Interview with Leah Matthews, 11/12/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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Allison Ruiz: This is Alison Ruiz interviewing Leah Matthews 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, could you pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

LM: Yes, it's Leah Matthews, L-E-A-H M-A-T-T-H-E-W-S

AR: And what is your major, year and age here?

LM: My major is psychology. And I am a junior, and I'm 28 years old.

AR: Thank you. And for the purposes of obtaining a good audio recording, please again, please tell us again who you are.

LM: My name is Leah Matthews. I am a student here at University of Wisconsin. My major is psychology. I'm currently a junior, and I am 28 years old.

AR: Alright, just to get us started we would like to get to know you. But first 00:01:00of all, could you tell us where did you grow up? Can you tell me a little bit about it?

LM: Yes. So I was actually born in Green Bay, but when I was one, we moved to Brazil, because my parents wanted to be missionaries there. So I grew up pretty much my whole life in Brazil, and moved back to the United States when I was 21. So I pretty much spent my whole life in Brazil, there with my family and that was at the time normal for me, I guess, because I didn't really know any other. Anything else. But now living here, I can see all of the big differences. We didn't have snow for Christmas, we had really warm weather, where we got to have a lot of fresh fruit and fresh meats and stuff. Not a lot of chemicals and all that kind of stuff. So and then, you know, the houses looked a lot different. 00:02:00They didn't really have an open front yard or backyard. It was all gated or walled in, so it was a little bit different. But yeah, I grew up in Brazil, in a city called Bauru. It's in the state of São Paulo, and it's a little bit I want to say bigger than the size of maybe Green Bay.

AR: Okay, and how is the community there?

LM: So it wasn't like poor poor, but it was lower middle class. Most of everyone was Brazilian there. And a lot of the places were starting to get more and more Americanized, because the United States was really big for them. They loved the United States at the time. And they wanted to get, like everything that they had there [The United States] over in Brazil. So they had a Walmart there. They had 00:03:00a McDonald's there. They had like some of that kind of stuff. They had like a zoo. It was a city.

AR: Alright. And then you began to tell me a little bit about your parents. But could you tell me a little bit more about what they did?

LM: Yeah, so my dad, he's a missionary to Brazil. So when he met my mom, they were really young. And they decided that they wanted to go somewhere out of the country. And Brazil is what they ended up doing. At the time. When they moved to Brazil. They had my four older brothers, and then me. So we were already kind of a big family. My mom was a stay at home mom, she had nine kids. I was right in the middle of them all. And she pretty much took care of the house and everything. And then my dad was the pastor of a church, and also helped out other places, too. But now they live back here in Green Bay. He's a pastor of a church in Green Bay right now.


AR: And then, so about college, when did you start thinking about going to college? And was it a given in your house?

LM: So I wanted to go to college when I turned 18 because my dream was to move out as soon as I could. So I thought that college would be my easy get out, and it wasn't really ever given. My dad went to a Christian college, and my mom went to a Christian college to be a teacher, but she never graduated. It was never really put on me that I would need to get an education. It was more that I could just get married and have kids and be like a stay at home mom kind of like my mom was. I was okay with that for the most part until I got older. But then that's when I started thinking, you know, I know maybe I need an education and something like that.

AR: That's awesome. So you were in Brazil. What made you come to Oshkosh, why 00:05:00did you choose UW Oshkosh?

LM: So my parents, they have like a base church that sent them over to Brazil. And that is based in Green Bay. So that's where they're kind of sent out of. So every time we would come back to visit family or visit them, we would always come back to Green Bay and stay in the area. So when I moved out, I came back to Green Bay because one of my brothers was living here. So I stayed with him. And that was kind of my start. It was the easiest place to go when I came back. And then I got a job. And I didn't think about going to college for a while because I thought I would just work for a while. And then I decided to go to college a couple years ago, and I didn't want to go to Green Bay. UW-Green Bay because I thought Oshkosh would be better. I don't know. I just heard better things. So that's why I decided on Oshkosh. And at the time, I was kind of living in Neenah. So it was closer for me at the time.

AR: Okay. So now let's move on to the early days of COVID at UW Oshkosh, at the 00:06:00beginning of spring semester. 2020. Where were you in your college career? Did you have a full class load? And what was your living situation like?

LM: Yeah, so I was a freshman here. In my second semester, and I, let's see. I was living with my roommate at the time. Still am. He lives in Neenah. And I did have full classes. I'm pretty sure I had five classes that semester.

AR: Oh, so nice. full load. Do you remember your first time hearing about COVID-19?

LM: Yeah, I want to say it was like in the end, like December 2019, sometime or something like that. I am on the phone a lot. I guess. I'm always online seeing things and I just heard something about it. But I didn't really think much of 00:07:00it. I just saw that it was something going on.

AR: What was your initial reaction? Did you have any emotions going on at the time?

LM: When I first heard about it? No. But then when I started seeing that it started getting crazy really fast. Then I started getting a little bit worried. But I never thought that it would have reached where it is now. And especially I didn't think it would come to like Wisconsin.

AR: So what were your feelings as everything UW and elsewhere in mid March started shutting down all of a sudden.

LM: So I was sad. I remember sitting in class, I had a psychology class that day that they announced it to everyone. And my teacher started the class off by saying, 'Hey, we might not have class today.' No, she started off by saying 'we're not having class today'. And I had a couple classes earlier that day. And she said, 'We're canceling what you guys need to do is you need to go to your 00:08:00dorms and pack up everything. We're not having class anymore. We're closing down. And we're going to let you know, we don't know what's happening. But we'll keep you updated'. So I remember sitting there and I was like, Wait, is this real? Is this actually happening? And then I started like seeing everyone else look around kind of at each other like thinking the same thing. Like, is this for real? She's like, Yep, alright, let's go. And then everybody just grabbed their bags and started leaving and talking to each other just so loud on campus.

AR: Yeah, that's really weird. Yeah. So you said that the students were going to get sent home. How did you feel about this? Did you have any thoughts about students being sent home?

LM: Yeah, I felt bad, especially for the ones that stayed on campus, because sometimes their home is far away. And like, how do they keep going back and forth? How do they commute? Like, what are they going to do with their dorm room and all of that, but for me, it wasn't too bad because I lived in Neenah so it was only like a 20 minute drive. And it wasn't too bad since I was up there all 00:09:00the time anyway. So that part of it I wasn't too worried about.

AR: Okay, did you know anyone who got the virus or did you get it yourself? And how was it?

LM: So I got sick before the vaccine came out. I don't remember when. But it was when they just started allowing testing. But they didn't have all of the rules that you needed to wait a day or two after you maybe got it for it to show up in the testing. So I got really sick and I went the next day to get tested and it came back negative but I was really sick. So I had to be off of work for like a whole week. And I think that I had it but I don't really know because it came back negative. So and then I don't think that I I think some of my siblings got it, but they were fine. It was kind of like they lost the taste and smell kind 00:10:00of thing, but they were fine. Nobody really got really sick from it that I have my family or friends that I know of.

AR: Yeah, that's good. So just about the virus itself, how do you feel about it?

LM: I think it's scary. I've never experienced anything like it. This is stuff that you hear about in history, you know, like the Black Plague and stuff like that, you know, it's, it's just crazy. And now we're living it. In a way I feel like everything's the same and everything's normal. But at the same time, it's very different. So at the time, I wasn't really worried. But now it's like, oh, that's this is a real thing, especially with, you know, how many deaths there have been, and all of that. So yeah, it's scary.

AR: For sure. So prior to the university shutting down, how much planning had you made for a shutdown? Did you have a game plan? And how much were your parents involved in your decisions on what you were going to do if they were involved?


LM: I did not have a game plan. I had no idea. There was talk about, you know, maybe we would go online for the rest of the semester but nothing was really for sure. Until that day. So that day, like I said, it was just kind of a shock to me, I didn't expect it at all, it was just there. And we just had to go with it pretty much. But my parents, they were I believe they were back in the United States at that time, but because they're in Green Bay, and I'm here and I'm a little bit older, they weren't really too involved in it. But they just made sure I was, you know, being safe.

AR: So where did you go after the university shut down? We were sent home a week before spring break. What did you do during that time?

LM: So when we shut down, I just went home. And I pretty much stayed there. The whole time stayed in my room. And spring break. I didn't do anything. I stayed 00:12:00home the whole time. I didn't have any plans. Nothing was happening. Everything was shut down. So there wasn't much to do. So yeah, I didn't really do much except stay home and finish up the semester before spring break.

AR: And do you remember how long you thought you'd have to stay put at home?

LM: I had no idea. I thought it was just going to be the semester because I thought we would you know, this wouldn't last as long as it is. I definitely didn't even think like till now it's still going on. I thought that it would definitely die out.

AR: Yeah. And since you had to go home and spend a lot of time at home. Did you have any challenges of having to spend a lot of time with your roommates? Were you able to get out of the house at all when you needed to?

LM: Yeah, I get along great with my roommate. So he and I, we actually enjoyed 00:13:00being around each other a lot. And I did get to get out a lot. I was always, you know, wearing a mask and making sure to wash my hands everywhere. But it would mostly just be for grocery shopping and stuff. But I did take drives to get out of the house or go on a walk. We definitely did walks. The only issue that I had with my roommate was when I had a quarantine or he had a quarantine we had to figure that whole situation out. How to quarantine being in the same house.

AR: And how did you figure that out? What steps did you take?

LM: So I wrote on a piece of paper saying quarantine keep out and I stuck it on my door. And I pretty much just stayed in my bedroom. But we have two bathrooms. So I used one bathroom. He was the other one. And then for food, I just text him and he would always bring me food. So it was great. And then when it switched to the other way he stayed in his room and I would bring him everything that he 00:14:00needed. So we made it work.

AR: That's awesome. Did he ever contact COVID-19 himself?

LM: I believe he did. Yes. Yeah. And he got sick for a while, but then he got better. He said it was pretty bad. But nothing was like, you know, breathing and any of that stuff. And then he had to quarantine too. So we had to figure that whole thing out.

AR: All right. So then you began to talk a little bit about masking. Were there any other COVID protocols that you dealt with in your home at first and was there much friction or were you and your roommate all in agreement about them?

LM: For the most part we were okay with, you know, social distancing and masking and all of that stuff. We had no issues with doing that, especially when you know, there was potentially I was in contact with someone so it was always a very respectful thing we had no no issues with any of that.


AR: That's awesome. So, since you said you weren't with your family, how was it not being able to physically be with them? Before we could travel, and now we were on hold in our household. So how did you stay in contact with them? How were you able to communicate?

LM: Yeah, we have a family group chat. So we kind of text through that. And that's how we kept everyone updated. We'd send pictures to each other and stuff. But otherwise, I would go and get tested If I wanted to go see them on the weekend. I'd go get tested, and then I knew that I would be okay to go see them. So I would see them every once in a while, but it definitely wasn't as much as it was before. So it was rough, because I am a very big family person. I love my family. I don't have many friends because my family are my friends. So I used to go up there all the time. And it was definitely harder not being able to, but we had texting, you know, still found a way to get up there or something.


AR: Yeah, that's great. So were there any other problems you faced with your family? And how did you feel about the health of your loved ones?

LM: I don't think there were really any issues. For the most part, I didn't worry about anyone's health, because for the most part, everyone's pretty healthy. I did worry, I guess more like my parents, because they're a little bit older. And you never know what side effects you might get. But for the most part, I wasn't too too worried about it. And I don't think that there were any problems really that we faced with that.

AR: Regarding your classes in your schoolwork, how did you find the transition to online learning? How hard was that?

LM: It was easy and hard. I was homeschooled my whole life. So I was used to doing homework and school in my room. It's not a problem. But then at the same 00:17:00time, I do way better in person. I'm not really good at being self disciplined. So yeah, it was kind of rough, but I figured it out.

AR: How did you manage any group projects or final projects? Or if you had any labs? How were those?

LM: We first shut down in, when we were going in person, we shut down in the fall, I was taking a psychology class, and we had to do some research. So those all just got canceled, and she gave us some papers to write instead. So most of it all got switched to another option where we wouldn't have to work in groups, or that we could have an option to do a different homework type. But then, I did have a bio class online, and we just did the labs online. We had a meeting and 00:18:00then he would go over it and we'd fill it out and then upload it. So it wasn't really hands on at all.

AR: Did you ever have any technology issues? And how was that? How did you deal with them?

LM: Yes, my WiFi was always bad. And my laptop half the time, it was just running really slow all the time. There was just one day I couldn't get to class or I'd get in late or be glitchy and it was just a mess. But I made it work. I would have my phone up there for backup, in case I needed to connect through my phone instead of my laptop. So I found other ways to make sure I got connected.

AR: Yeah, for sure. And you said that you learned better in person. So how was it listening to those lectures online? How hard was it?

LM: It was hard. I didn't like it at all. I couldn't ask questions. I couldn't, you know, have a conversation or you know, when they put you in groups. It was 00:19:00rough. But there was always the option. If you did have questions, you could email but it's not the same, really. I didn't really like it.

AR: How did you separate your school from your free time? How did you balance school with any other free time you had?

LM: So I'm a big list person. And that's how I can get through doing everything because otherwise I just get distracted. So I write lists down. I make sure that I get all my homework done. And then after my homework, I'll allow myself to go watch a movie or something. So I usually just tried to stick to my list and as long as I stuck to it I could manage getting through my day.

AR: What was it like changing your routine from getting ready to go to class on campus to now getting ready to just log into your computer at home? What had changed? Did your routine remain the same or did anything tweak?

LM: It reminded me of when I was a kid, I would wake up and be and be in my PJs 00:20:00and just start doing homework. I did not like that. But I started changing it, because then I would go to work some days in the morning, so then I would have to get up earlier. And then I just continued to do that just every day. And then it got back kind of on track, because having that structure kept me on top of my classes on top of my homework, and on top of everything else, otherwise, I just Yeah, I would just roll out of bed, flip up my laptop and wait until class started in close it soon as class ended. Just not really care.

AR: So what were you so what were your feelings about finishing up the semester from off campus?

LM: I was kind of sad. I was excited to do the research things for my psychology. I had a group of friends that we were doing theater projects with 00:21:00and I really liked hanging out with them. And it was just sad. But at the same time, I wasn't too too worried because I was thinking that I still had more semesters to come. And hopefully we would be back in person. I could go back to enjoying in person classes again.

AR: So did COVID ever impact your major? If it did? How did it impact it? Did you ever think of switching due to COVID changes?

LM: It hasn't affected my major and I haven't or thought about switching because of it. But I did consider taking a break because of COVID. I thought I didn't really like the online classes. So I thought I could just wait, put it off a year, enjoy my time, and then go back to school when it started back in person. But I ended up just pushing through it and deciding I'll just try and do half 00:22:00and half then because that's when they started allowing the half and half classes.

AR: With everything that happened so quickly, how are you feeling emotionally? How did you cope with it? And how did people around you cope with it?

LM: I was, at the time I was really depressed. Before COVID even. So I was kind of struggling already. But then I think COVID kind of made it worse because then I didn't feel like I had a structure. I felt kind of all over the place. And then I didn't get to see my family or my friends. We couldn't go out. I love food. I love going to restaurants. We couldn't go out to restaurants. I'm not the best cook. So I had to start cooking and that wasn't the best. I think that with everything that happened, I felt like it was a roller coaster for me. But I 00:23:00think towards the end of it, I started getting back on track and writing my lists again and waking up and doing my yoga and all of that.

AR: You mentioned that you weren't able to go out to eat or anything. How was that? How were stores running anything like that?

LM: It was tough because I do go out to eat a lot. So I don't cook all that much. I don't have time to cook. And then it was just easier to grab Qdoba or a sub or something like that. We did have Eat Street and all the delivery, things started picking up. And that was a really big thing. So that also gave people jobs. So that was nice. Definitely spent too much money on that. I missed it because getting sushi at a restaurant is different than getting sushi delivered 00:24:00to you. You know? It's different. It's sad.

AR: Yeah, for sure. So we talked a little bit about how you stayed in contact with your family. But what about friends? Were you involved in any romantic relationships at the time? Or just friendships in general? How did you handle them?

LM: So I was often on with my ex. And that was kind of rough because he lived in Green Bay and I lived in Neenah at that time, so to see each other and he had a job and he would be around other people and I had a job and I would be around other people's we would be worried a little bit about you know, what if someone got COVID What if we can't be around each other for a while, so that sucked a little bit, but it wasn't too too bad because we figured it out and we made it work. And then with friends for the most part my friends were friends from 00:25:00school, and then friends from work. So friends from school I still kind of kept in touch with. And then the ones from work I still saw every day. So it was kind of like I didn't really lose much touch with my friends. And then my roommate I lived with.

AR: Okay. And then just about your relationship when you could see each other, what kind of things that you do? Is it more just like staying home and doing stuff? Were we able to go out and find anything to do?

LM: We used to take hikes and road trips and stuff like that not to really go anywhere, but to be out in nature. But a lot of the times we just sat inside would watch movies or read books.

AR: Alright. And then you did mention that you're working during the time. So can you tell me about the job that you had during this time? And how was your work affected?

LM: Yeah, so I was working at The Clubhouse as a server part time, in Appleton. And I was working there a few months until they laid almost everyone off in the 00:26:00restaurant area, because they closed it all down because of COVID. And they told me that they would contact me if they wanted, if they were going to open back up, and then I could get a job. Throughout that time, they never did contact me. I think they're open now. But I'm assuming that was just it. So I stopped working there because I got laid off. But my other job through Capital Credit Union, I kept that job, they're really, really good about making sure they don't lay off people. So they always found work for people to do, even if you know, because we had to closes branches, sometimes because somebody in the branch got COVID and they had to quarantine at all, they would send another team to that branch to open it back up after it got cleaned, you know, to keep it up and running. So I got to do that sometimes. Because, you know, I just was like a 00:27:00backup kind of so they kept me. They let me have my job. They, you know, found job work for me to do. So. I still got paid. So that was nice.

AR: Yeah, that's awesome. So you mentioned that you were a part time. So how often did you work? And did it remain the same, throughout your employment?

LM: Yeah. Normally during the semester, I would drop my hours to about 18 to 22 hours a week. And then during the summer or breaks, I would go back up to full time, so I would be working 40 hours. And I want to say that in the spring, I was working a little bit. But then once we went to online school, I picked up a lot more hours because I was more flexible with the hybrid classes and stuff. So I definitely did pick up more hours for my job during that time.

AR: Okay, yeah, that's awesome. And then if you're willing, can you tell me 00:28:00about any Or can you tell me how COVID affected you financially? Did you have any financial issues?

LM: So for the most part, I mean, I lost my server job. So I lost some tips, but I made it up with getting more hours at my other job. So for that part, I actually was okay. And I actually think I probably saved money because I wasn't going out to eat as much and I was going grocery shopping instead. So I think honestly, I probably saved a little bit of money.

AR: That's always good.

LM: Yeah.

AR: And then once the semester ended, how if all, did your life change? You said you worked, how is work continuing to change? Did you take any vacations? Were you now able to see your family more or friends more anything like that?

LM: Yeah. After the semester was over, I definitely picked up my hours, I went back to the full time hours. And I definitely did get to see people again, because school and homework always takes up my time. So I definitely did get to 00:29:00see them some more. But I want to say I didn't really do too much. But we did get to go on a road trip out to Oregon, my roommate and I and my sister. And we were a little bit worried to do that. Because just it was all over and like some states were, you know, really closed down and stuff. But we decided we're going to be on the road in a car the whole time. We're going to be in a tent and camping. So it's not like we're gonna be around people. So we did a lot of nature seeing and we drove through Yellowstone and all of that. So that was our way of enjoying our summer. As much as we could enjoy the summer.

AR: Yeah, for sure. That's awesome. And so summer of 2020 things began to open up just a little more than they were, how did you feel about things going back to normal?

LM: I was so excited. So excited, but then there was always that part of me, that was a little bit like, Well, are we? Because I feel like we've done this 00:30:00where we go back and forth and back and forth where we can wear a mask, and we don't have to wear a mask or we can be inside. And no, we can't be inside, you know, so I didn't really know. But I was definitely excited for things to go back to normal.

AR: Yeah, so what were some of the changes compared to march to summer that made it quote on quote, "back to normal"?

LM: Probably. I don't, I think that was when there was the vaccine. So I think a lot more people were getting vaccinated. And you know, just being able, once they got vaccinated, a lot of people stopped wearing their masks. So then you started seeing people's faces again, and other places were opening up. And, you know, it's just kind of seeing everybody again, it was like they all came out from underneath a rock or something.

AR: Yeah. And so how did your behaviors change from having the quarantine to now having more freedom to go out and do things?


LM: I definitely didn't touch as much. I definitely wash my hands a lot more. I work at a bank. So every time I was touching money, I was always washing my hands or using hand sanitizer, even more so I think. But it's definitely nice to be able to have the freedom to where I don't have to be super paranoid all the time to where I can just enjoy life again.

AR: For sure. So now let's talk about fall 2020. You touched briefly on this. But when you learn that UW Oshkosh was returning to in person classes for the fall of 2020 semester, what was your reaction?

LM: I was excited. But I was also sad, because I heard that it wasn't going to be all that many classes. So I had a feeling that I was probably going to end up doing still a lot online. But I was still really, really excited to be able to come back and see everybody because I was considering taking that break. But 00:32:00once they said that, I was like okay, maybe I can stick it out.

AR: Yeah. And so that semester, as you mentioned, UW Oshkosh chose to offer some classes in person, but most online, what did you choose to do in this new reality? What was, why was that at the time, the best choice for you? Do you feel in retrospect that that was the right choice?

LM: Yeah, so I tried to get as many classes as I could in person. But it ended up being about half and half. So half for in person half for online. And then the online ones, some of them were asynchronous, and then some weren't. So that's when you have to sit there. And one is where you sit there, and you have a time schedule to show up online. And another one is you do your homework, whenever you do your homework, you watch the lectures whenever. And I kind of had a mix of all of those. I do think that it was a good decision, because I 00:33:00think it taught me some more self discipline. But at the same time, I did definitely wish that it was all in person. Because I have a harder time with online classes.

AR: So just like a little bit about the asynchronous class, how was that having to do that all on your own not really having a scheduled meeting time?

LM: I did not like it at first. It kind of just gave me the liberty which normally or the freedom and liberty to like, just do whatever and do it whenever which normally is a nice thing. Because then you can kind of create your own schedule. But I think I needed that discipline of eight to nine you have a class, you know you have another class at this time, because then it kind of held me accountable.

AR: Yeah, for sure. So what was lifelike at UWO, once you came back. Overall, how did you feel about the new school year? What were you looking most forward to or anything that worried you?


LM: I was looking forward just to be in class again, to learn in person, to see teachers face to face and students face to face. I was, you know, looking forward to being able to walk around on campus and go into buildings and things. But I did, it was weird. Seeing that the campus was kind of empty. You did not see as many people walking around at all. So it just made you feel like you're walking around like a zombie apocalypse time kind of.

AR: So how did you feel about the COVID protocols that were in place at UWO with the masking, the testing of those living in dorms, being put into quarantine if you were in close contact or contacted COVID itself.

LM: I know that they're in place for good reason. I'm a very respectful person. So I knew that I would have no issues with following along with it. But it did 00:35:00make it to where the classes were a lot smaller, and we didn't get to still have group work, because we all had a social distance. And a lot of times, you know, it is hard to understand sometimes when you're wearing a mask if you know someone doesn't speak up or speak clearly. So that had a little bit of a boundary there. But yeah, for the most part, I feel like I didn't mind the fact that they were being very proactive about it, it was a good thing that they were, you know, making sure everyone is safe.

AR: Yeah. And then could you just tell me a little bit about the COVID protocols that were in place?

LM: Yes. So I don't remember for the people that lived in the dorms what they had to do, but for me, I had to go to sign into the website and fill in if I had a fever, fill in if I was around anyone, you know, the questionnaire thing. And as long as I answered the right questions, it would say, Okay, you're clear to 00:36:00come to campus. So that was all I needed to do, really. But if I did have, like, if I did get in contact with somebody I need to do you know, make sure I quarantined and did all of that. But those are my only protocols. And obviously, you know, social distancing and mask wearing too.

AR: Yeah. So did you just have to do that once initially? Or was that once every day,

LM: Once every day.

AR: Okay, so every time you're coming to campus.

LM: Every morning I had an alarm set on my phone to fill that out. Otherwise, I knew I would forget.

AR: Yeah. So you said you mentioned that you lived at home with a roommate. So how was that? Did you ever find yourself isolating yourself there a lot? What was your social life like? Had anything changed? And what kind of things did you do for fun?

LM: So with my roommate, we actually hung out a lot more. Because we were both home a lot more, because we couldn't go out. Except for the times, obviously, that we did have to be away from each other, because maybe one had potentially gotten it or not, you know, but otherwise, we hung out a lot more, we got to 00:37:00watch a lot more movies. And yeah, it was just more spending time riding bikes, and that kind of thing. It was a lot of outdoor stuff, but and also just quality time. Yeah, that was a lot for us. That's what we did for fun.

AR: Alright and did your interactions with other people change? Did you become a little less social individual because of COVID?

LM: I think so. Not at first, but I think because it prolonged for so long, I definitely felt like I got a little bit of social anxiety for sure. Just being around people again, and I already have a little bit of anxiety, and then adding that onto it like, "Oh, these are people they're watching me" And it just kind of creates a little bit. But I think I've gotten kind of back over that at this point now.

AR: Yeah. So then could you tell me a little bit about how it was meeting people or meeting more people? Were you able to do that? Or did you just kind of stick 00:38:00to yourself and what you already knew?

LM: Yeah, I did not really meet new people. Just because I wasn't going out much. I didn't really go out and do anything. And on campus there was, it was dead, like there's nobody there. And then the people in class kind of kept to themselves. It was all very much, you know, go to class and leave right away. It was. It felt really weird. It wasn't really, it was enjoyable, and it was good. But it was still just really off to be in class and to feel like everyone's just kind of on their own. But yeah, I didn't really make any new friends at all. And my friend group pretty much just stayed the same.

AR: Okay. What was the biggest change at UW-Oshkosh, you saw from the spring semester to now coming back from the fall and for the fall semester.

LM: Seeing the chairs all with plastic over them, and you could sit next to each 00:39:00other, Seeing signs for masks all over, seeing people with masks on everywhere. Those are the bigger changes and then seeing that it was empty. But then there was, you know, yeah, it was just empty. Masks. Just everything was a little different.

AR: Yeah. How did you feel the department and faculty did with this hybrid approach to education? Did you still believe you were getting a good education?

LM: Yes, and no. I think that I did get, definitely a good education and the teachers are good regardless. But I do know that it was new for them. And they had to figure this all out too. So there's definitely some struggles there. But I definitely still learned and I definitely still applied it. But I think it was 00:40:00just, it was hard for everybody. But they still did a good job, with what they could.

AR: Yeah, for sure. So now we're in the fall of 2021 and vaccines are readily available on campus and in fact, strongly advocated by administration and the CDC. What were your thoughts about the Vax Up campaign to get students vaccinated to win scholarships?

LM: I thought it was pretty cool. I entered, so I definitely was looking to hopefully win some money. I did not expect to win any because I just feel like you never win the things you enter. But I thought it was a pretty neat idea. But at the same time, it does feel kind of weird because it does kind of feel like they're bribing people in a way. But in the end, it's for a good reason and a good cause that I agree with. So I don't know. It's kind of, it's interesting, I guess.

AR: Yes. And so how do you, how much do you feel things are getting back to 00:41:00normal now? And for that matter, what is normal to you? What would school have to be like for you to call it normal?

LM: Yes. So I think that it is getting back to normal slowly, especially since when we did start coming back on campus now till now, you know, we don't have the chairs where we're super spaced out. We have a lot more people in class now and it's all for the most part, in-person classes again. So, you know, it is slowly getting back to normal. I do feel. But I think obviously for it to be completely back to normal, I think there would be more events. And then obviously the masks. Not having to wear a mask, I think, would be very nice and normal to see everyone's faces again.

AR: Yeah. And then you mentioned events. So what kind of events are there on 00:42:00campus now? And have you attended any? Have they changed?

LM: Yeah. So I used to go to a yoga class and then that had to go online. So that was kind of weird doing yoga in my bedroom. And then they didn't have any sports, they canceled all the sports. But now those are coming back. I want to say that there was always something going on and, you know, at Titan underground or you know, right outside of Reeve. There's just always something happening and it just kind of stopped. But now it's like slowly starting to pick back up again. And now I feel like I get emails like, we're doing this, this this, I'm like, "Oh, that's cool". I did not know we were doing all these things again.

AR: Yeah, that's awesome. Are there any aspects about COVID life at school you think won't change your back?

LM: Honestly, I think that eventually everyone kind of goes back to normal. They 00:43:00go back to, you know, what they're used to. And yes, it was a drastic change, but at the same time, for a lot of people, it didn't affect them. So I think that when everyone starts, you know, going back to their old ways, that it's just going to become normal again until something big happens again. So I think honestly, we'll probably just go back to normal.

AR: What about you? Are there any aspects of yourself you think COVID has changed for good? How do you think this historical event might have changed you permanently?

LM: So with COVID, I think there is a lot of controversy and a lot of people saying, you know, where it came from, what it was, you know, how to cure it, 00:44:00there's just all kinds of things. And I think for me, it's just kind of I learned to just block all of that out to say, you know, it doesn't matter, I know what I believe because I studied it. I, you know, looked up, whatever, how I got to my conclusion. And to just stay in that and to not feel like you have to defend yourself or argue with people or, you know, it's okay to believe what you want to believe. And I think, I don't know, I think that it was just I learned just I need to, it's okay to be myself and to stick with it.

AR: Yes, for sure. Do you have anything else you would want to add?

LM: I don't think so.

AR: No. Alright. Well, thank you for sharing your story with us. We appreciate your contribution to the campus COVID stories at UW-Oshkosh. Thank you.

Part 2

GL start this. Alright, this is Grace Lim for part two of Leah Matthews 00:45:00interview, and this is on December 10 2021, for campus COVID stories. We just want to revisit some of the things that we've that Alison Ruiz talked to Leah for this interview. So, Leah, for our photoshoot for this Campus COVID Stories Project, you brought a couple props, he brought up two flags. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

LM: Yeah. One of them is the Rainbow Pride flag. And then the other one is. I don't remember the exact name of it, but it's for equal rights. It's one of the biggest com. or not companies, but one of the program biggest programs for supporting LGBTQ people, and that's one of their biggest flag signs. So it's kind of for Pride and LGBTQ.

GL: And tell us your what is your affiliation with LGBTQ?


LM: Yeah, so I'm bisexual. I grew up thinking I was straight, but then I later realized it wasn't the case.

GL: Okay. So during the time of COVID, there had been media stories coming out saying that certain groups of the marginalized community had a more difficult time coping with, with the isolation and the, you know, the then they suffered some sort of, you know, mental setbacks, and did that ever occur to you? Um, did that happen to you?

LM: I think so. But I don't know if it would be the correlation with me being gay. But I do think that, in general, I--so my roommate's gay. So I had his support. I had my siblings' support. My parents' support was the only thing that was a little rough, but everyone else around me was very, very supportive. So I 00:47:00don't think that I felt, you know, any setback or anything like that to where I felt marginalized or anything like that. Because I had a good group around me.

GL: Okay. All right. And then tell me about the-- If you don't mind telling me about your your. I don't know how to put it. So during that time, I mean, you, you mentioned that that you were you are bisexual. At what point did you decide--

LM: Did I kind of come to that understanding? Yeah, I think. So I knew I was attracted to girls since I was very young. But I kind of pushed that away, because I thought that that was wrong. So I kind of just push it away. And since I liked men, that was easy enough, I just stuck to that. So I never really questioned it until I turned 27 or 26. And at that time, I was engaged to a man. 00:48:00But I never brought it up. And then when we broke up, that's when I kind of started to let myself actually be me and explore that and allow myself to feel those feelings.

GL: Okay, and what year was that?

LM: That was 2020 last year.

GL: So this was during the time of COVID?

LM: Yes.

GL: Okay, were you, where were school-wise then?

LM: So I was a freshman, junior in college.

GL: Okay. And what was I mean, so you came out? To youself, publicly.

LM: it came out and steps kind of, first it was to me, and then I came out to my sister because she's the closest, she's my best friend. And then it was to my roommate and I just slowly to the most important people around me. And then I just posted a picture online and decided it was out there.


GL: Okay, that's wonderful. So, but again, this is during a global pandemic. I mean, you i That's, it's just we're still in a weird time. Right? I mean, did did did that play into it that you had time at home? I mean, were you at home a lot during that time?

LM: Yeah, I was at home. I lived with my roommate, still live with him. So I was definitely stuck at home since I was doing online school. Pretty much spent every time there. So a lot of what I had was online dating in order to meet people or talk to people. So otherwise, I just stayed home.

GL: So you know, I said earlier, you did mention that a little bit about that you were you just suffer some sort of depression. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

LM: Yeah. I think I've suffered since I was very young, but because my parents 00:50:00don't really agree with all of what comes with depression. They think that a lot of it is a choice and that you can choose to do things to avoid that or to get out of it. And yes, there are. But there's also, you know, a part where you're kind of just stuck there. So I think growing up, I always had a little bit of it, but I just kind of pushed it away and kept moving. And then when I moved out, and I got engaged, and I moved in with my ex, that is when things started getting really bad because I was away from my family. I didn't have any contact with any real friends. I was in a new place, new work new everything, and I just felt really alone. And that's kind of when it all started really hitting me.

GL: When was this?

LM: That was in 2018.

GL: Okay, okay. And then you, you, give me the timeline again, when did this do 00:51:00you decide to go to UW Oshkosh?

LM: fall of 2019?

GL: Fall 2019. So you had one normal normal ish. semester as a as a student here. And then spring of 2020 is when halfway through, everything just went crazy? Right. Okay. All right. So regarding that, did that depression come back? Or that mental setback? Did that come back during during COVID at all?

LM: Yes, for sure. So it stuck around for a while because I didn't really know what to do about.I didn't really know what was going on. But then I went to a doctor, and then I started taking antidepressants, and that helped for a while, and I kind of got out of it. And then when I broke up with my ex, it kind of came back again, and it just is a big mess. So I think, honestly, it's always gonna be an ongoing thing is just of how I manage it and make sure I'm on my medication, take care of myself, that kind of thing.


Okay, great. And are you are doing therapy or anything like that?

No, not right now, just because I'm too busy. But I would love to, like start doing counseling or therapy or something.

GL: Okay. All right. So you may have touched on this already, but tell me what, why would you decide to come to school during a global pandemic, I mean, this is, it's just seems like a huge thing to put yourself out there, and then we have this crazy virus that's killing a lot of people.

LM: I think maybe I just wasn't too too worried to where I knew I needed my education more. And I knew that I could be safe. And from the protocols, it sounded like the school would be safe as well. So I thought that I might as well get this done now because who knows when I will be able to get it done.

GL: Okay. All right. So I think one of the last questions was Leah, what has--

You know, living and learning during the time COVID taught you about yourself, 00:53:00but it seemed like you learned more that? I mean, can you talk a little bit more about that? Yeah.

LM: I think it helped me understand how to be alone, and to be okay with that. And that it's not, you know, the end of the world because I will get to see people and get to talk to people. It also taught me how to be more disciplined. Because when I went online, it was a lot of you can do it whenever you want. You can do this whenever you want. It's a lot of you have the option to do it. Where that usually helped me like I just started slacking with that until I realized I said, 'No, we got to have a schedule.' So it really helped me stick to a good schedule and a routine. It put me back on track with that to where I got to stay on top of everything, and I didn't fall behind. So I think, honestly, it was just a lot of self reflection. And when you have that time alone, you get to sit 00:54:00there in your own mind and think a lot so you kind of figured out you know, you know I am bisexual, I am going to continue school, I am going to work through this and all of that. And I think if I would have had everything going on, I probably wouldn't have had that time to sit and think through all of that.

GL: I want to backtrack a little bit more your major psychology? What made you decide to on that major?

LM: I've always loved psychology just because when I was younger, I wanted to understand myself and what's going on with me and why do I feel different than what I'm told I should be feeling. So that was a big first step. And then my second reason was because I love kids. I really think that I would love to help children have a better childhood so they can grow up to be better adults. So that kind of my ultimate goal of why I decided to do it


GL: great All right I think I think those are the only things I really want you to expand on. I appreciate the appreciate you coming and thank you for sitting with me