Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ballet in Poland vs. Ballet in the United States, part 2:

When I found out I was going to be studying at Hockaday, I could not have been happier. I read all about the dance program and was excited to become a part of it. Thanks to ASSIST students that have gone to Hockaday before me, I found out that Hockadance has an amazing reputation. When I arrived, I wasn’t sorted into a group that I wanted, blame it on jet-lagged audition or not enough places in higher group, at first I was devastated, later I realized that even though it could have been more challenging, I wouldn’t trade my dance class for any other.

dance studio at Hockaday


There were five groups of Hockadance, which had classes in two dance studios. I was a part of group called DanceWorkshop II, which had classes in a studio in fitness center building. I fell in love with that dance studio. Instead of usual rectangular shape of a room, its two walls were turned into glass semicircle. It was inspiring to dance and be able to look outside and absorb the wonders of the world outside. I think that was one of the loveliest spots on school campus.


Small dance studio
The experience of Hockadance was completely different from the one I’ve been used to for the past thirteen years of my dance life. Before, I had mostly ballet classes, filled with repeating the same routines over and over again. I’m not saying that it is a bad method of teaching because it certainly does create a good dance technique, but sometimes it can get really boring (especially when one is not training to become a professional dancer…) At Hockaday, our main focus was on exploring different dance styles. Even though I sometimes missed pointe shoes work, I was happy I could learn something new. It allowed me to try dance moves and styles I thought I never would. And the most exciting part was that we had so many amazing opportunities to perform in front of various audiences.

As a fairy of Neverland
In the fall, all dance classes put together a “Peter Pan” production. Each group was responsible for different parts of the show; there were the pirates, lost boys, fairies, and of course Peter Pan and Wendy. It was around that time, when I first saw how the girls in the best group called “Hockaday Dance Theatre” danced. Most of them were seniors, who have been in the Hockaday dance program for years. I have to admit that I was. Their level of dance was as good as I’ve seen back in the days in ballet school in Warsaw, if not better. I never thought that it is possible to achieve such level without professional school based training. From that day, I wished that I could have such private dance classes as they did, after I left ballet school. I knew it was impossible, so I tried to enjoy as much of the dance program as I could.

In my Indian dance costume
Out of many opportunities I will never forget the time we learned an Indian dance. It was taught to us by an ex-Bollywood actress, whose daughter was in my dance class. We were certainly the most interesting act at our school’s performance. During performing, we wore Indian dance outfits that were the most extraordinary costumes that I ever wore for dance. They were of bright colors, with amazing accessories that made it difficult to move around, let alone dance. Many of out school mates believed that it didn’t had to do much with dancing, nor that I was difficult to learn! How little did they know! The dance was filled with seemingly easy steps and moves that actually were almost impossible to perform. We, as contemporary dancers specializing in ballet and modern dance are not prepared to do this kind of moves. Every little gesture and movement was important! For example, try bending your middle and ring finger, leaving the rest straight. See? Not easy at all!  I know I probably would never try such an exotic dance back home so I am happy that I had a chance to do it.

I also performed at South Dallas Festival and Dance Planet. These were Dallas based festivals during which I was able to see more of the dance world of Texas. I especially loved Dance Planet at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Why? I simply loved the place. It felt like I materialized into one of the “Step Up” movies. I’ve never seen a school like that before. I also had the chance to perform a duet in classical ballet on pointes, which was my biggest achievement in my dancing career.
video


I will never forget my experience with the dance program at Hockaday. Being a dancer is about exploring your possibilities, pushing the boundaries and becoming whoever you want to be. Thanks to my dance program I was able to do that and much more…

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ballet in Poland vs. Ballet in the United States, Part 1:


In March, I was invited to the graduation show of the Warsaw Ballet School. It was not just a concert to me. It was a bittersweet comeback to the “Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa” in Warsaw, the home of Polish National Ballet, to watch my own class graduate. Seeing my classmates, I saw the other way my life could have gone, but never went. The scent of the theater, the atmosphere, all the familiar faces and the stage sent me on a stroll down the memory lane…

Ever since I remember, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina. My parents signed me up for ballroom dancing when I was five, and even though my dance partner and I won a gold medal in our dance studio’s competition, I was complaining all the time that it wasn’t ballet.  Finally, I took my first ballet classes when I was six. I was one of the bravest kids in my group, I always wanted to have a solo and I always did my best, always stood first in line, and always was the first to volunteer for dance improvisation.

At the age of nine, I was sure I was destined to become a famous ballet dancer. My dance teacher asked me to dance at a bridal fashion show, which was a big deal of a little girl. Later that year, I received an award for being the best dancer in the group that year. It was a little statue of a dancer, painted to look gold. It wasn't a huge prize but it had a great emotional value to me. This little statue stands on my shelf to this day.


after receiving the award for the best dancer in the group
dancing at the bridal fashion show

That same year I auditioned for ballet school, and finally I started my professional ballet education at the age of ten. In the beginning, it was like a dream come true. Ballet classes every day plus any additional education that is needed for a professional dancer. There were lessons in recognizing notes and musicality, folk dance, and stretching, and even more to come in next grades! All the training was supposed to prepare us to become professional dancers, ready to work in theaters around the globe. What else could a ten-year-old with a big dream ask for?

In ballet school, aged 11
It didn’t take a lot of time for me to realize that it was far away from what I expected. After spending four years at a dance studio where teachers wanted us to achieve our dreams and encouraged us a lot, it felt like a bucket of cold water was thrown on me. My ballet teacher turned out to be not very supportive and even devilish in her comportment. She only complimented the same three kids she favored, always making sure that the others felt insecure. It was very old-schooled way of teaching, which not only did not improve our dancing skills but also took away the strength to keep practicing, and gave us nightmares. One single look into her eyes felt like looking in the eyes of Basilisk. There were girls who cried before ballet classes, who faked sickness not to come. There were those who simply shook and trembled whenever teacher approached or was about to say something. Some of them even ended up on deciding to leave ballet school just because it was too much pressure for them. For the teachers it wasn't a big deal. We all knew that this is the way how the ballet schools work like in Eastern Europe, and ballet school in Warsaw was strongly influenced by the teaching methods of Russian ballet in the past.

However, I cannot say it was THAT bad. I did get to live a tiny bit of my dream. I got the chance to dance in a real ballet with Polish National Ballet. It was “Tristan”, an adaptation of “Tristan and Isolde”, a ballet choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor, the director of the Polish National Ballet. Some of my other classmates and I were hired to dance the role of little children from the village, who are being saved by Tristan, when the villain Mortholt tries to kidnap them. It was rather a tiny role involving lots of running around the stage but I danced it with passion. Five minutes on stage with professional dancers felt like five minutes in heaven. Some people say the small roles don't matter but I personally think they are the most important! Without us the show would fall apart. Once, when we were in the middle of the dance, one of the boys tripped me by accident and I fell down, hurting my arm. It was an excruciating pain, but I had to get up in only seconds. If I didn’t get up, the principal dancer would run into me and I would ruin the show. Luckily, I managed to get up and save the show. For spectators we were just tiny kids appearing in the show for a moment, a crowd on stage. I am sure that many of them don’t even remember that there were kids in that ballet, but for me the magic of those moments will stay forever, I will remember it for the rest of my life.

backstage, dressed in the costume for "Tristan"

When I was thirteen I had to leave ballet school, I was told I was too tall. I simply grew faster than my other classmates. That year eight of the tallest girls from our class were asked to leave. I knew I didn’t deserve to leave, I knew that there were other girls who danced far worse that I did. They had only one advantage; they were little. I can only speculate that the teachers were afraid we would get too tall and that there would be no male dancers strong and tall enough to pick us up when needed to.
Funny enough, I haven’t gotten that much taller since. My shoe size hasn’t changed since 7th grade. Now I know I have perfect figure and height for ballet, but how would they know it back then? From that and perhaps some other inexplicable reasons they didn’t allow us to stay.

Looking back, I am glad that I left ballet school. Back then, I was totally broken, I couldn’t imagine my life without being a dancer. I saw it as the end of my life. I know it now, I was wrong. If it didn’t happen, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post today. Leaving ballet school led me to making different choices, focusing on my education that led me to higher academic achievements and my exchange year in the United States. Having stayed in ballet school, I would only learn the profession, not the academics, and I would have never gotten the chance to spend an amazing year in Texas.

I never stopped dancing. I never could. I joined a group from the dance studio I used to attend before going to ballet school, and I was quite satisfied. Only with time, I noticed the effects of lacking regular practice. To stay in shape I should practice at least three times a week. I wished I could practice on the same level as I used to in ballet school, but I knew it was impossible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find ballet classes that have level as good as those in ballet school. At the time there were no studios that offer this level of ballet, and I didn’t want to primarily dance other dance styles. Even though, I was lucky. I was a part of one of the best groups in my dance studio (and still am). Dance has always brought me so much joy, and being outside ballet school allowed me to do it just for fun. There was no more screaming of the teacher or repeating one exercise countless times just because someone didn’t point their feet enough. I had the advantage of professional training that allowed me to establish my position in the group. The teacher finally appreciated me and classes were pure pleasure. I started learning jazz and modern dance. I was happy to dance in competitions and different shows with my friends. I was happy I could still do it and have solos, and not stand in the back row. I was reconciling with the idea of never becoming a professional dancer. They took away to become a professional for me but they couldn’t take away my passion.

dancing at the dance studio concert after leaving ballet school

Even though, I knew I was happy in my new life, I used to think a lot about it a lot. I always wondered “what if?”

“What if?” is one of the most powerful questions. It not only allows us to dream but it also allows the past to enslave us. A question that cannot be answered. It keeps us awake at night, always bothering, hanging like a shadow over head, asking what could our life be like, if we made a different choice or got one more chance. That same thing happened to me.  I kept thinking and thinking about what could have happened if I got the chance to stay in ballet school. It kept me up all night a couple of times, and even when I thought I forgot, each time I went to see a ballet; it kept coming and coming back. This question kept bothering me until I lived through two major events in my life.

Only after attending dance classes in Dallas last year, and going to see that graduation concert last month allowed me to let go off the question and let go off the past...


To be continued…


video
at the ballet studio concert, third from the left 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The time I visited Harvard University…


Friday, March 11, 2016
10:45 A.M.
I am sitting in a conference room in a hotel in Warsaw. I look around and I see other young people; around twenty-eight of them. They are as excited and nervous as I am. In the middle of the room, I can see both Polish and American flags placed next to the United States Embassy podium. This is it, our one chance. I am among mentees chosen for the U.S. Embassy and the Fulbright Commission’s EducationUSA mentoring program.  The best, and for many of us, the only opportunity to get help and important advice, when applying to American Colleges. Soon we will hear a welcoming speech by the. U.S. Embassy, Cultural Attaché Kenneth Wetzel. In a moment or two, each of us will come up to the podium and will be presented with a certificate that confirms our acceptance to the program.

Now, I think I have to explain some things. It is a very prestigious program for people who live outside of the United States. To get a spot we had to complete an application and win a competition. Apart from submitting our transcripts, we had to write an essay, give testimony of outside of school engagement and explain why we dream of studying in the United States. We were chosen from over 170 applicants. For all of us it is a great honor just to be in the program, and to be noticed by the U.S. Embassy, and the Fulbright Commission.  Even though, it does not grant us becoming a student of any U.S. college, it can help us a lot. Many of us have no idea about how to apply to American Colleges. We do not have college counseling in high school that can help us to find the perfect university. We do not have anyone who can explain to us how the SAT, the Common App, or The College Board work like. This opportunity given to us by this program is the one thing that can help us!
posing at the U.S. Embassy podium

For the past two days, I have learnt a lot about how to apply. We spent long hours listening to multiple presentations concerning topics like how to choose a perfect school, understanding Common App, writing your essay, financing your studies etc. It is not so easy to get a scholarship as a foreign student! Some of you might not know that there are only six colleges in the U.S. that offer need-blind admission for international applicants! Those are Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Dartmouth College (which is said to be withdrawing from this policy in near future), Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst College.

For those of you who do not know what a need-blind admission is, I’ll allow myself to quote Wikipedia’s definition;

Need-blind admission is a term used in the United States denoting a college admission policy in which the admitting institution does not consider an applicant’s financial situation when deciding admission.

For many of us that is the only way to be admitted into college. When one does not have enough money to pay for his or her studies, some colleges are more likely to reject application of this applicant. That is why applying to colleges with need-blind policy is a safer way, however not an easier one! Universities like Harvard, Princeton or Yale are not easy to get into at all! Apart from amazing SAT scored and perfect GPA, one has to have an outstanding personality. How to do that? I don’t know yet. I’ll explain you if I succeed! So far, I know it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
Even though it is not easy to become a student at a great school, no one is going to be stopped from trying or dreaming about a school like that! I advise you to try to reach your dreams, because you’ll never know until you try. Those past two days, w got to meet some of Alumni of U.S. colleges. Talking to two Harvard Alumni, I remembered the time I visited Harvard University.

It was back in August 2014, during the orientation in Boston for my year in the States with ASSIST. Apart from being able to meet amazing people from all around the world, we got the chance to visit the world’s most known university.

Entering the campus of founded in 1636 university I had chills. Until that moment, I could even question the existence of this wonderful place. Looking at the buildings, I saw the centuries of tradition. Founded by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvad was originally called “New College”. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is the oldest higher learning institution in the United States. I find it quite amusing that Harvard University is situated in a town called Cambridge, which always reminds me of Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.  Coincidence?
The Harvard Yard

Harvard University obtained his current name after clergyman John Harvard; who donated half of his estate and his books to the university upon his death in 1638. During our Harvard tour, we were able to see his statue that stands in Harvard Yard. He looks very majestic, sat in a chair, with American Flag waving above his head. Tour guides told us that we can rub his toe for luck. Some people believe that if you rub the toe of the statue it will not only bring you luck but also that you will return to Harvard as a student one day. That is probably why many people touch the shoe, polishing it every day.
John Harvard Statue


The Harvard Yard itself was full of colorful chairs and visitors. Walking around, I was reminded of the times I used to watch Legally Blonde a lot and I dreamt of studying at Harvard Law School. The campus was really picturesque and breathtaking. It was like walking around promise land. From my visit there I especially remember seeing the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library. It was founded by the mother of Harvard alumna Harry Elkins Widener who was a book lover and who died in the sinking of Titanic in April 1912. I think that the history of this building remains in my memory because I am fascinated by the tragic history of Titanic. Also it is simply impossible to forget the colossal size of the library and the way it makes you feel so small yet so eager to just walk inside and start reading. 
the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library
After the tour, filled with many new dreams and inspirations we went to a university store and bought a lot of Harvard souvenirs. And by saying a lot, I mean A LOT! Almost every out of 170 ASSIST scholars bought a Harvard sweater. We must have looked very funny or like real Harvard students. My friends and I were asked twice whether we were students of Harvard. Both situations were funny but at the same time a bit flattering. It was nice to hear that someone would think that we are students of Harvard University because going to Harvard was the ultimate dream for every single one of us. We would wear our sweaters a lot in the states as well as back home. To remind us of our goals, and our great plans for the future. To remember to never give up and always keep dreaming. Because our dreams are real and they are out there, waiting for us to reach out our hands and reach them!

-Wik

Friday, February 26, 2016

The journey begins...

Some of you may wonder why I didn’t write this blog last year. The answer is quite simple. Life of an exchange student was much more complicated and busy than I could ever imagine. Day by day, I was living my own American Dream. I was living every day to the fullest and often I was simply too tired to write anything. Now that I have returned home, I feel the need to share my story with the world! However, before I tell you about all the amazing places I’ve seen and about all the things I have done I have to come back in time to the last few months before leaving for the United States…
It was the beginning of May 2014. For weeks now, I have been waiting for the information about my future American school. For second time that year, I learnt that waiting patiently is not easy at all. Being connected to other ASSIST scholars through a Facebook group, I was aware that many people already knew where they were going.  Each day I was more and more nervous… The schools were being filled with students and I still didn’t know my fate… I could only imagine how I would want my school to look like. I spent many hours reading about all of the ASSIST member schools. They could send me literally anywhere! The mystery of location of your American school is one of the exciting parts of ASSIST. When you declare that you accept your scholarship, you have no idea where in the States you will be sent: East coast, West coast or the mainland; mixed or an all-girls school; day or boarding; in the city or somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  It requires to take a risk but it’s a risk worth taking and usually when you find out which school you have been placed in, your realize It is a perfect match. It was just like that with me. Before I found out, I had a strange feeling that I will be sent to an All-girls school. I was almost certain about it. I believed that my interests and things I wrote in my application were extremely girly; dancing, writing, singing in a choir, drawing… everything one would expect to be the interests of a stereotypical girl. I was almost mortified at the thought of spending a year at a school just for girls. To be honest I was praying to not be enrolled in one of those.
When the big day came, 7th may 2014. I checked my email about ten times within few hours. Every time - the same disappointment: still nothing. It was right after I finished my ballet class when the email came. I remember I was literally shaking, while I was opening it. After all, I was holding the information about my home for the following year in my hands. When I managed to calm down, I read the email. The most important part of it said,
“You have been accepted for admission into Grade 11 to The Hockaday School, a boarding school in Dallas, TX.”
It was quite a shock. I never expected to be sent to a school located in the South of the United States. Most of the member schools are located on the East Coast, more or less in the area of the original thirteen U.S. states. When I read the word “Texas” I imagined wild west, ranchers, horses, cowboys, guns and cowboy boots. Some of my friends were laughing that I will be riding a horse to get to school but as it turned out later, it was not the case at all! Surely, Texas is quite outstanding but it isn’t as wild as some people may expect it to be (at least not everywhere). I immediately googled my future school because there were no information about whether it is an all-girls school or not in the mail. When I clicked on the link to the school’s website, my heart stopped for a second. It was a school for girls. I was too excited to show any disappointment. I have to admit I was, a little bit disappointed. But only after few minutes of browsing the website I was already in love with the school! It seemed to fit my character perfectly!

me wearing my school uniform, standing in front of the Hockaday School entrance sign.

When I got on the plane to Boston in August 2014, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew I was going to spend three days at orientation and then fly to Dallas to a boarding school for girls. I was full of hope. I saw it as an amazing adventure that I’d been waiting for my whole life. Many people asked me before I left whether I was scared or nervous. My answer was always “no”.  Looking back at it, I realize how excited I was to begin my new American life. I didn’t even think of all the responsibilities and downsides of living far away from home that I could experience during those ten months. It was a dream come true and as I watched other scholars cry a bit while leaving their friends and families, I could only smile. I wanted to already be there and start my own adventure! I was about to become an independent person, to live one years without the constant protection of parents and family. I was buzzing, I waved my family one last time and I was gone.
Now I know that the small step I took to get on the plane to the United States was actually a giant leap to change my life forever. Although the time has passed, I am and I always will be an exchange student.  The people I met, the places I’ve seen, the culture I learnt, made me who I am now. If someone gave me a chance to become an ASSIST scholar one more time and told me I could decide where to go and how my year would look like, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every single day I dream I could rewind time and relive that year one more time, I know it is impossible but being a writer has its benefits – I can write about it.
I invite you to join me on a journey back in time to the highlights of my year in the USA.
Till next week,

Wiktoria. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How did I make it possible?



It was the end of October or begging of November. I can't remember exactly. What I remember is being overworked just after two months of school. But I wasn't complaining. That's how life of a regular high school student looks like, especially in a school like mine. Teachers always say it to us: "if you don't want to study you should change school. You chose “Kopernik” and it's a prestigious school." We are the best graduates of best Warsaw middle schools. So that's what our life looks like. Never ending tests, things to learn, enormous piles of homework... Stuff that basically makes you sick. And you can't have the best grades even if you want. It’s simply impossible. Sometimes in my school if you get an F on English test you can be sure you know a lot more than ordinary teen in ordinary high school.  You just work hard to prepare yourself for Matura exam which we take in third class of high school (grade 12). At this time I was about to give up on my American dream. Why?

Truth to be told, I was too lazy to do anything about it. In late summer my sister's friend told me a lot about the Rotary Program and showed me some photos that she took while her exchange in the USA. She told me she that it isn't easy to get in because you have to get some recommendations and make them like you. And if you are chosen you might be chosen for Brazil or Mexico  instead of USA. I didn't like it. I mean I never wanted to spend whole year in Mexico. I wanted the United States! I was very stubborn about that fact. And I can see why! My goal wasn't to learn Spanish or Brazilian perfectly I wanted to be perfectly fluent in English. I decided that I will wait until my school says something about Rotary instead of writing to them myself.

I waited and waited and there was no news about Rotary. I started to worry that maybe this year my school decided not to corporate with Rotary. I told myself 'okay, you will spend another year in Poland because you are too lazy and you didn't want to do everything earlier' and I almost reconciled with the idea of never getting out of my country. I told myself not to cry but the vision of being stuck at polish school for another year scared me. I needed America like every human needs air to breathe...
But one day I saw an announcement in my school. A presentation about year in the USA with ASSIST was about to be held. And I thought 'why not go and see what they want to say? What do they offer?'. I'd already heard good things about that organization from my friend Kasia. And I'm grateful! If it wasn't her to tell me about ASSIST than there's a high possibility that I wouldn't really pay attention to ASSIST at all. But thankfully I did.

I turned up at the meeting with ASSIST representative. I can remember it was on Tuesday in Chemistry lab on the bottom floor of my school. I sat down in a crowded classroom and waited. When the presentation started I recorded everything because I didn't want to miss a thing and I certainly would if I decided just to take notes. So I was listening to Mrs. Asia Martyni very carefully. She told us everything about the  program. About how her daughter brought it to Poland (I want to thank her too because without her dream of studying in USA I wouldn't be able to fulfill mine with ASSIST). 2014/2015 academic year will be the fifth year when students from Poland will receive scholarship from ASSIST. Mrs. Martyni told us that for first three years, each year only one scholar was awarded with scholarship in Poland. This year five girls from Poland went to the USA with ASSIST. I heard some rumors saying that boys might have easier in this year's application process because there are some boys-only schools and that ASSIST might want some polish boys to join the program. I was afraid. Assuming that there are about five places and some of them might be for boys and looking at the crowd in that classroom... I thought I had no chances at all. But as crazy as it may seems I decided to do all the paper work and apply for a scholarship. Although I thought I have no chances I don't regret deciding to apply. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to join the program.

Application process wasn't easy. I had only a month to send all my papers to Mrs. Martyni - until 3 December. I was so excited about it so I decided to do it as fast as possible. I had to fill in application forms, write essay about my life, translation of my final school marks and get recommendations from my English teacher, my Maths teacher and my class teacher. I was worried the most about the recommendations because I was only for 2 months in my new school and teachers didn't knew a lot about me. I wasn't sure what are they going to write there. But fortunately I got pretty good recommendations, although I was worried about the Maths one In which I was just somewhere in the average but I hoped that Maths wouldn't be the most important thing. And it wasn't! In order to get recommendation from my class teacher I needed to go to my middle school and ask my former class teacher for it because this year my class teacher doesn't know English at all. I was pretty worried about that but fortunately it turned out in a good way.

I was the first person from my class to send in my application. Everyone was surprised I did it so fast but I wanted everything to be delivered on time. I was proud of myself I did it. There was nothing left for me to do but wait. Wait for the results. Apart from me two people from my class decided to apply for ASSIST scholarship.  We talked a lot about it while waiting for the results and I can tell that everyone of us was extremely excited. I mean America is the dream that’s irresistible. But there were also sad moments like when I was told I don’t deserve to get this scholarship because I’ve already been to America so many times. It was supposed to be a joke but it hurt. I started to ponder about that. I was wondering what would make me so special for them to choose me? How my dancing or writing could be better than any other girl’s or boy’s? People do many interesting things in their lives and I just couldn’t believe that I got something special that would made me the chosen one. 

First came the bad news. It was 8th December. I got a message from my class mate. He was asking me if I got an email from ASSIST and telling me that one of our friends actually did. My heart literally stopped in that moment. I thought it was over. But then he told me that she didn’t get through the first stage. I felt a mixture of relief and pity. Pity because it was one of my best friends that didn’t get in and I was feeling very sorry for her. I felt so bad while looking into her eyes on the next day at school because I couldn’t stop feeling happy. Happy because it meant that I’m still in the game that I can still get a scholarship although it would be great if she got it as well. But that’s how life works not everyone can always get what their want. When the results came on the 16th of December I was jumping around my room because I couldn’t believe that I was invited for the second stage of eliminations. My parents tried to calm me down and said that I should still keep on studying hard because there’s no guarantee that I would get a scholarship. I tried very hard waiting for the 14th of January to come but ASSIST was appearing a lot more often in my mind that it should. 

The interview stage wasn’t difficult but I couldn’t say that it was easy. I was very nervous but I knew if I want to get this scholarship I needed to step up and show myself in the best possible way I could. When I arrived at the venue I found out that there will be 36 of us. Eight people didn’t get through the first stage so it gave 44 applying for scholarship but there were only about 5 spaces.  There were a lot of people from my school applying, maybe even 12 of us? I was scared because I was sure that there were a lot more better people than me. What we had to do first was to write an essay. We could choose one out of two topics. I remember staring at the words written on a blackboard and I just felt like there’s no way I would write about any of them. I practically said to myself “it’s over. You won’t ever go to study in America”. It took me about five minutes to realize that I need to write this essay that I would never forgive myself if I gave up in the beginning. And it was writing so it should be my strong side. So I told myself that I could do this. And I did. I chose “education changes an empty mind to an open mind” as a topic and I used all my writing skills and imagination to write it and make it amazing. And when I finished I was truly satisfied I was proud of myself and I felt this strength that I feel when I know that what I wrote was really good. I was just hoping that my arguments were strong enough and that I hadn’t done too many mistakes. In the second part we had to write SLEP test that was supposed to check if our English is good enough. It didn’t checked if you knew difficult words or grammar structures because it wasn’t important. What was important was if we are going to be able to communicate easily in the US. The test got two parts 45-minute listening with about 75 questions and 45-minute reading with about 72 questions so as you can see I had to do it fast. The third and the last part of stage two was the interview. That was the part I couldn’t wait for the most. Why? Because I love speaking in English! I could speak in English all day long and that’s what I’m going to do in the near future (in 65 days to be exact). Fortunately the questions weren’t difficult and whole stress left me after my first answer so I kept on talking with a smile on my face. 

Then came the most difficult month of my life – February. The results were suppose to be revealed at the end of it. the second half of the month I was hardly alive. I had no school because we were having winter break but I couldn’t rest. All I did was to check my email box all the time and watch a TV series in order not to check the mail box too often. I was wasting the time but I was too stressed. This scholarship was everything that I cared about at that moment. Nothing else mattered for me. I know it wasn’t very good for me but I just couldn’t stop thinking of it and praying to be chosen. But the end of the month came and there was no results. And I wanted to know them before the end of winter break so in case of bad result I could get over all the crying because I was sure I would be crying over it whole night long. But school started and information from ASSIST didn’t come. I was frustrated when I found myself sitting in English class still knowing nothing while my calendar was showing the 5th of march. I checked my email for the last time and sighed with hopelessness. I didn’t know that that was the day that my life was about to change. After English classed I rushed to my dance classes. It was there where I checked my email again. I got in. I remember screaming and jumping around dance studio with my friends. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was the greatest day of my life but that… that was just the beginning.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The story of my dream

Everything started with just one phone call. There was a ten years old girl living in Warsaw - the capital of Poland. She never knew what would happen to her in just few years. She was just visiting her grandma when the phone rang. The old lady rushed to pick up the phone.

Who was calling?

Nobody would ever expect that... It was little girl's uncle. Yes. The one who had gone to America many years before she was born. He called to say that he's having a daughter. First daughter when he was sixtysomething. It surely wasn't just a coincidence, it must have meant something very important, but at the time little girl didn't know what... Her mother , grandma and her mother's brother were invited to small city Troy in the suburbs of Detroit in Michigan to join the ceremony of baptism of uncle's new born daughter. Just a few months earlier girl wouldn't ever expected that her mom would go to America. It was always her dream to visit 'the new world' but it was just a dream. Like the one that every girl or boy has. Like the one of being a princess and finding her prince charming. But suddenly the dream became real. It was as real as it had never been before. She could almost reach it with her hand and grab it and never let go. And that's what she did. And now she can tell you that the phone call changed her life for ever.

You are probably wondering who was that little girl...? Maybe I'll surprise you, maybe I won't. The little girl happened to be me. I was sitting at my grandma's house when the phone rang. When I close my eyes I can still see it clearly. The phone call  did changed my life. The summer after the phone call I went to America for the first time. During my stay there I got to visit American school and then my biggest dream began... a dream of studying in America.

My name is Wiktoria Łukasiewicz and I'm almost seventeen years old. I am a student of XXXIII Nicholaus Copernicus Bilingual High School in Warsaw. I'm attending year 10th now but after the summer vacation I'll be studying in one of the finest America's boarding schools thanks to the ASSIST program.

How is that even possible? As I told you the dream of becoming a student in America grew with every year. And suddenly the opportunity came. Last summer I was at sailing camp and I met a girl there. Her name was Kasia. I figured out that she was studying at a highs school which I was about to start in the fall. I was happy that I will have at least one person that I know in the beginning but she said that she is not going to be there this year. It was her who told me about ASSIST program. She said she was going to study in America in a private school next year. I asked her dozens of questions because I have always wanted to be part of an exchange program.

When the fall came she flew to USA and I started high school. I knew that I had to apply that year, it was the last chance for me to get a scholarship and go  to America as a high school student. So I applied for ASSIST program. And here I am one of the five chosen from whole Poland with full scholarship. I don't know what was so special about me that they decided to chose me... And I will spend my next year in the USA and I just cant wait to go there. There are still 136 days left until my departure and I still don't know the name of the school that I'll be attending so I have to be patient. And that's why I decided to start this blog. I'm going  to write my whole ASSIST experience in here.

I hope that I caught your attention and that you will be reading my story! My next post will be about how I applied and how I got the scholarship and maybe if I'm lucky about my future school.

See you next time 
- Wik.