Interview with Kory Helm, 11/15/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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JR: This is Jordyn Raba interviewing Kory Helm on Monday, November 15. For the campus covid stories, a collection of oral stories from students and staff of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, about their experiences in the time of COVID. Instructor Grace Lim is also in the room. Thank you for participating in this project. First, could you please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

KH: My name is Kory Helm. K o r y H e l m.

JR: for the purposes of obtaining a good audio recording please tell us your name year major in age.

KH: My name is Kory Helm. I'm 21 years old. I am a junior at UW Oshkosh and a finance major.

JR: Just to get us started. We would like to get to know you a bit. Where did you grow up? And what can you tell me about it?

KH: I am from Wonewoc Wisconsin, which is close to the Wisconsin Dells. Wonewoc itself is about 800 people and I graduated with 25 other students.

JR: Okay, tell me about your parents. What do they do?


KH: Um, my dad is a delivery driver for a holiday wholesale of the Wisconsin Dells, and my mom works at Land's End in Reedsburg as a analyzer and Monogrammer

JR: When did you start thinking about going to college?

KH: Um, I probably thought about college a little bit in middle school, probably early high school. And it just was one of the things I always thought that, you know, I would just graduate high school and move on to college.

JR: So was it always a given in your house?

KH: Not exactly a given. My brother graduated high school and went into the Army Reserves and works on Fort McCoy now and just went straight into the workforce. I was always a lot better at schooling and stuff. So that's why I decided on college. And my dad never went to college but my mom did end up getting her bachelor's degree in business after working for some time.

During my senior year of high school, I decided to join the Army Reserves to 00:02:00help pay for college. So I went, well it was my junior year I enlisted and the summer before my senior I went to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training. And then the following summer, went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for my AIT, which is just my job training for the military. So because of that I did have to miss the fall semester of my freshman year of college, which wasn't a huge letdown for me. I was kind of missing out on the social aspect of college. But I was on the Facebook page and I just started talking to people just to get to know some people for when I moved in in the spring, worked all the way up until the spring semester and COVID finally hit in March of 2020. So I was on campus for six weeks and then had to move out right away and go online.

JR: Okay, so why did you choose to go to UW Oshkosh?


KH: I chose right away when I signed up for the military to be a financial specialist for the Army Reserves. So I decided I want to be an accounting major or finance and looking at programs. I didn't want to go to Madison. So my choices were between whitewater and here, and I just liked this campus a bit better and location. So I decided here.

JR: So you said that you had just gotten off campus? So were you living in the dorms when COVID first started?

KH: Uh, yes, I lived in Taylor Hall on the third floor with a random roommate that I never met before. It was fun for the time being.

JR: So it was the first thing you saw that mentioned COVID And what were your thoughts about it?

KH: I believe I heard about it, I think it was in December of 2018 [2019] or January. I don't know when it first came out. I just remember it was early in 00:04:00the spring semester when I heard about it but I never thought it would be a big deal.

JR: Okay, and then what were your thoughts when you got the email to vacate campus?

KH: I was a little upset. Just because I was just here for six weeks I was just getting into the groove of in person classes and the layout of the campus, how college actually worked and everything. And then once we got that email I wasn't exactly excited to go home. But I guess you have to do what you have to do.

JR: What were your feelings when everything started to like shut down like both in your hometown and at UWO?

KH: Well, I guess once things started shutting down, I was at home. And it was, it was definitely different. Things were Pretty boring, honestly, not a lot of 00:05:00things to do. Luckily, me and my friends started golfing, our senior year of high school. So that was a fun activity we could still do during COVID, because of the social distancing, and it was a way to get outside, be somewhat social and have a good time.

JR: And then what was it like for you having to adjust to taking all of your classes online?

KH: I wasn't a fan of it, at least at home, because I didn't exactly have a nice setup for it. I was basically in my room doing homework on my bed or just sitting in a computer chair. Our Wi Fi was fine. So in that aspect, classes went pretty smoothly, but trying to get used to the online classes was tough, and then not having a good workstation for classes was not very fun. And I ended up spending a lot more time on homework than I needed to just trying to figure things out and work on things.


JR: Did you work during school or like after you got home?

KH: I didn't work during the semester taking online classes just because my time was so filled up with trying to figure things out. After the semester was over, I worked for a road construction company out of Lake Delton, right by the Dells, and ended up being a general laborer. And did that for the summer.

JR: Was that considered essential?

KH: It was. We just traveled a lot of places, when we'd go into certain, we would stay at hotels during the week and stuff like that. So in that aspect, we'd wear masks but around each other. Nobody wore masks ever.

JR: And then how much did you get paid?

KH: I got paid, I think I start off at about $16 an hour for training period. And then I ended up operating a roller and making about $18.85 I believe an hour.


JR: So is the pay worth it to work during the pandemic?

KH: During the pandemic? Yes, the work itself was tough. So, definitely needed decent compensation for that. But I would say it was definitely worth it.

JR: I know you mentioned that you would wear masks when like going places like hotels, or your working conditions altered any other way with the new protocols put in place.

KH: I'm not particularly no, just because we were a crew of only about six, seven people. So these would be the only people we'd see during the day. So masking up and stuff like that really wasn't, I guess needed for us.

JR: But when you were just at home and not working, did you follow the stay at home order or mask up when you went out?

KH: I would wear a mask when places required it, but other than that I just really just didn't care too much about it. I don't know if I just didn't know 00:08:00enough about it or just wasn't sure. But I just did what was, whatever was mandatory, I would still see my friends here and there and go visit my girlfriend. But other than that just normal things.

JR: What were some of the things that you did at home to keep yourself occupied?

KH: Um, definitely lots of Call of Duty. Played a lot of call duty. And then probably just texting people and playing games, I guess.

JR: Did your hometown have any COVID protocols put in place?

KH: Um not particularly. I think it was just basically the same if the business was open or not. If you entered, wear a mask and try to keep your six feet apart.

JR: So during this whole time, how was your mental health?

KH: Um, while taking classes online I was, I was fine for the most part, but 00:09:00like, I guess you could say almost lonely because just doing homework all day, and then my brothers moved out the time. So when my parents are at work, I would be home alone like all day. So I guess it was just lacking in the social aspect. But I would still text my friends and play call duty with them. So that kind of helped out but it was just, I guess boring and yeah, by myself.

JR: So when you came back for sophomore year, did you continue your classes online at home or did you come back to campus?

KH: I did come back to campus. I was expecting a lot more classes to be online or, in person. But I think I had one class in person once a week by the end of the semester.

JR: What dorm did you live in and what was that like?

KH: Last year? I lived in Fletcher Hall on the first floor. It was all right. I 00:10:00had a roommate for about two weeks. And then I guess his dad decided to pull him and his brother from college. So I had a dorm to myself. And it wasn't very social. I don't know if that was just the dorm itself, or COVID did have an impact on it. But just a lot of people in my entire building if I didn't know them previously, just wouldn't really socialize with other people too much.

JR: So did you say you became less social because of COVID? Or just because of the way that the dorm was?

KH: Um, I would say I stayed about the same socially, I didn't exactly make new friends, but had plenty of opportunities to hang out with existing friends.

JR: What was the biggest change at Oshkosh that you saw from the spring semester to the fall?

KH: I'm not sure about that one. I guess just social life in general. Even when 00:11:00people go out on the weekends and stuff like that, there would be, I feel like the groups would just be smaller and less people were willing to go out and do stuff, it was just kind of people kept to themselves a bit more. I would say that would be the biggest difference. I noticed.

JR: How was being on campus different for you? Like, what were the new things that you had to do?

KH: Um, well, the masking up everywhere was a little bit different going to classes. Having the hybrid options for classes was definitely interesting. Because in that aspect, you could almost just go back to your dorm and listen to the class online without walking to class, if it's cold out or whatever. And you'd get the same experience out of it. Because you're socially distanced, so you wouldn't really talk to the people next to you. And the in person classes were recorded and live online. So you might as well just go online, honestly.


JR: Did you have to get tested every week? What was that like?

KH: So yes, we did have if Yeah, at this point, you everybody had to get tested every week. I always did, and it was kind of annoying. Because there was a time that I was having, like some allergies and stuff like that. And then every week when they shove the qtip thing up your nose, just like I'd be sneezing and stuff like that afterwards, and it was just almost just a nuisance really is how I'd put it.

JR: Did you end up getting COVID at all? Or do you know anyone else who got it?

KH: Um, I did end up getting it over Halloween of 2020. Me, my girlfriend and my entire friend group just ended up getting it. And quarantining starting like a Sunday night into Monday. And they all went to Gruenhagen to quarantine. I went to my girlfriend's house, and we stayed in her basement where she had a bathroom 00:13:00and everything that we could just stay down there and quarantine just fine, and do homework and all that stuff.

JR: How was recovery? Like were your symptoms bad?

KH: It was fairly rough for about a week or so. It was just a nasty fever. Really, it does affect your lungs, but I didn't really feel too much of that. It was just, I was sore and achy for a few days here and there. The one day I was really tired and just slept all day, basically. The fever wasn't too bad. After about two days, it just kind of went away a little bit. After a week, I was completely fine.

JR: Was there ever a point where you were just worried since you had it? And it was, it seemed to be bad?

KH: No, I wouldn't say there was a point I was really worried about it. I just felt like it was almost like a longer flu really is how I felt. Even after 00:14:00getting it, I really wasn't worried about getting it again. The quarantine kind of sucks. But other than that, health wise, I handled it the first time very well. And I wasn't too worried about getting a second time.

JR: So then what were some of your habits that have changed since the pandemic began?

KH: Well, I guess just being more aware of what other people are thinking because some people do go out and like need to socially distance and wear a mask. And for me I'm not exactly careless but I'm just you know, I might wear my mask and go shopping or something like that. But then you're walking down the aisle and then somebody squeezes up against the side just so they don't get close to you and stuff like that. It's like Oh, my bad, and stuff like that. So just, I guess being aware of other people.

JR: What are your thoughts about vaccinations?


KH: Um, I think it was, it's pretty good what it is now, or at least was where if you want it, it was available for you. I wasn't exactly gung ho for just because I already had it, and I was fine. And the vaccine didn't exactly say it would prevent you from getting it. So I just really wasn't all for it. But through the military, I did get vaccinated, and I was just fine after both shots. And I think it should just pretty much be a personal choice.

JR: How much do you feel that things are getting back to normal? Or what do you consider normal to you?

KH: I guess normal to me is no more masks anywhere ever, would be nice. But I don't think things will change, I think because of COVID, people are more clean and stuff like that and more aware of germs and spreading things. So I don't 00:16:00think that will really ever change. But I think once masks stop and the social distancing is not a thing anymore. I would consider that normal.

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

KH: Um, I guess with just being more aware of germs and stuff like that, which I've always had been, but I guess now it's a little more reinforced. But other than that, there really isn't too many habits, I would say that would, that permanently changed because of COVID.

JR: There's a few things that I just want to go back to at the beginning of spring semester, which is like February 2020, where were you in your college career?


KH: That is when I first started college. So coming in as a freshman, I did get some credits through the military for training. But I only got about 10 credits for that. So I'm about five credits behind a second semester freshman. But that was my first time moving on to campus and starting college officially.

JR: So what was your expectations of coming onto campus versus how it actually played out?

KH: My expectation was to just try to get as many gen ed classes done as possible. And then also, actually try to make some friends because a lot of freshmen make a good majority of their friends in the fall semester, where I was coming in halfway through. Everybody's all got their friend groups and everything. So I was just trying to meet people and be social and get my classwork done. As for expectations, or what actually happened. I would say it 00:18:00was fairly close, I did meet a good amount of people. My roommate was really cool. He was on the track team. The people I've been talking to before I moved to campus, I became pretty good friends with them. And the classes were different than I expected. I knew college was a little more focused on you with your time management, but I didn't, I guess realize that to a point. But overall, it went about as smooth as I thought.

JR: And then for spring semester, did you have a full class load?

KH: I did. I took 15 credits. I guess a typical freshman takes a certain class in the fall and then the spring. And since I was going in the spring, I just doubled up and took both those classes, which was fun. But other than that I had about a normal freshmen class schedule.


JR: Okay. And then when you first got the email that you were supposed to vacate campus, what was going on?

KH: Um, well, I was actually in my public speaking class, when we got the email. And our, I think somebody brought it up to the professor. And she looked at it and then it was like, Okay, well, here's the next step. Basically, you guys are moving out and going back home. And I was like, wow, this is crazy. walked back to my dorm, my roommate already knew. And from there we just started calling our parents and stuff like that. He was from Illinois, about four or five hour drive away. I live about two hours away from Oshkosh. And I was just talking to my parents seeing like, hey, when, when he can come pick me up and all my stuff. I could literally be ready in two hours. I think they're busy with work and didn't pick me up till I think it was two days after we got the email. So the building 00:20:00was pretty empty. They picked me up about the middle of the day. And so I had a pretty quiet move out. It just took about 15 minutes because I had everything packed up just a couple trips to the vehicle and I was out of Oshkosh.

JR: Prior to the university shutting down, did you ever have a plan for anything like this? Or was that just like spur of the moment?

KH: It was spur of the moment, I didn't expect it to become so widespread so fast, that COVID would just be shutting down everything. So to me, I was just trying to focus on my classes and just do what I've been doing, get used to the college setting and the workload and everything like that.

JR: So you went home after the university shut down, but we were also sent home a week before spring break, did you have spring break plans, or did you do anything for that?

KH: I think there was some plans that we were going to do, but those got 00:21:00canceled even before we got let out for COVID. So my plan was basically just to see my friends and maybe go golfing here and there, something like that.

JR: Okay, and then do you remember how long you thought you would be home? Initially?

KH: Um, I guess I figured we would be home the rest of semester because it wouldn't exactly make sense to leave for three weeks and then come back for another three, four weeks or something like that. So I guess I assumed that it would be the rest of the semester, but was not exactly looking forward to it.

JR: How did your transition back to living at home go? Like was it difficult just being with your family again, even though you just left?

KH: Um not exactly. Since both my parents worked full time and stuff like that. It was just a lot of while they're at work, I was doing homework, and then 00:22:00whenever they came home, just talk to them about whatever I guess and then either go back to my room and do homework or play call duty or something like that.

JR: Did you have any, like group projects or final projects or labs in your classes that you had to deal with?

KH: I did, I had a group project for my writing class. And I believe there was four, maybe five people in our group, and I believe it was just like a four or five page paper or something like that on a given topic. And we all contribute to it, and ended up being the one girl in our group doing probably 50% of the work and then I did about 40%. And then the other three just kind of barely chipped in here and there. And did next to nothing. So being online people, I guess would just kind of give up on homework and stuff like that, where I was 00:23:00still working, trying to get my good grades. So I put in the time and do as much as I could to help her between that and all my other classes.

JR: And then did COVID ever impact your major like, did you ever think of switching it?

KH: Um, I did end up switching my major, but I guess it's not from COVID, I just went from accounting to finance. I never really thought COVID would impact it. Once I get my degree, even if COVID Still thing, it won't impact it. So I feel pretty safe with my decision.

JR: And then tell me about any jobs you had during this time. Like how was work affected?

KH: Um, well, like I mentioned, I worked at road construction. And we didn't really wear masks or nothing like that. With the Army Reserves, we did end up going online for our drill weekends. So that would just be, go on Saturday morning, you just wake up, turn on your computer and join the Zoom meeting or 00:24:00whatever, have a meeting for about an hour and get a to do list basically just, whatever counts towards hours for the day. And then maybe make a presentation here and there. And then present that, but it was just more or less busy work just for the weekend. And then for the last two summers, we got a pass to go to Fort McCoy and be in person for the two weeks of training, which, that was fun. We still had to wear masks everywhere. We had to put up the plexiglass dividers when talking to I guess customers because we were running a finance office. So we'd be verifying soldiers' pay and stuff like that. And whenever talking to them, always got to have a mask on. They gotta be socially distanced and probably have Plexiglas between you. But it was at least nice to see the people in my unit that I haven't seen for months and stuff like that. So.


JR: And then to COVID affect you financially in any way, whether it's like just finances or financial aid?

KH: Um, I would say it didn't exactly impact me financially, just because the two jobs I have worked, they were both, I guess considered essential. So either way I had work to do. I was getting paid for drill and military work. So financially, I wouldn't say it affected me. Even when going online, I wasn't working during the semester, and didn't exactly plan on it. So I would say everything went about to plan with my financials.

JR: And then do you have anything else to add?

KH: I think I'm good.

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