From Poland to SoCal — an American dream continues – Orange County Register

 

Agnieszka “AJ” Pollard — Photo courtesy Cal State Fullerton

 

By Agnieszka “AJ” Pollard

Contributing columnist

Growing up in post-communist Poland, the American Dream was constantly on my dad’s lips. Eventually, my parents made my dad’s hope a reality, and my family immigrated to America.

At the age of 12, I was immersed into an American middle school classroom without any knowledge of the English language and forced to face one of two options: I could either wallow in self-pity over my inability to communicate or force myself to learn. I chose the latter.

The first few years were not only difficult, but also very lonely. However, eventually I turned my setback into an advantage. While other students simply answered questions, I had to become my own translator first. I was forced to teach myself to think twice as fast as my peers, in order to give myself time for translation.

When I finally reached fluency and lost my need for self-translation, I was left with the ability to think quickly. I have carried this strength with me ever since and have turned it into a passion for learning.

Because of this, I have found it difficult to allow myself downtime through the years. Since my mind’s self-taught nature is to be overstimulated, having free time feels almost exhausting, as if I were incapable of not doing a million things at once. This truly reflects my journey through college.

Marrying a U.S. Army soldier at the young age of 19, paired with deployments and times of separation, taught me patience and independence. Being the first in my family to graduate from college, I have had to pave my own way through higher education, but the strength and determination that I have learned through military life helped me actively seek out my own resources everywhere I went.

I have also been very fortunate along the way and found unforgettable guidance at Cal State Fullerton. I am so grateful for the mentorship I have been gifted with.

It has inspired me to…

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