Interview with Nikki Censky, 11/11/2021

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
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´╗┐AK: This is Ashley Klopatek. I am interviewing Nikki Censki on November 16, 2021, for campus COVID stories. Instructor Grace Lim is also here with us. Campus COVID stories is a collection of oral stories from students and staff at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, about their experiences during 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?

NC: My name is Nikki Censky N-I-K-K-I C-E-N-S-K-Y.

AK: Okay, so we're just gonna get started with getting to know you a little bit. Um,where did you grow up?

NC: Germantown Wisconsin.

AK: Okay. And did your parents always grow up there?

NC: No. So my mom is from Green Bay Area. She went to college in Kentucky at University of Kentucky. My dad is from um New York, actually, originally, and he went to UW La Crosse.

AK: Okay, what do your parents do?

NC: They're both city planners. They have two side jobs also each, so they're 00:01:00busy people.

AK: Yeah. Okay. And when did you start thinking about going to college? Was it always Oshkosh, or what were you thinking

NC: Well, I applied to Madison. Winona, Oshkosh. And it starts with a B it's in Chicago, but I decided that I wanted to go to Oshkosh just because it's closest to my family. And I don't really like to be too far away. Because it's nice to be able to just go home on a weekend or, have them come up, especially because I was gonna play volleyball. So it's kind of nice.

AK: Okay, cool. So you played volleyball in college?

NC: I did my freshman year, but I quit halfway through, it just wasn't my thing.

AK: Totally understandable. So I'm gonna move on to some early COVID days questions. So were you in college when COVID started? Or were you in high school?


NC: I was in my senior year of high school when COVID became, in the United States, I think.

AK: Okay, so what was going through your mind when you found out that we had to go into quarantine for supposedly two weeks?

NC: Well, so I was actually at a volleyball practice, when we found out that we were going into quarantine. So none of us really knew what we were supposed to do. If we were supposed to be by each other. So all of a sudden, everybody started spacing out. And our coaches were like, we all have to go, the gym is closing, because they found out that schools were starting to close. So they came into our practice. And they were like, you guys can't be here sorry to interrupt, but you guys have to leave. And we all left. And we were calling our parents everybody's sitting six feet apart outside of the gym. And it was just really weird, because we were all, we didn't even really know about COVID. So we're like, is this gonna kill us? Is this gonna be, a huge thing? Or I don't know, it was just kind of an odd thing.

AK: So everyone was freaking out thinking that they're going to get sick automatically.

NC: Yeah. And I don't know, cuz a lot of people I heard the week before that 00:03:00Menominee Falls High School, which is our sister High School. One town over was getting let out of school for two weeks. So I was like, Oh, my God, they're so lucky. And then I was like, there is no way our school would ever do that. Our school is always the school that's like, you're going to school if there's 10 feet of snow. And so we just kind of, we're like, oh, cool they'll get out for two weeks, and then they'll come back and everything will be over with. But then we got an email that same day that I was at the volleyball practice, and they were like, we're going to be done with school for two weeks. And then later to find out we just we're never gonna come back to school, which is kind of weird. And nobody was expecting it. And it was a weekend. So, the last time you saw all your friends at school was, that Friday before? So I don't know. It was just a weird experience.

AK: So yeah, you talked about a little bit how you thought it was only gonna be two weeks and ended up not being. So tell me a little about that. How your senior year ended? How that made you feel?


NC: Yeah. So like I said, Menominee Falls got let out of school for two weeks. And I was in Foods class with all my friends so we were all chit chatting. And we're like, what are the odds we get let out, I want to get out of school for two weeks. And it was supposed to be spring break too. So it was just gonna be like spring break week, and then an extra two weeks for them to clean the school is what they said. And then after that period, I went to my sports education period, which is like a business class and I was really close to that profes.. or that teacher. And so I was talking to him and I was like, Oh my gosh, we're getting let out for two weeks and he was just kind of like, yeah, I don't think you guys are gonna be here for at all for the rest of the year. And he's like, the odds of that are so low colleges are shutting down nobody's going back to school and I was like, no way they're gonna cancel our entire year that's impossible. And, I didn't even think online school is a thing. So I was just thinking, we're not gonna have any school this is gonna be great. But


AK: Yeah, so during quarantine, obviously you, I'm assuming you've had to do some school though. But what else did you do during that period?

NC: So well, the school setup was a little dumb, they obviously high schools weren't really ready to have online school, nobody really had a backup plan, because what high school think, oh, we're gonna have to go online for half a semester. And so that was weird. But, in that aspect, it gave me a lot of free time, because the teachers didn't have curriculums or anything. And so we would have, for my example, sports education class, I would have to tell him type of sentence out what is something that you did this week that relates to this class, and that was my homework for the week. And then I was done. And my math class, it was she'd send out a piece of paper, and you'd have to write down the problem, solve them and send it to her we had so much extra time. So I got into 00:06:00a lot of different hobbies, me, and my friends would go to the sand volleyball courts that were at the parks down the street, and just a lot of outdoorsy stuff. Because everybody's in the house, it gets a little tense. So you just have to get out and do stuff.

AK: Um, so did you work throughout the pandemic? Because I know a lot of places were shut down.

NC: Yeah, so I had two jobs at the time of the pandemic, beginning and it was Chili's and then also a coffee shop called Latitudes. And Latitudes actually ended up shutting down for a little while, just because they get their coffee beans from out of the country. So they didn't really have a chance to get the coffee beans. So obviously, you can't really run with no beans. So that one shut down. And Chili's really picked up through the to-go. And at the time, I was the to-go person before COVID hit. And so all of a sudden every employee was a to-go 00:07:00person. And we would have 50 orders of takeout because the thing was, oh, let's go for a ride. Let's go get something to eat. And everybody wanted takeout. So, across the street was Culvers too and there to-go line, or their drive thru line was wrapping around the building going into the street, insane. And so is ours. It was just ridiculous.

AK: Yeah. So I'm gonna start talking a little bit now about what your COVID experience in college. Was your family scared? Or were you scared to go to college during a pandemic?

NC: Um, I mean, I was not, after having COVID, you just kind of realized how it goes. But, if I was blindsided I've never had it before, or anything, I probably would have been a little bit more nervous. But, I kind of knew how everything went, I was just a little nervous, because it's, you want to meet people. And, that's tough when there's no in person classes, and my parents were like, the 00:08:00only way I would ever let you or, think it's okay to take a gap year would be this year, because what's the point of paying for school, paying for the board and food and stuff, if you're not getting the experience that college should give you and also the classes, meeting people, my sister, my brother, both were like, Oh my gosh, all my friends. I met through classes I met through clubs, I met through soccer, whatever they do. And so it was just a little well, how am I supposed to meet people. So that's what kind of made me nervous. But then obviously, I had the volleyball team. So, it was kind of nice to know people going in, because we would video chat with everybody over the summer. And then I ended up meeting you because you were across the hall. And so it was kind of nice, our floor got really close. And everybody just kind of kept their doors open because we were trying to include everybody, get everybody to be social 00:09:00again, after all, the COVID had hit and everybody kind of knew how to deal with it like masks and stuff. So it's nice. We got really lucky with our floor, meeting each other.

AK: Okay, so you mentioned that you actually had COVID before was that before college or at college?

NC: So I have had COVID A total of four times apparently I'm very prone to it. But so the first time that I actually got COVID was way back in March when it hit like when people started finding out their schools were shutting down. I was before that and so before I and like I didn't really think anything of it because I didn't feel anything different but for volleyball once they heard that the strains were coming to the States. They made us get tested because we were going to state or no, that was freshman year. So the first time I had to get 00:10:00tested, because I was going to Florida for a volleyball tournament. And we had to get tested before we could get on the airplane. And my test came back positive. And I was like, what, how I don't have COVID. I don't feel any different. And then the very next day, I was like, I can't taste I can't smell my chest hurts all this stuff. And then my mom was like, I literally have had, nobody tell me that they've had COVID yet, this is so weird. And so we looked at the stats on the Wisconsin, CDC, whatever. And there were 16 cases before me. And then I got it and the 17th number popped up. So my mom was like, you're the 17th case in Wisconsin. And so I was like, that's so weird. And then my mom kind of started freaking out, because she's like, nobody else has had COVID I don't know what this is gonna do to you. I don't know if we can take you to the hospital, if they'll allow you to be there. And she was like, what do I do if 00:11:00you start having cardiac issues? So every day when I had COVID, she was like, you're going outside, you're going to take a walk. And she would make me stay on the phone with her. But she would make me go walk around the block and stuff. And so she but she, was so worried about me, but I was like Mom, I don't feel that bad. I really am fine. But she was very nervous. Because she's like, Nikki, we know nothing about this. None of our friends have had it none of our family. None of the doctors you're the 17th one, there's not even a medication for you. So she was like, just try Dayquil. I was like okay, Mom. But then I ended up getting it again. My freshman year with you. And that's how you and I became best friends was because we got stuck in quarantine together. And we had to go to this disgusting Webster Hall that literally there was dirty tissues on the 00:12:00ground of our rooms, we each got our own room. And everybody was like, they let us intermingle because we all had COVID. And I don't know if you're supposed to or not. But um, they, there were people in hazmat suits walking around, and I was like, Wow, I feel just at home here, this is really nice. And then we get to the bathrooms. And we walked into the bathrooms and it literally looked like a horror movie in there because it was all curtains and every shower stall had its own curtain. And I'm like, it was just weird, because it was like, this is how I'm spending the first week of my freshman year really, and I hadn't attended any classes. Neither did you. And we were both sitting there. We're like, how does college work? I'm literally about to figure out how college works from a secluded dorm where I literally can't get any help. And so we just kind of had to figure it out with each other. And then it was kind of funny meeting people 00:13:00there who were like, oh, I've been here for three weeks, I've been here for three days. I whatever, you know, and I mean, everybody had their own story. So they're like, Oh, we can help you with your school, if you need help, call this number if you need this, call this number if you need that. And so that was kind of nice. But then one night while we were there, you probably remember I called you and I was bawling my eyes out because I was like I literally can't breathe. And I was like, I don't know if I should call the ambulance. You didn't know if you should be calling the ambulance. And we just kind of sat there and I was like, I don't know what to do. So I called my mom. And she was like, I'm about to call the doctor are you sure you're okay, I was like, it just feels really heavy. And then it's kind of nerve wracking because you're about to go to sleep and you're like, well, I don't want to go to sleep if I don't think I'm gonna wake up. But I don't know, that was just kind of a weird experience. And then I got it again this year, twice, over the summer once and then over the school 00:14:00year, I came back positive and it was just kind of like, again really okay, but yeah, tough stuff. And both those times neither of those times the last time actually I didn't have any symptoms, I literally thought it was a false positive because and so did everybody else. And it actually turned out to be a false positive as far as we know. But um, because I got the rapid test done. And that one came back positive and then I went home I was like, I do not feel sick. And then I had a sinus infection. So I wasn't sure if that was why or if I had had COVID for like two weeks before and I just didn't know it and didn't get tested enough or something. But then I got two negative PCR tests. So I don't know if those that was a false positive or not, but we still had to quarantine and It was just kind of a crappy, crappy time.

AK: Yeah. So do you know anyone that either really struggled with having COVID 00:15:00or passed away from COVID?

NC: Yeah, so I knew two people who really got hit hard with COVID. And one of them was my dad, he lost 30 pounds, really sick, could not get out of bed. And he, so he's diabetic. And he's over the age of, 65, which are two big if you get COVID, you should get help type of things. And this was back when I got COVID My second time, because I think we got it from a wedding that we went to, because all of us got it. And my dad had got it. And he, after that wedding, he was just like, exhausted and didn't do anything, didn't want to eat, he couldn't taste anything. He still can't taste anything, actually. And it's been almost a year now. And he but he got the vaccine, and it, I guess reversed that. So he can taste and smell now, a little bit, certain things he can't but yeah, he got hit 00:16:00pretty hard with that. And then my friend Jenna, her dad was a firefighter. Everybody loved him in town. And, um, he was diabetic as well. And then he also had a heart condition. And he got COVID. And he actually passed away, which was really sad. But it was really cool afterwards, because, the whole fire department brought all their trucks, the police, everybody did a parade in front of their house, and we were all there to see it. And it was just kind of cool. And then they gifted, cuz he was fire chief. So he had his truck, but they gifted that truck to Jenna's family. Because he was their hero, or so call it I don't know. And, um, yeah, so. But back to my dad, it was just kind of nerve racking. I was very worried, because it's just like, you don't want to be after seeing Jenna's dad pass away and hearing about that. I'm like, What about mine? 00:17:00He better not, that's my dad. You know, he's very important to me. And I don't know. So I always wanted to go home and see him but obviously, I don't know. But we were stuck in quarantine in Webster. And then my brother was stuck in the Wolf Lodge. I will never get this. He had the nicest place to quarantine. And we were a resort. And he got his own hotel room, own couch own TV, mini fridge. All this stuff. I'm in cinderblock walls, the food was literally rock hard. You had to reheat it. And it was leftover Commons food from the day before. That was disgusting. And then I just wanted to go by my dad because my mom was there trying to take care of my dad, but you can't really get that close. So it was just, I don't know, hit a whirlwind.

AK: Yeah, I can definitely tell. That sounds very brutal. But so you mentioned that your dad got vaccinated? Did you ever end up getting vaccinated then?

NC: I did not. So I have a very irrational fear of needles. And I'm sure a lot 00:18:00of people have the same thing. But I just I pass out when I get shots, I'm that person who has to get seat belted into a chair, very bad with it. So, I've been avoiding it for so long. But also, after having COVID that many times I know how it feels and how it affects me. And also hearing the myths of what if you get infertile? What if you develop a heart condition? What if you throw a blood clot? Those worries really bring it up to? What do you do if that happens to you? Because I'm 18 I'm the person who wants a baby. I want to have a family when I'm older. It's just a risk factor risk factor to me, that worries me a lot. So I haven't and I don't know, I don't I probably will eventually once there's more studies done on it, but, and I'm not anti Vax. I definitely think 00:19:00people like I told my dad, I think he should get vaccinated and he did, my mom is vaccinated. I think that people who are at major risk definitely should or you working in health care, they probably should just because it's a preventable measure for the spread, but also just their own health, but knowing that it doesn't affect me in the way that affects other people. I didn't feel the immediate need to get it because I don't feel unsafe.

AK: So would it change your mind if instead of a shot, it was a pill?

NC: Oh, yeah, probably. I'd probably have it by now because you know, needles are needles. But if it was a pill it be kind of convenient for a lot of people too because you wouldn't have to go into the clinic to get a vaccine. Yeah I know a lot of people are worried about that. What if there's COVID in the clinic, so I'm sure people are avoiding it at that cost too. So and it'd be 00:20:00easier to distribute. So,

AK: okay, so, um, I want to talk a little bit more about college and COVID. So since we're now sophomores and COVID is still thing and we have restrictions. Do you feel like you missed out a lot on your freshman year even this year at UWO because of COVID?

NC: Oh, god, yeah. I don't know, when my sister was explaining college and listening to my brothers experiences in college. So my sisters, she's out of college, she graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran, she's been she has a family, kids obviously, college was a while back, but my brother, he's a senior in college right now. So he's had both experiences, and of, COVID College and regular, but, he was like, oh, football games are the best, everybody tailgates, everybody has so much fun. And you meet so many people through classes, there's so many activities to do on campus. And I was like, really I've not seen any of 00:21:00this, where is this? And so it was just kind of difficult, because you want the college experience, when you go to college, you don't want to just sit in your dorm room. So we tried our best to do that, we went out, we tried to go to all the activities that still were happening. And me being in volleyball is just kind of, we would have games but no fans allowed. And so it's just kind of a bummer. And, kind of quiet. And when we play those games, it was tough to be in the game too. Because, you just don't feel like you're actually it feels like a scrimmage. There's no fun in a scrimmage. The fun of the game is all the fans are watching. Everybody's loud. There's so much commotion going on. And I don't know, so kind of missing out on that was a bit a big bummer. Just because I don't know, that's part of the experience that you really look forward to. Especially after having half a semester off. You're like, okay, I can finally be 00:22:00with people again. But then you get here and it's, Psych nevermind, type of thing. But yeah,

AK: So when was the first time you guys were allowed to have fans? And what was it like?

NC: Um, well, the first time we were allowed to have fans, the fans were our parents and, immediate family only. So, my brother came, my sister came her kids came my parents and, that's the fan base that we had. And it was funny because the announcer was like, fans I can't hear you. And they were 16 parents sitting around and they're like, oh you got it. And I was like, this is so weird. And I actually quit before we could ever have an actual fan base. But now we go to the games and then we go to the games now and it's fun. There's a student section and all the parents are there the stands are full. So I'm sure that's more fun for the players and it feels more a event. But when I was playing it was just 00:23:00kind of, you kind of go and you're like, okay, it's a scrimmage.

AK: Um, can you say what sport you did again?

NC: Volleyball, women's volleyball.

AK: Okay. So, since things are slowly going back to normal here on campus, some places masks aren't mandated like the library, and in the dormitories. How do you feel about that? Going back to normal?

NC: Um, I'm really excited for it to go back to normal. I was just in the elevator with somebody. And I was like, I don't know if I recognize you, but I think I do. And I was like, were you in my geography class last year? And I was just like, cuz I think you were at my table. And she's like, Yeah, I thought I recognized you. I was like, I've never seen your whole face. This is so weird, not being able to recognize people, but you're seeing their whole face now. I recognize them more so just the top half of their face and their hair. So, 00:24:00that's kind of a little odd for me. But I don't know. And going back to, the social aspect of things is really convenient for me because I like to talk a lot. So it's convenient, because you can go back and be within talking distance of someone now, which is really fun for me. So.

AK: So with things going back to normal. What's your favorite part? What's something new that you've done this year? That's better than last?

NC: Well, definitely the football tailgates. Um, we have so much fun with those. And I had no idea how they worked because everybody was like, yeah, you're missing out on the tailgate. So I'm like what do you do that I'm missing out on what am I missing? And so our first one it was well okay, our second one was probably the best. So whenever the football team has a home game now we to go and tailgate in the parking lots, and everybody brings their parents everybody brings their friends. Everybody's there and our whole friend group gets together and we just play bags, we talk, we play music. Other fun things. It's so fun. 00:25:00And, I don't know, I'm sad that that didn't happen freshman year, because I feel like it would have made a bigger, I feel like we would have expanded a friend group into other freshmen too, which would have been nice, but they're back now. So

AK: yeah. So how do you think COVID has changed you? Whether it was from high school, college, or how long it's been going on? Do you think it's changed how you think or feel?

NC: Um, well, okay, so now, I feel like a little bit more of a germaphobe kind of, because, if I go to the gas station, now I pick up the handle, I pull my sleeve down over my hand, because I'm like, eww, I never thought about that before. But now I get there. I'm like this is so gross. And I keep hand sanitizer in every bag that I have, because I'm like, what if I touch something that has COVID on it, and I don't want to get quarantined again. And I don't know also just I feel like, on the contrary of what you would think would happen 00:26:00with this social things, being cooped up in your own bedroom for a year and not being able to talk to everybody. I feel like I haven't become less social. But I've become more social, because I'm like, I can finally do it again. And so I feel that has expanded a little bit for me. But for some people, I know that it's become a little harder, because they're so used to everything being online now. That the social cues and stuff aren't there for them because they missed their freshman year of college, which is where you really you're learning so much about people from all over the place, like how they socially work. And I don't know, it's just kind of like, you missed a chapter of your life type of thing. So

AK: I totally get that. So, since we kind of got impacted, I feel like almost the most when COVID hit us we were, we missed our senior year of high school our freshman year of college, and now it's impacting sophomore year. What do you think people are gonna think actually happen? 10, 15, 20 years down the road, 00:27:00that you'll know more about, like the younger generation, what do you think they're gonna think happened?

NC: Well, I always talk to my brother about this. And I'm always like, I feel like people in 30 years are gonna feel like the apocalypse happened when COVID hit by the way we talk about it, but living through it, obviously it's serious it's not something that just fluff around about, but, obviously, they were lives lost. But I also think that a lot of it is just, they're gonna think that everybody died, who got it everybody who experienced it was in the hospital, where it's like, I could live my normal life. Just I couldn't go out. It wasn't a serious, it was very serious for some people. But for my personal experience, it wasn't terrible. It wasn't over the top of, I did, obviously I had it four times, I would know what type of thing, you know, I didn't think it was as bad. 00:28:00I mean, it was kind of nice to have a quarantine, all the hobbies you could develop and all the fun things you could do.

AK: Um, is there anything else you want to add to share to the world for this story?

NC: Um, I would say, just, thinking back about COVID I'm kind of glad that I was a part of it kind of cool to live through a history like this. Because you hear about the flu epidemic and all this stuff. And it's like, now I'm waiting to see what it's going to look like in 15 years. Is it going to be like everybody gets the COVID vaccine, like they get the flu vaccine? Or is it going to be like this is going to pop up in people's history classes. And I'm going to be teaching my kids from my experiences. That's kind of weird to me, but cool at the same time.

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

NC: Yeah, of course.