This is not the senior year Victoria “Tori” Kost x’21 expected. After three years of study and of competing as a UW rower — of “gaining a little wisdom,” in her words — she thought her last year at the UW would be part celebration, part preparation for her next chapter. The neurobiology major plans to graduate in May and pursue advanced study to become a physician’s assistant. But instead of capping her Badger career with a victory lap around Madison, she’s studying from her home in Hartland, Wisconsin, and chatting with her friends virtually.
What are you up to?
I’m just doing homework and excited for the weekend.
But what’s a typical week like for you right now?
I’m actually home right now. I am enrolled in five classes. All of my classes are online or have the option to be online. Some of them have in-person options. One of my labs, if you are on campus, you can go to class. But most of the teachers have uploaded all their material so it is accessible virtually. I just wake up in the morning, usually around 7:30, just crank out as much homework as I can. A lot of my classes are asynchronous, so I don’t have to be on. I can choose to do my homework and take my classes and watch lecture whenever I want. That's three out of the five of my classes. Then the other two, it’s 6 on a Tuesday, I have to go to lecture, and that’s an hour and a half. We do it over a Zoom call.
What are you studying?
Classes I’m taking this year are Psych 460, which is child development, and an English class called Medicine and Literature, talking about how we use literature to define medicine and pain and stuff like that. There’s another English class — it basically talks about how health affects the environment and vice versa. Then I have two anatomy classes. One is the lecture portion of anatomy. Then the other part of it is the lab portion of anatomy.
Did you decide you’re going to stay home before the semester started?
Actually, my dad had an accident and broke his back. He fell out of a tree, trimming trees. I decided conveniently, all my classes are online. That way I can stay home. I also work during the day. I try and crank out as much homework and do all my classes during the day. Then I work for my parents. They own a company that remodels apartments. I’ll do a lot of remodeling in the afternoon, do apartment showings, cleaning, stuff like that.
Are you still on the rowing team?
We’re still practicing, just virtually. What was supposed to happen was our coaches and the boathouse personnel made this protocol so it would be easier to practice socially distanced. So we’re going to go on pods. Your pods have to be on the water at this time. You have to be off the water so the next pod can get on. You can’t talk to anyone outside your pod. Your pods are basically your roommates or whoever is really close to you.
How big is a pod?
It’s four or five girls. It was based on roommates. If you had all rowing roommates, that would be your pod. I live with one other rower, but she’s a coxswain. She doesn’t actually do the rowing. We would still be together. Just, I would have to find one other person who is also the only rower. Then we would row together. The maximum of boats that they were going to have, or the biggest boats they were going to have us row in, were singles and doubles. Only one or two people in a boat. In the summertime, they canceled all of our competition, so it’s just practicing.
Was that true during the two-week pause on in-person instruction?
Before they put that plan into place, they told us that we can all grab the rowing machines. They just stopped at street corners and had us meet them there and take our rowing machines home with us to just erg by ourselves. I [also] go on runs or something like that, just to stay fit. Then with the announcement of football, I was hopeful, like, “All right, are they going to let us practice and come back?” So we haven’t had any information on whether we are able to come back and be training in-person, but we’re still really hopeful. So we are practicing just by ourselves and then hopefully, we’ll be able to come back at least for a couple months before we have to go home for winter break. Then hopefully, we can come back in spring when the real season actually starts.
Where do you keep the rowing machine?
Just sitting in my living room. It tilts up so that it’s supposed to simulate rowing up water, obviously. Actually, it’s such a good workout that my dad wanted to try and do it, but now that he had his accident, he can’t really try it.
How often do you have team meetings?
Once a week. So we try to do once a week team meetings just to check in. I’m on SAESO. That’s an organization called Student-Athletes Equally Supporting Others. I do meetings with them all the time. They’re putting together the Big Ten voter initiative. We’re trying to get a hundred percent of eligible student-athletes registered to vote and then vote on Election Day.
How often do you see your UW friends?
We Snapchat and text every day, throughout the day. Emailing, I don’t think we really email. That’s more just for like ... I don’t want to say an old person’s game. Email’s great. But it’s just like, I respond a lot faster via text. But then Zoom calls, we try to do once a week. It doesn’t always happen like that, but we try to do it once a week, maybe for an hour or so.
What do you miss about Madison?
Back at school, I did have a job. I worked at the UW large animal vet hospital. I definitely miss [that]. It was super cool.
I imagine this is not the senior year you were dreaming of.
Oh, no. I was totally envisioning going to football games. I was thinking we’re going to go to the farmers’ market every week. We’re going to just do roommate things and teammate things and have a kick-ass season this fall, but I guess it didn’t happen. We’re making the most out of it. I will say that. We’re trying to do the best we can in the situation we’re given. That’s all we can ask for, honestly.