New citizen welcomes opportunities

Carole Hodorowicz, Feature Reporter

On Jan. 18, after nearly 15 years of living in the United States, Jagoda Szostakiewicz, a freshman English major, officially became a citizen of the United States.

When she was just three years old, Szostakiewicz and her mother left Brzesko, Poland to live in the U.S. to join her father.

Now, Szostakiewicz is the first member of her family to go to college.

Growing up, Szostakiewicz’s parents encouraged her to the live the life they did not have for themselves.

By attending Eastern, Szostakiewicz said she is fulfilling her parents’ wishes and achieving her own goals while also being a role model for her 10-year-old sister Suzana.

Applying to college was not a familiar process for Szostakiewicz and her parents. She said the anxiousness affected her, and she was tempted to give up after applying to only one school. Through the support of her mother, she regained the courage to apply to five more schools, and ultimately ended up getting accepted to all six.

“I can’t screw up,” Szostakiewicz said. “I want to do well because my parents are trying their hardest to help me.”

Family has always been important to Szostakiewicz, especially because of her Polish roots.

Szostakiewicz even tutored her parents while they were going through the process of becoming citizens while she prepared herself for the ACT.

“In Poland, everything is more focused on family I would say, while America is kind of more on the individual,” she said.

Despite each country’s differences, Szostakiewicz embraces the mentalities of both cultures.

That’s why when Szostakiewicz came to Eastern, she was ready to try everything.

“It’s hard for me to pick a major because I want to do everything,” she said.

Starting out with a major in math, she moved to history second and is now an English major with an art minor.

Szostakiewicz said she wants to teach high school sophomores and juniors.

To keep her future students engaged, she plans to use the experience she will gain from being a member of Hello Dali, Eastern’s student improvisation group.

At first, Szostakiewicz was hesitant to join it because she thought she did not have enough time.

But after going to a show and seeing her friend perform, Szostakiewicz said her mind was set.

“I was just like, ‘I want to do this,’” she said.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Szostakiewicz will perform in her first Hello Dali show with the stage name “Pure Happiness.”

The opportunities and classes Szostakiewicz has at Eastern are different than the ones she had in Poland, where she went to college for one year.

In Poland, Szostakiewicz said she took classes that taught her to sew and waltz.

However, there are some parts of Poland Szostakiewicz said she wishes she could bring to America.

The architecture is beautiful, she said, especially in Kraków, a city known for its buildings reminiscent of Renaissance-era designs.

Szostakiewicz said spring “lights up everything” in Poland, especially the forest near her home.

But if she had to choose one time during the year to visit Poland, Szostakiewicz would pick Christmas. She has not spent a Christmas in Poland with her family since she was three years old.

Even though Szostakiewicz cannot celebrate the holiday in her native country, her family brings Poland to Rolling Meadows through several traditions.

On Christmas Eve, the family dines on 12 dishes, none of which contain any meat. Before the meal can begin, the family members break Christmas wafers, known as “oplatek,” to symbolize what family members want for each other in the next year, such as wishes of good health and prosperity.

“We have this belief that if something happens during this time, it’s going to happen the whole year. Say you spill a glass of juice, well you’re going to be spilling things the whole year,” Szostakiewicz said.

With being the first member of her family to attend college, officially becoming a citizen and preparing for her debut as a part of Hello Dali, Szostakiewicz said she is looking forward to the rest of her college career.

“All of my life I would have to put permanent resident on everything—ACTs, job applications, everything,” she said. “But now, I can just say I’m a citizen.”

Carole Hodorowicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]