Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Six Months Post Graduation

Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and blog. Last time I wrote was in April and I had just finished raising money for Relay for Life. Since then I’ve graduated college, got a job, and bought a van. Things are really looking up for me and I’m really happy with where my life has gone since I’ve graduated. So what is it like to graduate and become an adult? I’m in my sixth month of being adult and they are some awesome things (paychecks), but then there are boring things (health insurance). And in reality you’re starting over again, whether you’re moving to a new town, starting a new job, or moving back in with your parents. It’s a change and everyone hates change, but unfortunately we can’t stay in college forever. Well you can, but it gets pretty damn expensive after a while. So I’ve come up with a list of things to expect when you graduate/how to prepare for life after college. And remember all of these opinions are my own and other people could tell you something completely different, but whatever its’ my blog so I’ll write what I want.

1. Before you graduate everyone will ask you what your plans are after graduation. This is so true. You know those Buzzfeed articles with all the GIFs and memes about graduating college and how people ask you what you’re doing and it’s always someone banging their head against a desk? That’s exactly how it is in real life. Pretty much your entire senior year people will ask and every time you will probably respond with “I have no effin clue!” 9 out of 10 college graduates don’t have a job lined up after college. (I made that statistic up, but it has to be pretty close) So if you’re one of those 9 don’t worry about it. After a while of people asking me what I was doing with my life I got creative and told them I was moving to an exotic place called my Mom’s couch.

2. If you’re in college and you want to get a job someday, then you have to be involved. I know that this sounds like a Public Service Announcement for Student Services or whatever, but I’m not kidding. During college I had three internships and had leadership positions in three student organizations. And my resume looks awesome…and I got a job. So I must have done something right. This is the reality now. Going to college and getting a degree is not enough anymore. Employers want to see that you’re involved outside of class and that you have a passion for something other than beer pong. And I know it can be intimidating submitting your resume or walking into a room where you know no one, but I promise you won’t regret it later. Just do it!

3. Another Public Service Announcement that I have is to utilize the Career Services department on your campus. During my finals months of college I was probably in there every week having them look at my cover letters and resumes and when I finally got a job offer I called them and asked for tips on negotiating. They are talented people and they know what they’re talking about. Plus it’s free so use them!

4. Savor every moment of your last days in college. Because just like in high school, the minute you get your diploma everything changes. People will start to move away (or you will move), you will start working 40 hours a week, and then all of sudden six months passes and you don’t know where they went. So take a ton of pictures, stay out late, and don’t worry about the future yet, just enjoy the present. #DeepQuote

5. Take a break between college and your new job. Whatever you do, don’t graduate on Saturday and then start working full-time on Monday. Take a break. Even if it’s just one day where you lie around and watch Netflix all day. Do it. You have been working your butt off these last 4 or 5 years and you deserve a break. Or if you don’t have a job lined up yet, just go back home and hang out with your parents for a while. They will appreciate the company. I took three weeks off between graduating and starting my new job and it was great. I watched Netflix, visited my friends, drove my Grandma around, and just hung out. It is the most exhilarating feeling knowing that I didn’t have to rush to a meeting, go write a paper, or check your schedule.  

6. When you do get that job offer, don’t be afraid to negotiate a little. As I was applying and starting my career I was told that there’s nothing wrong with negotiating and standing your ground for what you feel you’re worth. But there is a fine line that you don’t want to cross when negotiating. For example, if they offer you a salary of $30,000, then don’t come back and ask for $45,000. I was given the advice to ask for 10% more. So if they offer you $30,000 then you say you were hoping to be somewhere around $32,000. Or if they can’t give you more money then ask for another week of vacation. And don’t be worried that it will come off as arrogant. If anything your employer will respect you more, because you respect yourself more. It’s really important that you know you self-worth and what a huge asset you will be to this company.

7. Pay you debts. Whether it’s student loans, credit cards, or something else. Pay that shit off. I completely understand that this won’t happen overnight, but you need to establish a plan as to how to pay it off. The last thing you want to do is fast forward five years and still have the same amount (or more) of debt and just be making the minimum payments. So sit down, figure out how much you owe, and establish a plan on how you will pay that debt off!

8. You still have to live like a poor college student. Don’t think that just because you have this fancy new job that you can start buying bottle service and caviar. It’s important to live within your means and really start budgeting and planning ahead. I know, this is the adult part that really sucks, because you actually have to start becoming an adult. You may get paid every two weeks or twice a month so it’s important that you don’t go and buy the whole bar shots right away once you get paid. Because Monday will come and you’ll still have to buy food, or gas to drive to work, or your rent. You’re welcome to splurge now and then, just not too much. : )

9. What’s a 401K? Start putting money away for retirement. I know what you’re thinking…seriously Whitney? I just started working full-time and now you want me to save for something that’s 40 years away? Yes. Out of all the things I may joke about in this blog post, this is one thing I’m serious about. If your company offers a 401K plan and offers to match whatever money you put away up to a certain percentage, enroll in it as soon as you can. It is way easier to save money and have it taken out of your paycheck before you see it versus physically actually having to do the transaction on your own. Trust me, start saving now, and you 65 year old self will thank you.

10. Last, but not least, focus on yourself. It can be really a challenging time to figure out what you want or who you are in this transition. And it’s really important to stay true to yourself and figure out where you want to go in life. You may decide that you don’t want to work in the corporate life and you want to work in non-profit, or that you want to travel right away and see the world. Whatever you decide, do it for yourself. Not for your parents, not for you friends, just do it for yourself.

That’s it! That’s all I’ve got folks! I hope this post will help some of my friends who will be graduating soon or maybe some young professionals who need to get their shit together. Becoming an “adult” can be really intimidating, but it can also be really fun. Don’t look at it as the “rest of your life.” Meh. Look at it as the beginning of your life or a new chapter in your book! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thank You for Donating to Relay for Life!

I'm so excited to share with everyone that not only did I reach my goal of raising $100 for Relay for Life, but I completely surpassed it. I was going to blog about this right after the event, but people kept donating for weeks after! Just this week my Mom called and said that one of our family friends dropped off $20 at the farm for Relay for Life. How awesome is that?

So as of right now, I have raised $530 for the American Cancer Society! I can't thank my family and friends enough for their support. So in no particular order here is a list of everyone that donated to my Relay for Life team:

Rick Prohaska, Bev Wilhite, Randy Fangman, Grandma Johnson, Mom & Dad, Barry & Gretchen McGahuey, Marlene Walters, Jean Zigmant, Wendy & Clint Jensen, Tiffany Siebel, Kay Craig, Tammy Johnson, Mary Johnson, Morgan Ruter, Sarah Hansen, Madison McKone, Tyler Olson, Holly O'Brien, Jennifer Hedrick, Cole Nedved, Lauren Prohaska, Vicki Noble, Micki Noble, and Travis Reid.

I also want to give a big shout out to my Uncle Lee and Bill Colwell Ford of Hudson for each donating $100. They went above and beyond and I'm so grateful.

Along with personally raising $530, my Love Your Melon team raised over $1,300 for the American Cancer Society. We were also able to personally hand out 40 Love Your Melon hats to cancer survivors and their caregivers. Overall, it was a great night for the American Cancer Society and for the UNI Love Your Melon Campus Crew! I'm so proud to have been involved with both organizations so that hopefully someday we can cure cancer!

Handing out Love Your Melon hats to cancer survivors & caregivers at the UNI Relay for Life!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Oh, You're An Only Child?"

Just me being an only child.
Since today is National Only Child Day, I figured this would be a great time to blog about the stereotypes and the awesomeness of being an only child. Since the beginning of my life I've been an only child. My parents had trouble conceiving and actually gave up and then my Mom got prego with me. This is why I like to refer to myself as the “miracle child.” Just kidding, but seriously. To be honest, being an only child was never an issue for me and I've never understood the stereotype associated with it. The only time in life it ever bothered me was when I told other people that I was an only child.

“Oh you’re an only child? I bet that sucked.” (Cue “the look”)

And by “the look” I mean that instant look of pity. Like because I was an only child my parents stuck me in the basement with limited food and water or something. If you’re not an only child and you don’t know what I mean by the look of pity. It is the same look you get from great aunts and uncles at Christmas when you tell them you’re single and over the age of 18. (And yes I've been single and an only child at the same time. Double pity.)

That look goes back to society’s fear of being alone. Dun-Dun-Duhhh. Yes, I said it. People are afraid of being alone. It’s why millions of dollars are spent on dating, weddings, and love in general. Or why websites like even exist in the first place. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against relationships and getting married, I’m in a relationship right now. But I know too many people who just go from relationship to relationship because they’re trying to find their soul mate to complete them. But why do we have to have another person in our life to feel complete? Or people who stay in bad, unhealthy relationships because they don’t want to be alone. I know I’m getting a little off topic, but my point is that I've never been afraid of being alone…..and I attribute this to being an only child.

My evil parents who made me an only child.
I've never been afraid of sitting in a restaurant by myself or going to the movies by myself. I've done both of these activities multiple times and I think I’m a better person for it. I guess the word I’m looking to describe myself is independent. I think because I grew up as an only child I’m extremely independent. Growing up on a farm as an only child I had to be creative and think of things to keep myself busy. I have never been the type to “get bored.” I was either outside, reading, or playing with my toys.

So let’s look at the top three stereotypes for only children:

1. Spoiled. You have no idea how many times people just assumed that I was a spoiled brat because I’m an only child, which is really quite rude. I’m not going to lie and say I didn't get awesome presents growing up, but my parents were also able to teach me the fine line between a want and a need. Was I fortunate to have nice things? Yes, but so did a lot of other kids in my school. So I don't feel bad about it.

2. Bossy. I will admit that growing up there were instances when I was bossy. For example, I always insisted that I had to be Baby Spice when we played Spice Girls, even though I wasn't a blonde. I don’t know why I wanted to be her so bad, but I did. Jenny was always pissed at me about it. She still brings it up today. There are times today when the boss in me comes out, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It goes back to being independent and knowing what I want. Plus nowadays they don’t call it bossy, they call it being a leader.   ; )

3. Social Skills. For some reason people assume that only children have a hard time communicating or they’re introverts. I’m the complete opposite. Talking has never been a problem for me. My sixth grade teacher once told my Mom I was the social butterfly of the class. Why do you think I’m majoring in communications?

There’s probably more stereotypes, but that’s all I've got for today. As you can see the struggle of being an only child is real. I hope you all remember this blog the next time someone tells you they’re an only child, please don’t give them “the look.”

Happy #NationalOnlyChildDay to all the kids out there with no brothers and sisters! The few, the proud, and the extremely attractive!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why I'm Fundraising for Relay for Life

Melissa & I with our Love Your Melon gear.
This past year I have become very involved with the Love Your Melon organization. In case you aren't aware, the Love Your Melon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization run by college students on a mission to put a hat on every child battling cancer in America. For every hat sold, another identical hat is given to a child battling cancer. Through funding from this Buy One – Give One program and donations, the Love Your Melon Foundation provides therapeutic entertainment and comfy hats to children battling cancer during the difficult cancer treatment process.

My good friend, Melissa Miller, who is also from Britt, became really involved when she lived in the twin cities last year. So when she started at UNI this past fall we joined forces. In only 8 months we have accomplished quite a bit. We have established the UNI Love Your Melon Crew as an official student organization on campus, we've been able to recruit 25+ members to join, and we've raised approximately $1,500 in free will donations that will go towards making hats for kids. As a campus crew we also compete against other crews in the United States. So every time someone purchases some type of merchandise from the Love Your Melon website, they’re able to pick a college and give them credit.  At this moment, the UNI Crew ranks 5th out of 150 campus crews in the nation. We have sold 453 hats, which means 453 hats for kids battling cancer.

A little boy getting his Love Your Melon hat.
So how do these 453 hats get distributed? Well our crew is actually having our first give-a-away event on April 10th at the UNI Relay for Life. At the event we’ll be handing out approximately 50 hats to those who are currently affected by cancer and those who have beat it. Our crew will be able to see what all our hard work went for when those battling this horrible disease will be given their hat. It will also be a great way to end my college career. I've worked really hard these past five years to get where I am today, but at the end of the day it’s important to remember those that are in need and to give back.  

Since I am attending Relay for Life I am asking for donations for the event. I’ve set a goal of $100 to raise. I’m asking that everyone who reads this donate $5, but I would appreciate any amount that you’re able to give. Any money you donate will go directly to the American Cancer Society. Their organization helps people take steps to reduce their risk of cancer or find it early, when it is easiest to treat. They provide free information and services to cancer patients throughout their journey. The organization is investing in crucial research to prevent, treat, and ultimately, cure all cancers.

Follow this link to donate to my team:

I'm so grateful that I'm able to help those stricken with this horrible disease in multiple ways and I hope you're able to donate to such a wonderful cause. Thank you for all your support.

Make sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

The UNI Love Your Melon Crew

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dear Cedar Falls City Council

I wrote this letter in response to this article. I mailed out a copy to every Cedar Falls City Council Member today. I hope it opens their eyes and they look at this situation from a students perspective. 

Dear Cedar Falls City Council Member,

I’m writing you this letter today because I’m worried the Cedar Falls city council is about to make a big mistake. For the past year or so I have been following the news about the rental property situation in the city. It seems that the situation has come to a head and very soon you’ll be voting on an ordinance that will reduce the rental occupancy limit from four unrelated people to three per dwelling unit. I’m sure that you’ve heard plenty of opinions, facts, and statistics about the situation, but I’m going to be honest and tell you how it looks from a college student’s perspective.
First I will give you a little background on myself. I grew up in northern Iowa in small town called Britt. I graduated in 2010 and then attended Kirkwood Community College for two years before heading to UNI. In the spring I will be graduating as a double major in Communication/Public Relations and Interactive Digital Studies. While attending Kirkwood I lived in an apartment complex with hundreds of other students. Kirkwood doesn’t provide dorms so students must find their own housing. I prefer apartment style living anyway, because I don’t like the idea of sharing a bedroom and I think it forces a student to grow up. I had to learn how to cook, clean, and take care of myself. I didn’t have a cafeteria that provided my meals or an RA on duty that I could call if something was wrong. Therefore, when I moved to Cedar Falls in the summer of 2012 I knew that I didn’t want to live in a dorm.
For the next two years I lived on the corner of University and Olive Street, which is owned by Jeanette Geisler and her husband. These were brand new, four bedroom, two bath apartments with a garage underneath. I absolutely loved it there. Jeanette is an outstanding landlord. Whenever I had a problem she would send someone over and it would be fixed immediately. The apartment was close to campus and was a reasonable rate of $385/month plus utilities.
This past spring though I decided it was time to move. A couple friends and I decided to grow up a little more and move into a house. We currently live on Carlton Drive, right behind the mall in a residential area. It is a 4 bedroom, two bathroom house, with a finished basement, and an awesome back yard. My landlord is Karen Deters. Us girls range in age from 21-23 years old. We all work part-time/full-time jobs and attend school at UNI, Hawkeye, and Upper Iowa. Because we all have such different lives we didn’t want to live close to campus. We wanted a place we could call home.
This is why a lot of students or young professionals choose to rent homes in residential areas. They’re reaching an age where they are pursuing careers and thinking about their future rather than having a big party Friday night. Which is why if the city of Cedar Falls decides to pass this ordinance all it will do is show how ungrateful the city is to have these students living in their town.
Students at the University of Northern Iowa spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars in the city every year. They pay tuition, they shop at local stores, and they work at area businesses. What would Cedar Falls look like if the university didn’t exist?
And now the city council is going to tell these students that they don’t trust them enough to make their own decisions about where and whom they can live with? I may not have my degree yet, but I know from a PR point of view, that is a horrible decision.  And here’s why:
 Let’s say the city passes this ordinance and many of the houses and apartments that are currently four bedrooms dwellings are forced to become three bedroom. Here’s what will happen:

1.       The landlords will be forced to increase the rent. Not because they want to, but because they still have to pay the mortgage and taxes on the property. Or the tenants will be forced to take on the cost of missing that fourth tenant. For example, I currently pay $370 every month in rent. Without the rent of the fourth roommate that $370 will then be split to the three remaining roommates. $370/3 = is an extra $123 on my rent every month. Which means I will be paying around $493. I cannot afford that.

2.       The landlords will sell their properties, forcing students to look elsewhere. Some may look at the on-campus living but I guarantee a majority will look outside of city limits. They will move to Waterloo, Hudson, Evansdale, etc. Sure they will have to drive more, but they can afford it when they’re not paying $500 rent every month.

3.       Those students that you pissed off will eventually graduate. And do you think at 23 years old, fresh out of college, with a huge student loan to pay off, that they will be looking to buy a home? If they are lucky enough to get a job in Cedar Falls (which is really the area you should be worrying about) they will be looking to rent. But since your city council voted to limit the housing situation they either won’t be able to afford the rent or won’t be able to find housing. So what will they do? They will move to Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, etc. Wherever they can find a decent job with affordable housing.

The younger generation is completely different from the older generations. Back in the day people used to say I’ll go wherever I can find a job, nowadays people say I want to go live in Denver, Colorado and then I’ll worry about a job. Why? Because the younger generation is all about the experience. They want to live in a city where they can experience everything; and Cedar Falls offers that. This city has a great downtown with events, culture, and amazing restaurants. But you will throw it away if you limit the housing options. And why? All because somebody complained that a college student was throwing a party in their residential neighborhood? Well, I can guarantee that even if you limit the housing occupancy to three non-related people, they will still have a party. You could limit it to one person and they would still have a party. Parties and drunk college kids is the risk you take when living in a college town. And don’t get me wrong, I think the residents who live next to a college student who throws a party have a right to be mad. But the situation can be handled better.
I hope you really step back and take a look at the big picture of this issue. This ordinance will affect thousands of people including students, landlords, and residents. Do you want Cedar Falls to be known as the city who kicked out college students from their homes? Or do you want to be known as the city that came together and provided decent, affordable, off-campus housing options for students?
I hope this letter opened up your mind and you will consider it before you vote. If you want to express your opinions feel free to shoot me an email at

Thank you