America is a country of the free, power, resources, and to some, the beginning of the rest of their life. It is a country where many legal immigrants come in order to further their education and even gain things that couldn’t be dreamt of being gained in their own country.
Currently studying clinical psychology in neuroscience, Magdalena Bogacz, 21, is from Poland and has been on United States’ soil and studying at Bakersfield College for the last two years. She is currently in the process of obtaining her AA-T and is planning to transfer by May.
“Graduating and transferring in May, hopefully transferring.” emphasized Bogacz when asked of her progress in her studies.
“It was super hard after high school, I mean I knew, since ever, that I’m just not going to stay in Poland. I never fit in, you know the society is very, very bad. The government, the politics, the church, you know, the religion. Plus my field in psychology and neuroscience, there is no future in Poland with those majors. We don’t have money for programs; we don’t have money for research. I do believe this is my calling, and I knew that I couldn’t do it in my country.”
Bogacz came to the United States with a student visa, but it wasn’t easy for her to get here. It took two years for the U.S. Embassy to answer her request in order to obtain a student visa to come to the United States. When she requested for a visa the first time, she was rejected. The U.S. embassy had told her that there is no reason for her to come to United States because she was Polish, and due to that she should stay in Poland and continue her studies there and not in the US. During her quest of obtaining her student visa, Bogacz was already accepted to continue her studies at BC. She had already prepared her papers and had passed all the required exams and tests.
“I got accepted at school, and I really want to move to America to study, not to, you know, become illegal immigrant and go to work,” Bogacz said. “They didn’t believe me, so I basically spent two years waiting for the American Embassy in Poland to say yes, and they finally agreed.”
Before obtaining the visa, Bogacz was able to visit the United States for the limited time of six months but wasn’t able to study here. She also considered studying at CSUB, but wasn’t able to due to the tuition for international students. She never regretted choosing BC over CSUB.
She was given 30 days before the school semester started in order to adapt. This meant holding a conversation in English and preparing for everything in order to study in a community college where the main language spoken and written by the students and professors is English. This is the international students’ regulation.
“I knew some English, of course I did,” she said. “But I couldn’t express myself in English just yet. I had to translate everything from Polish to English in my head.”
On the first day of class, Bogacz stated that she may have understood about 5% of what was spoken in class. She couldn’t even raise her hand during attendance to state that she was there due to all the stress she received from her new environment.
It wasn’t only the language that she had trouble with, it was also the education and how it was taught.
“It is completely different from the way it is taught in Europe, and nobody prepared me for that. We don’t have such a thing as units, you know, we don’t have transfer classes,” said Bogacz. “Everything is different, examinations, quizzes, everything.”
Bogacz said that based on her experience in BC, schools here are much more interested in broadening the student’s mind with more interactive and friendly instructors while in Poland they aren’t as open-minded and the instructors are much more strict.
“To be obedient to authority is a big deal in Europe,” said Bogacz. She also went to add onto her statement that in Poland, you cannot speak up and keeping one’s mouth shut is considered a safe way to fit in.
When Bogacz came to BC, she was helped by the BC ESL professor Elizabeth Rodacker, who helped Bogacz fit in more and taught her to be more Americanized. She is also the one who promoted and recommended Bogacz to be an ESL and math tutor at the tutoring center.
Bogacz went on to state that due to the high scoring of her math placement test, she didn’t need to take a math class, but out of curiosity took Math BD to see how math was in the United States.
She said she was surprised at how old some of her classmates were, some being over the ages of 50.
Even if the class was easy for her, she helped her classmates out and passed the class with an A.
Bogacz said that manners and etiquette are different here. She was surprised to see people come to school dressed in pajamas.
She also stated that she actually felt left out when she dressed up for a classical concert and found herself to be one of the very few who dressed in a formal outfit and stated that people didn’t really keep a standard.
When Bogacz wanted to take the test for her driving license, the DMV offered her a version of the test in Polish. She was very confused.
“I couldn’t read any questions in Polish they provided for me, and I was like ‘this isn’t polish,’ ” she said.
In the end, Bogacz waited until her English improved to her level of confidence and took the test in English and passed.
“Tuition for international students is ridiculous. We are doing the same exact work as every single American here, or even more because we have to keep up with language,” stated Bogacz, “and I have to pay at least 500 times more than regular citizens.
“You know, I’m not opposed to paying more than citizens, because I’m not a citizen,” said Bogacz, who is taking 24 units at BC.
A week after Bogacz arrived in the States, she fell ill and went to the hospital and received a shot. Seven months later she received a bill for $15,000.
“It’s not because I can’t buy insurance,” Bogacz said. “It’s because I am not a citizen.”
If Bogacz wasn’t able to pay off the bill, she was told that it would be held against her in the future and that she would be deported.
“I got accepted to every single school I applied for, including Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, San Diego Cal State, Fullerton, Long Beach and Cal Poly,” stated Bogacz.
“I don’t want to be Polish and American at the same time. I want to be American. I want to get rid of my Polish citizenship, I don’t want to even go back to Poland, ever again.”