitness.

For those of us that let winter get the best of them and are starting off back at square one, lacing up those running shoes and getting back out there can be a little difficult. You may be thinking, Where do I start? What should I be doing?  How do I get motivated? Luckily, it seems like the folks in the IWC know how difficult this can be and has given us students some great resources and sources of motivation to help us get back out there and get on the course back to healthy activities.

For those of you are not sure where to start, the Fitness Center offers free fitness programs that you can download and use to get in a routine. These workout programs vary in length, number of days, and the type of workout you are looking to do and are a great place to start after a winter of binge-watching Netfix.

If you need some external motivation, just remember that your friends are likely MORE than willing to tell you when you are slacking. Working out with a friend can be much more fun than going alone, so it can be a great motivator that will help you stay on track. If you can’t find anyone, Health and Wellness Services has can hook you up with a workout buddy.

For those of you that are living in the residence halls, Prentiss-Lucas Hall and the Quad are currently putting on various wellness challenges over the month of April. Talk to your RA about joining and try to help your floor get the most hours in the gym. A little competition can give you some motivation to get out there as well.

I’m writing this from under the covers of my bed, so clearly, I’m not perfect with this either. However, the urge to get rid of layer covering my stomach (10 pizzas in the last 6 weeks will do that to a guy) is starting to get to me. Luckily I don’t need the extra pudge to stay warm anymore.

Best of luck to all of you!

–Caleb Bednarski

The Next Step: Applying for Jobs

AG1

You’re graduating, so now what? Like it or not, your clock is ticking. If you have student loans you know you only have six months to land your dream job, but you have no clue how to apply, or what to apply for, or what your resume should look like. Many of us are ready to graduate, but not ready for what’s after.

Begin applying now.

Look into different jobs you think you would be interested in, and don’t hesitate, think of it as extra practice if you end up second-guessing yourself. Getting a job today is a full-time job itself. You have to put lots of time into your search to gain a successful result. Some of the main mistakes recent grads make is not applying for enough jobs. Forbes magazine stated, “44% of students only apply to between one and five jobs at a time,” when students should be applying for as many as 30-40 jobs at once.

Don’t be discouraged.

Applying for jobs takes a lot of time, and you’re going to be putting a lot of effort into your application, but the reality is that you may not get an interview or even a call back. Remember there are hundreds of jobs out there, and they get thousands of applicants, so you have to make yourself stand out. Create a unique cover letter, or attach a mini portfolio with your application. By making yourself more unique, you are more likely to get noticed. Remember to follow up with your applications as well. It never hurts to call and see if your application has been reviewed, or ask advice if your application wasn’t received well.

AG2

Show your interest.

Whether you are in an interview or writing your cover letter, show your interest in the company. Present yourself as ready to learn, ready to discover more, ready to become part of a company.  My best advice is to independently research each company, find their objectives or motto, and think about how this applies to your goals and what you could contribute to the companies. Use that knowledge to stem your inspiration to connect to each company and make an appeal for yourself; remember when you’re applying for jobs you are actually selling yourself.

Look the Part.

If you do happen to get offered an interview, you need to look the part. Yes, college is expensive, but you’re going to have to spend some money on some nice clothes to get yourself a job. Dress conservatively, professionally and fit in. It’s good to show personality, but don’t overwhelm your interview outfit with large feathers or pink pants. Come prepared with questions you have about the job and the company; this will not only show them you’re interested in moving forward towards a job, but you’re also personally interested in the company themselves. Be engaging– in conversation, in eye contact– and show positive body language as you interview.

AG3

Job-hunting is competitive, time-consuming, exhausting  and filled with hope and discouragement at the same time. You have to keep your eyes on your personal goals and make sure to use that as your motivation to keep going through the process. If you’re struggling or don’t know where to start there are plenty of resources like www.aftercollege.com to help your search. If you have questions about your resume or cover letter, used campus resources like Career Services Resume Cart. The resources are all around you, but you have to use them.

No one can get you a job, but you. You the graduate. You the applicant. You the future employee.

– Cassie Tokach 

 

 

A Smoothie Start to Spring Break

On February 26, 2014, the Integrated Wellness Center hosted “Antioxidants: Just Juice It” and the event was successful well beyond the expectations of the planning committee. Over 1,000 juice samples were handed out and 350 people took an antioxidant quiz in order to enter to win a Ninja Blending System!
The winner of the Ninja Blending System is Ezra Trull, a sophomore business management major who also works the desk at Tau-Maria Halls. In order to get Ezra going with his new blender (and usher in spring for the rest of us!) here are the recipes for the five antioxidant-rich juice smoothies. Pick your favorite and enjoy this healthy snack as we wait for warmer weather.
–Francis Mann
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