Interview with dietician Aneta Solak (Polish Sign Language)

Is it easy for a deaf person to obtain higher education? What problems does she face? Dietitian Aneta Solak talks about her experiences. The interview is conducted by Nikola Sliwa.

Nikola Sliwa: I am very happy that you visited us and that we can meet and talk. At first, please tell us, what your name is, who you are.

Aneta Solak: I am Aneta Solak, my sign is this …

Super, and what’s your profession?

I am a nutritionist, also have a specialization in psychodietetics, I am now going postgraduate as a personal trainer.

Deaf at college

Oh, great! At the beginning, please tell us, what kind of education you have, What kind of schools you graduated. I know that you didn’t do only a master’s degree, But also postgraduate studies. So tell us what schools you graduated and what were the subjects of your dissertations.

I remember the time. Well, when I started studying, It was related to stress, Everyone was hearing, and I was one – deaf. As a result, I felt insecure. I had previously attended schools for the deaf, and here suddenly hearing people. But that’s what helped me in developing my vocabulary, for example, I had to learn it all over again, because I didn’t know the words, as time went on, I could feel myself improving. My undergraduate thesis topic was related to dietetics, diet in the treatment of thyroid diseases. And the topic of the master’s thesis was related to dietetics, Diet in the treatment of blood pressure problems.

Super, well you just recounted, That when you went to school, there were hearing people there. Also, that education is important to you. But the lectures all the time were in Polish – phonics, texts written in a specialized language. And another question, did you stress the reaction of lecturers, students to you?

In the beginning, my contact with other students was very limited, During my undergraduate and master’s degrees I was alone, sign language interpreter was next to me all the time, without him, my education would not be possible. The lecturers were shocked, that a deaf person had joined, I was the first deaf person at the university. They believed in me that I would be able to graduate, and so I did. At first I wanted to finish education on a bachelor’s thesis, But when I defended myself, Ms. Professor, Who taught a class on DNA, She said to think about studying for a master’s degree. Well, and I actually started thinking about it, I finally decided to start studying Master’s degree, thanks to this professor.

Setting up and running your own business

Very interesting to know about your education, But I also know that you are working a lot now. That you are a very active person in the business. You started your own company, it was a very bold move. How do you feel about being your own boss?

So briefly let me tell you what it was like my beginnings with starting a company. It happened thanks to my colleague, who works in Lodz at the Uni-Lex company. She heard that in Lodz the City Hall subsidizes people, Who are starting businesses, young entrepreneurs in Lodz. I began to wonder, to have doubts, whether to decide or not. I decided that I would apply, I received accessibility points and ABC development training, How to develop your business, company, positives and negatives. I attended a few months for this training, I also did a business plan — all with an interpreter, and I took it to the City Council in Lodz.

I waited about six months for the results, I felt that I would not succeed, because there were a lot of people hearing, And I was the only one who was deaf. I didn’t believe in myself too much at that time, I thought I wouldn’t succeed. When I received the e-mail with a positive response, I was shocked that it was successful, that’s why I started my own company. This is a new experience for me, With which I feel very comfortable.

What you are saying proves, that you are a person who works a lot, and also that you are courage. What advice would you have for deaf people, who have their dreams, but are afraid to fulfill them, they are stressed?

In the beginning I was also a person, who gets stressed, avoids people. In my studies, I observed, what the culture of hearing people was like — were bold, entertaining. I used to be in deaf culture, and here I was observing the hearing culture, Which changed me, I finally started a company. Deaf people can act too, only it has to be our passion, dream and goal, then it can be achieved. Deaf people can do anything too!

Deaf person’s knowledge of phonic language

Thank you. I also know, That you are learning the Polish language. Why? Learning the Polish language is hard. Isn’t just an interpreter is enough? What do you think?

That’s right – it needs an interpreter, But I can’t have an interpreter next to me whole my life. I prefer to learn Polish myself, because I have my own place, a classroom. So when someone comes, I can’t always ask for help from an interpreter. I prefer to talk through writing with clients, for example, same in the office, at the hospital, at the doctor’s office – I can write. And by learning the Polish language, I can improve my grammar and communicate with hearing people. What’s more, I live in a small town, where there are no sign language interpreters. If I lived in Lodz or Warsaw then there are interpreters there, But in a small city there are no one, therefore, I have to manage somehow.

I understand, really that, what you are telling is very interesting, also think that the deaf, who will watch you will be proud. Thank you for coming and we could talk briefly. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

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