My name is Alena Polenska, and I am currently a junior at Brown. I am from the Czech Republic, where I grew up and played hockey till I was 15 years old. When I was 14, I received an opportunity to come over to the US to play hockey and go to high school. At that age, not knowing much English or anything about the school, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity. It took another year before everything got sorted out, and there I was, a 15-year-old girl, who knew very limited English, flying over to the States to play hockey and study. The school I attended is called Wyoming Seminary (Kingston, PA), and it has turned my life around! Let me just tell you a short story …
When I say I didn’t know much English, I am not kidding. I remember the flight was quite scary, it was the first time I flew by myself and not knowing much English I didn’t really know how to get through immigration and all that other stuff that was completely new to me. Before I knew it, I found myself at the Philadelphia airport trying to find my connecting flight. After some time wondering around the airport, I finally found my way to the gate when all of a sudden the flight attendant announced that our flight was cancelled, but I thought, “cancelled…I’ve heard that word before….hmm, wonder what that means”. I went to ask about my flight; however, it was very difficult for me to turn my thoughts into words, so I just showed my ticket and said “when do my plane leave?”. Eventually, I ended up arriving at the Scranton airport around 1:00 am. As I was walking down the stairs, I was hoping someone from Wyoming Seminary would be there, but I had no luck. I found myself alone in a foreign country with no luggage. Suddenly, I heard my name; I turned around slowly and there was coach Packard, whom I met in Czech. I was so happy to see a familiar face; now I knew I was safe.
My next few months were full of statements “can you repeat that”, “I don’t understand”, and such, but as time went on I learned English and was able to finally communicate with my peers and teachers. The SEM (nickname for Wyoming Seminary) people were some of the best people I have ever met. They were very helpful in every aspect and always there for me whenever I needed help or a friend to talk to. (I will talk about my experience at SEM more some other time, but for now I just wanted to tell you a bit about it because without SEM and all the people who have helped me, I wouldn’t be at Brown now).
Now let’s talk about college a bit. I mentioned previously that I am a junior now, and this new season brought a lot of new changes to our team. First of all, we now have three new coaches and six new freshmen. As all the other Ivy league teams, we started our season much later than other teams. That was the day when the biggest changes could be seen. Everyone could feel the intensity, hard work, and joy, which had been missing on our team for the past few years. It was nice to see everyone coming to the rink excited and ready for practice. In the first week of practice, we tried to learn new systems but didn’t even have time to practice many other things such as powerplay and penalty kill but we were still successful in our scrimmages the first weekend (when we scrimmaged Princeton and Yale). That weekend hopefully put an end to the old and losing Brown team. We are now ready to improve and hopefully win some more games, which we proved last weekend against Sacred Heart. We beat them 10:0. The game itself was a little sloppy because it was the first game we had worked together, but it was not a one-man show; every one of our players contributed to the win. However, the real test is coming next weekend as we play Colgate and Cornell.