Interview with Brianna Storino, 11/11/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐SR: Okay. I think it's recording now. Let's see. This is Summer Ruff. I am interviewing Brianna Storino on November 11th, 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?

BS: My name is Brianna Storino, B R I A N N A. And last name Storino, S T O R I N O.

SR: And then for the purposes of obtaining a good audio recording, please tell us again, your name and major and age.

BS: My name's Brianna Storino. My major is geology and I am 20 years old.

SR: Okay, so then to get started, we'll just get to know you a little bit more, starting with, where did you grow up?

BS: I grew up in Grayslake, Illinois.

SR: What can you tell me about growing up there?

BS: It's a suburb of Chicago, so its population's pretty high. There's lots of 00:01:00things, different things to do. Had big high school. It's a pretty big town.

SR: And then tell me about your parents. What do they do?

BS: My dad is a podiatrist, and my mom is a receptionist.

SR: Did you always know that you wanted to go to college?

BS: Yeah, I think it's just kind of like known in my family. Like you're going to college. What I wanted to do was different, but I figured it out along the way.

SR: Okay. Why did you choose Oshkosh from Illinois?

BS: Well, I was actually always planning on playing soccer, but those plans changed and then I was planning on actually transferring after a semester, but I loved Oshkosh and I changed my major to geology because of the program here. So 00:02:00it all worked out.

SR: Okay. We're gonna look at the early days of COVID at UW Oshkosh, starting with the beginning of the spring semester of 2020. Where were you in your college career at that time?

BS: I was in my first year, second semester.

SR: Did you have a full class load? Were you living in the dorms and stuff?

BS: Yeah, I was taking 15 credits and I was living in the dorm Stewart Hall.

SR: Do you remember the first time you heard about COVID?

BS: I don't remember necessarily like the first time. But I remember that week where I was just kind of texting my dad back and forth and we were talking about it and campuses were around the country were kind of closing down. So we were just talking about it. And the time when we realized we were actually getting sent home, as well as, you know, just like everyone else in the country was. I was at the dining hall, Blackhawk Commons, with my two of my friends and we got 00:03:00the email that we were gonna be sent home. So we thought we were gonna have a little two week break, but turned out we were having a couple months until we come back.

SR: What was your first initial reaction to hearing about COVID and the shutdown and everything?

BS: First I, you know, no one knew anything about it, so, you know, it's kind of like this scary disease, but then you hear it's getting more serious there's campuses closing down and then we think, oh, are we gonna be next? And then when we finally shut down, I didn't realize the severity of COVID really. I, cause like I said earlier, I thought we were gonna be back in two weeks. I thought it was just gonna be that. And then all of a sudden it's like, everything's closing down and then we got the final email telling us that we're done for the semester. So yeah, that was, that was hard to, to kind of comprehend and I mean, 00:04:00no one knew anything about the disease, so--

SR: Okay. Thinking back to like prior, before the university shut down, how much planning with, your dad being a doctor and everything, how much planning had he made for the shutdown?

BS: We made none. We never talked about it. No one really ever thought about it. Or are you talking about like prior to like even knowing about COVID?

SR: Just leading up to.

BS: Oh, up to it. Yeah. Then yeah. We took precautions as in, you know, before the real lockdown, we were like, okay, there is a disease going around. We don't know what this disease is or virus. We just kind of followed whatever the CDC 00:05:00was saying there before lockdown. They weren't saying too much. So we kind of just went on our daily lives, just kind of keeping it in the back of our, our mind.

SR: So then when campus did shut down, did you go home or where did you go?

BS: Yeah, the first. So I came back to campus like a few times. I went home the day we found out and I just took my clothes home and a few other things home cause I thought we were gonna be back in two weeks and then we were like, okay, we're probably gonna get sent home. So I came back a second time with a friend of mine and we took all our stuff and then I came back the third time with my dad and final time and took the rest of my stuff home and yeah, I stayed at, at home with my dad.

SR: What was it like leaving, like having reality kind of set in?

BS: It sucked because, like freshman year, you know, your first semester you're getting accustomed to college and then second semester you are feeling more 00:06:00comfortable. You have like your friend group and stuff and you're getting super close with them and then all of a sudden you're just gone. So it was, it was definitely really, really hard to, to leave all, all of that behind.

SR: During that period, did you have a job or were you looking for anything?

BS: I didn't have a job during lockdown, no.

SR: Once the campus shut down and everything, classes were moved online. How was that whole thing?

BS: It was not good. You know, for me personally, I had no synchronous classes, everything was asynchronous, so I'm going from, you know, something that's very structured to something that's not structured at all. So it's all on my own time. I did get sick during lockdown. It wasn't COVID, it was mono, so I'm sick, 00:07:00I'm tired all the time and I'm like, I don't want to do anything. And having to like plan my day, you know. I have my eight AMs, but obviously if I'm at home, I'm not gonna go to, I'm not gonna open up my laptop at 8:00 AM and watch an asynchronous lecture when I'm like, oh, I can just watch it later. So it's like piling up and having to hold yourself accountable to watch 'em. It was really hard, to kind of get that sort of schedule down. It was just a very quick switch for my teachers too. And, I feel bad that they had to, to go through that but you know, they tried their best.

SR: So then what were some of the more specific challenges with asynchronous classes?

BS: Like I said, the kind of hold myself accountable, but it felt like you weren't learning anything. You know, you'd watch a lecture and then you'd have 00:08:00this easy quiz after and while that's super nice and you get these, you know, good grades and everything. You don't learn anything and it's like, you're paying thousands of dollars, but you're not learning anything. And I was in chem 105 and you know, we had obviously everything's online, so, but there's the lab portion. So the lab portion was online and you could kind of get away with lectures being online, but you really cannot get away with labs being online, and really didn't learn anything in lab. She, she tried her best. She'd always show like videos of her doing and performing the lab and everything and we'd write up, you know, you know, whatever questions that she had for us. But then when I went into 106, I was just so unprepared. I could not do the lab because I 00:09:00didn't know how to do it. And that's not on her, obviously. It was just, it's so hard to teach that without physically being there. So I ended up dropping chem 106 and I still haven't taken it. So things like that. I'm like okay for my senior year, so next year, I'm thinking I'm gonna have to take 105 again. So it felt kind of like the education just wasn't there.

SR: Did you feel like the online classes ever got easier, like you got used to it or anything?

BS: They, they were easier in like fall, I think, cause I was in some online courses and hybrid courses. It was easier to kind of structure my day, everything. But at the time it was just so new and I, I didn't necessarily get the hang of it. It was also, I don't know, like I did well that year or that 00:10:00semester, but at the same time, I just don't think I learned anything. So, in fall I kind of changed my mindset, my structure, everything, and I was able to retain more of the information while it was online.

SR: Then with that lab, do you feel like you're behind in your major now?

BS: Yeah, I do. Like my geology classes, I feel like I'm all ahead, or not ahead, but on track with chem, you know, that's like kind of a deciding factor. Am I gonna be here like an extra semester and stuff? Cause I'm planning on graduating on time, which I worked really hard to graduate on time, but now it's like, I'm not sure if I am.

SR: Okay. Were you in any extracurriculars, like clubs or anything?

00:11:00

BS: No, not at the time.

SR: So moving away from school a little bit, what was it like at home? Like you stayed with your dad you said?

BS: Yeah. I stayed with my dad and my sister and they're both, they're both technically in the healthcare field. My dad, he's a podiatrist, so he does all that. And my sister, she's a vet. So she's, you know, still in the healthcare field just for like animals. So they were always constantly, you know, they were never there. But I have three dogs at home, so it was always very loud and hard to do. You can't escape it. So yeah, my family's all at work and I have my dogs, but it's like, it was very lonely being like kind of like cooped up in the house and it was hard cause the dogs bark all the time.

SR: When you were at home, what kind of precautions did you guys all take together?

00:12:00

BS: I mean they were always at work and everything, so I mean we didn't go out really unless we needed to. Nowhere was open anyways. Wear our masks when we went out and we kept socialization very minim obviously. Only talking to people, the same people basically, and by that I mean like sometimes we'd talk with our family and we all, you know, close by family, but we really didn't didn't go out much or anything.

SR: Okay. Do you feel like there was like added levels of stress within your family because of this whole pandemic?

BS: Yeah. My mom is actually really sick. She has breast cancer, so kind of having that, you know, she's very vulnerable, so that was stressful. My dad 00:13:00being in the healthcare field, so he's seeing a bunch of people all the time, so he can contract it. My sister, she's with people all day, she could contract it very easily. And then, I have older family members that we couldn't see really, but it was just kind of always thinking. I'm always thinking about my grandparents and like hoping that they're gonna be smart and not go out. Cause yeah, I was mostly worried about my mom and the older family members.

SR: So did you ever get to see your mom or did you kind of wanna keep your distance with everything?

BS: Yeah, I, I really wanted to keep my distance at the time. No one's allowed really in the hospitals anyway. And she, during lockdown, she actually wasn't in the hospital during lockdown. She was, at home, but she was still sick, but then 00:14:00in the fall she was readmitted into the hospital. I visited her a little bit, but visiting was still very minimal. Even in the fall of last year.

SR: Okay. When you started hearing about COVID and the shutdown and everything, were like your worries about your mom increased?

BS: Yeah. Just the fact that she's already vulnerable, cuz she's already really sick. And then the fact that she, she wasn't in the hospital at the time, but there's always the possibility of her getting back into there. She was sick but her, the cancer wasn't as bad, but then it'd did get bad the, the next year, so--

SR: Okay. , did you ever get to leave the house with the dogs or anything?

BS: Yeah, I made it a point to, to leave and go on walks and everything and, I wasn't the best I did hang out with one of my, my best friends, like every day. Well not every day, most days we'd do my chemistry together cause she was a chem 00:15:00major at the time, so wasn't perfect. But it was just her and I basically.

SR: Did you get to see any of your other friends or did you kinda limit who you saw?

BS: No, it was really just one person. Our families know each other and she's basically like my cousin anyway. It was just our family, honestly.

SR: How long did it take before you kind of got to see other people?

BS: Oh my, probably not till like, I don't even know probably the end of summer. We really, my friends and I did not hang out that much. My friend, he had like a marathon, that got canceled, and then he did just like a solo marathon around town. So we all, went there and cheered him on as he was running and stuff. And 00:16:00that was one time we all hung out. And one of our friends, she's very immunocompromised, so she didn't hang out with us all summer. but yeah, we would hang out every once in a while, but it wasn't much.

SR: Then, with your dad and sister being away most of the time and you're not seeing your friends, do you feel like you struggled with mental health? Like being lonely, and anxiety and stuff?

BS: Yeah. I'm definitely someone that feeds off of like social interaction and I love being social and I love talking and hanging out with people. So when I was cooped up in my room all alone and it's like, what do you do? I'm not necessarily someone who can just be alone all the time. I, of course everyone 00:17:00should enjoy their own company, but yeah, I had to figure out different ways to kind of, if I'm stressed out or I'm having a bad day or something, I'd always, you know, go and hang out with my friends, but you couldn't really do that. The only time I would hang out with my friends was really just with Emmy, and we'd do chemistry usually. So yeah, it was hard. So I just picked up on you know, I'd always go to the gym to work out, but I had to figure out how to do like home workouts and went on lots of walks. So that's what kind of kept me sane.

SR: Did you pick up like any new hobbies or anything while you were bored at home?

BS: Not really. I just kind of put in my daily routine to go walking and that kept with me. I've never thought about like walking before for enjoyment and but yeah, it was, it was nice. So I keep doing that.

00:18:00

SR: Then through the pandemic and like over the summer, do you feel like you changed, like you had an attitude change or like a personality change or anything?

BS: Yeah, I think, I think there's like habits that I have. You know, like I don't only depend on other people when I'm like really down. I can figure, I figured out ways to kind of bring myself up by myself. But I don't know. I don't think I've necessarily changed too much. But I also, it's kind of hard to remember what I was like before everything Cause it was quite a long time ago.

SR: By the end of the summer, kind of going into the fall when things were easing up, could you tell that your mood has improved once you were able to see people?

00:19:00

BS: Yeah. Coming back on campus was really nice and kind of reuniting with everyone after having to leave after we just all got really close to each other. So getting back with them, it was, it was really nice. It was refreshing.

SR: So then the fall of 2020, you went back to school?

BS: I did. I was thinking, about not coming back actually because I, my mom was starting to get more sick. And then I also was thinking about like how I had like hybrid courses and stuff. So I was gonna be doing like my schoolwork in my dorm room when I could just be like, I'd be like saving a ton of money, but I ultimately, I ended up coming back because of my experience with chemistry and 00:20:00the lab portion of it all and it was such a great decision. I'm so happy I didn't stay home.

SR: In the moment when you were kind of debating everything, do you feel like it was a hard decision to finally decide to come back?

BS: I think it was more impulsive that I wasn't gonna come back. I was just thinking, it was like, oh my God, like, what if I, you know, we all get sent home and they don't give us, you know, cause when we got sent home freshman year, they, they did not give us that much money back. So I was like, I do not want that to happen again. I was just, I was so annoyed with the money. So I was like, am I really gonna pay all this money? Or like maybe take a semester off or something. I was emailing back and forth with my advisor, but I ended up coming and it was the best decision.

SR: In that fall, do you feel like the quality of the education in learning was 00:21:00any better?

BS: Yeah, I, I do because I think that professors were more prepared, you know. Spring, I don't blame the professors at all for, you know, not being able to learn the course as well as everyone wished. Cause they, I mean, it was so new for them, but then we had, you know, more professors knew how to use it, use technology. So, I had all synchronous lectures, which was really nice. Cause you can ask your professors questions right there. That was a game changer, and then I did have in person lab. So while everything, all my lectures and stuff were online, it was nice to, to have the lab in person so you can get those more hands on experience.

SR: Looking how the fall semester was different from the spring, because there's 00:22:00obviously been a lot of differences, what kind of precautions were there like around campus and everything?

BS: For fall. There was no eating in the dining halls, which was odd. So there was also social distancing, and masks were required everywhere on campus. You had to make a reservation to go to the gym. We had to get COVID shots or not shots COVID tested every week. And if you were positive then you'd have to get sent to quarantine. And then in the residence halls you couldn't have like more than I think one guest at a time. To be honest, not a lot of people followed 00:23:00that and, and people would get, you know, people were getting in a lot of trouble for that and yeah. And then you'd also, there was like the check-in process was different. I believe, I'm trying to think about how it was. I'm not sure how the residence halls are right now. And I kind of forget how they were freshman year, but I, I know it was like harder to--You couldn't get through the front door, I remember, without someone who lived in that building. So they were keeping the amount of people that were getting into those buildings down. And then you couldn't have guests over that were outside of the university. Those are the things that I could think of.

SR: Do you feel like the campus overall felt different like empty or less lively?

BS: Yeah, it was, it was crazy. I remember talking to my friends about it cause, every Saturday morning we would go to Reeve and it, it was just packed and it 00:24:00was so fun cause you know, you're hanging out with your friends all the night before and you're waking up, you just walking over in your PJs and saying hi to everybody. And, it was just awesome. And we always talked about, you know, those Saturday morning and Sunday morning breakfasts over the weekends. So it really sucked cuz you'd walk through Reeve and it was just like, don't sit here. That started kind of easing up a little bit where we were allowed to eat more of the dining halls, but yeah, it, it sucked at the time and you'd just see like the chairs and tables like pushed away. It was, it was a sad sight.

SR: Did you have any in person classes at all?

BS: In the fall, yeah, I actually, I did. I had telling stories for fun in 00:25:00person. So that was a journalism class. What we're actually interviewing for right now. I, I took that class that was fully in person and then I had the labs in person and yeah, I think that's really it.

SR: Okay. So then, what did in person class look like?

BS: There, you were spread out and like by chairs it was like every other chair and you'd have to wear your masks and everything. So yeah, it was, it was interesting.

SR: Then, thinking about college life, moving away from academics and everything, what do you feel was different about college life itself?

BS: Sorry, can you, can you repeat what you're saying? Sorry.

SR: What do you think was like different about college life? Like the social aspect.

BS: Obviously there were like no intramurals or anything, I'm in intramurals 00:26:00right now. Freshman year, like I wanted to start getting involved, but I, you know, first semester I was like kind of scared of everything. Second semester, I'm like, I'm making all my friends and I'm like, okay, like let's do fun things. And then we all get sent home. And then sophomore year it was so hard to really like do anything. I did get involved with clubs, but it was, they weren't face to face, so it kind of sucked. And then there were no intramurals. So trying to like do those fun things that aren't so academic all the time was hard. And then you're also, you're not having, like, you can't have friends over in your dorms. I sometimes had friends over in my dorms. Uh, gosh, I gotta get kicked out. I'm just kidding. No, we were, we were pretty safe. Some days you were like, oh God, there's like kind of too many people in here. Spread out. And 00:27:00then I don't know. There was just, you just had to be careful too. You didn't wanna go to like huge parties or anything like that. So that's, that's just like waiting to get COVID.

SR: Do you feel like you met a lot of people at all or was there not like a lot of new faces around?

BS: Yeah, it sucked. I, like I said, so freshman year I decided to become a geology major. And then so like that second semester I was in geology, we were online and everything. And then sophomore year, my geology courses were basically online as well besides the one lab. And I didn't really start meeting people in my major till this year. So that was kind of interesting. Like I'm a junior in my major and now I'm making friends in my major. So that kind of 00:28:00sucked, but yeah, it's just how it is.

SR: So, still in the fall of 2020, Oshkosh itself, were there places to go out? Like were there places open and everything?

BS: Yeah, there were most places were open. It was like the, I believe the, the mask, mandate was still there. We alleviated it, I think, closer to the end of the year, but everything was, was open.

SR: Okay. Did you go out often or do you feel like you kinda limited it because of the whole pandemic that just happened?

BS: Yeah. I mean my friends and I, sometimes we'd go out to a restaurants and everything, but we mostly just hung out at cuz we were in the dorms anyway. So our way of getting off campus was to go to our one friend's house who has, you know, she's the only one who has a house.

SR: So, then that fall, you had to get tested every week. How was that whole thing?

BS: I, I mean, we just like downloaded this app on our phones. It's my Prevea or 00:29:00something like that. And then you'd just sign up for your appointment and then you'd go in. It was so easy and you'd get your results back really quickly. And I'm, I'm really happy that we were able to get tested and it was free and everything. Because I know my friends who go to different colleges, they weren't tested every week and their universities, you know, they had higher COVID rates and I think our university actually really did well with responding to it. And the access to those tests, I think really kept down our number of COVID cases. Just because those who were testing positive, they were sent to, what was it? Gruenhagen.

SR: With taking the tests, did you feel safer having everyone having to take them?

BS: Yeah, I think it was a great decision to have people get tested every week 00:30:00and yeah, it, it took like two minutes outta your day. Basically. You just walk there, get tested and then you're done.

SR: Now do you feel like things are kind of going back to normal?

BS: Yeah, it honestly, it really does feel like it. You know, we're having the sports are up and, the intramurals are there, like I'm in an intramural team, which I've always, you know, I wanted to do freshman year, but got sent home and then last year they weren't really there. Or they were just like, I think they were a bit more limited. It was hard to get people to want to do those sort of things too, just because no one wanted to get COVID. But yeah, it does feel like things are going back to normal and like, while we still have to wear masks on campus, when there's events outside, no one really wears a mask. And the dining 00:31:00halls, even though I don't live on campus anymore, I have a house so I'm not in the dorms and I don't eat on campus, but occasionally when I walk through Reeve, it's kind of nice to see, you know, that the tables are filled up and everything. Yeah. And it's really just on campus where you're kind of wearing your mask. When you are out in the town and everything, there's no mask mandate or anything. So, you know, it feels, it feels like normal life.

SR: Yeah. So you feel like without, like once we move away from wearing masks all the time, like school would be kind of officially back to normal?

BS: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. They're nice when it's freezing outside, you just kind of keep it up, but it would. I can't wait till they're gone.

SR: Are there any aspects about COVID life at school that you think won't go back to normal?

BS: I don't know, necessarily that won't go back to normal, but a few things 00:32:00that I do kind of hope stay are taking illness serious. I think that's something that is kind of overlooked and staying home when you're sick is not only taking care of yourself, but it's also taking care of other people. So I hope that professors are going to understand that being sick is an excuse to stay home and to rest and to make sure that everyone around you is safe. And then I also hope that teachers continue to post their lectures online. Yeah. Because it's like, you know, like I said, if you're sick, you should be staying home and then that shouldn't be, you shouldn't be penalized for, for that. And you should be able to get the notes.

SR: Are there any aspects about yourself personally that you think that COVID has changed permanently?

BS: You know, I think that I never really thought about sickness or anything too 00:33:00much before COVID. But it really makes me, you know, I'm talking to, I called my grandparents the other day and they've never had COVID, and they're talking to me about their vaccines and stuff and it was just nice to think, like, I'm very grateful for the, health of my family and friends and just kind of being more grateful for that. And, also kind of you know, my walking, so I, I keep walking and everything. And yeah, it's, it definitely taught me how to, I've always been pretty independent, but, sometimes, you know, it's always nice to be very social and I'm kind of depended on that to when I was like really low, but now I know how to kind of break myself out of it.

SR: And then the school offered the VAXUP campaign. So that was like to win 00:34:00scholarships in order to like encourage people to get vaccinated so how did you feel about that campaign?

BS: Yeah, I thought it was really awesome. I, I think there's a lot of different things about the vaccine that, you know, are shared on the internet and it really sucks cause you know, it's scientifically researched and everything. And I personally trust scientists more than some random people on the internet. So I think when that kind of campaign was really to encourage people to get the vaccine. Right. So kind of pushing back on the anti COVID shot, I guess, and yeah, it was, it was nice. Cause I think we did reach it. I think it was over 70% or 75% vaccinated and the vaccine, like it keeps everyone around you more safe and yourself more safe. That's what I personally believe. So I, I really 00:35:00don't see the harm in getting it and yeah, it was, it was nice to see like our campus actually, you know, you put monetary gifts in it, obviously people are gonna go for it.

SR: Did you have anything else you wanted to add?

BS: No, but I, I guess I think that just in general, I think that the university did a really, really good job with handling COVID. Kind of sucked getting sent home and a little bit of resentment, but uh, obviously that was the right thing to do. And I think that they--the precautions that were taken and the testing, I think that we could have had a very different COVID experience. Yeah, that's all I got.

SR: Well, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW-Oshkosh.

BS: Thanks for letting me share.