Think Before You Tattoo

College is the time for trying new things and, for some, going a little bit wild. We are all 18 or older so we have more freedom in our choices for how to live our lives. One of the first things I thought of on my 18th birthday was that I could now get tattoos without my parents’ permission.

I had wanted to get a tattoo for so long, but I didn’t want to get it right away– mostly because I wanted to make sure it was what I really wanted and my parents are completely against tattoos. I waited until second semester of my freshman year to get it, almost a full year from when I turned 18. My first tattoo was the word “strength” in an infinity sign  on my hip. I now have a second tattoos (a cross near my heel) and plans for more in the future.

a newly finished tattoo

I was so excited to get my first tattoo!

Because they are so permanent, tattoos are not something to take lightly. Like I said earlier, I deliberated for months before I went down to Red Wing Tattoo here in Winona. Before you get your first tattoo, here are some things you really need to consider:

  • Think about it for at least 5 months. If you haven’t changed the spot or the tattoo in that time, then it is safe to get it. Don’t ever get a tattoo on a spur of the moment or when you are intoxicated because it NEVER ends well
  • Talk to your friends and family about your ideas for a tattoo and get their opinions
  • Think about your future career and whether a tattoo will hurt you professionally. I am going to be a nurse and visible tattoos are not allowed. My tattoos, however, can be hidden under scrubs. A few other professions that might require the tattoo to be covered are: doctor, veterinarian, teacher, retail salesperson, day care provider and many office jobs
  • Research the business where you are going to get it done. Several of my friends have gotten tattoos at Red Wing Tattoo, like I have. But I also know one person someone who had gotten his tattoos at Third Eye Tattoo, also in downtown Winona.
  • Research prices and make sure you can afford to get the tattoo. The price depends on where you go, the size of the design and how much color there is. Both of my tattoos cost me $40 because they are small, one-color student discount tattoos.
  • Make sure the tattoo means something to you, something important. If you have ever watched the tv show “Bad Ink” on A&E or have seen those Buzzfeed listicles, you know what I’m talking about.

Hopefully, these tips can help some of you to figure out whether or not to get a tattoo. The major thing to remember is that tattoos are permanent! If you do want to get one taken off, it is extremely expensive and painful so make the right decision the first time around.

–Liz Peterson

Homecoming is #StillCoolSober

success kid meme

Homecoming is upon us, people! Whether you’re an alum or a current student, it’s a time show your school spirit and have fun.  Unfortunately, Homecoming—and not just at WSU but most colleges in general— has gotten a reputation as a weekend of all-out partying that overshadows the focus of celebrating our WSU community.

Rachel is a freshman and I, Elizabeth, am a senior, and we can both attest that there is an expectation to get wasted on Homecoming weekend, no matter if you are legal to drink or not. We’re sure you’ve all seen the unauthorized Homecoming t-shirts and tanks with bad puns about drinking. But just because you feel the pressure to drink doesn’t mean that you must get hammered to count yourself as a “true” Warrior.

Personally, I, Rachel, am not going to drink this Homecoming and I am a strong advocate for anti-drinking. I’ve never really seen the point, especially if your goal is to stay drunk all weekend. Why would you need to be drunk all day? It just wastes your money and your time.  Plus, you won’t remember any of the “good times” you’re having!

family guy characters

Also, excessive drinking does not make you cool or attractive—it just makes you a target for laughter. If you’re passed out by 9pm, people will likely draw on your face and take pictures. If you’re vomiting in the bathroom at a house party or behind the bleachers at the football game, people will be making fun of you, not cheering you on. If you are super drunk and have good friends, they will simply get annoyed by having to take care of you and will call 911 if they suspect you have alcohol poisoning. If you have really bad friends, they might just make sure you’re turned on your side.

Additionally, there will be extra police patrols out on Homecoming weekend so if you’re underage there is an increased chance of getting a minor consumption ticket. If you are 21+, you could get tickets for drunken disorderliness, noise violations or providing alcohol to minors if your house party gets busted.

Now, what part of that wasted homecoming experience sounds fun? (Sorry for our own bad pun.)

We both want to be able to remember WSU HoCo14 and am sure you do too. In fact, all the Homecoming events like the comedy show, the parade and the football game will be way more enjoyable if you can see and stand up straight. For those of you who know that drinking is not for you, go to  with friends who share this view Instead of going out at night, host a Netflix party, play games and have fun your own way. As you celebrate Homecoming, tag your tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook pics with the hashtag #StillCoolSober to show that other students that you don’t need to be drunk to have fun.

All that being said, we’re not telling you that you can’t go out and party on Homecoming. We understand that partying isn’t all bad–I, Elizabeth, do enjoy going downtown on the occasional weekend–just do it responsibly. If you are going to drink, know that there is a limit to much alcohol your body can take in a given timeframe. Pace yourself to about one drink per hour and drink a glass of water every so often as well. This way you can still enjoy your time with your friends but avoid the hangover the next morning.

In fact of the matter is that, WSU’s reputation as a “turn up school” is pushed by a small section of the student population, not the majority, and Homecoming seems to bring out the worst. Together, we can work to change that obnoxious, cirrhosis-inducing culture to a culture of responsible drinking and sober fun.

–Rachel Adam & Elizabeth Meinders

Protect Yourself on Social Media

caution tape around social media icons

You need to be careful when using social media.  Photo Credit

In my last post I warned you about some of the dangers of social media. So, now I am going to tell you how avoid such embarrassing, future-ruining and potentially law-breaking activity?

1. Follow Codes of Conduct

Just do it. Yes, most of it is common sense and your gut should tell you when something might be against a code of conduct, but it’s best to know what your social media platforms deem acceptable, and more importantly, what they deem as unacceptable. It’s especially important to know the WSU’s definition of appropriate conduct because we’re using their wifi, their laptops and their iPads.

2. Think About Where Your Posts End Up

That is, remember that they are being sent into the infinity of the cyber-world. Is it something that others could use for something you never intended? Is it something you feel good about putting out into the great abyss of the internet? Will you still be proud thirty, forty, fifty years down the road? Be conscious of who can find your posts, and how they could use them.

3. WWYFET?

Write it on your planner, braid it into a bracelet, tattoo it to your bicep, but whatever you do, keep it in mind: WHAT WOULD YOUR FUTURE EMPLOYER THINK? Remember that they likely didn’t grow up in an age where sharing a pic of all your tattoos was a normal thing to do. So keep it appropriate for employer eyes.

4. Keep Your Private Matters Private

The world of social media doesn’t need to know everything about you. No, seriously…it doesn’t. The world doesn’t need to know when you last went to the bathroom, and it doesn’t need to know what underwear you chose to wear that day. Trust me, all that stuff is better kept to yourself.

6. Don’t be Hurtful

This is the rule that really gets to me and the one that I think is far more important than anything else I’ve said above. One of the worst things to come from social media is the way people think that hiding behind a computer screen is an excuse for being mean, nasty or hurtful. Why do we think that anonymity gives us the right to hurt other human beings? Think about the person on the other side of the screen before you post. What if those hurtful words were being said about your sister, your brother? Your best friend? YOU?? Let’s be better humans online and take a deep look at why you want to post hurtful comments in the first place.

Social media is a place where anything can happen. Screenshots can be taken, job opportunities can be lost, a reputation can be tarnished and posts can be reported. It’s also a place of fun—a place for memories, friendships, and even education.

So here’s the moral of the story: BE CONSCIOUS of what you post, because it’s a reflection of the person staring into the screen.

–Leah Dobihal

Social Media's Hidden Dangers

How many days could you go without checking social media? Maybe two, tops? It seems we live in a world where social media runs our lives. We check Instagram while walking to class, take Facebook breaks during study sessions and tweet while out to dinner with friends. But how much do we think about what we write? What we share? What we post? Because as you and I both know, it’s not always pretty.

Let’s be honest–we’ve probably all posted something we shouldn’t have on social media. And we’ve regretted it. Since sharing our entire lives on the web seems to be so commonplace to our generation, I’m going to dissect that habit and see what’s inside.

First, let’s talk about the dangers of social media. (And there are plenty.)

1. Screenshots

We all know what these are. Snap a pic of your screen and you can have it forever. Or another way to look at it is that other people can save your posts forever. The other day I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw one of my Instagram pictures being featured in a random organization’s tweet. I had no idea that something I’d posted on Instagram would end up on a different media platform and in the hands of someone I have never met. Scary? Definitely.

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2. Un-impress Employers

Probably the most important person to think about when posting to social media is your future employer. Picture him or her—powerful, professional, maybe sporting glasses or a polished mustache. Now picture them looking at what you posted yesterday, or last week or last year. Would they hire you? I’m not talking about goofy photos with your friends. Those won’t get your résumé thrown into the trash, but posts featuring alcohol, drugs, nudity or other illegal activities will seriously hurt your chances of an employer taking you seriously.

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3. You can Never Un-Post

One of the most dangerous things about the internet is that it’s forever. A mean comment, a racy photo, an embarrassing video or an inappropriate status—you’re never getting them back. They’ll be floating around in the cyber-universe until you’re bouncing your grandchildren on your knees. So think twice before you send something into the blackhole, because you’re never getting it back.

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4. Wreck a Good Reputation

Let’s face it, our generation judges people based on their social media presence. Post too much and you’ll be labeled annoying, post too little and you’ll be labeled mysterious. But these aren’t the labels we need to worry about. How about being labeled as mean? Or being labeled a bully? The way we talk on social media reflects on us, even when we don’t realize it.

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5. Breaking Codes of Conduct

You may know that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have their own codes of conduct. They’ll tell you what you can post, what you can’t and everything in between. What you might not know is that Winona State has it’s own code of conduct regarding how students use the internet. So as much as you want to post that racy meme, is it really worth the embarrassment of being reported to the university and possibly getting suspended or expelled? Whether you realize it or not, there are consequences for breaking the rules.

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So, there is a little more to social media than you thought, huh?

–Leah Dobihal

Take a Break: Kim’s Guide to Meditation

stacked rocks and fall leaves

Let the world–and your worries–just fall away…

Contrary to popular belief, healthy stress exists—the kind that motivates you to get your reading done, work on your paper or go to the gym. However, for many of us, our mounting to-do lists result in the bad kind of stress—the kind that wears on you physically and mentally. After last semester, I was burnt out from an over-busy schedule and finals so I embarked on a journey this summer to find ways to reduce my stress levels.

I started meditating in June and, while it hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done, it’s been the most rewarding and beneficial. Here’s my how-to guide for you to start meditating too, and join me in a less-stressed world. :)

Before You Begin:

1. Posture: Find a place where you can sit comfortably. You can choose your posture ,whether it’s sitting on the ground on a cushion with your legs crossed or straight up in a chair with the soles of your feet on the ground. Pick the one that’s more comfortable. I don’t recommend lying down because you’ll be tempted to fall asleep.

2. Duration: Start with just 10 minutes of meditation and slowly work your way up from there. The best way to do this is to set a timer on your phone. Once you notice the 10-minute meditation getting easier, add five minutes and keep going in this pattern until you reach 30 minutes of meditation or more. The app Headspace is good for beginner meditators. The app gives you a “Take Ten” process in which a suave British male voice leads you through ten minutes of meditation for 10 days. After the initial 10 day trial, you need to subscribe and it’s a bit pricey for a student on a budget. The free trial is a great introduction though if you’re having trouble on your own.

3. Location and Time of Day: In order to meditate properly and successfully, you’ll need to pick a location and time of day in which you won’t be disturbed. A couple times I’ve tried to meditate in the middle of the afternoon but one of my roommates would knock on my door. Such interruptions throw off your concentration and it’s hard to get back on track–especially when you’re just starting out. I suggest setting your morning alarm 10 minutes earlier and meditating first thing when you get out of bed. Bringing awareness to your body in that way is a great way to start your day as well.

How to Meditate:

So you’ve found a time of day and posture that works for you. What next?

Start by taking deep breaths, really focusing on the air as it moves in and out of your lungs and diaphragm. Gently close your eyes. Mentally scan your body from head to toe. Is there any area that feels particularly tight? Take note of that, but don’t try to change anything. Take a moment to assess an underlying mood or feeling you might have, whether it’s exhaustion, frustration or joy. Start becoming aware of the sounds around you, both near and far away.

After a few breaths, bring your awareness back to your breath. Many people who meditate like to focus on a mantra. I like to meditate on “I am;” I breathe in on “I” and breathe out on “am.” Another helpful way to focus on your breath if you’re having trouble is to count your breaths in cycles of 10. Each inhale or exhale counts as one. Once you reach 10, start over again at one.

Especially when you first start meditating, your mind will tend to wander a lot. Without all the distractions you’re used to, you might even feel a bit uncomfortable as mindfulness may dredge up unpleasant feelings. Don’t get discouraged if you are having a lot of trouble focusing or if your mind wanders uncontrollably.You might

Like any skill, meditation takes practice and you won’t be able to master it in one or even a few tries. Just keep at it and it will eventually get easier. Trust me! Your body will thank you for it.

–Kim Schneider

Mind Your Mental Health

a signs reads "hope ahead" against a blue sky

WSU Counseling Services has many resources to help you overcome your depression and anxiety. (Photo credit)

Now that everyone has finally gotten settled in at school and has their classes figured out, professors decide to switch it up and start giving exams, or what I like to call them, academic death traps.

No one likes to have to take exams and quizzes, but we all have to do it. Now I know it can get really difficult to stick with your classes when you are so overwhelmed and maybe even the D-word– depressed.

Depression is a very serious condition no matter if it is seasonal, situational or severe. All aspects of the condition are difficult to deal with–the anxiety, sad mood, lack of energy, lack of appetite, antisocial behavior, not wanting to do anything and even thoughts of suicide. Of course, depression has many other symptoms as well and each person is affected differently.

I myself suffer from depression so I definitely know the feeling. I am not ashamed to admit it and no one should ever feel ashamed about their struggles with mental health. Many people suffer from depression, but often put up a front and don’t tell anyone. For me, it was biological. The predisposition for depression is in my genes and being overwhelmed by exams does not help my depression.

All is not lost, however. Depression can be controlled with counseling and medications. I go to counseling every two weeks right here on campus in the wellness complex. I am also on four different medications. If it wasn’t for the counseling and medications, I can honestly say I don’t know if I would be here right now.

If you think you might have depression, please go to Kryzsko Commons 247 this Thursday, Oct. 9, at 11:30am-1:30pm to get a free depression screening. WSU Counseling Services is offering these services for free to get you the help you need to feel better. They won’t poke you with any needles or anything like that, so that’s a plus. They just want to talk to you and to show you that you don’t have to go through it alone. Trust me, they really have your best interests at heart.

If you can’t make it to the depression screening on Thursday, you can also take an online mental health screening.

–Liz Peterson

5 Tips to Survive Stress in the 21st Century

meme with Woody and Buzz Lightyear saying "Stress, Stress Everywhere"

Some days, this is soooo accurate for life in the 21st century.

On Friday, Winona State University hosted Dr. Edward Creagan from the Mayo Clinic on “How to Survive Stress in the 21st Century.” Dr. Creagan gave a multitude of tips and tricks on how college students can reduce their stress levels now and beyond graduation into the future years. As a stressed-out senior myself, I thought there were many beneficial takeaways from the lecture.

  1. Learn to Say No

    One of the best strategies to reduce stress is to take on only what you can.  As tempting as it is to join every single club or accept every job and social responsibility, it’s only going to hurt you (and others) in the long run. To eliminate stress, prioritize your responsibilities and focus on your top choices.  It’s better to give 110 percent effort to a few organizations than to haphazardly join too many.

  2. Unplug

    We’ve heard it time and time again: “Turn off the cellphone,” “Get off social media,” “Time to shut the laptop.” And as much as we would like to give a teenage-roll-of-the-eyes at these phrases, it’s actually very good for you to turn off the electronics every once in a while. Dr. Creagan suggests starting the day by completing your to-do checklist before even turning on your email. That way, all of your focus will go towards your goals for the day, before you are summoned by the outside world.

  3.   Write Things Down

    Have you ever gone to bed and just as your brain slowly starts to doze off…you suddenly realizes you completely forgot to do an assignment for the next day?  In order to avoid this moment of panic, try to write everything down. It’s easy to think that you’ll remember everything while you’re sitting in class, but chances are you will forget something. It’s much safer to write it all down in a planner or at least some sort of piece of paper.

  4. Eliminate Distractions

    Many times as I struggle to write a paper or study for an impending exam, I find myself aimlessly scrolling through Facebook on my phone or reading the latest article on BuzzFeed or texting my friends to make dinner plans. Two hours later, I may have done everything BUT my paper. Cue major stress. Dr. Creagan said that in order to eliminate stress, you need to eliminate distractions.  If you need to get a homework assignment done, turn off the cellphone, put a social media-blocking app on your computer and get to work.

  5. Invest in Yourself

    In order to do your best, you need to feel your best. Stress can accumulate fast if you don’t take the time to take care of yourself by giving what your body needs. Sleep is a big one for me. If I don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, I’m a walking zombie and can’t focus on anything besides planning my afternoon nap. Dr. Creagan also suggests exercise as another great tool in reducing stress. He says that if you plan for at least a half hour a day of physical activity, you’re brain and body will thank you for it. So, hit the lights and hit the track and you’ll be well on your way to surviving stress in the 21st century.

–Melissa VanGrinsven

WSU Epidemic: How to Get Help

a sick person huddled in a blanket

It seems like there’s been an epidemic of various illness around campus in the last two weeks and I know I’m not the only one who got sick. Many of my friends and classmates told me how they felt so miserable that they just wanted to crawl back into bed. They had colds and flus, but I got so sick that I had to skip two classes for another reason–asthma.

Allergy season isn’t over. And for those like me, who have allergy-induced asthma, it got a whole lot worse. Mine got so bad that I was using my RESCUE INHALER about five times a day, which is terrible. It was actually the worst it had ever been. It got so bad that I had an attack in the middle of class and had to head back to my dorm so I could breath. And that’s a long trek since I live on west campus.

Whether you’ve got a cold, a stomachache or asthma like I do, the point is that we’re in college now. Mommy and Daddy can’t come to take care of us and our roommates will likely just tell us that they “hope we feel better” because there isn’t too much they can do for us. It’s up to us to make sure we get better.

The day is not lost though. You see, there’s this handy resource on campus in the IWC called Health and Wellness Services that is there to help you when you are sick.

Now, you probably don’t have an awesome aunt who works there like I do,  but rest assured, all of the nurse practitioners are extremely friendly and want to see you get better. All you need is your insurance card and they can prescribe you medications to get rid of anything from strep throat to an ear infection.

To make things even better, there is also a pharmacy right in the IWC! How cool and convenient, is that? Usually they have your prescription ready by the end of the day.

But the IWC isn’t just for the physically sick. If you are experiencing depression or other mental health issues and need to talk to someone, you can also find counseling help there. The IWC prides itself on being able to help all their patients, or at least being able to refer them to the right people who can help.

All in all, the IWC is a great place to go for your health.  They will get you what you need to feel better, but they definitely won’t go this far.

–Rachel Adam

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