Interview with Alexandra Fischer, 11/18/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐LM: This is Leah Matthews interviewing Alexandra Fisher on November 18, 2021. For the campus COVID stories, a collection of oral stories from students and staff of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experience in the time of COVID. Instructor Grace Lim is also with us. Thank you for participating in this project. Could you first Please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

AF: Alexandra Fisher, A-L-E-X-A-N-D-R-A F-I-S-C-H-E-R.

LM: Thank you. And for the purpose of obtaining a good audio recording. Can you please tell us again, your name, your age, your major year you graduated, and what you do now?

AF: I am Alexandra Fisher, I'm 25 years old. My major was communication studies. And I graduated in May of 2020. Right now and after graduation, I became the development and grants coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh.

00:01:00

LM: Cool, thank you. So just to get us started, we'd like to get to know you a little bit. So can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up? And can you tell me about it?

AF: I grew up in a suburb outside of Milwaukee. It was like a D1 school. So pretty big. Other than that, it was very close to home. All my family was very close by and it was nice being by a big city. So lots to do always.

LM: Can you talk a little bit about your family and who you lived with and that?

AF: Yeah. So I actually come from a blended family. So my parents are divorced. And I grew up mainly with my dad and my stepmom. And then I have two siblings that are blood-related to me. And then three step-siblings. And it's been like that since I was about three years old. So we are very blended, and it's just like we're all just one big family.

LM: Nice. Where do you fit in the siblings?

AF: I am actually the youngest out of the six. Okay, so we age from my oldest 00:02:00brother, I believe he is seven years older than me, and then we're all in the middle.

LM: Okay, cool. So what about your parents? Can you tell me a little bit about them and what they do?

AF: Yeah. Um, so my dad actually works for Kroger. Before that it was, just Pick'n save. He is. I always get wrong what my dad does, something within Project Management way up for Kroger. He manages all of the stores in the Midwest and just makes sure that they have everything that they need. He also handles crises that all of the stores have. My stepmom is recently retired, but she was a logistics manager and project manager for the JC Penney logistics building in Milwaukee. So she was in charge of that entire building and all of the people in it. And then my mom works at a factory in her local hometown.

LM: Okay, cool. So when did you start thinking about going to college? Was it a 00:03:00given in your household? And what is the highest education that your parents had received? Or even your siblings?

AF: Yeah, so my mom and my dad actually both didn't go to college, my dad went to UW Stout and then dropped out right away. And then my stepmom actually went to UW Whitewater and graduated from there with a business degree I believe. My oldest brother Michael went to UW Eau Claire. And then after that, my sister went to Platteville for a while and then kind of laid off of that. And then the rest of my family members and my brothers are in the trades. So growing up, a lot of the discussion was that you really didn't need to go to college. But then when I got into high school, it became more of a point that you needed to go to high school if you weren't going into the trades. And as a female in my family, I was not ready for any trades jobs, and I didn't really have any education on what else was out there without having a college education. So by the time I was 00:04:00in high school, it was kind of ingrained to me that I needed to go to college otherwise, just with the world and how it works now that it wasn't really an option not to go.

LM: Cool. So why did you choose UW Oshkosh? And can you tell us a little bit about what it was like pre-COVID?

AF: Yeah, um, originally, I applied to just a lot of state schools. I wanted to keep my options open. And then I applied to some schools out of state and what landed me at Oshkosh was, I really didn't want to pay to go to school out of state. And then also Oshkosh was far enough away and it was by a big city that like Oshkosh is a pretty big city when you look at other colleges and but it also wasn't too far away either. Because I knew I wouldn't have a car my freshman year and I was like, 'How will I get home for the holidays?' And all of that stuff. And it's a halfway point to my cabin, so I was like, perfect. We'll just go there and I just kind of picked there probably. Prior to COVID, I would 00:05:00say that my college life was really social. Since freshman year, I kind of got involved in Titan volunteer, like little things like hands-on Oshkosh, stuff like that. I was also in the lacrosse program since I was a freshman, that later developed that I was the president of the lacrosse team during my last couple of years being at Oshkosh, and then I managed the men's team as well. So I was, in all the sports clubs, I was going around to a lot of different, like titan nights and stuff like that, or I was just always hanging out with friends. My schedule was very, very busy. And I had three jobs throughout my career in college, especially during my last couple of years just to help pay for everything. And so I would just say that, like my schedule was very packed, and I was never home. I was home like really early in the morning and really, really late at night. And that was it. So I spent a lot of time just doing a lot of 00:06:00different stuff at the university prior to COVID.

LM: Okay, did you live on campus then, the whole time? Or did you commute?

AF: I lived on campus. I lived on campus, my freshman and sophomore year at South Scott and then north Scott, I think. And then my sophomore year to the next three years, I actually lived off-campus in a house and then in an apartment.

LM: Got it. So let's see here. You said you had three different jobs. What were those jobs throughout?

AF: Yeah. So in the beginning of my college career, I just worked at Pick'n save, you know, just a regular job. And then after that, once I started getting into my major, I changed jobs a little bit. And I started working at Excel physical therapy, which is a physical therapy office, literally right across the bridge in Oshkosh. So it's very close to campus. I was just a patient services 00:07:00representative at the front desk. So I did insurance and stuff like that. My other job was at the UW Rec. And I was a public relations specialist for them. So I was kind of like an intern, kind of like a specialist. So I helped launch and lead their social media that you see now. And all of that fun stuff. So like training videos, and all of that website design, stuff like that. Just kind of trying to amp it up a little bit more, because they were just hitting the ground running with all of that. My third job, at the same time, was working at the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh. I was a marketing intern. So when I got into the communications field, I knew that I wanted to do something within marketing. I thought so. That's kind of the route I went, and then I interned there as well.

LM: Cool. Wow. So how did you manage? Were you taking like full classes?

AF: Yeah, so I always took a full class load every semester.

LM: Okay.

AF: Um, I wasn't the greatest at school. So I wasn't, I'm very like, almost 00:08:00like, ADD, like, I need to be doing something all the time. I cannot sit still and study. That's like the worst thing for me. And because I wasn't an all star like in the classroom at all, I knew that I needed to find other ways to learn more, but in a different way. And so what I found was if I get all of these different jobs, so I have healthcare, and then I have, like private health care, and then I have the university, the University job. And then I have a nonprofit job. I was thinking, in my head, I have all of this experience in a private sector, a nonprofit sector, and a university sector, which are all very different. And I thrived at that. Because it was, you're learning, like as you go in real-time, and not just like reading stuff off of books, like you're learning through experience. Yeah. So I found that extremely helpful. And then being a leader, being the President of the women's lacrosse team was just 00:09:00something that I like to do for fun, but it also taught me a ton about like planning tournaments and getting people together, and trying to lead in the best possible way that I could. So balancing it didn't seem as stressful as it sounds now. Like now I'm like, I have a full-time job, and like, I have no time for anything else. Like I just want to sit at home. And but like during college, I think that a lot of part-time jobs like you work like 15 hours a week. So it's really not that much time once you get it together. And I wasn't spending a ton of time studying, to be honest. So I would study and like get as much information as I could soak in, and then I'd kind of just move on to other things that I knew that would help me grow. So balancing it doesn't seem as bad as it sounds, but yeah, I was always busy, but I liked being busy.

LM: Okay, cool. So moving on. to the early days of COVID, then do you remember 00:10:00when the first time hearing about it was?

AF: Yeah, um, so my boss at the time at the Boys and Girls Club, her husband is actually a pharmacist. So the first time I ever heard of it was her telling me. And she kind of just like, brought it up and was like, this is a serious thing that's happening around the world. And I looked at her and I was like, You're being crazy. We're not in the Apocalypse like you need to just like move on with your life. And she was like, No, you don't know. And this was when this was in like fall of 2019 into like, December of 2019, that she was telling me just how serious it was, and how it was spreading in other countries. And I was like, it's not like, I don't, that's not even in my realm of thinking. So no. And then, I realized that I got a little bit more serious when I went to class one day, and I had a professor. And I think this was, I think this was in January, 00:11:00possibly February, it was before we got sent home in 2020. I had a professor, he's very honest with us, and we had him for rhetoric. And he's just very up with everything that's going on in the world now. And he told us, he said, 'you know, things are getting kind of serious, and I don't know if you guys are going to be in the classrooms for much longer.' And I was like, this is the first time I've ever heard a professor even talk about COVID. And he just said, like, I don't know if you guys are going to be here much longer. Don't be alarmed if you get an email saying that you're not going to be coming back to class. And we were all like, no professor has said anything about this besides Him. But he would be the one to tell us because he's very open about everything that's going on. And so we were all like, 'okay, like, whatever, maybe we'll get a break. Like, whatever, let's not get our hopes up.' And so then I think a week or two 00:12:00later, we got an email saying that we were not coming back to class at all, for at least it was I want to say it was possibly spring break. Because that was the time when they were like, yeah, like we won't, we're going to take this time off, whatever, we'll contact you guys again. And my roommate and I were like, oh my goodness, this is actually happening. And we were like, Oh my gosh, we get a break. Like we can do everything online, this is going to be relaxing. Maybe I can get a break from work from all my jobs. And kind of what happened after that is every email that we got after that was just worse and worse. So it was like, the whole shutdown happened of the State, we weren't going back to classes at all, it like kept getting pushed back. Like we were not going to be in class for a month. And then it was like two months. And then it was like maybe we'll go 00:13:00back for the last month. And then it was you're not coming back at all. The rest of your curriculum is going to be online, you're not allowed into the buildings. So I had a print something one day, and I came back to the buildings and all of the buildings were like, had signs on them that said, like, checked for COVID Do not enter. And I was like, oh my goodness, like I'm not even allowed to enter the building. Like none of our cards would work for any building because they had it tiered into like, my professor explained it to me that they had it tiered so only like the top tier at the university could get into certain buildings. So like professors couldn't even get into some professors couldn't get into buildings at some point, and couldn't even get into their offices. So they were like if we have stuff in our office, like please don't be mad at us, we can't even get in. And so it was just that it was kind of apocalyptic. Because I was like these buildings look like they've been checked, like for Monsters Inc. When they yell at code. Like that's what I was thinking. I was like, Oh, my goodness, they're gonna like an alarm is gonna go off. So yeah, then it just switched into 00:14:00that whole realm of the beginnings of COVID.

LM: Yeah, yeah, that's crazy.

AF: Yeah.

LM: Wow. So yeah, you talked a little bit about this when it started the spring semester and everything. So you said you were a senior that year?

AF: Yeah, so I was it was my fifth year because I did an extra year at UWO. So it was my last year and it was my last semester that it had happened.

LM: Okay, and you lived off-campus at this time?

AF: I did. I lived off-campus and in an apartment with one roommate.

LM: Okay. So how did you feel when you got the email and everybody's being sent home? And you know, there's that potential of you're not gonna come back?

AF: Yeah, um, at first it was kind of like, oh my goodness, shocking and kind of, oh my god, we need this break. Like this break couldn't have come soon enough. And then as the weeks went by, we all kind of got more and more sad 00:15:00about the entire thing. What we realized was our classes weren't as fulfilling as they were before. They felt like they were classes just to fulfill our credits that we needed. And we didn't come to a university, to not have in-person classes. And a lot of the, a big portion of the Communication Studies program is we're all communicating with each other in person. And it's really hard to do that when you're not with each other. And so, for me, it was my last semester in my program, and we were all so close, we were a really tight cohort. That's just how the comm program usually is. And I didn't get to see those people every day. And I didn't get to see them even once a week, because the people that you go to class with aren't necessarily people that you go and hang out with after class. And we would hang out after big exams or stuff like that, and go get a drink or something. But when it came down to it, if school and 00:16:00class wasn't a thing, we weren't going to see each other or talk to each other. And so we started missing each other a lot. And then realizing that we weren't, we knew we could get more out of these classes, if we were together and having conversations together as a group to, you know, conversations always spiral. You know, and then everybody's ideas are open in the conversation. And that's completely different when you're on an online class. And the only voice you're hearing is your professor. So it turned out near the end to just be a very, almost like a very dark cloud of I think that my last semester in the school was the semester before that in fall of 2019. And I completely took it for granted. And I didn't get to do everything that I wanted to do before I left.

LM: Yeah, what are the things that you feel like you missed out on?

AF: Um, I think a lot that I missed out on was that last semester of just really being with the people that I was with for the past five years, for the last time 00:17:00before we all part ways. Also, just immersing myself more in, I've always been a big part of the college in stuff that I do. And I didn't get any of that either. So I missed out on a lot of opportunities to continue those relationships with a lot of the professors that I felt like really helped me grow throughout my career. And then also with my job at the university as well, when we received the email that we wouldn't be returning to classes. My boss at the university took myself and my coworker out to lunch or breakfast, and he sat us down and was like, I just want you to know that I won't, they're pulling me off. So a lot of the professors got I don't know if it's called furloughed. And he was one of 00:18:00them. So he said that it was up to us if we wanted to continue our job doing all of the social media and website and all of that stuff for the departments at the university rec. But we didn't have to. But the difference was that we would no longer report to him and we couldn't contact him because he couldn't even access his email. And he wasn't allowed to. And so we would have to report to the director of the rec, which was Nathan, is Nathan Scott. Maybe still is, Nathan Scott. And he's wonderful. And we had a relationship with him anyway because we worked with all of the directors there. But we kind of just looked at each other and my coworker was a year younger than me, so she wasn't graduating yet. And I was like, I think I'm just gonna step down then and let you know her cover it because I mean, I'm already going to be graduating within the next couple of months. And there's really nothing for us to, we're all very, we were all very blindsided by what was happening at the university. It was just like, one day, 00:19:00this is what's happening. And so, because of that, we, I felt like I couldn't communicate to the rest of the college what was happening at the Rec properly because I wasn't being communicated with. And so I just chose to step down at that point. And so there was a lot of unfinished business. I felt like everywhere in my college career, and in my college life.

LM: Yeah, that sucks.

AF: Yeah.

LM: So did you get to say goodbye to anyone? Or was it kind of that hope of, we'll be back in two weeks? So we don't need to say goodbye.

AF: Yeah. So a lot of it was a lot of my close friends. We still got together. We got together outside, it was getting nice out again. So we would get together and all sit outside on people's lawns and do all of that stuff. But at the time, you could only have 10 people in a space at once and so we were outside And we were like, Is this more than 10 People? Are we following guidelines? Are we 00:20:00gonna get ticketed if the cops drive by us? Like, these were all worries that we had, were like, none of us have money to pay for these tickets. Um, we kind of found ways to see each other. But the people that were in my program and my professors, I felt like I never got to really say goodbye. We communicated through email, and maybe text with other people and stuff like that, but we never really got that final goodbye. And we all kind of hoped that we would still get graduation. Because that was up in the air forever, of, were we gonna have graduation or not. it wasn't a final decision until way later. And so we were kind of all like holding on to graduation as that's going to be the place that we can all say goodbye. And then we can all just like, wrap this up and like be done with it. And then we can get that closure at graduation. And then 00:21:00that never happened. And so it's still like, to this day, even with everyone that I graduated with and my cohort in the comm program was that we never got that closure, and we still feel like we never did.

LM: Have you guys met up since then? or No.

AF: Um, I would say that the one the people that are closer that I would have probably hung out with more anyways, like on the weekends or after class and stuff like that. We've seen each other. But everybody else in our program where we just talk in class and stuff like that, but we're still like, buddy buddy, like in class, but we wouldn't hang out outside of it. We haven't, I haven't seen and a lot of us haven't gotten together. And then a lot of people have moved. And I even like as an alumni. Like, I haven't heard anything about COVID regulations really on campus. And so I haven't even seen any of my professors since before I graduated in 2020.

LM: Yeah. So what did you miss most about not being on campus?

00:22:00

AF: Um, for me, I really, really missed the social interactions. That's a big part of what fuels me and why I'm such a busy person or was such a busy person was having those relationships and those connections, and when COVID hit, I kind of felt like I had those friendships still. But those slowly trailed off as everyone started, either going back home, spending more time home, or moving away completely, and stuff like that. So I felt like, the more that time went on, the less people were around me. And so I didn't have all of those friends, the entire time of COVID, a lot of people ended up going home or doing other things, and they were no longer there. So I think that the social interaction 00:23:00part for me was what I missed the most because I felt like I was just doing these online things. And then just like, still going to work. And I wasn't really in college anymore, is basically what it felt like,

LM: Yeah. Oh, that's rough. Let's see, oh, how are the COVID protocols dealt with? When you're home? You weren't with your family, but with your roommate? How was like the masking and the social distancing? And how was all of that? Did you guys agree on it?

AF: Yeah. So my roommate, and I agreed on it. It was probably good for us that it was just the two of us because we didn't have you know, there's always more voices and more opinions, the more people you have. So we were really on the same page of it. There was never a disagreement on how we handled things or when we saw friends, we had the same friend groups as well. So that also helped. We knew where they were going and that we were outside most of the time that we 00:24:00were seeing them. At the time, however, my dad was receiving chemo for cancer and was about to undergo a really big surgery to remove it. And so there was a lot of feelings with that to have, I couldn't even go home if I wanted to, because I can't, I can't see my family and I can't risk them. So for me, it was a big thing where in my college life in Oshkosh, everyone was really okay and fine. And then at home, like going back home wasn't really an option for me, because of the health complications that my family has. So that was a big one for me, but it didn't really depend on what I did. If I could go home or not. It was just because of my age bracket, and that I was surrounded by people no matter what kind of the ripple effect. And then I actually, shortly after 00:25:00graduation, I got COVID. And I had no idea. So I got a loss of taste. And that was it. And that was before a loss of taste was even a symptom. So it was all like chest things at the time and coughing. And so I didn't even know. And so I was like, oh, I'm probably getting allergies because it's spring. And so I was with friends and like, we all assumed it was allergies because nobody said that that was a symptom of COVID. And so like we all were, like sharing drinks. And like, we were all together hanging out at like our, like their parent's houses, like in the living rooms for movie nights. And like my roommate and I were like cooking food together because we're like, we live together, we're going to continue to cook food together. Because if you're going to get it, I'm probably going to get it kind of thing. So I got a loss of taste. And I eventually got 00:26:00tested because I called Aurora. And they told me not to because it wasn't a symptom. And they were like, No, don't go get tested. It's not a symptom. But, um, I had just gone to my sister's graduation party. And my dad was there. And so I was like, I need to get tested just in case. And I got tested. And then I found out that I had it. And so when I found out I had it, the backlash that I received was insane. And it kind of made my feelings towards COVID and everything very frustrating to me because I share drinks with my friends. My roommate lived with me, we made food together. And nobody else got it from me. And my dad didn't even get it. And I was with like right next to him most of the time. So my roommate didn't really give me necessarily backlash. But she 00:27:00eventually she packed up all her things and moved home. And then she eventually just like never came back. Because then it was like summer was approaching, we were already online for school. So she just like moved home. And then I received a bunch of backlash from my family because they were like, why would you even come to your sister's graduation. And I was like, my sister like I called Aurora beforehand, and they said, Don't go get tested. That's not a symptom. And my sister would have been heartbroken if I like didn't show up to this monumental thing. And it was outside. And then. So my parents, my siblings, like my extended family were just so mad at me for getting it that it was like my fault. And I didn't even spread it to anybody. Nobody that I know of, everyone that I was surrounded by in the last three weeks went and got tested and nobody tested 00:28:00positive. So the other thing was, how did I get this? And nobody knew. And what was the point of answering that question when I already had it, it's too late to do anything about it. What's the point? So I was isolated by myself in my apartment for a week. And that was terrible. Because I was just by myself it was nice out. So I would go and take bike rides and walks and stuff like that. But even the nurse that I talked to that was in charge of like my case at the time, said that I must have contracted it four weeks prior. And that, so I would have had it before even graduation. And that was, that would have been the time that I would spread it and I shouldn't have to quarantine any more. Like I would be allowed to go to the grocery store. But my parents and my roommate wouldn't even be around me. But I could go to the grocery store if I had a mask on, which didn't make any sense to me at all at the time. So that grew my whole, like 00:29:00skepticism towards COVID. And everything that it brought just because nobody knew what was going on. The university didn't know what was going on. Nobody could give any answers besides we have some sort of idea. And this is what it is. But it was nothing that they had factual information on or factual testing on and so I was like, What am I supposed to do this was before the vaccine even came out. They didn't even know if a vaccine was possible at that point. Or weren't telling us that it was possible. So it was weird for a couple of weeks after I had it because even after I had a quarantine people wouldn't come near me. People were like weary of even like hanging out with me. It was a very weird time because it was so new. And my jobs even, I was the first person to get it at the Boys and Girls Club. And that's huge. We were one of the only facilities that stayed open for kids during shutdown. We shut down on the state shut down because we had to. But as soon as it opened up, we were open. And so luckily, we 00:30:00had zones in our building. And so only my building zone had to go home and quarantine, and then all get tested. But then also at the physical therapy office, like I'm a front desk worker, we're taking protocols, like we kept our windows closed, we had masks on all of that. And but I'm surrounded by people who are sick, technically, at the physical therapy office, like their bodies aren't working properly. And so that puts them at a risk factor. And so I had to talk to a lot of people about what my symptoms were, what I was feeling. And a lot of people were just like, monitoring me because nobody knew what was going on. And neither did I. And I was like, I'm fine. I feel fine. I just can't taste anything. And it's sad. Like, I'm just sad, because I can't taste anything. And nobody will talk to me, like, so that was like, my whole experience with having COVID during that time.

LM: That's rough.

AF: Yeah, it was a weird time. It was really weird.

00:31:00

LM: You said you worked, though, throughout COVID? How did you feel about being like a frontline employee or an essential worker to continue working through that?

AF: Yeah. Um, at first, I was nervous, because not because of COVID. But because I knew that I needed these jobs to be able to pay my rent and my monthly bills that I had, um, I wasn't relying on my parents for any sort of help. And, I mean, you can't just like peace out of your apartment and be like, I can't pay rent, I'm going to leave, I still had like six months left on my lease. So I was like, I need jobs. Like, it's not an option for me. And so basically, I had conversations with my bosses about, I need to work like it's not, it's not really possible for me not to work. And they also needed me to work because there were other people that they were sending home that didn't feel comfortable. And so but they weren't putting them on unemployment, it was you 00:32:00just have the option not to work. And I was like, that's not really an option for me. So I would work and I felt fine about it because I knew that I wasn't technically in the risk factor of having it. And then when I did get it, it wasn't bad for me. And I know that's different for a lot of people. But I knew and I trusted that I was healthy. I was working out regularly, I was doing everything possible. And I was like, you know, if it's happening to 1000s of people, it might as well, it might as well happen to me, and we're gonna deal with that, like, there's a lot of bad things that happened to a lot of bad people. I mean, take it or leave it. But if that's what happens to me, we're gonna have to deal with it, kind of thing. So I was kind of accepting the fact that I was gonna get it. And then after I got it, it didn't really make me nervous anymore. But I think my biggest feelings were. I wasn't scared. And I wasn't upset that I was working when other people weren't, I was happy to be 00:33:00working. But what upset me was I had college colleagues and people, friends that I knew that worked way less than me, like, had one job, worked like maybe 10 hours a week. And they were making three times more on unemployment than I was. But that wasn't an option for me. One, my work needed me to work. Two if they were if I felt scared, and they needed to not have me work, I wasn't going to be put on unemployment, I was just going to be like, it was just going to be like a reserved job for me, because I was part-time. It's not like I was full-time. So I was really upset that all of my friends were hanging out doing whatever they wanted and getting paid so much money. For example, I mean, I worked three jobs at each job, I made 10 to $12 an hour. Each job I probably worked 10 to 20 hours 00:34:00a week for each job. I probably went home I don't know maybe every other week with a little over $500 and my rent was about $500 a month and so I had insurance to pay on my car, you know, I have to pay for my medical bills. Like if I go to the doctor like all of these things are setting in for me and all of my friends who you know there are people that still get things paid for in college from their families and there's nothing wrong with that at all there really isn't you know, every situation is very different and that's okay. But I felt like I was struggling so hard to make ends meet and I was like, in this scary time trying to make ends meet being scared that oh my gosh if I lose my jobs, I don't know what I'm gonna do because I, they already told me they're not going to put me on unemployment. So I was really frustrated with my friends. And that made me angry. And it was really hard for me to sit back and not be angry 00:35:00with people because I was working so hard to try to keep my head above water, and other people didn't have to worry about that. And I was really, really fortunate that both of my jobs that I had at the time, minus the university, so the physical therapy office and the club both, I had conversations with them and said, I'm, I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to make ends meet if you have to cut my hours, like, what else can I do for you. And so they both made it work, there were people at both organizations that didn't feel comfortable working. And so I took workloads from other people, and I managed to just make it work. And I was like, I can learn other people's jobs. Like, and both of my bosses at the time, both understood, and they both had direct conversations with me of, I want to keep you here and I don't want you to feel any pressure. And I don't want you to feel worried either. So like, please communicate with me if you do need more hours, and we will try not to cut them at all. And so in the fact, I was also very lucky because I wasn't one of those people who didn't get 00:36:00unemployment, and also didn't have a job where I know there were people like that as well. So I was really lucky to be working during the pandemic, I think I was. But it was also very frustrating seeing how many people weren't and how much money they were making by not working when they didn't necessarily need to be working. It was just extra bar money, basically.

LM: Yeah. So you said that you got COVID? Do you know anybody else? Like friends or family that got COVID? And how bad was it if they did?

AF: Um, that's a great question. I was one of the first in my family and friends to get COVID Even in my workplaces. And then after that, I believe I had a couple of friends who got COVID like way after, and I still have friends getting COVID now that are vaccinated. And for most of the things that my personal 00:37:00experiences that I have with my circle, is that nobody's been really, really sick, which is a blessing. So I haven't had a really strong relationship with the one-sided fear of COVID and everything. I don't have that relationship, really. I have a lot of friends and family members who are doctors and nurses. But even them telling me stories. I don't have that direct impact that COVID has on a lot of people, for which I'm very lucky. Not too.

LM: Right. Yeah, for sure. What about when you were getting ready to graduate that year? How did it affect your graduation plans? Like what changed in that whole process? And then the day of graduation? You talked a little bit about it, but can you explain a little more?

AF: Yeah. Um, so prior to graduation, myself and, this was in fall of 2019. My 00:38:00friend and one of my old, slash one of my old roommates, we were sitting around and talking and we were like, Oh, my goodness, we graduate this year, like, what are we going to do? Like, we need to make the most of everything? Like, what are your plans? What are you doing? We both work a ton, let's like make time for fun things. And my old roommate and I would always have discussions about like, what are your plans in the future? Like, what do you want to happen? What are your goals? Like, what's, what's your plan? And basically, we came to the conclusion that like she, I think she might have said something first, and she was like, I'm planning to apply to be a commencement speaker. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, me too. And so our friendship is very lucky that we were not competitors towards each other. And instead, we were both rooting for each 00:39:00other. And both had like solidarity of like, we were rooting for each other and had the same goal. So if one of us makes it, it's like, it's a success then. Because if one half of us make it, then that's great. Like, we'd rather have one of us than none of us. And we kind of like look similar, like, we're both like blonde and short. And we're like, we look identical like they can't pick identical people either. So we were like, they're only gonna pick one of us. And so like we were competing with each other. And so we kind of had like dreams and ambitions about that. So then, we went through, we started the whole application process, which began in December of 2019. And then the application process kind of you submit your application and then I think a draft of a speech and then after that, they give you, they email you back and they say that we want you to move forward in like do it in front of our panel of judges. So I believe that was in like, I'm trying to think now it took a while. past February, I believe 00:40:00in 2020. And basically, they emailed us and they were like, you were chosen as one of the finalists, you'll speak in front of all of our judges. We want you to present your speech, and then you'll do like a little interview. And I was like, Oh, my goodness. And so like, We texted each other right away. And we both got picked for finalists. And we were like, Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. And then it was shortly before we were supposed to speak that. We were emailed and told that we were going to it's going, it's going to be virtual, the whole interview process, and we were like, okay, so what does that mean? And basically, what that meant was that they gave us a list of questions. And we basically had a video record ourselves on our phone. And so it wasn't even through zoom. It was speaking just to our phone, and answering the list of questions, introducing ourselves, and then doing our speech, which was like super weird. I was like, in 00:41:00gym clothes, because I was so defeated at that point that I was like, oh, like, I thrive in interviews, like, when I get to talk one on one with somebody, like, I'm a Comm major. Like, that's what I like to do. Like, let me talk to them. But not having that face at the other side of the camera. I was like, Oh, my goodness, I cannot do this. And my friend, she vlogs. So it was like, Oh, my goodness, she talks to a camera all the time. She's totally got this in the bag, like and I never talked to a camera. I think that's so awkward. I can't even like, I can't do that. And so I'm like sitting there, like, and I'm like, I'm in gym clothes because I think I'm just trying to like self-sabotage myself at this point. And I have my phone up. I did it like two times. And by the third time I was like, it is what it is Alex like it is what it is like, you did what you needed to do. You did exactly what they asked you to do. They can't judge you for wearing like an athletic, long sleeve. Like you're in a video they don't 00:42:00even know it probably looks like just a blacktop to them. So it doesn't matter. I don't even think I had makeup on. Like, that's how like unprepared I was because I wasn't thinking like I was like so upset that it wasn't an actual like an in-person interview. And so we did that we sent our videos in and I was like, I texted her right away. And I was like, you vlog for like, half of your life. And so like, you totally got this. And mine was weird. It was like at my kitchen table. I was like sitting down. It was just like really awkward to me. And she was like, Don't worry, I was nervous too. And I'm like, Yeah, sure you were nervous. Yeah, okay. Probably gonna like Instagram video and, like, tell people about it after I'm not gonna do that. I don't know how to do that you probably rocked at it like good for you, though. So after that process, um, that was kind of when while that process was going on that we did the video was the time that we all got sent home at that point. So I think it was around spring break that I 00:43:00did that. And I was just kind of hoping that graduation was in person at that time. And I was kind of just like, I probably didn't get that because the video interview was really bad. I look identical to my friend. And she vlogs. So she probably got this, which is good. At least one of us should. So maybe this is good for her. And then I remember that it was I don't I want to say March, April, May. So we graduated in May. I think it was in April. It was like a month before commencement that we heard back. And I remember getting an email on my phone saying that I was picked to be one of the commencement speakers. And I remember looking at it, and then just crying. Like I cried all night long. I didn't tell anybody and I just cried because I was like, commencement isn't like even going to be in person. And so it was like this year is going to be 00:44:00different. You're going to be on a video, all of this stuff. And so at that time, I was thinking like, Okay, I'm going to go to the university, they're going to like film me. And then they're going to put it in a commencement video at that point. And I just, sorry, my mouth is really dry. Um, I just cried because I was like, this is one of the biggest accomplishments if not the biggest accomplishment in my entire life. And I'm getting that stripped from me. Like I can't even experience it to its full extent. So when I was in high school, I always dreamt of being a commencement speaker in high school because I always thought it was just such a, like prestigious and cool thing and how cool is it to talk and have hundreds and 1000s of people listen to you. Like that is an opportunity and also such a privilege, because that doesn't happen to people every day. And it's hard to even have a conversation with one person to have them like listen to you. So I always dreamt of it. And I never, I never got the 00:45:00opportunity in high school because like I said, before, I wasn't an all-star in the classroom, it was never an option for me. I was in maybe the bottom like 40 percentile of my class, like, there was no way that was even in the cards for me. And then when I was growing up as well, I had a speech impediment. So I think that's also what kind of motivated me to do it as well. Because before when I had a comm class, like, you know, our freshman year, when we have like your calm public speaking class, I was mortified, I would sweat, my whole face would turn red, I would shake, it was terrible. I would literally just try to get D's so I could not do it anymore. And then I found myself in the comm program. And I found a comfortability level with speaking. And I really owe that to my professors. And what happened was, I did, luckily, I did my TED Talk version, in my comm program as my capstone class the semester before that. So in 00:46:00fall of 2019, or then maybe it was the spring of 2019, I did my TED Talk for my comm program as a capstone project. And after doing it, I felt super confident. And I was like, I can do this, like, this is so cool. Like, this is awesome. I love this. And I talked to my professor, which was Dr. Heider, at the time, and I was like, this is like my goal, like, this is what I want to do. So in December of 2019, I went to her and I was like, This is what I think I have for my speech. Can you just listen to me? Like, do it? Can you just listen because she was my professor that led me into that path. And so I felt like I had this huge entire vision of like, okay, I could maybe do this, like I could maybe at least try because if I don't try, then I'm going to regret it. And so I had this vision, I was like, oh my goodness, that would be so cool. Like, you get to stand on stage, you sit on stage, the entire ceremony, you get the whole you get 00:47:0010 seats in the front row of the ceremony if your commencement speaker, reserved for anybody that you want to attend. And I was like, This is crazy. Like, my mom never went to college. My dad never graduated college, he just dropped out. I was like, This is insane. So I was like, I can do this. I'm a Comm major. We got this. Let's try. And then it was like the video. It was like the video interview. And I was like, dang it. I'm not good at that. And then I got notified that I was picked to be commencement speaker and that it would be on video. And it just tarnished all of my dreams. Because I was like, how am I? Like, how does this even slightly relate to what my vision was, as a commencement speaker, I was like, I, I do events for work, like I'm in events, I know this. I know that in-person events get so much larger attendance than 00:48:00events online, they get so much more attention. Unless you're like some sort of like, avid like, you know, your video went viral. And I was like my videos going viral. This is not happening. So I sat there and I cried for a really long time. And it took me about a week to tell my parents that I got it because I didn't tell anybody I was applying besides my friend because I'm the type of person where I really don't want to tell people I'm applying for this thing. And like, Isn't it so cool that I'm applying like, I'm not that type of person. I just wanted to like do it and I wanted to do it for myself. So I told my parents like a week after I was told, which was about four weeks or three weeks before graduation in May of 2020. And my parents were so excited and then like cried, but like my dad was also like, What even is that? Like what does that mean? So I had to explain to my dad what that even meant. And so then I was like he doesn't even get to fully like he doesn't even know what it is because he's never been 00:49:00to college. So I was like, he doesn't even understand like the importance of this and how big of a deal it is. And he's never going to see how big of a deal it is and wrap his brain around what my dream was because he just doesn't have that understanding. Um, and then I waited as well because I was sad. And because I got the email. I didn't text my friend as well because I didn't want to text her and be like, I got it because I was thinking that there's no way that the both of us would get the spot so I was like, I'm not gonna text her and tell her that I got it because that's rude. And I don't want to ask her if she did. And then eventually, we because we were old roommates and we're friends. We also have a mutual friend as well. And I told my mutual friend with her and I was like I got this, this is so cool because she was also graduating at the time. And she was like, Oh, my God, Ali also got it. Ali's also the commencement 00:50:00speaker, and I was like, No way. And so it was like this huge thing for the both of us where it was like, What are the odds? Like we both sat there, we were literally in the parking lot in our cars eating ice cream at the ice cream place that's on Jackson. I don't know the name of it, I forget. But, um, we were sitting there just talking about like, yes, let's just apply, let's go for it. It's our senior year, like, we need to do big things like we need to accomplish big things. And then we did. And then we both were so upset. And we both cried. And she, I felt like was taking it way better than me. But then at the same time, she was like vlogging about it and was like, she's also very hurt because it was like this big deal to her as well. And then we kind of went through the motions together, but also separate, because as much as we wanted it together, we also were like, I'm hurting, and you're hurting. And we're both angry. And we 00:51:00probably shouldn't. We could lean on each other., and we did. But we didn't want to make it worse. And so we were trying to be in the time. What was happening was the whole campus was shut down there, you hear these horror stories about COVID. And so what we were trying to do was be like, this is not the worst thing in the world like we need to be more selfless and realize that the world doesn't revolve around us. And we know that. But we need to understand that there are horrifying times happening in the world right now. And us, like begging for a graduation ceremony, was going to be selfish because of how horrifying the times were. And so it was a lot and it still is a lot to deal with and understand and like try to accept because I feel like you know, I still haven't accepted it. I forget that I graduated two years ago because I feel like I was just in class. 00:52:00And then I wasn't in class. And then we did this thing. And that was it. So I mean, even the day, the days leading up, I tried to do my best to be as positive as possible. And then as the commencement speaker, I kind of felt like I had to withhold myself to almost like a higher standard of being positive to the people around me that were graduating. So I went and I took graduation photos on the university grounds. And I don't think we were allowed on the university grounds at the time without a mask on. But I'm not positive about that. But I was taking pictures on the university grounds with other people. And then other people asked me, they were like, did you take graduation pictures? And I was like, yes, go do it. Like you're not coming back to the university, now's your time to get graduation photos, these are the only ones you're going to get. Why would you just throw that away? So I tried my best to like push people to do the things that they still were going to do and have graduation still the same that they 00:53:00were going to as much as possible.

LM: So you said you did this speech, you said you did on the recording, then?

AF: Yes, I did it on my cell phone, on a video on a tripod I borrowed from work, which was really nice. And then they just sent me a cap and gown. So I just did it on my phone. In my living room actually, in my apartment.

LM: Oh, yeah. Can you, do have a takeaway? Can you read that?

AF: Yeah, I can read a takeaway from my speech. Um, it kind of is the overarching point of my speech. And it starts here. My grandmother was right. Don't wish your life away, because soon you'll be wishing for more time. This hit home for me when the pandemic started. As our classes went virtual, and businesses shut down. I realized that I wish I had more time. I wish we all took 00:54:00it in a little bit more. I wish we could have hold on to our college moments a little bit longer. I wish we could sit in that classroom one last time. This pandemic is a reminder to all of us to live fully in each moment because you never know how quickly it can all change.

LM: Nice.

AF: Yeah.

LM: I like that.

AF: Yeah.

LM: That's really good. So when the vaccines did become available, what were your initial thoughts on all of that then?

AF: Um, when the vaccines became readily available, I was a little bit skeptical because I didn't have a lot of information. I feel like as a university student, you learn that there's a lot of information out on the internet. That isn't true. And we all know that yes, but I didn't really know how to filter through that. I really, like I knew what people's views were, I knew how to find, I knew 00:55:00exactly how to find both sides of the spectrum. And now, I think that helped me. But that was also very hard for me because I could, I could say, Go get vaccinated now. And I could find every single reason why I should go get vaccinated now. But I also know how to find all the information to tell me why not to get vaccinated now. And so because I already had COVID. And it wasn't detrimental to my health, I made the personal decision not to get it right away, because I was like, Oh, I don't know what's going on. I'm scared. I'm not really surrounded by people. At that time, after I graduated, it was after I graduated that the vaccine even became available. So it was after I graduated, I was working full time at the Boys and Girls Club. And we were wearing masks anytime we were by each other. And I worked back in an office by, not a lot of people. And so it was one of those moments that we were on the frontlines because we were open when the Oshkosh Area School District was shut down. So we had kids 00:56:00all throughout the day, but I was not with the kids at all, I wasn't even on that side of the building, I wasn't allowed to be in that zone, basically. Um, so I kind of just made the decision not to have it. They also didn't know how long you were immune after that. Um, so my thoughts about it were very, I was very, I don't want to say scared, but I just didn't, I felt like I didn't have enough information or the right information where I can make like an educated decision. And I'm not a person to make an uneducated decision and just be like, I'm gonna go do this thing, because a bunch of people are doing it, or, and I also wasn't the person who was like, I'm gonna go not do it. Because a bunch of people aren't doing it, I was very much so in the gray area. And what I learned from that, as most people are in the gray area, is what I learned from that. So, yeah,

LM: For sure. So how much do you feel that things are going back to normal now? And what is normal to you? What would that have to look like?

AF: Yeah, um, I think from a year ago, today, things are back to a lot normal, 00:57:00more so for me. I would say with just how I live my life day today, I don't really run into a lot of areas where it affects me or where it stops me in my tracks, I would say whereas before, I would say that it did. I wear a mask when I'm supposed to and where I'm supposed to whether or not people are not vaccinated. And then I respect everyone's boundaries and do all of that. But it's like, it's little changes to my daily life that still feel kind of normal to me, even though they're not normal, I've grown to find normalcy with it. So I would say day to day like going to work, going to work out, getting groceries, all of that stuff is very normal to me. Now in a lot of those places, you don't need a mask if you're vaccinated. So it really doesn't affect me that much. I 00:58:00would say the only thing that is really different is just I openly ask what people's boundaries are when it comes to having a mask being vaccinated if they are vaccinated, if they don't want to talk about it like I openly have conversations of what people's boundaries are, and I just follow them because at that point, it's not about me and what I want, I know what my boundaries are, and that's fine. And I want people to respect them. But like, I also need to do my part in this world to respect other people. And that's huge for me is respecting other people and their boundaries. So for me, it's very normal now, like my whole life feels kind of normal now. I think it feels weird and different and nostalgic, coming back into the university and then like having a mask on because I wasn't, I don't think I've been invited back to the university since before it shut down. I've never been invited back on campus. So I think that's weird for me. But this is also not in my normal regular daily life. So yeah,

00:59:00

LM: Yeah. So this is your first time being back here on campus today?

AF: Yeah, so I actually live close off-campus and I work in Oshkosh now. And I walk my dog like, kind of through campus kind of by like, but it's more so like by axel tech and by the river by the Rec. So I'm never like on campus and I never would ever dare to enter a building. Because when I left campus, that's the feeling and vibe that I got is like don't touch anything. Like, don't walk onto campus. I heard like after I graduated, I heard that there was like a fine if you were on campus without a mask and I was like, is that just for students? If they don't tell the public that can they like actually fine me for not wearing a mask if I'm just walking my dog outside? Like, I didn't know any of these things. So I was like, kind of scared of the university after COVID. And so if I wasn't invited back, I was like, I'm not going to go back there. Who knows? Right?

LM: Well hopefully It's not so scary.

AF: Yeah, no, we're good now.

LM: So, are there any aspects of yourself that you think COVID has changed? You 01:00:00know, permanently? I know you said a little bit about how you are respectful when you ask people about boundaries. Is there anything else?

AF: Um, yeah, that's a great question. Um, I would say, you know, there are a couple of big things that COVID changed within my daily life. And also just like, with me. Definitely respecting, like outwardly respecting people's boundaries, and like talking about those boundaries more is definitely one because I think before we just assumed that everyone was okay with shaking hands and hugging. When like, you learned that like, most people don't like to shake other people's hands because they're sweaty, and like, Who knows if you just went to the bathroom and didn't wash your hands? Like, nobody talks about that. And so you like, it's nice. Now where like, I openly ask people, I'm like, do you want me to shake your hand? Like, do you want this? Because like, I'm a super touchy person. And I didn't realize how many, like how much that bothered 01:01:00other people. So I would say like, made me outwardly like, way more. I'm just able to ask people those like simple questions because you think that it's awkward, but it's not awkward to ask people if they want their hand shook, like, you shouldn't have to touch someone's hand if you don't want to, like think about it is weird, like, but it just made me more outwardly able and confident to ask those questions. And I also like, I'm also way, I would, it's not like I was judgmental before, but I'm not, like, nothing passes me where I would judge somebody now. Like, somebody could say anything. And I'd be like, All right. Like, if that's how you feel, and that's what you believe that's okay with me, I don't, like I can agree to disagree with people every day, every hour of the day, and that doesn't bother me anymore. Like, I'm totally okay with disagreeing with people and then just respecting each other's boundaries. And so that's huge for me. And then on, like, the social aspect, I would say that, at the end of 01:02:00the day, like you have yourself, and you need to be comfortable with that. And so you need to be comfortable with the decisions you make, despite everyone's opinions around you. But you also like, you need, you have to go to bed at night and deal with like, your feelings, like not everyone else's feelings. So like, you need to put yourself first in a lot of instances and like be open to like, having conversations of putting yourself first and like, that's how I felt when I was asking my jobs, like, can I get more hours like I actually don't have money. Like, you have to put yourself first and like, sometimes it's going to be uncomfortable, or sometimes people aren't going to like it either. Like, sometimes people don't like when I ask if they're okay with whatever. But like, at the end of the day, I have to go home to myself and be okay with that. And so like you spend all your time with yourself like you should really be okay with it. So I feel like I'm way more, way less judgmental, and like, way more comfortable with, like myself and how I handle situations. I guess whereas other 01:03:00people feel like very, like crisis mode. Yeah.

LM: Yeah. That's awesome. So now that you have been out of UWO for over a year, what do you think you took away from your time here at the university?

AF: Um, I think what I took away. That's a big loaded question. Um, I think what I took away is, you really need to do things for yourself. Um, the university. Yes, it is a school, and it's a system and they can help you and they can guide you, and you have professors there that can help and guide you and do all of those things. But if you don't speak up, and you don't ask for help, and you don't go and try to experience things or you don't go and take opportunities, or you just don't go try. You can't sit around and just expect things to go your way. And so, I mean, I learned that from my freshman year, all the way to my 01:04:00COVID graduation, like you can't just sit around and like let things happen to you. And then you can't complain about it. You have to go and try to do a bunch of things. And if you fail at it, you fail at it. And if you don't, you don't, but your professors aren't going to know what your goals are if you never talk to them. And your professors aren't going to be able to help you if you never tell them what you're struggling with. And your university can't build you up if you don't go and do things that they're offering because you just decided not to ask them. So like you really need to take every chance you get to look out for yourself and actually like do things to work towards your goals and not just be like, oh, like COVID hit and now my entire life is over. Like you have to work with what you're given basically. And you need to just keep rolling with the punches. Because that's how you're entire life is gonna be.

LM: Yeah. Yeah, that's crazy. I think that's it. Do you have anything else that 01:05:00you wanted to add at all?

AF: Um, I don't, I don't think so. No.

LM: Okay, cool. Thank you for sharing your story with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW Oshkosh.

AF: Thank you.