Interview with Kennedy Rud, 11/11/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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HB: This is Holly Baierl. In this room is myself and instructor Grace Lim. I am interviewing Kennedy Rud on November 11, 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, would you please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

KR: My name is Kennedy Rud, K e n n e d y R u d.

HB: And then can you say that again without spelling and then say your major and year as well.

KR: So my name is Kennedy Rud. I am a sophomore at UWO and I'm majoring in nursing. At the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

HB: Just to get started, we would like to get to know you a bit. Where did you grow up?

KR: I grew up in Batavia, Illinois. It's about three and a half hours from 00:01:00Oshkosh. And so a quiet neigHB:orhood, kind of rural, but a little bit of a city too.

HB: Okay. And then can you tell me about your parents? What do they do?

KR: Yeah, so my mom actually just got a new job working at a countertop company. She's actually really enjoying it so far. And so she helps with all of the paperwork, and processing orders, and stuff like that. And then my dad is a boss for a security fence company. It's called Ameristar Fence. And he is one of more of the leads and visits different states talking to customers and other representatives.

HB: Okay. Why did you choose to go to UW Oshkosh?

KR: When I was looking at schools, I looked all over, I think I applied to 13 different schools. And it kind of came down to what was going to be a reasonable 00:02:00distance for me being that I wanted to be out of state. I still didn't want to be more than four hours away from home. And financially too this one, Oshkosh, seemed like the best fit for me. And also on top of that the nursing program is highly spoken of here. And so I thought that that would be a nice challenge for me to try and get into the nursing program.

HB: Okay, now let's move into the early days of COVID. At the beginning of spring semester, 2020, where were you in your schooling?

KR: I was a senior in high school at that time, in 2020.

HB: Okay, and when was the first you remember hearing about COVID-19?

KR: So it was actually in class around March, and we had not gone on spring break yet. But they were talking about how this new sickness or illness was coming in, and how we might have to leave for school. So we thought that we were 00:03:00just going to leave for spring break and come back. That's what they told us. But unfortunately, we soon learned that it was a lot worse than it was and they didn't end up having us come back to school.

HB: And what were your feelings as everything was happening, and you're hearing the news?

KR: So when I first heard the news, I was kind of excited because I was like, 'Oh, we get an extra long spring break'. We didn't think it was gonna be anything. So me and my girlfriend's actually on Friday, it was I believe, it was March 13 2020. We had this, big hang out at my house. And we're all just making a bunch of food and having a little party, because we were like, 'oh, yeah, spring break. So excited'. And then when they told us we weren't coming back, and we were gonna be all remote that kind of just like was a slap in the face almost.

HB: So when did COVID start to feel real for you? Or was anybody in your family 00:04:00affected by COVID?

KR: So my grandma was actually affected by COVID first. That was closer to the summer of 2020. She had been diagnosed with COVID and she thought it was just a cold at the time. So because it was so new, they admitted her to the hospital. She is ninety years old now. So she was at higher risk of all the complications. And she was in the hospital for about two weeks. They fortunately did not have to put her on a ventilator or anything, but she did get pretty severely ill and lost a lot of her strength. So when she was finally able to leave the hospital, she went to a rehab home for about a week to regain a little bit of that strength. But we knew that, my family and I knew that once she got out she still wouldn't be the same as she was. She was having a lot of hard times with figuring out what foods were good for her to eat to regain that strength back, and taking her medications. And just even simple things like walking, and making 00:05:00sure she can get completely dressed, putting a bra on and strapping it. So that was the first time it really helped because I am pretty close with my grandma. And she raised me and my brother a lot. So it was hard to see her going through that and really was the first time that I knew that it was such a serious, that COVID was so serious.

HB: Okay, and how were COVID protocols dealt with at that time, like in your hometown?

KR: So they were dealt with pretty seriously, a mask was required in all stores, and all restaurants, in gym facilities, high schools. If you had to go, meet with a teacher or something, you had to always have a mask. Any sports you had 00:06:00to wear a mask too. So they were pretty strict on it and our town specifically, I don't think that we took it as serious at first. But my parents were kind of big on making sure you always wear your mask and keeping your social distancing, and making sure that you're washing your hands frequently. All those kinds of things.

HB: And you got sent home your senior year of high school. Did other family members have to stay home? And how did that impact you spending a lot of time potentially?

KR: So yes, my school did get sent home remotely for the rest of the year. So it was a struggle not being able to see my friends everyday like I used to. During that time, too. Since it was spring, I played high school soccer. And we were supposed to have our season which unfortunately, was not able to happen, because of COVID. And we didn't get to play any games, we didn't get a senior night. So those kinds of things felt a little ripped away from us. My parents did get sent 00:07:00home. As I said, my dad is a sales rep for a fence company. So he travels a lot during the year and meets with a lot of different people. And he was not able to do that because travel restrictions were placed when COVID was happening. And so he had to switch to all zoom and meeting online and just trying to figure out how to adapt that way.

HB: Okay, and prior to COVID how excited were you to move off to college and live away from your parents for the first time?

KR: When I first decided that I was coming to UWO I was super excited. I didn't think that COVID was even going to be anything. I was just thinking about meeting people and getting a new experience. Being out of state was kind of exciting yet scary for me.

HB: And once the pandemic did start, how did that affect the way that you 00:08:00prepared for moving into college life?

KR: So when I first heard about people moving into college, they always told me 'Oh, everyone's doors are always open. It's so nice to meet people moving in. So fun. You get to decorate with your roommate, and all that kind of stuff.' It was just like, everything was so exciting and new. But once COVID hit and we were moving in like masks were required. So it was making the move-in process hard. My sister and I had to carry up all my stuff seven flights of stairs to get up to my room. We could not figure out how to loft the bed. And people weren't being very helpful with that because of COVID. At the time, they weren't really making it an easy moving process. So for the first month of school, I would say 00:09:00my bed was almost lofted to the top of the ceiling. So I almost would whack my head every time I got in bed. So it definitely wasn't what I expected. And most people did not have their doors open during that time when we first moved in. And it wasn't really easy to make friends like a lot of people had said, so it was just kind of me and my roommate at the time. And both of us struggled with getting ourselves out there and meeting new people even on our floor.

HB: Yeah. So then during summer, the summer before you moved into college, did you have any jobs or can you tell me about that?

KR: Yes. So as I said, when my grandma first got COVID, that was during the summer so I actually took care of her. And I had my CNA license at the time but I had never taken care of anyone. I had never cared for anyone. So her being almost my first patient was a little bit different. I pretty much did whatever a 00:10:00certified nursing assistant did, a CNA, and to help her with her basic daily care, helping her wash her hair and picking out breakfast items for her, helping her get dressed and just some physical activity too. We would take walks outside her complex. We would use little three pound weights and do exercises with those and try, and almost do balance where she would stand on one foot to regain all that strength. So that was pretty much like my job over the summer before coming to college.

GL:: Okay, so were you worried about getting it? Since you're so close to your grandmother, you're actually working with her and everything. Were you worried about that?

KR: So that was a thing my family discussed before I actually started taking care of her, they asked me if I would be comfortable with that just because I had not been exposed to any COVID before that. And they asked if she would feel 00:11:00comfortable with that. If she would feel comfortable with someone coming in taking care of her because obviously since she's my grandma, she wants to come off as a strong woman. She doesn't want me to see her down and struggling. But I decided that I kind of put my safety aside and decided that helping her regain her strength was more important to me. I mean, going into nursing, that's kind of something you have to deal with every day is putting yourself at risk and not knowing what can come of it. So I wasn't too nervous, I did wear an N95 mask and took as many precautions as possible. I was washing my hands all the time, disinfecting her surfaces. But once I started taking care of her, it wasn't as much of a deal to me.

GL:Did other other family members visit her at that time? Was it just you?

KR: It was just me at the time, so she has a balcony outside her apartment 00:12:00complex. And so she would stand out there at times and my family would be below and when they wanted to come and visit and they would have conversations that way. But they wouldn't come into the apartment until COVID until she was done with her quarantine for almost two weeks. And so they felt like they weren't at risk.

HB: Okay, and going back to fall of 2020 when you learned that UW Oshkosh was going to return to in person classes initially. What was your reaction to that?

KR: So when I first signed up for classes, I actually didn't have the option to have any in person classes. I was taking a lot of general education classes, so a communications class and some biology classes and chemistry classes. And it was a lot different because you're used to biology and chemistry, those labs 00:13:00being in person. And being online, they had to have a lot of simulations. And even in my communications class, it was weird, because we had to do our speeches over zoom, which I wasn't expecting. And I know a lot of my friends did have in person classes, but I wasn't even given the option coming fall.

HB: And what was your vision of what your freshman year was supposed to be like pre-COVID, versus the reality of having a lot of things virtually or not at all.

KR: So I have had a few cousins who were already in college at the time. So they always told me how football games were so much fun in going to sporting events. You met people in the cafeteria. And you can meet like your best friends just by walking down the hallways and their doors open and you just pop in and say hi. And so that's what I kind of expected when we first came here because even when 00:14:00we first arrived on campus COVID didn't seem like a huge deal. But shortly, a couple of weeks into the semester starting I realized that it wasn't going to be anything like that, there wasn't any athletics. There weren't a lot of places you could get food for options. Or weren't people who were willing to have their doors open and meet you. So it was a lot different than what I was originally anticipating.

HB: And how did you feel about the COVID protocols that were placed at UW Oshkosh with all the masking and the distancing?

KR: Um, I've never been a fan of masks if I'm going to be honest. So that kind of sucked at the time because meeting people is part of seeing them and being able to have conversations with them. And social distancing definitely did not 00:15:00make that easy. And I go to the gym a lot at the (student) Rec and wearing a mask there is not fun at all. You have to keep your mask above your nose, which is hard when you're running, or when you're doing any type of exercise. And it was just, the protocols made it really hard to adjust to being on campus.

HB: And then while you're on campus, you obviously had to test. Did you ever test positive for COVID?

KR: So I actually tested positive for COVID, the end of September 2020 and around the beginning of October 2020.

HB: And how did that work? Did you have to quarantine, did you go home?

KR: So I had to quarantine in Webster Hall, which honestly was not fun at all. I had to, they usually give you carts to move all of your clothes and any food you 00:16:00want to bring all your bedding over for your 10 days of quarantine. And when I went down to the front desk and told them that, they were like, 'we don't have a cart for you, so you're gonna have to figure it out on your own'. So I had to lug my four or five bags, my pillow, and all that stuff across campus while classes were still going on. So all these people are staring at me like I'm some crazy person. Obviously, I'm infected, but it felt like I was a deadly disease like no one could step near me, nothing. And so it was just, it was not a fun process at all.

HB: And how did that initial reaction of 'I tested positive, I need to quarantine. I need to leave. How did that make you feel?

KR: So my friends, a few of the people I had met here, they got it first. They had been testing positive. And I was like oh shoot, I've been around them I should probably go test. So I went and got tested. And it actually came back 00:17:00negative at first. But then I started experiencing some symptoms. I had a sore throat, I realized that I was getting almost a low grade fever. I just wasn't feeling like myself. So I went and got tested again a couple days later. And that's when my test came back positive. And so I got a call from the campus or the people who were running the testing. And they're like, 'Hi is this Kennedy Rud?' And I'm like, 'Yes'. 'Unfortunately, you did test positive so you're gonna have to move to the quarantine dorm'. And I immediately just started bawling my eyes out. I don't know what to do. I want to go home blah blah blah. And so I texted my parents and I was like, 'I got COVID, can I come home?' They told me no, obviously because they didn't want to be exposed. So as I said, I lugged all my stuff to Webster and had my 10 days there. And the 10 days there were not fun. I was in a small room almost like a smaller dorm. Dorms are pretty small to 00:18:00begin with, and it was you and two beds. None of them were made. Nothing is in the dorm. You don't feel comfortable. So it was just me by myself. There would be days I would not say a word from 9am till 6pm. Because it's me in a room by myself. I'm not gonna sit there talking to myself the whole day. So the first time I would be able to talk to someone would be my mom over the phone and majority of the time would be me crying begging to come home. And it was just not a fun time. But obviously I got through the 10 days. And I think it made me stronger for that because I had to experience that so early on into college.

HB: How did that work with food or meals while you were there?

KR: So I brought some of the food that I initially had in my dorm room to my quarantine dorm. But the food there was not good. It was frozen cafeteria meals, 00:19:00which usually at the time are pretty good when you're eating them in the cafeteria. But frozen and having to put them in the microwave and everything did not taste good.

HB: And how did that work with continuing to do your classes or trying to anyway?

KR: So I had to email all my professors and tell them that I tested positive for COVID and asked how they wanted me to go about doing my assignments? If there was any sort of leeway on like due dates. Because although I did not experience really bad symptoms, I did have a day or two that I had a fever and some chills and just was very achy. So those two days weren't days that I would want to sit down and do all my assignments and everything but most of my professors were really nice about being accommodating. I did have one instance where I had to 00:20:00give a speech for my communications class during my quarantine time. And my professor told me like 10 minutes in, or I think it was an eight minute speech. So he told me a couple minutes in, and he's like, 'you can stop, I can tell you're not feeling good, you honestly look like you're pretty sick. So you can stop for today, leave the Zoom call, and we can do a one on one speech.' So I've had, I had professors that were very accommodating, and they made it really an easy adjustment.

HB: That's good. Is there anything else you want to share about your quarantine experience specifically?

KR: Um, I would just say, my mental health during the time wasn't great. It was already a struggle, being out of state trying to meet people. And now in the first month of school, I am thrown into a small room by myself for 10 days. So I definitely had a hard time with my mental health and just making it seem like it 00:21:00was everything was gonna get better. I just saw everyone else is meeting people already, they're already making friends. I'm missing out on so many activities that other people are doing and I was sad to see all the people walking to their classes. And me just sitting in this little box, it almost kind of felt like a jail cell. You couldn't go outside to get fresh air, you couldn't really leave that little room unless you had to use the bathroom, which kind of looked like prison too because it was just dark all the time. They had people, when they came in to clean, in hazmat suits. And so it's like, they're walking by in a hazmat suit, and you're just in your regular pajamas or clothes. And you're like, 'What is going on?' Why do we seem like these-- I don't even know how to explain it-- we seem like these infected bugs or viruses. But obviously, we are sick, but they made it seem like we weren't even people because we were just 00:22:00thrown in here for 10 days. And they're like, 'Okay, have fun. We'll see you when you're done.'

HB: So did you have any interactions with people or see people?

KR: I did not. I had, I saw one girl the whole time I was there because I was on the first floor. And there was one girl who was on the opposite side of the hallway. And there was one day that I had not eaten anything, there wasn't really anything I had already eaten like, my snack for the day. And the meal just was not looking good to me. So I went over to her room. And I was like, 'Do you happen to have any snacks?' and she had a cup of ramen. And she gave that to me. And it's funny because that girl who gave me the cup of ramen is now my roommate to this day.

HB: So how did the transition go from obviously leaving quarantine to going back to your dorm?

KR: So the second that I was able to leave the quarantine dorm I did. I think it 00:23:00was October 10th. At midnight, I could believe and so 12:01 I had my stuff and I was leaving to go back to my room. I had my roommate at the time meet me outside so I didn't have to walk alone and we put all my stuff back in my room in our room. So I was up till about 3am that night and I was just ecstatic. I was so happy to be out of there. I was so happy to even be back in my little dorm just because it was all cozy and I decorated it to make me feel comfortable and safe. And it felt really nice to be back there and finally feel like I wasn't this disease anymore

HB: And once you went back did you have any in person classes that semester that you're able to go back to?

KR: I did not have any in person classes when I was signing up for classes, it 00:24:00wasn't even an option. So I did not experience in person in person classes until the spring of 2021.

HB: And how did you feel the departments and facilities did with the online classes? Did you feel like you were getting a good education?

KR: I felt like I was getting a good education, but at the same time I felt like I wasn't really learning and like comprehending all the information. I felt like I was more so just memorizing it because it was on a screen in front of me. I would look at it for the time of the class and that was that. You didn't really meet for help on stuff if you wanted to meet with your professor for help you met over zoom. If you wanted to meet to go to a supplemental instruction which is like a tutoring thing, then you had to meet online for that too so that everything was on online. And it just felt like you weren't ever really meeting 00:25:00with someone and really grasping that information like you would in in-person class. You didn't have anything hands on. I'm a big hands-on learner. And that was really difficult for me too, because it was just like virtual simulation labs. So I wasn't really getting anything out of that too, because I would sit there for 15 minutes doing the little lab thing. And that was that.

HB: And once you were getting out of quarantine, did socializing and making friends get any easier later in the semester?

KR: So for the first half of fall semester, 2020, I did not have a good time making friends. I pretty much sat in my room with either, probably by myself, most of the time, my roommate had a boyfriend at the time, so she wasn't really ever in the room. So I struggled with meeting people and my parents could even tell they're like, 'We know that you're not happy. So it's either that you're 00:26:00gonna have to put yourself out there and try and meet people, or you're just going to continue to kind of be in the slump'. So finally, I think it was the second half of first semester, I met my roommate now. And she introduced me to a lot of her friends, because she already lived in Wisconsin, and a lot of her friends came to Oshkosh. So she introduced me to all those people too. And I was really able to make a lot of friends through that. And now luckily, like to this day now, in 2021, I could say I have a really close group of friends.

HB: And now thinking about your second semester as a UWO student in spring of 2021. How did your experience change from the first semester?

KR: So when. So it changed in the fact that I had some in person classes, my in 00:27:00person classes still weren't the same. I had a chemistry lab. But you weren't really able to work with anyone, because they wanted that social distancing. And they didn't want you too close to other people. You still had to mask, and you had to wear a mask and goggles. So your goggles would always get fogged up. So it was a big transition. But I was just happy to be back in some in-person classes. And they also started to open up some more activities at the time. They started opening up intramural sports, and you did have to wear a mask even if you were outside, but I decided to participate in the intramural soccer program. And so I played that with about five friends. And that was, a nice escape from being in the dorms all day to being outside. And since I did play soccer all throughout high school was just bringing me back to a comfort.

HB: And it felt a little bit more normal too I'm sure.

KR: Yeah it definitely did feel a little bit more normal.

HB: And now in the fall of 2021, where we are right now, with fall semester, 00:28:00does it feel even more so normal than it did last year at all?

KR: Not more normal, but more like a typical college experience. I would say like what you would expect being that COVID was happening for my freshman year of college. It was not anything like I expected you didn't really get that initial freshman experience. So coming into this year, having all in person classes now, taking tests in person trying to regain those studying habits, it was definitely different. Having football games to go to is different. So I wouldn't say it's more normal, but I would say it's new. It's a new experience. 00:29:00I'm still grasping it, I'm still grasping studying for classes. And it's going to take time to obviously transition from being online in your dorm all of the time to now being able to go outside and do so many different things, but I'm enjoying it a lot.

HB: 29:17

Are there any other aspects of COVID life at school that you think won't change back that'll have permanently changed because of this?

KR: Um, I'm not sure how long the masks will stay in place. I know off campus they don't require masks everywhere, but they do recommend them. So it's kind of a waiting time for when masks will, if ever be fully removed from campuses. And I think just people social distancing, too. I think a lot of people even to this day, with people they don't know, were a lot more cautious about how close they are. And within the gyms how close traveling Those are those kinds of things. I 00:30:00think they, those things will continue to stay in on campus and a mandate?

HB: And what about you? Are there any aspects of yourself that you think COVID has changed for the good?

KR: I definitely think the way that I look at how I'm taking care of my body, just making sure that I'm washing my hands enough. Also how COVID has affected other people over the summer of 2021, I worked in the nursing home. And a lot of people did come down with COVID. And a few, unfortunately, did pass away from it. So just seeing how it affected other people kind of has changed how I look at it, too. And, to this day, I'm kind of ready for COVID to be over and ready for us to be able to go back to the normal life and what it was before COVID. But until we're able to get it under wraps, I don't think I think it's just kind of something I'll adapt to.


GL: You said that you worked for a nursing home over the summer of 2021. Okay, so what was that like? You said you had a few patients that came down with COVID and actually got really sick that they, how did that affect you?

KR: So the facility I worked at, we had a COVID outbreak twice. So it was definitely in different having to wear two masks. You had to wear goggles, you had to wear a gown, you had to wear two pairs of gloves, you had to wear little booties. So you had to wear all this protective gear before you entered any room that a resident was in. And being that you're taking care of, I've taken care of up to 16 people at once. Being that you have to take care of that many people it kind of hinders how you time manage, and how you're able to take care of 00:32:00residents. You have to be a lot more careful about everything that you're doing. And there were a lot of residents who were there long term that I got kind of close with and seeing them struggle definitely impacted me and made me worry about how they were going to do and if they were going to get better. And there was unfortunately one lady that I was close with who did end up passing away. But she had already had some complications before that, that I knew it was kind of her time she was going to be in a better place.

GL: You were how old at that time.

KR: 3I was 20 at the time. Okay.

GL: The idea that you were in this quite dangerous position in an environment full of COVID patients. How were we thinking about that? And 'should I really be 00:33:00here,' did it ever come to mind?

KR: Not really, being I already had COVID and I had gotten vaccinated before I started working in the nursing home. I wasn't too worried about it. But I know that there definitely were some of my co-workers who had kids and people who weren't vaccinated. So they definitely took it a lot harder than I did. Whereas I was kind of the person who, when we did have a COVID patient, would volunteer to take care of them because I had already been exposed. And I knew that they needed the care more than I needed to worry about myself at the time.

HB: And do you have anything else about your experience that you want to add?

KR: I do not believe so.

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