Interview with Amber Richter, 11/23/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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PG: This is Piper green interviewing Amber Richter on November 23, 2021 for campus COVID stories. Instructor Grace Lim is also with us. Campus COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. First, could you please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

AR: Sure. It's Amber Richter, A m b e r R i c h t e r.

PG: For the purposes of obtaining a good audio recording. Please tell us again who you are.

AR: I am Amber Richter.

PG: What is your age, your major and year in school?

AR: I am 21 years old, am an English major, and I am a senior in college.

PG: Awesome. Okay, so just to get us started, we would like to get to know you a bit. Where did you grow up? What can you tell me about it?

AR: I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin called Lodi. It's about 25 00:01:00minutes away from Madison.

PG: Alright, and tell me about your parents. What did they do?

AR: So my mom was a high school physical education teacher in Middleton, WI for 32 years. She just retired. And then my dad is the business administrator at the Lodi School District.

PG: Awesome. So when did you start thinking about going to college? Was it always a given in your house?

AR: I started thinking about going to college around my freshman year of high school because I wanted to play college soccer. I think it was always in the picture for my family. It wasn't really questioned that much.

PG: Okay, and why did you choose to go to UW Oshkosh? Tell us about your life at UW Oshkosh before COVID.

AR: I chose to go to UW Oshkosh because it is a great school, but also because I was recruited to play soccer here. I am an outside back for the team, which is 00:02:00also for those who don't know soccer terms, it's, uh, in the defensive line. I was a starter. And yeah, it was really fun before COVID happened.

PG: Alright. Now let's move on to the early days of COVID at UW Oshkosh. At the beginning of the spring semester in 2020, where were you in your college career? Did you have a full class load? What was your living situation?

AR: I was a sophomore in college, I was also living in the dorms at the time in horizon. Horizon is a very, very nice dorm. I loved living in horizon. I had three other roommates, one of which was another teammate. I was sharing a room with another person and I also had a very, very rigorous schedule with school.

PG: Did you know your major at that time?


AR: Yes.

PG: Okay. Got it. When was the first time you remember hearing about COVID-19?

AR: Probably in the winter. Because it was, I think in Europe, when I heard about the news.

PG: And what was your initial reaction to that?

AR: Um, well, I actually was planning on going to Spain for soccer that spring so that's why I kept keeping up with all the news in Europe. And I figured it would spread here and that Spain would get canceled.

PG: What were your feelings as everything, UWO and elsewhere in mid-March started shutting all down all of a sudden?

AR: I think it was just so surreal. No one's ever really experienced anything like this. So it kind of just didn't feel realistic. But at first I think I was also like, wow, I get a break. And then once a like, lingered, I was like, Okay, 00:04:00I think I'm ready to go back to normalcy, but kind of got tired of it after a while. I think a lot of people were excited for like the two weeks off, but then it turned into like months.

PG: Yeah, exactly. Okay, so how would you describe your feelings about the disease itself? Were you scared? Nervous?

AR: Um, that's a great question. I think it's hard because there's so many different opinions around you. I almost feel like every single person that I've been around has viewed COVID differently. So for me, it just depended on the situation. I mean, I knew I was healthy, but also, it is scary. Also living with my family when I was sent home, I was terrified for my parents just because they're older than me. So It kind of just depends, I guess.


PG: Alright. So prior to the university shutting down, how much planning had you made for shutdown? Did you have a game plan? How much were your parents involved in your decisions on what you were going to do?

AR: I had no planning actually. I figured it was coming. But like I said, it was so surreal that how do you really entertain that thought? For that long?

PG: No one was prepared. Really?

AR: Exactly. So I mean, it was a given, I was gonna go back home with my family. So at least I have that going for me.

PG: So how did you feel when students got the email to be sent home? Describe that situation? What was going through your mind? How did you say goodbye to your friends? And how long did you think this break was going to last?

AR: Okay, so I actually do remember this like it was yesterday. I was in my dorm room, like in bed, I was sleeping. My roommate was also asleep and then when we woke up, I looked at my email, because I got notified. And you know how you can 00:06:00see like the subject, and I was like, wait, this isn't right. I kind of just, like, told my roommate, and we stared each other in disbelief. Like, are you kidding me? At first, we laughed, because we were like, no way. Like, we get a break? This is awesome. But then when we realized we had to leave horizon and we love that dorm. And, like, not live with each other anymore. We were really sad.

PG: So where did you go after the university shutdown? It was right before spring break. You went home, right?

AR: Yeah, I did go home.

PG: Okay. And what did you do during spring break? just isolate at home? Or did you work?

AR: Yeah, I just stayed home. I didn't have a job.

PG: Okay and how did the transition back to living at home go? Was it difficult to be living with your family again?

AR:I would say it was easier than I expected. I think the hardest part for me 00:07:00was finishing out the semester online while dealing with my family around me.

PG: How were the other people in your home affected by COVID?

AR: Well, my brother, he was a senior in high school at the time, he also had to do school online. My dad still went into work, but there were days when he had to stay home. And my mom was also home so, it was a huge transition for all of us.

PG: Was it hard with like you doing homework and your brother doing homework and your parents working?

AR: Yeah, actually, we all kind of had our own office rooms, which was really nice. So we kind of we got the space we needed from each other.

PG: That's good. How were COVID protocols dealt with at first in your home? Did your parents make you social distance? What about masks? Was there any friction? 00:08:00Or were you all in agreement about it all?

AR: We were all in agreement about not seeing anybody for a while. I knew I was getting stir crazy so we would go on drives. But I mean, the most we've done was if we're not feeling well, we will wear a mask. We also did keep our distance from each other.

PG: Okay. Got it. So since you spent a lot of time with your family, what were some of the challenges of being around them that much? Were you able to get out of the house when you wanted to?

AR: I actually didn't mind spending that much time with my family. I think at times I got frustrated because I knew I could be up at college hanging out all my friends but I get along with my family very well. We're very close. So it was kind of just hanging out with a bunch of my friends at the same time.

PG: Great. So, regarding your classes and schoolwork, how did you find the 00:09:00transition to online learning? How hard was that? How did you manage group product projects or final projects?

AR: It was so hard because everything in my classes deal with discussing, like whatever we read, because I'm an English major. So books or essays, it was a very discussion oriented environment. And for us to have all that moved online, you just kind of lose that, like personal experience with everybody. So it was very hard, but I would say just because we're so used to technology at our age, it was easier to adapt.

PG: So you said you struggled with online, but what were your feelings about finishing up the semester off campus?

AR: Very mixed. In a way I was happy just because it was a very nice break but at the same 00:10:00time, it was almost too relaxing in a way. And I'm not saying that things are easier. I'm just saying that I almost felt more lazy in a sense. I didn't have that sense of being on campus with professors and classmates.

PG: Were your professors prepared for classes going online? Or was it really hard to understand instruction?

AR: Some of my professors were more prepared than others. Some did not know how to understand anything with technology. It was almost like we were all going through it together.

PG: Right. So, what did you miss most about not being on campus?

AR: I would just say almost being relaxed, because it's very easy to get stressed out in the midst of everything here. So yeah, I do miss that feeling of 00:11:00being able to breathe a little bit more.

PG: Right. How much did COVID impact your major? Did you ever think of switching due to COVID changes?

AR: It didn't impact my major at all, really. I actually have never thought about switching my major once so that's great.

PG: With everything that happened and so quickly, how are you feeling emotionally? How are the people around you coping?

AR: Oh, gosh, I would say emotionally at first, it's nice when you get to be around your family. And when you are able to just kind of take a step back and breathe and like, just relax. But as time goes on, you're more like secluded and isolated, like the more that becomes prominent in your everyday life. I would say I've definitely forgotten how to socialize in person for a while. I 100% 00:12:00developed social anxiety from this because I actually was online for a whole year and a half. So this semester, was my first semester back in person. All that time, even when we could go back to school, I was still online so, I lost that ability to socialize the normal way.

PG: I think a lot of people did. So what about your friends? Tell me about how you stayed in contact with them? How are they handling everything?

AR: So what's nice about having phones is, Snapchat and everything you can talk pretty freely on. But I'd say that we get so used to talking through like, any kind of media, and you kind of lose that in person relationship with them.


PG: Right. For me, I honestly hate this generation and how social media is just so controlling. You know, I feel like I spent a lot of time on it more than I ever have through COVID.

GL: I just want to ask you something about something that you said earlier. So you said you had difficulty reintegrating into society? Like, how did you overcome that? What did you have to do?

AR: It was almost like ripping off a band aid, I almost had to do some kind of exposure, like therapy with it, because suddenly, it was completely online to five classes all in person and there was no way to ease into it. I almost feel like it was just a very hard transition, because I had to go from zero to 100. So fast. So I mean, still, it's hard, I would say. I have random times where 00:14:00I've anxiety in the middle of class. So I have to like, walk out, like, get myself some water, take a couple deep breaths and go back and remind myself that it's fine.

GL: Did you get some support or help from campus or anything like that? Did you seek out any help?

AR: I did, actually. I went to therapy right before the summer, so it didn't last very long but I also did have very honest conversations with my professors and my parents. They have been very supportive through everything along with my professors. They're very understanding of COVID and everyone's going through it. So I mean, the nice thing is I'm not the only one going through anxiety because we're all in this together.

GL: Was the anxiety stemming from the virus itself or something else?


AR: Probably just being isolated for so long. I actually did have the virus at one point and I was asymptomatic, so I didn't freak out that much about having it whereas if I had really bad symptoms, I would say mentally, it's just affected me the most.

PG: So were you at home when you had COVID?

AR: Not at home. I was at Oshkosh. Living off campus. I moved into a house my junior year living with four other teammates so, the whole house ended up getting it. It was year ago, I would say last September, so 2020. Actually, I remember that it was September 13th I tested positive.

PG: Well, and that's right when soccer season was kind of transitioning to not 00:16:00having a season and having practices with masks.

AR: Yeah, I was one of the very first test positive on the team, and I felt so bad about it but everyone ended up getting it.

PG: So do you know anyone close to you that had COVID? And was like, really sick?

AR: Yes. One of my teammates had COVID and she handled it horribly, like she's had bronchitis and everything so she just had a very hard time breathing. I don't know how I got COVID though. It could have been in the grocery store or anywhere. I just spent a lot of time walking around because I started going for a lot of walks with my house when COVID hit just to get that fresh air.


PG: Did you follow the protocols?

AR: Yeah, I did. When I had covid, I stayed in my room for a very long time. I even ordered a lot of takeout and stuff, just so I didn't have to deal with the dishes and being around my roommates. I just stayed away from them for a while but I was very fortunate given not having symptoms I guess. I was just tired the whole time.

PG: So when it comes to your finances, did you struggle financially through COVID at all?

AR: Um, not that I can remember. I think I did fine for the most part. I don't even think I spent much money. Only when I had COVID, I would order food.

PG: Right. So once the semester ended, how if at all, did your life change? Did 00:18:00you work, take vacations, see friends, etc?

AR: When the semester ended, my life didn't change that much. I would say the most I've done was see my friends more often and I remember this one time, right when COVID was taking off, I guess, to say it that way, one of my hometown friends and I were just so sick of, I won't say our families, but like we just needed new faces, so we sat outside, like 10 feet away from each other and ate lunch. Just like staring at our faces. We were like, this is so nice.

PG: So now let's talk about fall of 2020. When you learn that UW Oshkosh was returning to in person classes for the fall 2020 semester? What was your reaction?

PG: I was excited but then mine didn't go in person so I was used to online 00:19:00school from the previous semester. It wasn't really anything. I saw it coming.

PG: Right. That semester, UW Oshkosh chose to offer some classes in person, but mostly online. What did you choose to do? I guess, did you have a choice for your online classes? And what was lifelike at UWO once you came back? How did you feel about the new school year?

AR: It was nice being on campus at least but in terms of school, it didn't change. So what did change though, was that my roommates were mostly in person or hybrid. So, all day they were at school, I was still home. And it was 00:20:00horrible at times. It wasn't because I was living in sweats because no one's gonna see me but like the idea of getting ready and going to class and actually like being there was something that I didn't have for a while.

PG: Right. And how did COVID affect your soccer season in fall 2020? Since, when you got sent home in spring, it was off season for soccer.

AR: Yes. I injured my back lifting in February so right before we were sent home and I still had that back injury when everything was happening in the fall with COVID. So, we lost our season, people were practicing and stuff, but I wasn't. So I didn't have that in person class experience or playing soccer experience.

PG: Right. And honestly, I think the good thing is you didn't miss too much with 00:21:00the season being canceled.

AR: Yeah. I guess in a way, it was a good year to be injured.

PG: So what protocols did you have to follow for soccer?

Definitely wear masks. That was a given. There were also small group practices rather than the whole team together.

PG: Did you like that? Do you think it was good?

AR: I would say it didn't affect me as much just because I was sitting out watching everyone, but I think I think it was the right thing to do. I mean, we had to.

PG: So, what was it like going into a soccer season after waiting for a whole year? Even though you were injured.

AR: It was nice. Like, even if it wasn't 100% it was still, you got to be with your team, you got to exercise and kick a ball around with each other. It was just that whole concept, I think actually helped mentally, just having that.


PG: So, how did you feel about the COVID protocols that were in place at UWO with all the masking, the testing of those living in dorms, being put in quarantine because of COVID or close contact?

AR: I think that it was dealt with the way that they could have. I mean, again, I was in the dorm, so I had to go back home when the whole thing hit and then soon after I moved into a house off campus. Knowing younger people on the team and their dorm experiences, I mean, obviously it sucks that it's just the way things are now in dorms with masks and all that but I think the way that things are being dealt with the way that they should be just to keep everybody safe.

PG: Right. So, what time was it when you signed the lease for your house? Was it during COVID?

AR: It was the summer going into my sophomore year.


PG: Okay, okay. So did your interactions with other people change? Did you become a less social individual because of COVID

AR: I would definitely say less social. I definitely isolated myself, not just physically but mentally. An interesting thing, too, is just when you're around people with COVID, even, like I remember going to target to get a bunch of whatever is necessary, while we're going into isolation and I had to sneeze, right? I wouldn't hide in an aisle where no one could see me because I like I knew I was gonna get looks for it. And that's just like, that's just what it's like. Now, even if you have like something in your throat, you gotta cough it out or something, anything like that, there's gonna be that look like oh, no, does that person have COVID? And I'm guilty. I've looked at someone when they 00:24:00cough in front of me like, what's going on? So that was an interesting social thing. That's because it's still going on. I still see people coughing. So I don't think that's going to go away for a very long time.

PG: Yeah. Tell me about meeting more, or new people. Were you able to do that? Or did you just stick with your friends?

AR: I didn't meet a lot of people because of COVID. I would say that at most anything online. When there was a new class coming in for the soccer team, we would meet on Zoom. And that's how I met the younger people on the team. So at most it was through that.

PG: So what was the biggest change at UWO you saw from the spring semester to the fall semester?

AR: For me, it was just the physical location. I just loved actually being back up 00:25:00in the city. Even if it wasn't having in person classes, it was just the idea of being around everyone. The environment was different, though.

PG: So in the fall of 2021, you finally got a soccer season. You were injured, correct? What was it like to finally have fans in the stadium with it full again?

AR: yes. It's just one of those things where you realize that you took something for granted. And I look back and I'm so thankful. So, even though I couldn't play, it almost didn't matter as much compared to having that back. And like, it's bigger than my injury. It's everyone else having that season taken away from them, too. So the fact that I could see everyone else playing, like that was just, it's just a feeling that you don't think you're ever going to experience because you never have soccer ripped away from everybondy.


PG: Did you feel this season was somewhat back to normal?

AR: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, we had an amazing season going into the NCAA tournament, so it was just unreal, just how great the comeback was. Everyone was hungry. We needed that.

PG: So also, in the fall of 2021 vaccines are readily available on campus and elsewhere. What were your initial thoughts on that?

AR: I think it's good to have them available for people. I was vaccinated over the summer and I'm really glad that I was just to know that there's something helping me. So, I think it's good to have that available for everybody.

PG: Yeah, campus has a lot of resources for people, which is great. How much do 00:27:00you feel things are getting back to normal? And for that matter, what is normal to you?

AR: This is a great question. I just feel like things aren't going to go back to normal. I think we've achieved some sort of normalcy given our situation but I almost feel like the way people view things and view life and treat each other, and how they take care of themselves is so different now. So I think it is our new normal and that we're not going back to the old. So yes, and no, I guess is my answer.

PG: Okay. Are there any aspects about COVID life at school you think won't change back?

AR: I think, just digitally, I almost think that there will always be that option now.

PG: I think that's a good thing for people that like online.

AR: Yes. Also, I got a job last December, so it had been almost a full year with 00:28:00COVID and it was completely remote. I didn't have to have a schedule. It was on my own time. The process was all online.

PG: So what was that job?

AR: I got a job through the Wisconsin review. That's journal publication. Student ran, actually. Our supervisor is one of my professors, Professor Cole, who overlooks everything, and we actually just had an in person meeting last week, which was awesome, because I didn't truly know what anyone looked like for the longest time since it was all through zoom.

PG: So what exactly do you do for that job? What's your role?

AR: I'm the fiction editor. So, I review any submission that comes through as 00:29:00fiction, so I can accept or decline it. I can upvote it. I'm also looking over poetry and other things because we're a small team of like four people and we have thousands of submissions. So it was all very online.

PG: What has living and learning during the time of COVID taught you about yourself?

AR: That people are important and that's important to socialize. I also do feel like mentally taking care of yourself. You should put yourself first and foremost mentally, however you're feeling those are very important.

GL: Let me step in here for a second. I just want to get the timeline straight. Regarding - we're gonna step back a little bit, regarding the therapy you saught out. Was that at home? When was that?

AR: This was last spring. So spring of 2021.


GL: What made you decide to seek out and was this on campus?

AR: Yes, it was on campus. It was a combination of things. So it wasn't just COVID, it was my injury and I also got in a really bad car accident, but I just- Those were the pushes that I needed I think starting from my back injury and COVID and everything else that happened.

GL: You got- So you brought in a new thing, the car accident?

AR: I did, I did. I tried to stray away from it as long as possible just because it happened during COVID and I wanted to focus on the whole COVID thing, but yes, in the spring I got in a car accident and it wasn't a pretty one. It was something that I shouldn't have walked away from, to kind of just put it that way. I think everybody is going through their own struggles that isn't just COVID so by bringing this up so yes it did push me to get therapy. Which I think it was kind of a snowball effect really starting with getting injured, COVID, and then the accident but it also kind of sheds a light on the fact that everybody like there was another girl involved, she also went through that. There are other people going through other injuries or like mentally too. Other accidents, losing loved ones, so I think those are things that could push others to seek out that help.


GL: And this is- the help that you saught out this was the campus health department?

AR: Yes.

GL: counseling?

AR: Yes, she was a great lady, so it helped me a lot to talk about that stuff.

GL: And are you still doing that- I mean are you still in therapy at this time?

AR: Not right now, no.

GL: Okay. Thank you.

PG: So you feel as if the counseling is always available if you need it for anyone?


AR: Yes.

PG: Awesome. Is there anything else you want to add?

AR: No. I think that's it.

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

AR: No problem.