Interview with Michelle Miller, 11/18/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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00:00:00

´╗┐TZ: This is Taycee Zach interviewing Michelle Miller on November 18 2021 for campus COVID stories. Instructor Grace Lim is also in the room with us. Campus COVID Stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh about their experiences in the time of COVID. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. First, could you please pronounce your name and spell it out for us?

MM: My name is Michelle Miller. M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E. M-I-L-L-E-R.

TZ: And what is your major, age, and year?

MM: My major is psychology. My age 20. And year-- oh, I'm a sophomore.

TZ: To ensure good audio recording, can you tell us again who you are?

MM: My name is Michelle Miller.

TZ: Could you tell me a little bit about where you grew up?

MM: I grew up in Neenah, it's about 20 minutes away from Oshkosh.

TZ: Tell me about your family, like your siblings and what do your parents do?

MM: My dad, he is the CEO of Multi-Conveyor. And then my mom, she's a substitute teacher.

00:01:00

TZ: How many siblings do you have?

MM: I have a twin sister, Monica, and then I have an older sister.

TZ: Did you always plan on going to college?

MM: Yes. I always planned on going to college.

TZ: And why did you choose to go to UW Oshkosh?

MM: I chose to go to UW Oshkosh because I did not want to live in a dorm. And I wanted to become a commuter student and since Neenah is only 20 minutes away from Oshkosh, I could just stay at home with my parents.

TZ: Alright, so at the beginning of COVID, how did you find out about COVID-19?

MM: The first time I heard about COVID-19, I was-- I was staying at a hotel and I was just flipping through Instagram. And then I saw a meme saying ''we survived Ebola', whatever. 'COVID isn't going to be a problem at all'. And then I don't know, I just went on with my day. This happened in January.

TZ: And what was your initial reaction to finding out you wouldn't be returning to high school? Because you were a senior in high school, right?

00:02:00

MM: Yeah. So well. First, I don't know COVID started getting bad in the week of March 13th. And I went to school on Friday the 13th, I didn't really think about it. I didn't think it would be my last day. And then I went home and we could go the next two days, but I decided to stay home because I'm immunocompromised and-- I don't know. I know I still thought we would be going back to school. I, like because I said, two weeks or so go back and I think April 7th or something like that. And then it kept getting pushed back and pushed back and we never went back.

TZ: When did you start noticing a panic over COVID?

MM: A panic-- I started noticing it the week that-- I guess the week that school was let out the Monday of. I just, it started slowly creeping up because my sister, she was going to UW Milwaukee, my oldest sister. And she lost her job 00:03:00because of COVID. And then she-- UW Milwaukee shut down on the Wednesday. And that's when I slowly started noticing everything.

TZ: Did you take COVID seriously at first or did it take a while to sink in?

MM: I feel like I took it seriously at first because my mom, she-- she has been, she was, she had health issues my junior year of high school and she had to spend time in the hospital. So the first time I heard about COVID I immediately thought of my mom and I was worried about her.

TZ: And so you were out of high school. You got sent home.

MM: Yeah.

TZ: So how were the last few months being online?

MM: I liked it. I'm an introvert.

TZ: Oh, back to your mom. Sorry. What kind of health issues did she have?

MM: Uh, we actually do not know. We don't know. Apparently, this was like, I 00:04:00guess spring of 2019. She had a virus that turned into sepsis. And we actually had to call 911 on her in July. She went to the hospital for a couple of days in the spring. And then she was fine. And then it came back in July and she had it, we had to call 911 on her.

TZ: Oh, wow. How did her recovery go?

MM: It was good. I don't-- Well, we never found out what happened. Wow. And once she got out of the hospital, it was fine. We actually went to Europe a week after.

TZ: Wow. So she hasn't had any issues since?

MM: No, but of course it's always in the back of my mind.

TZ: That's good. What a scare, though.

MM: Yeah.

TZ: All right. So the last few months of high school, back on track. What was it like being an online student?

MM: I actually liked it a lot. I hated going to high school. I hated the strict schedule that we had. Because I would never get enough sleep, I'll get six-seven hours, and I need a lot more than that. And so once I was online, it was 00:05:00actually nice for me because I could plan my own schedule. I was able to sleep in and I could do what I want when I wanted.

TZ: And was there anything that you struggled with at all during that period?

MM: During high school? No.

TZ: And did you have a graduation ceremony?

MM: I didn't have a ceremony per se. I had, we did a graduation parade where we all just went in our cars and drove throughout the town.

TZ: Is there anything that you feel like you missed out on with that last little bit of high school being gone?

MM: Yeah. I, because I was always looking forward to walking out of high school for the last time and knowing that I walked out. That didn't happen, that happened on a random Wednesday.

TZ: So with the summer of 2020, did you have a job before or when the pandemic hit?

MM: No, I did not have a job. Because I'm, I'm immunocompromised. I have Crohn's disease. So I just isolated most of that summer.

TZ: And was there any concern with finances in terms of your college education?

00:06:00

MM: No.

TZ: Well, that's good.

MM: Yeah.

TZ: Was anyone besides yourself in your family immunocompromised?

MM: Yeah, my dad is, too. He has diabetes and arthritis and other issues. My mom is, too. She has, I forgot the name of it. But she has another immunosuppressed.

TZ: And how strict did your family follow the CDC guidelines in the beginning?

MM: We followed it pretty strict at first from March/April, we made sure to isolate ourselves pretty well. But then once summer came along, we started to isolate and wear masks and stuff, but still try to live life at the same time.

TZ: And did the pandemic ever make you consider a gap year?

MM: No. I always knew I'd be going to Oshkosh.

TZ: So what effects did the first quarantine have on your family dynamics?

MM: Nothing really changed. I was living with my mom and my twin sister and my 00:07:00dad. And it just came along. My sister was living in Milwaukee, my oldest sister was living in Milwaukee at the time. So I guess we kind of didn't spend as much time with her because I was worried about her because I didn't know what she was doing in Milwaukee. And I didn't want her to come on the family. This was spring 2020.

TZ: Gotcha. And did COVID affect the jobs of your parents at all?

MM: No, my dad, he still continued to go to work. He was actually considered essential because he makes conveyors and-- the vaccine, you need a conveyor to help make it so he was making the vaccine conveyors. So nothing impacted him.

TZ: So in your family unit, were there any issues with addiction or mental illness?

MM: Well, yeah, my older sister, she was in Milwaukee, and she was isolated from us. And throughout the year, she did end up getting addicted to opioids.

TZ: Oh, wow.

MM: Yeah.

TZ: And so how did you guys overcome that? How did she overcome that? Is she sober?

00:08:00

MM: Yes, she is. I think-- she moved home in July. And so the whole year of 2020 and I guess 21 until summer she was in Milwaukee. And then she moved home in July. And she's been sober since.

TZ: July of this year?

MM: Yeah, July of this year.

TZ: Gotcha. So, what did you do the summer before college, in terms of planning for college?

MM: Oh, I remember that. It was, I feel like because I don't know, I never experienced signing up for college, you had orientation here, whatever. It was all online. And that was so difficult for me, because I don't know what the issue is. But I have such a big issue with signing up and passwords and stuff online. So I was spending hours on my computer trying to sign up for classes or, I don't know, just sign up to school and get financial stuff and everything figured out. I would spend hours.

00:09:00

TZ: Did you have orientation with your advisor?

MM: Yes.

TZ: How did that go?

MM: It was pretty good.

TZ: Yeah?

MM: Yeah.

TZ: So did COVID impact any relationships you had with friends from high school?

MM: Not really, I, I have two friends. And we, I don't know, our relationship is-- we can-- It's not like we have to see each other every day. We can go weeks without seeing each other. And then we just pick up back where you left off.

TZ: Gotcha. Did you have any concerns regarding your own mental health at all?

MM: No. Like I was saying, I'm very introverted so I kind of liked it. It actually helped my mental health.

TZ: Do you think COVID changed any aspect of yourself that summer prior to college?

MM: No, I don't think so.

TZ: No? And how did COVID affect how you thought of going to college?

MM: I was actually more excited.

TZ: Yeah?

MM: Because I did not have to go to class. I could just do it from my bedroom and I liked online classes in high school. So I was like, 'Oh, I don't have to 00:10:00go to college! I can just do it from my bedroom and still get stuff done' but not have to, I guess, go to lectures or do, I don't know. I loved having open note exams.

TZ: I miss those.

MM: Yeah.

TZ: So in the fall of 2020, did you have any safety concerns as you entered your first year at UWO (University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh)?

MM: No, I feel like by that time, I wasn't as panicked over it. I still wore my mask and everything, but I felt pretty safe.

TZ: Did COVID impact your choice of whether or not you stay more on campus or off campus? Did you choose to come on campus?

MM: I had a Spanish class that I chose to come on campus for just because I was worried about how well I was going to do in it. So I made sure to go on campus for that one. But otherwise, everything else was online.

TZ: And did you have any concerns about the social aspect-- making friends, going out to parties, doing that kind of thing?

00:11:00

MM: Oh, no, because I knew everybody else was going through the same thing. So I didn't worry about it.

TZ: Did you have any in person classes besides your Spanish class? Or were you strictly online besides that Spanish class?

MM: I was strictly online besides that Spanish class.

TZ: Where'd you do your work?

MM: I had, I have a desk in my room that I did most of my work on. Sometimes I would do it in Clow, because I would have Spanish and then I would have an online class right after that, so I would do some work there. But otherwise, it was on my desk in my room.

TZ: And since you were and continue to be a commuter, did you feel like your college experience was changed at all due to COVID?

MM: Yeah, I did feel like it was changed. I didn't realize how much it was changed until I actually went to campus this semester. But I don't know. Like I said, I'm fairly introverted, so I didn't feel that-- feel like I was missing out on anything.

TZ: And did you join any available clubs during the fall?

MM: No.

TZ: No? Didn't find anything interesting?

00:12:00

MM: No, I guess I just didn't really look for it. I knew because nobody was really on campus, I would go there and there would be nobody there. So I didn't really think about clubs, because I don't know, I just, I didn't want to be on a club that was online. I just thought that was kind of dumb.

TZ: I don't blame you. What was the biggest challenge when it came to being online or just your first semester in general?

MM: Well, one of the biggest challenges was the Spanish class that I was talking about, we did not get a placement test because this was early summer. So my advisor just said, 'why don't you do Spanish 312?'. So I was like, 'Sure, whatever'. I was in Spanish in high school. And then I went there, I got a B on my first exam. So I'm like, 'Oh, this, this is going to be fine'. But it just got worse from there. And I was not in the right class. And no matter how much I studied, I would fail the test because you can't go back and study for an exam when you're two years behind the class that's not going to work and I couldn't 00:13:00drop out because of financial reasons. So I just had to stick it through.

TZ: So, well, was it an advanced Spanish class?

MM: Yeah, it was Spanish, it was like a junior class. I have no idea what I was doing in that class.

TZ: That sounds like me with my history class I had to take. And-- so did you get a job during the fall semester?

MM: Not the fall semester. I got a job-- So in January, I always volunteered at a place called St. Vincent DePaul, and they were starting up the food pantry in February. So then, I got lucky and I got the job with the food pantry and I love it.

TZ: So you've been working there since February?

MM: Yes.

TZ: So what do you do at your job?

MM: I'm the one who goes out and helps the people coming into the food pantry. I'm the one who signs them in. I'm there to [unclear] when they go out so we get accurate recordings of what they do. Sometimes I guess when I'm not in school, I fill the food pantry, too.

TZ: Did COVID have an impact your job at all?

00:14:00

MM: Yes, well, I don't know what working at a food pantry is like before the pandemic because I started in the middle of it. But I guess-- well, because we do have limits of how many people can go and then once--

(Undistinguishable sound)

MM: Okay. And then we first started back when there was still a mask mandate, and some people were not happy. I remember-- well, I don't want to go into specifics, but some people were not happy about it at all. So we had to--

TZ: Did you see anything crazy working at the food pantry like that?

MM: No, some people got a little cranky. But I'd always call my manager and she would take care of it.

TZ: Did school impact your job at all?

MM: School? No, because it was online. So I was really lucky because I could plan my own schedule. So my job, it's from Wednesdays from one to six. And then 00:15:00on Saturdays, that's when the food pantry is open. So it worked out good. I actually probably got the job because I could make my Wednesdays free.

TZ: So moving on to the spring of 2021, how was the spring semester different than the fall semester?

MM: Oh, the spring semester, I had all my classes online.

TZ: Was it easier to, well, I guess it was easier to adjust, wasn't it?

MM: Yeah. Because I didn't have that-- oh, my God, I did not have that Spanish class anymore. So I could actually focus on other stuff, which is really nice.

TZ: And did your social life change at all from fall to spring?

MM: No.

TZ: No? Were you-- Did you come on campus, even though you're online?

MM: No.

TZ: No?

MM: No, I was pretty much at home.

TZ: And were professors helpful at all during the 2020 to 2021. school year?

MM: I guess they will. I mean, I didn't know anything different. So I guess that sometimes I was confused. Like, 'is this the difference between high school and college? Or is this just the pandemic?' And you couldn't really tell the difference. So I didn't know.

00:16:00

TZ: Did anybody in your family, since you were home, did anybody contract COVID?

MM: Well, I actually got COVID. A month ago, I was I think I got it from my biology lecture. And the first thing I noticed is that I could not smell or taste anything. It was actually confusing, confusing to me, because I lost my smell and taste on Monday night. But my aunt's dog just died. So I was crying all the time. So I'm like, 'Oh, I just have a plugged nose'. Then I went to school the next day thinking 'oh, I just have a stuffy nose'. But then I woke up-- And then, on like Tuesday night, I woke up and my nose was clear. And I was like, 'I still cannot taste or smell anything'. And I'm like, 'Oh God, I'm pretty sure I have COVID'. So then I got tested, and I did have COVID.

TZ: What were your symptoms?

MM: I had a little bit of shortness of breath, but I say this, because it's ironic because people always complain about not being able to wear masks because you can't breathe in them. The only time I have not been able to breathe in a 00:17:00mask is when I had COVID.

TZ: And do you have any long lasting symptoms that have lingered?

MM: I don't think so. I was thinking last night even. I'm like 'is my smell back to normal? I can't really tell'. Because sometimes I feel like I can taste and smell stuff if I go right up to it, but I can't just walk into a room. And you know how you walk into a room and rooms have smells? I can't even smell that anymore.

TZ: Really?

MM: Yeah.

TZ: And how did you take precautions like isolation and everything to keep your family healthy?

MM: Well, I didn't have to isolate from my mom because she ended up getting COVID because I didn't realize right away that I had COVID, so I was just out and about. And I was really cranky, and I wanted my mom the-- the day before so she ended up contracting it from me. And then-- yeah, I stayed in my room most of the time because my twin sister, she was in a math class and she was like 'if you get me sick, I can't go to math and I'm going to fail so you better stay in 00:18:00your room!'

TZ: Does your mom have any long lasting symptoms, do you know of?

MM: I think she-- she actually got it worse than me. She ended up getting really sick. She, she wasn't vaccinated. And then she ended up getting mononucleic acid. I don't know what it-- the, like, a transfusion that it really helped her and I feel like she would have ended up getting really sick if she didn't get that. But she got lucky. And she, the first time when she heard that I had COVID, she was calling the doctors talking, trying to know about this mononucleic thing.

TZ: So you were vaccinated when you got it?

MM: I was vaccinated. But then as I was saying I'm immunosuppressed. So I think that has something to do with it. Because the medicine I take-- I was never fully vaccinated.

TZ: Gotcha.

MM: Because my twin sister, she was vaccinated and she didn't get it.

TZ: Oh, really? Was she fully vaccinated?

MM: Yeah.

TZ: Huh. So on the topic of vaccines, did you feel more comfortable on campus when the vaccines became readily available?

00:19:00

MM: Oh, yes, I did. I guess-- kind of. Shouldn't have been, but I was.

TZ: And prior to you getting the vaccine since you were a commuter, did you have to get tested on campus when the vaccine wasn't available?

MM: No, I don't think in fall of 2020 we needed to get tested. The reason I got vaccinated was because I did not want to get tested every two weeks. I feel like they just would have been a pain in the butt. So I got vaccinated in August. I'm like 'I am not doing this'. So I went and got vaccinated.

TZ: Of this year?

MM: Yeah.

TZ: Gotcha. So how did you feel about the VAX Up campaign on campus?

MM: I, I guess kind of good because, well, I guess I didn't really have an opinion. I was vaccinated. So I'm like, 'doesn't really matter what other people do'. Well, after I got COVID I was like, 'maybe people should get vaccinated because it's obviously not working because I'm still getting COVID'.

00:20:00

TZ: So how do you feel that things are getting back to normal and society?

MM: I don't know, I kind of-- this is going to sound weird because people are so excited, but I'm like, 'I kind of miss being at home'. Because I'm really introverted and an introvert's, I don't know, dream is when everything's canceled, and you're just gonna sit at home. And like, when I was younger, I'd be so excited when a soccer game was canceled, and then COVID happens and suddenly, everything's canceled. So I kinda, I miss that feeling. But I wouldn't want that to happen again, obviously, because now that I'm on campus, I like being on campus.

TZ: So what would school have to be for you to call it normal, your perspective of normal?

MM: I don't know. I guess I feel like it's already back to normal. I don't know, because I have a lecture hall. The only thing that's different is we're wearing masks and masks don't really bother me.

00:21:00

TZ: Are there aspects of yourself that you think COVID changed for the better?

MM: I don't know. I feel because COVID was my senior year of high school was when it hit and I'm a sophomore in college. So I feel like, I don't know-- I feel like most of my changes in my perspective is just getting older. Not really anything COVID did.

TZ: And how do you think or how do you hope the world has changed?

MM: I hope that you can actually take sick days because of this, because now that things are getting more back to normal, I don't think it's going to happen. But because when you're sick, you can stay at home, which would be nice. Because before I had a teacher who would go to school and like I was saying, I have Crohn's disease, so I don't want to get sick. And she would, she had the flu. And she was at school. And I was like, 'Get away from me, I do not want you here'. So I'm just maybe with COVID people who are sick will stay home so they 00:22:00don't make other people sick. But I don't know about that. Because people are already going to work sick and going to school sick, so I don't think it will actually.

TZ: And how do you think future generations will feel looking back on this historical event in their textbooks?

MM: I don't know. I guess it depends on how COVID actually ends because-- will it ever go back to normal? I feel like COVID is going to end up being like the flu because there's so many variations. So you always have to get vaccinated against it. Then I don't know. I don't know when the masks are gonna come off.

TZ: Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

MM: No, I think that's all.

TZ: Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We appreciate your contribution to the Campus COVID Stories at UW Oshkosh.

MM: Thank you.