Tag Archives: Winona State University

I graduated from college TWO years ago


It’s hard to believe I graduated from college two years ago today. It’s also hard to believe I now live in Rapid City, South Dakota and work in the marketing department at a credit union.

While both the state and workplace are much cooler than you might initially think, they are definitely not places the wide-eyed recent Winona State University graduate could have imagined finding herself back in 2011.

When I was in college, I was going to have a job at a downhill skiing magazine in Colorado before I even graduated.

But a month into earning a degree, moving home, and living with my dad, I quickly learned life beyond academia is much more difficult than I anticipated.

From working in a cubicle-laden call-center to picking up a post-graduate internship, I found myself desperately clawing my way up my mountain of dreams.

Since graduating from college, I’ve learned the proverbial job ladder I aim to climb is steep and long, with rungs so far spread apart it’s sometimes difficult to lift your leg high enough to reach the next step.

And that first rung is positioned so far off the ground, it took me 16 months to wriggle my way up the side of the ladder before I could lob onto the step.

The past two years have led me on an interesting journey through strained phone conversations and uncomfortable interview hot seats.

Upon graduating, I sent my resume to more than 100 companies and endured 16 months of constant rejection. I would literally send out five resumes every night and hear back from no one. I became a pro at phone interviews. When I was invited for in-person meetings, I’d walk out of each office with a wide smile and high hopes, only to receive a crushing phone call or email days later stating that another candidate was chosen, ‘but we feel you have a bright future.’

(Once you hear you have a bright future more times than you can count on two hands, you begin to seriously question the validity of that statement).

I received one particularly overwhelming denial at the end of a lunch date with my aunt. I had let my hopes float so high that the job rejection brought me to tears in the middle of Panera– we’re talking runny nose, puffy eyes, and heaving sobs.

That was it. I reached my breaking point. You can only be told that someone more qualified than you got the job you wanted so many times before you can’t take it anymore.

And amidst all these rejections, I was subjected to what could possibly be the most awkward job interview ever.

At the time, I thought my call-center gig was due to expire. Desperate for a steady income, I applied to any job I deemed reasonable.

One of those jobs was a sales position with a Madison-based broadcast company.

I am not a saleswoman.  I would likely be more qualified to wrangle crocodiles.

Nevertheless, I put on my pseudo-confident persona, feigned interest for a sales position, and strode my way into unfamiliar territory.

Sometime between asking me run-of-the-mill interview questions and answering an unimportant phone call from her daughter IN THE MIDDLE OF MY INTERVIEW, the director of sales and something-or-other stopped me mid-sentence and told me I was not the woman for the job.

I was mortified. My face turned an unnatural shade of red and sweat began to pour from my pores. This, I assumed, is rock bottom. It’s one thing to receive rejections via phone or Internet, but facing rejection on the spot is particularly painful.

And then things got worse.

The saleswoman proceeded to tell me she read my blog post about getting a banana thrown at me on a city bus a decade earlier. She thought I seemed interesting and just wanted to meet me.


She then proceeded to search the Internet for jobs in which I might be interested. All the while, the sweat that had been pouring from my pores was now pooling on my chair– I know it sounds disgusting, but put yourself in a super uncomfortable situation and see how your body reacts. It’s not pretty.

When the sales lady excused me from the interview from hell, I skipped the formalities and sprinted from her office.

Terrible as that interview was, it armed me with a newfound confidence. There’s no way any job interview could be worse than that, I told myself.

It was a handy mindset to have, as I still faced a year’s worth of rejections.

Throughout my journey, there’s a quote I’ve always looked to for inspiration.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

I love it. I think it’s perfect. And I couldn’t agree more.

While I haven’t completely ruled out living in snow-capped mountains and writing about professional skiers, I’m content with where I am now. Sometimes I pretend the Black Hills are mountains and it’s nice to finally have that elusive job ‘I went to school for.’

I did it

(I officially got the email informing me that my degree had been posted, so this can now be published in confidence.)

Four and a half years of hard work, new experiences, difficult questions, life-changing decisions, lots of fun and a tiny bit of slacking have culminated in a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Winona State University.  When I moved to this tiny town in August 2007 as a Biology major with aspirations of becoming a dentist, I seriously doubted that I would ever receive a diploma from this institution then later doubted that I would ever receive a diploma, period.

It was by accident that I landed in Winona, Minnesota at Winona State University.  My parents refused to allow me to borrow over $100,000 in loans and attend school at the University of Colorado Boulder (a legitimate item on my 2007 Christmas list), my high school grades wouldn’t allow me in to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and attending college in my home state of Wisconsin was simply out of the question.

Unfortunately, WSU requires students to choose their dorms shortly after applying.  Assuming that I would never actually attend WSU, I  randomly prioritized my dorm choices in order of “buildings with the coolest names.”  Tau Center found it’s way to the top.  Turns out Tau is the smallest building, furthest away from the main campus.  And the co-ed dorm is filled with mostly single rooms and noisy boys.

Great, I thought.  I’m moving to a town that I’ve never even heard of before, with no one I know, and I’ll be holed up in a room by myself because I don’t know how to make friends.

In short, I was so wrong.

My first friend was Melissa Chase.  Missy was among the handful of fellow to-be-Warriors that befriended me on Facebook after I joined the Winona State University network and before I became selective with who I “friended.”  Our initial wall-to-wall conversations were primitive, to say the least, and when she popped her head into my dorm room on move-in day and introduced herself as my neighbor I think we mentioned that we had already “met” on Facebook (awkward).  But it’s because of Missy that I so enjoyed WSU.  She was my friend from day one.  She guilt-tripped me into staying at WSU and not transferring.  And she was so out-going she made friends for the both of us.

And I certainly was not holed up alone in my dorm room.  No, with the exception of two inhabitants, everyone on our floor befriended eachother.  We affectionately called ourselves Tau 3E, went to dinner in mass, created a Facebook group professing how cool we thought we were, drunkenly gathered in the lounge after a night out, and hung out in the hallway with our RA well past quiet hours.

Although (much to my surprise) my new social life was flourishing, I was quickly sinking in the academic department.  As has been the case since I was like seven, math and science weren’t my forte.  But even after failing and dropping two crucial classes, I couldn’t let my dentistry dreams dissipate.

I did eventually come to the conclusion that my poor grades could never carry me to dental school …and not everyone routinely brushes and flosses their teeth.  So I shifted my focus to marine biology, which is odd because I’ve had a life-long fish phobia and I’ve just recently overcome my fear of seaweed.  I guess the  the idea of a turquoise ocean being my “office” was too alluring.  Luckily this unrealistic dream lasted less than a semester.

So a year and a half into college, I had horrible grades and no idea what I was doing or where I was headed.  I was thisclose to dropping out.  Luckily my parents would have never allowed me to do such a thing and WSU gave me multiple chances to turn my academic career around.  And with a 180-degree turn I decided to pursue a dream I always had, but never previously considered.  Journalism.

It turned out to be a perfect fit; I love writing, conversing and learning.  Nevertheless even as a journalism student I had numerous hurdles to overcome, but embracing all things cliché… I had found my niche.

While some people breeze through college like it’s an extension of high school, I did not.  I struggled.  College was difficult for so many reasons, but against my own doubts, I did it.  I graduated.

Just before I took my final final as an undergraduate, I checked my email and was pleasantly surprised to find a new message from one of my aunts with the subject line “Deep Breath.”  My aunt Pam said she had been thinking about me and included a poignant congratulatory line.

“You should be very proud of your accomplishments,” she wrote,  “our family has been in this country over 100 years and you are the first to receive a four year degree.”