Interview with Erick Carranza, 12/03/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐CL: This is Collin Laffin interviewing Erick Carranza on December 3 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 pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

EC: Yes, Eric, E R I C K, last name Carranza, C A R R A N Z A.

CL: For the purposes of obtaining a good audio recording, please tell us again, who you are, age, year graduated, degree. What do you do now?

EC: Erick, E. R I C K Carranza, C A R R A N Z A, age 22 years old, graduated in May of 2021 with a degree in criminal justice, and I'm currently a graduate student pursuing a microbiology degree, while also working as an Assistant 00:01:00Residence Hall Director in Horizon.

CL: Just to get us started, we'd like to get to know you. Where did you grow up and what can you tell us about that?

EC: I grew up in Green Bay. I lived there from when I was little, two years old. My family came here in 2000. I went to middle school and high school as well. Not far from home, a couple blocks. It feels like a small town, even though it's 160,000 people or 180,000. I ran cross country and track all throughout high school, I was in band and tried to get engaged as much as I could.


CL: Tell me about your parents. What did they do?

EC: My dad worked at a pallet factory for the majority of my childhood and up until high school. My mom cleaned, she was a custodian throughout like different stores. Recently, she started her own cleaning company. Now she obtains stores to clean, and she has several employees. My dad works with her now as well. I would say they're pretty young for the average parent age. My dad is 49 and my mom is 45.

CL: When did you start thinking about going to college? And was it always a given?

EC: I didn't really start thinking about going to college until I was in junior year of high school. That's when they really pressured it on kids. They started 00:03:00telling you to think about your future. We had a parent teacher meeting, or parent counselor meeting. That's when they really had us plan out what we wanted to do. It was never really a given because my first choice was always wanting to go into the military. I started looking around for opportunities in the Marines, but that didn't really change until senior year of high school when I decided that I wanted to go to college instead. Coming into college. I still had the idea that I wanted to go into the military, so I did so with the National Guard.

CL: Why did you choose to go to UW Oshkosh?

EC: It was a school that I've always liked but not really known. All throughout high school, we had the opportunity to come to this university during our indoor track season, it would be one of our first two meetings with several other 00:04:00schools throughout the state. I was always familiar with the area, just not familiar with the university. It was also far enough away from home, so it was about an hour drive. I could always really just go back home, whenever needed, and always stay in pretty close contact with my parents compared to if I were to go to Milwaukee or somewhere like Madison.

CL: Since you graduated in 2021, you were here before COVID Can you tell us about your pre-COVID years?

EC: Pre-COVID I think it was always just worrying. Freshman year was the start of the rise in norovirus and sophomore year is when it really kicked off during the winter. People were really scared that that would come back. Junior year was when COVID began. There was always a time of sickness, so there was no real, 00:05:00like gap year with healthy living. There's always hygiene, hygiene and hygiene, you know. It was a much different change of pace from what COVID hid to when it wasn't here. You know, obviously with no masks, people could roam around more freely. There weren't really restrictions in the residence halls. Even studying for classes or taking exams and going to class was different, because it wasn't online, and the studying methods were a lot different than they are now.

CL: Now, let's move into the early days of COVID at UW-Oshkosh, at the beginning of the spring semester 2020, where were you in your college career?

EC: As of spring of 2020, I was at the end of my junior year, that was when I 00:06:00was a Community Advisor(CA) in North Scott Hall on the fifth floor. Given that I was here before COVID, and with the Norovirus period, I didn't really think much of it. When they told me that there was potential that kids would be sent home, I didn't think it was true until the end of February and beginning of March. I wasn't really too panicked. I just did what I thought was necessary like washing my hands and daily hygiene.

CL: Being a college student, did you think that cover was going to affect your future?

EC: I did and didn't. You know, after graduating, we were still in a pandemic. So there were still universities, you know, applying for a master's degree that 00:07:00were changing their admissions, or even undergraduates at undergraduate universities that were changing their criteria for graduation, or however they grade certain things. When I applied for a master's degree, I think it changed in a positive way, as it was a much more simplified process, but it changed in a more difficult way because I had to readjust after COVID hit and also readjust after we would start going back to normal, as one would say.

CL: What was the first time you remember hearing about COVID?

EC: I believe I heard about it in one of my science classes, because COVID has been around since 2007. It was just a new strain. But I didn't really hear about 00:08:00the gravity of this strain. Until December of 2019. That was when I really thought it was really fun that it was relevant.

CL: Um How would you describe your feelings about the deceased disease itself?

EC: I would say it's almost like the flu, but more like everything else. When they came out when the CDC came out with the symptoms list, it was basically every single sickness you could name, so again, I didn't really think much of it. I started getting a little bit more worried about it when I started hearing the numbers for deceased people and people becoming more sick than usual and 00:09:00being hospitalized. The beginning phase was really just not much to me. It was more of a worry later on towards the middle of the summer.

CL: So you were a CA when you heard about the Coronavirus. Were you more leery to the students on your floor? Were you informing them about it or were you just as little worried about it as everybody else?

EC: I was certainly concerned as my staff members or fellow CA's were showing more concern than I was. I figured that this would probably be a sickness that I would be worried about when it hit. For my residents I was certainly concerned with things that they would do and people they would hang around just to make them more cognizant that it's out there. If they were doing their part and like 00:10:00trying to be safe, I would just make sure that they had the necessary information. Luckily, it never hit my floor. So I didn't have to take extreme measures to try to prevent the spread. So that was good.

CL: Prior to the university shutting down, how much planning had you made for the shutdown? Do you have a game plan?

EC: I had absolutely zero game plan to be honest. My residents all came to me and asked me if they were or if I was certain that people would get sent home, and I said, I don't believe so. I thought it would have just been another Neurophase virus, or Neurophase kind of time, where people would get sick, if they wanted to go home, they could go home, and then they would come back and things would be fine. When they told people to go home, I really just told my residents that if they wanted to bring stuff home, I didn't bring anything back 00:11:00myself. I had everything on one trip. So it was kind of difficult.

CL: Yeah. Um, how did your transition back to living at home go? Was it difficult living with your family again?

EC: It wasn't too difficult. I think the fact that they imagined I wasn't going to like, come back and live for an extended period of time was kind of what hit the mouse. I came back and they had already started remodeling my room into my baby sister's room who is eight years old. I had to basically recreate an entire room for myself, which was a little tough, but you know, made it work. Living at home, they were, I'd already gone back and home several times, so they weren't really shocked to see me for that long. They were just shocked at the fact that I would actually be staying the night.

CL: Yeah. How are the other people in your home affected by COVID?

EC: Well, at the moment, I don't think anyone but my older brother and I are 00:12:00vaccinated. I know that over this past break for Thanksgiving, my family recently tested positive for COVID, so I couldn't go home. I think that's a huge impact, because I've been trying to talk them into getting the vaccine, but they either one don't have the resources, or they just don't necessarily find the time because they're always working. I guess that would be the biggest impact I could think of.

CL: Since you spent a lot of time with your family, what were some of the challenges of being around your family that much?

EC: I think just getting used to the change of pace. The last time I had a roommate, you know, given my family aren't really like roommates. Last time I had a roommate was freshman year of college and 2017, and only that first semester, because my roommate then moved out. Then I became a CA to where I 00:13:00would be living in one room by myself. Going from living with no one to living in the same space with five other people was certainly a lot of clashing with space, and resources around the house. Overall, we got along pretty well, you know, because of my family. I just tried to stay as active as I could. That way I wouldn't get bored.

CL: Speaking of being active and being bored, did you pick up any hobbies or skills during quarantine?

EC: I tried learning piano and guitar for a certain amount of time before it got to the difficult phase or the certain skills that I couldn't really pick up on the instruments. I also picked up my saxophone again from high school, which was 00:14:00interesting. With my mom, we got into the 3D puzzles, which are actually pretty cool. So new things I wouldn't really think of doing any other day, but because we were stuck at home for 24 hours I really tried to find anything he could.

CL: So regarding your classes and schoolwork, how did you find the transition to online learning? How hard was it and did you manage? How did you manage group projects, final projects, or labs?

EC: I think they were a lot more difficult in the aspect of learning itself. You know, you go to class. Usually you take notes and you're with the professor to where you can ask questions. Some classes did a really good job of handling that to where it was like a live audience rather than a recording. Those classes were nice because you still have the professor technically there to ask questions for 00:15:00in the other classes, it was recordings and things to do at your leisure, which I found more difficult because I couldn't really retain the information as much as I thought. When I had to ask a question, it would probably take days for me to send an email, wait for a response, get a response, and actually then figure out what I need to do. For taking tests and group projects, it was basically the same, we had no class, time to meet. Everything was done through email. Given that I didn't really check my email as an undergraduate, I was really struggling to connect with professors and students.

CL: How did online learning affect your relationships with your teachers? Did it make them better, because we're all going through the same thing, or worse, because it was harder to get in touch with them?

EC: I think it was certainly harder to get in touch. You know, I had a course I can think for genetics. That professor wrote one of my letters of recommendation 00:16:00to get into the master's program, but it was still really tough because if you want a letter of recommendation, it's usually recommended that you get in touch with the professor, get to know them that way you like, make a statement for yourself. That was certainly difficult. It was kind of just like, can you write this and they agreed, rather than, I know you for or I've known you for a whole semester, you've seen my face, you can connect the name with the face. Just certainly the relationships are a little more difficult to develop, especially with no professors.

CL: How much did COVID impact your major? Did you ever think about switching during COVID?

EC: I think it impacted my major in a way that I didn't switch back. I started out freshman year as a biology major. I switched after the first semester to 00:17:00Criminal Justice. I had always thought about switching back. I think COVID because of how different science is than, you know, criminal justice in the aspect of sickness. It kind of made me just stutter and not switch back in the time that I had, so it helped me make a decision. Informally, I would say.

CL: With everything happening so quickly. How are you feeling emotionally? How are the people around you coping?

EC: I think it's certainly taking a strain on me. As far as mental health, it sometimes feels like it moves a little too fast. Then you just see everyone around you kind of almost collapse in a way not being used to the different changes that we're making around campus. Like de-masking several areas in 00:18:00academic buildings, but also frustrating. I think that there are certain areas where we are making compensations for students and other areas where we're not being cognizant of the students that are still quite concerned about Coronavirus, so overall pretty frustrating.

CL: How did you stay in contact with friends? Or did you? Did you hang out with friends at any time?

EC: During this past year when things were when we were still active and open as a university. I tried to stay in contact with as many people as I could. It was a little tough. I was a manager on duty in North Gruenhagen Hall, so that building is quite isolated in itself. Getting in touch with people is a little difficult, but I certainly tried. Not all the times worked out, schedules 00:19:00collide, work schedules collide, and just overall time didn't always allow it. Otherwise, some of my friends were still concerned about the virus, and we're not really comfortable with seeing people. So that also made it difficult.

CL: You were working as a manager on duty during the COVID era? How did COVID affect your job differently? Or did it affect it at all?

EC: I think it affected my job in a way that it made our responsibilities less because we were in charge of housing, quarantine and isolation. We had the duty prior to people moving in checking the floors. That changed into not checking any of the floors basically because The virus would still linger around for a 00:20:00couple of days. Out of the safety of students, we wouldn't check floors. Packages would then have to be delivered to the floor. We had the responsibility of filling up the food and drinks on the floors. Then it just kind of turned into we wouldn't really mind them because one of our supervisors were in charge. I think it certainly cut out most of the responsibilities we had, so I didn't really get the full experience of like the MOD(Manager on Duty), doing rounds and being in charge of that building itself. But it definitely still gave me quite the experience.

CL: What was your initial reaction when you learned that UW-Oshkosh is returning to a hybrid, in person online classes in fall 2020?

EC: I thought it was great. I enjoyed it because it definitely you know, judging from the previous spring, where we couldn't talk to anyone, or like to see any 00:21:00professors or ask questions directly. I thought it would have been a good method to appeal to the students. I certainly understand that it wasn't always the best for the professor's because it was definitely a lot more pressure and work to try to do things both in person and online. I personally enjoyed it, and it made things easier to learn.

CL: What was life like at UWO when she came back? How did you feel about being back and how everything was different, but trying to act the same?

EC: I think the university itself, most days felt like there was no one there because people weren't really leaving their room. They would only leave the room to go to class, if they chose to, or to grab food and then go back to their room 00:22:00and eat it there. It definitely felt like more of a ghost town. I just tried to, you know, do my own thing and act like things were fine because I had served classes that were still offering the option to go in person. So I chose to do so that way, it'd be a little more, quote unquote, normal for me.

CL: How do you feel about the COVID protocols? Did you think that they were too strict? Do you think that they were good?

EC: Judging by what other countries did, I thought they weren't enough for the time being. I think at that point it was fine with the measures that we had. But at some points, it felt like we were trying to rush back into being normal. Given that other countries had been in lockdown for a lot longer than we had, 00:23:00they had a lot less jumps in numbers than we did.

CL: What did you think was the biggest change at UW-Oshkosh that you saw from the spring semester to the fall semester of 2020?

EC: I don't really know if I saw change. I think that if I had a name one would probably be the amount of people I saw outside or just on campus in general. I didn't really notice a difference with the protocols because people were still being really cautious with stuff. Especially in gym areas, public areas, like Reeve or actually academic buildings. I just thought more people felt a little bit more comfortable than usual. So they came back to campus and led me to see 00:24:00more people overall.

CL: Did you feel like you were getting a better or worse education during these times?

EC: I think my grades don't really show it but I thought it was a little bit more of a worse education. I mentioned before that with the information retention, I didn't really get it as much since it was online and most of my classes were to watch the recordings at your leisure. If you have any questions email me so it was kind of tough learning with you know, play and pause button rather than not hearing something and asking the professor directly.

CL: In the fall 2021 vaccines were readily available on campus and elsewhere. What were your initial thoughts?

EC: My initial thoughts where this is just like any other vaccine, I might as 00:25:00well get it. Overall, when people get the vaccine or when they see not enough people are getting the vaccine, there's going to be way too many incentives for the people that have it than the people that don't. I figured this might as well tie it with it. Even so with the National Guard, they made it mandatory. They also offered a lot of different incentives for our annual training and different drills for people who are vaccinated. That was kind of a motivator for me. I didn't really mind that much. I got sick after the second dose, but I didn't really think it was any different than a regular cold.

CL: It makes more people leery with the incentives that they're getting, because it almost seems like why do you want me to get this so bad? They don't push the general flu shot like they do this one, right? Do you feel things are getting 00:26:00back to normal? Or do you think that we're finding a new normal?

EC: I think we'll certainly find the new normal. I'd like to think that things are getting back to normal, but recently, there was another strain found that is apparently way worse than the second strain we came across. I think the adaptations that we're going to have to have over the next couple of years are going to be a lot more different than what we're used to. Going back to how we were pre COVID, I don't think that'll ever happen again, until, you know, decades from now, with like, thinking back to the 1918 flu pandemic that they had.

CL: Are there any aspects about COVID with life at school you think will never 00:27:00change back?

EC: I don't think so. I'd like to not think so. The only things that would be impacted, in my opinion, the most would be the learning, or the studying. I think studying might not return to the way it was because some people nowadays aren't used to the way that we used to study for, like exams or things like that. As with the previous question, it'll just be a new, normal, new method of studying and you know, probably exams will change because of it.

CL: One thing that I honestly think, is that I feel like online learning online classes will become a big normal for people because I don't think they're ever 00:28:00going to take that away after this, which is going to make college that much easier for people to get through and college will end up not really being that big of a challenge anymore.

EC: Right? You still have the programs that are offered even for like master's programs are all online, and some universities offer online undergraduate degrees or online G Ds for high school students. So I agree.

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

EC: I think it's certainly helped me develop more of what I like and I think it helped me uncover some, like internal feelings that I didn't know I had. It certainly helped me grow with myself, or be one with myself as some would say. 00:29:00It's gotten a lot easier to live with myself or be myself around other people. Rather than like, before, when most of the concern was like, what do people think about me, or what am I acting or how am I acting around others? It's more of like, just go with the flow now. You live with yourself, your thoughts, especially in quarantine, when you get annoyed with your family or something that you're just like stuck in your own in your own feelings. You're really thinking and, like getting used to like, who is Erick or who is whoever you are.

CL: A lot of people become really independent. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

EC: Nothing that I can think of at the moment.


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