Interview with Brandon Kaiser, 11/16/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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TC: This is Tom Cermak interviewing Brandon Kaiser on November 16 2021. For Campus COVID stories. 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?

BK: Brandon Kaiser, B R A N D O N K A I S E R.

TC: For good audio recording. Can you tell us again who you are, your major, your ear and your age?

BK: Brandon Kaiser. I am 23 years old. I am an exercise and sports science major. And this is my second year here at UW Oshkosh.

TC: So getting to know you a little bit more. Just to get us started. Where did 00:01:00you grow up? And what can you tell me about it?

BK: I grew up in a small village called Mount Calvary, Wisconsin. And there's only like 700 people there. We didn't even have a gas station. So I grew up on a farm.

TC: Tell me a little bit about your parents. What did they do?

BK: My dad is a local motor mechanic for Canadian National railroad. So he works pretty much fixing trains engines, and my mom was a stay at home mom. I have four brothers.

TC: Wow, it's a big family.

BK: Yep. Neither of them are college educated.

TC: So if they're not college educated, did you plan on going to college at all?

BK: Never. I never originally planned on coming to college at all, let alone UW Oshkosh.

TC: So let's move a little bit into the early days of COVID. At the beginning of 00:02:00when COVID hit, were you at school?

BK: No, I was actually active duty military. I was stationed on Fort Riley, Kansas. And I was in route clearance company. When all this kind of went down. And it kind of affected a lot of things being in formation all the time. You could say literally you're right next to next to people formations are an everyday thing. And they just kind of affected the job quite a bit.

TC: So do you remember the first time in the army that you heard about COVID?

BK: I think I heard about it on my phone in the news. Yeah, I was waTC:hing something on my phone and they kind of brought it up, I definitely did not think it was a big deal. At the time, I figured it's somewhere else. And then as weeks progressed it became more and more of a big deal. And eventually, they brought it up in formation by our first sergeant who's in charge of the whole company. And then we started wearing masks, which I definitely originally hated doing. I 00:03:00mean, I still don't like it now. But at the time, I guess I thought it was not a big deal. Like they're overreacting and really hated it.

TC: So is that the only way that the army prepared for COVID?

BK: It was put on a mask just in case at first when people really didn't know what was going on. They didn't know much about COVID itself. They're gonna say, hey, you know, we're just gonna wear masks, see what happens. And as it progressed, there's more rules, and more rules. And for formations, we couldn't even get in formations, which was like an everyday thing for PT in the morning at 05:30 would be in formation (Kozo?) formation, which of course would be in formation, like pretty much whenever they need any information to be brought down. They'd be in formation which you're within a foot of like six people. Because we're on a line. So it's like yeah, we're not doing that anymore. So that was more like a tech space or phone base to let us know. And we stayed in our own platoons in groups, small groups. And I know I'm kind of speaking over 00:04:00here away from the mic. It was just kind of different originally. After a while, they already sent us home and they told us to stay home and we were getting paid to pretty much stay at home. Because nobody knew what was going on at the time. COVID was really ravaging in the States. It was about the same time campus here closed down, everyone got sent home. Literally, they're like, alright, we don't know what to do pretty much. We don't want to get more people sick. And especially being in the Army. They're under the spotlight. People look at them for you know, as inspiration. We don't want to be caught with our pants around our ankles. We don't want to be caught doing the wrong thing. Because they look up to you. Yeah, and it looks bad in the news. If you take a video recording like, oh, the army, you know, not following by COVID protocols, it's super bad. So a lot of times in the army when stuff like that happens and it's very political, very like news based. It's better just to take your hands off and take a step back. So they pretty much said we don't know what to do so stay at 00:05:00home. And then literally for like a week, I was out processing at the time, which is like you got to go to a bunch of places to get stuff signed to like clear base, like make sure I got all my stuff, get all my ducks in a row. But literally for the first few days, they were gonna (unclear) and me and my roommate are just chilling, so we're getting paid to just just stay here in our barracks rooms. And it got boring, especially at first. But it's like, nobody knew what was happening. After a while they tried to do some stuff just to keep us busy kind of things. They wanted us to write essays. It's like, bro, we don't get paid-- we're in the U.S. Army you know, we don't get paid to write essays. But as it went on, stuff definitely kind of got changed. And originally, especially my peers, a lot of people don't like it myself included with the rules that they're enforcing. It's (unclear) we've been doing this for years. You know, it's like, our unit is taught-- I'm in a row clearance one and we're supposed to find IED's . It's like bro, you teach us how to get pretty much 00:06:00blown up. You teach us how to like, you know, detect IDs. It's like, bro, this is COVID, this is nothing.

TC: Yeah. So your initial reaction to the news was it wasn't that big of a deal?

BK: Oh yeah. 100% I'm like this has nothing to say. Like I said we're pretty much taught to get blown up or not technically blown up-- we're taught to find IEDs but you know, there's a chance of getting blown up in there. It's like we have bigger fish to fry especially being in the US Army.

TC: So what were your feelings as everything started shutting down all of a sudden?

BK: I was definitely angry. I know this kind of sounds selfish, but more of selfish reasons is that the (unclear) in the military we don't have the best food to begin with. And now they even had an excuse to you know care even less and it's like I just want a good lunch and I was pretty angry about that. The 00:07:00part of staying home was nice and it's like, I guess I thought everybody was overreacting. Some stuff is nice. With everything being closed down.. It's like this is the Army, we go with the boys every weekend in the barracks and kind of you know go out and party, go out to eat, but that was kind of disappointing. It's like now we're just staying in the dorm, or in the barracks I should say, and just doing nothing which is really boring at the time. Because it's not like college, I don't have homework to do after we got home from work. It was our days so it definitely got boring because they literally told us after a while to not leave your place of duty for the day. Army terms-- The place of duty is your room. They literally told us not to leave our rooms.

TC: Describe your room a little bit.

BK: It's actually nicer than the dorms. I've been in both. We share a common area. You go into a dorm. It's almost like an apartment building. And you go into a barracks and you share a pretty much common area with one other person and then there's two doors. One's the other person's room and one's your room. 00:08:00You share a bathroom and common area so the common area kind of leads to the bathroom. And it wasn't you know, it was decent sized, probably about a little bit bigger than the dorm ones but I know barracks kind of depend on where you're stationed or where you're at. But I wasn't used to it. It's not like I got annoyed from staying in my barracks room because especially being in the Army. When everyone gets in the army and when they get there, you don't know anybody. You can't go back home to your family or anything. So you're spending all waking hours with this person because usually though your roommate in the barracks is someone that you're in your own platoon. So I went to work with my roommate, we came back, we'd go out to eat, even if it was just for the (unclear) or dining facility. We went out to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. So being stuck in a room with them-- it wasn't like we would get at each other's throats and stuff. We're just so used to it. We're always together anyway. So you get awfully close with someone being in the military.


TC: So you knew them pretty well before that happened?

BK: Oh yea. Before it happened, we were always spending time together anyway. So being restricted to our own room. I mean,I guess the only thing that kind of bugged us was that we couldn't go out and do anything. It's like when they take away your freedom of choice it's like man, it would be nice to go out and have a burger right now at McDonald's or something but you couldn't even do that.

TC: So how were other people in the army affected, you know, how they were feeling?

BK: I'd say most people had the same feelings as me. Before I got out, I didn't know anybody in the army that had it. But there were always rumors like, oh, so some person in this unit got it or some person in this unit got it. But at the time, I definitely also didn't think it was a big deal. Most people thought the same way. The Army has a big headstrong mentality. It's like you know, what the 00:10:00government pays us soldiers to do is like, you know, to be ready to go overseas, be ready to take gunshots, whatever it is for the government and say this is just a disease. You know, I've had a cold before that was, that was pretty much everyone's mentality.

TC: So did you go straight home after leaving the army?

BK: Yep. So I was transitioning out and I was officially officially discharged in July of 2020, after clearing posts and everything. And I went home, I drove the whole 12 hours from Fort Riley, Kansas, to (Unclear) Wisconsin home. And but in July, it was kind of towards the end of the whole lockdown era part of it. But it was definitely a super, I think it was just a change in general. Transitioning from the army, if you've heard from other military people, it's hard to begin with. I kind of didn't think it was gonna be that hard going into it. But I think that's what everyone is. And having it during COVID made it even 00:11:00worse, because I was expecting to go home, you know, like things never left when I left after high school. I'd go with my friends from high school, go do all this other stuff. And I got home and really couldn't do anything. Like I got home, left all my friends in the Army that I spent so much time with. I felt alone. I felt that even though I was with my family, that was the most (unclear). Spending a week with my family is the most I spent with them in four years. So it's like, yeah, we're family. But I didn't feel like I was at home at first. And I think I just miss my friends. I guess that's my whole thing. And it's not like I can go out and make new friends, and I can't go and do anything.

TC: So how were your parents when you first got back? How are they doing? COVID protocol's? Did you have anyone get it at home?

BK: None of my family members got it, at least originally. I know my mom is immunocompromised to begin with. She was like the only one I would be worried about. She's had cancer before. And my dad kind of had the same (unclear) as me. 00:12:00My dad was a farmer growing up, you know, he had the you gotta work for a living kind of mentality. And my dad is kind of the same way. Yeah, you know, they wore masks. They followed the rules. But nobody really thought it was a big deal, because we didn't know anyone personally that had it. I know eventually, my older brother ended up having it while he was still living at home. And he's a teacher. He's a gym teacher at St. Mary's Springs. And he really didn't know he had it. They were doing temperature checks while everyone walks in. And he was a little high. So they had him go take a COVID test. And he tested positive and it's like, Oh, I was not living at home at the time. So I was actually living in the dorms last year. When I finally made it here to UWO. So I didn't need to quarantine or anything. But he was the only one that ever had it. Thank God my mom never got it from him or anything. This is super weird, but he never even had any symptoms. He didn't feel bad whatsoever.


TC: So when you got back, what did you mainly do to pass the time? And how much time was there in between that and coming to Oshkosh?

BK: Not too much time. My original plan-- I guess that I never planned on going to college. So I got my CDL while I was in the military, because part of my job was driving heavy equipment, stuff like that. And my whole plan was to get out of the military and I wanted to be a crane operator because I drove crane's while I was in the military. You can make big money with that. I wanted to work pretty much for road construction, pretty much any kind of construction. And I actually had a job lined up with Michael's construction. I know they're kind of big here in Wisconsin. And but how dumb it was, it was more of a handshake deal. It's like hey we'll bring you on. I talked to him once beforehand. It wasn't like an immediate thing. Literally months before I got out. I was talking to them. I said to my resume, did an interview and everything. They said yeah we're 00:14:00gonna bring you on as soon as you get back, you know, just keep up with us. And this was before COVID happened and then COVID happened. And then I kept trying (unclear) it was harder and harder to reach out to them. And after a while, while I was back I called them. (unclear) Hey are you still planning on bringing me on and they're like no we can't at the time. But I mean, a lot of jobs are like that, especially during COVID. Literally no company knew how to act. No company knew how to do anything. (unclear) Like we're not gonna bring anybody on, they don't know what to do. So that was super discouraging. And I'm like, so I'll go sit at home. I wasn't doing anything. Maybe it's helping my dad work on tractors or something. But literally it was kind of depressing. I was kinda like, geez, what do I do now this job just fell through. I'm at home doing nothing. I don't want to be that guy that comes back and lives on your parents couch, you know? And I was just kind of in awe. I was really disappointed about the job. I was already having a hard time transitioning and felt alone and I 00:15:00didn't have my army buddies there so I felt alone at the time.

TC: So prior to COVID, you were not thinking about going to college. So after COVID, I wouldn't say after it, but after the lockdown and quarantine everything. When did you decide, obviously the job fell through-- When did you decide to come to Oshkosh? And what was the deciding factor?

BK: Probably not so long after that job fell through because I was kind of scrambling. I didn't know what to do. I was really scrambling on what I'm supposed to do? I know I enrolled super late. I can't remember, maybe in August I enrolled and the classes started in September, like the beginning of August, when I actually enrolled. I know as a safety precaution before I even got out I applied for UW Oshkosh. I said hey you know my brother went here. You know, I'm just gonna apply and even if I get accepted, it doesn't mean that I need to go. Kind of smart in hindsight that I did that before I was even out of the army. 00:16:00You know, I'm just gonna apply, whatever happens happens. So I guess it was in the back of my mind. Good thing I had a backup plan I guess. And then after my job fell through, I was scrambling and then already felt alone. And then I get pressure from parents and family members, especially having not seen them for years. So at any event, I know we didn't have many of those. But my parents specifically would say "So what are you gonna do now?" or "What have you been up to and everything." And I'm just like, man I don't know. So it's like, I'm just gonna go to college, you know, I got my GI bill in my back pocket. So I'm not going to have to really be in debt for anything. I'm not going to be losing anything by going to college. If anything, I'm gaining knowledge and gaining, you know, the money I get for the GI Bill. So you know what the safe bet is seeing how it goes, you know?

TC: So for people that don't know what the GI money is, what exactly is it?

BK: Oh, I use the post 911 GI Bill. It's given to military veterans, and family members (unclear). And it's pretty much used to pay for college tuition. And I 00:17:00get a BH out of it, too. So basic housing allowance, they pretty much pay for everything, which is really nice. They pay for tuition, give me a housing allowance. So I can, you know, pay rent or pay whatever. Give me food allowance and they just pay everything like that, which is super nice.

TC: So with everything that happened so quickly, obviously, you came back from the army. And what was the time span between getting back? I wouldn't say losing your job, but not having the job and then coming to school-- what was that timeframe?

BK: So I got out in July 2020. And then I think classes started in September. So it's been like a month and a half, two months.Yeah, it wasn't too long. And I made the decision of living in the dorms at the beginning of last semester when 00:18:00I was a first year, which wasn't that the greatest decision on my part at the time.

TC: So when you came to college, did you know exactly what you wanted to do because it came so fast?

BK: Not at all. I am still contemplating what my degree is going to be in. I think I'm on the right track, though. I want to do something with kinesiology. I'm a trainer at a gym now, part time, which is what I really like. And at the time, I guess they you know, I'm not gonna lose anything from using my GI Bill and attending school. Especially since the job fell through a lot of companies, I have no idea what's going or if college is still going on. I'm not getting dumber or losing status just by attending. And I've been here kind of ever since you know, I'll have my associates degree at the end of the semester, which is nice.

TC: So let's talk a little bit more about fall of 2020 when you learned that UW 00:19:00Oshkosh was returning to in person classes. Obviously, you did not have the in person classes before because this would be your first semester. But how was your reaction to going in person in that fall of 2020 semester?

BK: I was kind of excited, also kind of nervous about it. I don't know what to expect. I never expected to go to college. I haven't done much research going into it. I know I probably wouldn't like online classes, but I had about half and half at the time. I'm not a big online person. I know some people are and some people aren't. I'm more of a hands-on person. And not knowing what I wanted to do with my major also made things difficult. So I'll just do Gen eds and it was kind of awful at the time. I admit I did not have a good time in college. My whole year last year. It's been a lot better so far this year that things are semi back to normal. And I didn't know what to expect. Classes are kind of boring, especially being gone from schooling for 4 years at least. More 00:20:00education schooling like this. I did classes in the army, but it was more for Army school, stuff like that. So I haven't done math in four years, I haven't done science in four years, I haven't done any of that stuff. So coming back, especially having a college algebra class was rough. I had like the (unclear) just remember how to, you know, do certain things. Here's what a parabola is, and stuff like that. So that's kind of the hardest part for me was this jumping back into it after not having any formal education for four years,

TC: Which is crazy, because some of the people in this class are a little bit older, have an extra year at college, and they have the normal before COVID. So the only normal that, you know, coming to college is the masks policies and all the COVID protocols.

BK: Yeah, I actually really debated even coming back this year, because I just had such an awful time last year. Big part of it was that I'm a non-traditional student, I'm older than everyone else. I'm not super old or anything being 23. 00:21:00By the time I was 22, it was just hard to relate to kids that are four years younger than me. I don't know, things changed in 4 years especially when I was gone in the army and then when I came back-- it was hard to relate to people. Also, with COVID it made it so hard. I didn't know anybody. I didn't have any friends. You know, all my friends were back in the army living it up. So I wanted to make friends. That was one reason I actually decided to come here to UWO. I gotta make new friends and do all this other stuff. But COVID definitely made it hard. That's one reason why I wanted to be in the dorms. It should be easier to make friends like that. It's gonna be like the barracks, right? And then in the dorms, you couldn't talk to anybody, you couldn't do anything. I was in a single room anyway. Which, I guess I got lucky or unlucky depending on the view on it. You couldn't visit anybody, you couldn't do anything anyway. So (unclear) this is miserable. Now that I'm a year and a half in, it's kind of 00:22:00better now that I've made a couple of friends here. But that was definitely the hardest part at first. I can't even talk to people with these COVID restrictions.You can't do anything. And now I'm just going to class and going back to my room, or doing online class going back to my room.

TC: So when you came back, you had the option to go online and in person and you chose to go in person, if you could.

BK: Yeah, for sure. I definitely requested that because I'm more of a hands-on learner anyway. And it's more of accountability that way. If it was online, I probably wouldn't attend as much as I should. So at least I'm held accountable more that way.

TC: So you felt that was the right choice.

BK: Oh, yeah, for sure.

TC: How did you feel about the COVID protocols? I know you talked a little bit about the dorms situation. How do you feel about the masking policy, the testing of those that are living in the dorms, and being put in quarantine if you had COVID?

BK: I still don't like the mask policies, but I understand. I do it because I 00:23:00understand that people do it. But this is a personal preference. I felt I didn't want to wear a mask but I understand some people are immunocompromised or some people are worried about getting sick. I'm not but that's also me. I was okay with, you know, joining the army and getting bullets shot above my head. And then the whole protocols and everything. Not a huge fan, but I understand all of it. I understand why they do it. The testing was really nice. I'm glad I never had to go to a quarantine. Gruenhagen, right is where it is. I'm glad I never had to go there. Because I was always tested negative every time. But I understood it. (unclear) in the army, you get told what to do. Here you get told what to do is what you have to do. I understand the premise. Testing was nice. I just got really lucky, I'm assuming, that I never tested positive or even never 00:24:00had a quarantine. Nobody around me got tested positive. I guess that was one perk of not knowing anybody.

TC: What were your thoughts on the campus dining? Did you have a meal plan? For a very long time? We couldn't eat together? What was that like?

BK: Yep, I didn't have a meal plan. I can't make my own food. I was in the army. I'm used to that food. So I had a meal plan. It's kind of depressing. I don't know what I was expecting. I know I wasn't expecting much because I'm used to Army food. But you had to eat with plastic forks, you know, in the little green tub thing. Is this kind of dehumanizing? I thought I was done with eating with plastic forks or eating outside in the field while I was in the army or anything like that. It really kind of sucked. Like I said, it was harder to make friends now and I can't even sit next to anybody. I didn't know anybody. I was by myself about 99% of the time.


TC: So did you try and stay in the dorm as long as possible or did you venture out and go to places or kind of scared to.

BK: I mean, I didn't know anybody. I'm not too familiar with Oshkosh. Even though I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life. A lot of places weren't open. I was able to get out of the dorms the second semester. I was smart enough to only sign a semester contract. So I got in the apartment I'm in now, which has been a lot better. So you can actually get roommates and it's off campus and everything. And it's just easier to navigate in the dorms. I really didn't like having to walk down the hall going to the bathroom and everything. Here, you got your own bathroom in my apartment. Even in the barracks, we had our own bathroom. We didn't need to walk down the hall. I just kind of thought I was too old for that kind of stuff.

TC: How'd you feel the departments and faculty did with the hybrid approach to education, you think you're getting a good education at the time?


BK: Yeah, all of them did really good. All the professors are very lenient and easy going for stuff, especially if you had troubles even with your family having COVID or if you had COVID they were all pretty good. I can tell that some of them were not used to the hybrid system, online classes. But I think coming in the second semester, after all this COVID stuff happened. They kind of are getting more familiarized with it, which was a lot better. As much as I didn't like online classes, I did well on them in those classes. So I'm sure they did a pretty decent job if I pass.

TC:Now, we're talking a little bit about the second semester. It's spring 2021. How did your living and learning experience change? If it did at all?

BK: I'm definitely a lot more confident coming into this year. My living 00:27:00situation.. I'm in the apartment I was in last semester of last year. I just got new roommates. They're a little better than last year. I just get random roommates because I don't know who they are. We're pretty good friends now. I actually have a couple more friends. So like my whole mentality instead of being depressed and alone that whole last year, it's been a lot better. I got more friends. Kind of finally landed on my feet, and almost took over a year after I got out of the army to find my footing again. And I feel like I'm finally on the right track with that. It's so hard leaving your army friends, like I said, we spent almost every waking minute together. And then coming here not knowing anybody, not having any friends. The whole environment in the military is one thing I really noticed compared to college. Here in college, like most people have never left town. Most people have never gone off and done anything by themselves. And there's just so many cliques and like groups, and it made it 00:28:00hard to approach people. In the military, they take a bunch of people from a bunch of different places, they put you all in one area, and you have to be forced to work with each other and live with each (unclear). Literally nobody knows anybody, like an (unclear) shows up to active duty. And now you're forced to do stuff together. I'm not trying to insult anybody because the people don't know any better. People have just never experienced life. But there's groups of people that are cliques and they have known each other all these years. It's almost subconsciously they're not willing to branch out and talk to anyone that's different. And in the army it's so different because everyone's so easygoing because they know what it's like to be the new guy at the unit that doesn't know anyone. (unclear) if I'd be sitting eating alone at the dining facility in the army, people would say "hey come over here sit next to us" or whatever. And then I could do that here at Blackhawk and literally nobody cares. Nobody cares about you. Especially my last year, I was really hoping that it'd 00:29:00be different like I was so used to the Army military. Everyone's so nice. Everyone wants to be your friend. And then there's cliques and there's groups. Everyone only hangs around with their own certain kind of people. I can notice the groups of people that always walk in their groups. My army friends, you could look at us and be think, crazy. Because I have friends from the inner city of Chicago. I have friends from (unclear) nowhere in Alabama. We'd go out together and there'd be the guy in a cowboy hat and boots. There'd be me in a sweatshirt or something. Then there'd be the guy with grills and chains on and we'd all like hanging together. You'd never think any of us are friends. We were like the closest of friends. And now in college, everyone's dressed the same. Everyone looks the same. Everyone acts the same. Same haircut, all this other stuff. (Unclear) They're not usually rude to people, but I've tried to talk to groups like that and they come off. It's almost subconsciously (unclear).They 00:30:00don't know me. They don't dress like me. So they just come off as (unclear). But now that I'm kind of getting my footing, it's kind of a lot easier getting more integrated into it. But it's actually coming from the army and doing this is so different. But this year has been going off better.

TC: Were most of your army friends discharged? Or did they go back to the army?

BK: What do you mean?

TC: Did most of your friends stay in the Army?

BK: Some of them did, some of them didn't. I got 2 friends that just got out. My former roommate just got out maybe 3 or 4 months ago. We've been talking about everyday. He actually lives in Indiana so not too far away from here. We've been talking about meeting up sometime here over summer break and hanging out again. And I got another buddy that lives in Chicago that just recently got out around 00:31:00the same time he did. Most of them did get out but some of them also stayed in which I still keep in touch with too. There's times when I think what if I stayed in and stuff. But, I can always go back in until I'm 35.

TC: Transitioning a little bit to this Fall, what's your living situation like now?

BK: Good, I live in an apartment off campus. I got 3 roommates. I didn't know any of them before. They're all pretty cool. Actually, none of them go to UWO. Wait, 1 of them does-- 1 goes to Fox Valley and the other goes to Green Bay. It's kind of weird that I can't just say "let's go to class together" or "let's go get food at Blackhawk", but it's pretty good right now.

TC: So the vaccines are readily available on campus and in fact, strongly advocated by the Administration and the CDC. What were your thoughts about the VAX up campaign to get students vaccinated to win scholarships?

BK: I thought it was good. Good decision by the school. Push people to get vaccinated. Definitely not a bad thing. It's when they start forcing people to get vaccinated. I know the school isn't doing that. Don't get me wrong. It's a 00:32:00good thing. It's all personal preference. People have different reasons to not get it or to get the shot. I guess just don't force people. That's what I like about this school, they give you the option. I'm sure there's incentives. Incentives are always good.

TC: Yea we see that a lot in sports nowadays. Most of them are forced to get it.

BK: Yea.


How do you feel that things are getting back to normal? I know you when you came onto campus, it wasn't pre COVID but how much do you thinks things are getting back to normal?


Yea it's hard to judge because I didn't know what normal was to begin with for my college experience. But, I think it's a lot better than last year. They just opened up not wearing masks in the rec center anymore which I really like. I didn't like wearing a mask when running on a treadmill. Which is good. Same 00:33:00thing with Polk Library, you don't need to wear a mask. I think it's getting pretty good. Most classes are online, sorry most are in person. They have the option to be online which is better anyway. It's always nice to have more options. I think they're doing a good job of getting it normalized. I like it, I just hope it keeps going this way and there isn't a big U-turn in COVID cases that makes it go back to the way things were. I really hope that doesn't happen.

TC: So what about you? Are there any aspects of yourself that COVID has changed for good?

BK: I'd think so. I'd say it wasn't just COVID that changed me. I think it's more just everything in my life. There was a lot going on in my life at the time when I transitioned from the Military when COVID was going on. I thought it really taught me to have more sympathy for people to understand (unclear) and 00:34:00see people's point of views. At the time, I felt I was ignorant especially in the Army. I was like "why are we wearing a mask"? I understand that people want to see us wearing a mask to make people feel safe because it's harder to spread that way. In life, just seeing other people after what I went through having such a hard time transitioning from the Military, I feel more sympathy for that guy sitting in the corner. I'm more like, hey lets go talk to that person. Even just (unclear). I'd rather just have people talk to people and be more friendly. Go meet up with people then just suffer in silence kind of thing.

TC: So how do you think this historical event might have changed you permanently?

BK: It definitely gave me a different perspective on life and the whole 00:35:00environment. It changed my outlook a little bit on how to view people. Everyone has their own struggles that their fighting. Everyone has their own reasons for doing such things. It just kind of makes me more conscious aware of that to more agree with other people's actions. Not to judge them.

TC: So the rest of your life, you will carry that?

BK: Yea. I'd think so.

TC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

BK: UW Oshkosh has been really good to me so far. Same with the VA and benefits I've been receiving. Good on that, that's about it.

TC: Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contributions to the COVID campus stories at UW Oshkosh.