Maryia Karniyenka: A Chance to Achieve

Maryia describes the excitement, confusion, and–above all else–the hard work that came with moving to the U.S. from Eastern Europe when she was 11 years old.  Since arriving, she has found a wealth of exciting relationships and  opportunities. Mariya hopes that her optimism, adaptability, and tenacity will help her achieve her dreams in becoming a physician. This story is part of MALA’s scholarship essay contest. To see more scholarship essays, click here.

I was only 11 when the plane that took me and my family from the only home I ever knew touched down in New York on a cold rainy day. I was young and full of excitement, after all, I was young. I was not able to process yet that this was it. This country with the strange people who spoke in English all the time, not just three times a week in English 1 classroom was now to be my home. As I walked through the streets of New York City I was greeted by densely packed skyscrapers, speeding taxi cabs, and crowds of people rushing to get to their destinations. This felt different from home. There was energy in the air, and as the day came close to an end, I was surprised to realize that the city does not sleep at night. This was when I realized that from this moment on, my life would change beyond my wildest dreams which were created in a tiny Eastern European country I called home.

As years and miles went by I found my new home to be the wonderful state of Michigan. The first year in my new school was by far the hardest. I excelled at math because I did not need English to understand it. However, I had to work twice as hard on all of the other subjects. During the summer, I would sit by the pool with my grammar book wishing that I would just understand all of the rules. But I have made it. I have learned English, and now barely have an accent. I have made new friends, who supported me even with the language barrier, and patiently explained the meaning of the words I did not understand. This was when I understood that even though I left a country that I called my own, with the language I have spoken all of my life, and friends I have known since early childhood, I was going to love my new country just as much.

Then it was time to go to high school and suddenly my life became a whirlwind of possibilities. In the midst classes, debate team, and other extracurricular activities it was time to choose which career I wanted to dedicate my life to. Now, I knew that I loved working with people and that I was considering a career in medicine, however, this was the first time I understood that the only reason I was even able to consider this dream was because I was in America. The land of possibilities and freedom. If I had not come to this country there is no way I would have been able to afford even applying to go to university. I was raised by a widow, and even though I knew my mother would move mountains for me, it was a harsh reality knowing that it was highly unlikely for me to work anywhere near a hospital. I knew this as I applied to the university of my dreams, and after spending a year volunteering in a local inner city hospital I was finally sure that I would spend the next eight years of my life becoming a doctor.

Almost a decade has passed from the moment I have walked the streets of America for the first time. A lot has changed since then. It has been years since I have seen some of my family members or spoke in my language for more than an hour a day. But this country has given me so much. It became my home, took me in and raised me into a valuable member of society. And now, as I am getting ready to apply to medical schools, I see that this would not have been possible had I stayed in the country I was born in. America has given me the most important gift of all, the opportunity to become a physician. It will take hard work, but the only person who is able to help me to achieve this goal is myself.