Faces Around Campus: getting to know Barbara Kowalik

Barbara Kowalik has been a cashier at the Dana dining hall for 14 years. Before working at Colby, she worked as a stitcher and final inspector at the Hathaway factory, which manufactured shirts. One of her friends at the time was moving away to Pennsylvania and suggested that Kowalik apply to her old position at Colby. Kowalik initially worked at Roberts dining hall and later was trained to be a cashier. “I love working here. I’m very happy. This job is very pleasant; I love the young generation. This job makes me very happy,” she said.

Kowalik was born in Poland: “After high school I went to business school, and my family invited me here for vacation,” she said. After a few months, her brother and family, who had already been living in the United States, sponsored her so she could apply for a visa and green card. After receiving her visa and green card, Kowalik said she went to a high school in Boston to take English classes. She said that being in the United States was hard at first, especially because she was not fluent in English. “When I came to this country I did not speak English, and it was very difficult for me. Even watching TV I was just looking at the pictures but I didn’t understand the words. Through TV and books I learned a lot.” Kowalik said she was very shy initially and was afraid to talk when she was asked questions because she thought she would say something wrong and people would laugh. In Boston, Kowalik took classes at the Hebrew College and attended an international school, where she met people from many different countries. She also met her husband at school. “I got married in Massachusetts, and he applied for a job in Maine, and he got the job, so we moved here,” she said. Now, Kowalik has three daughters: two of whom have graduated college and are working in science fields, and one still in college and undecided about her major.

Kowalik said that she has always wanted to be a nurse; after the Hathaway factory closed, she decided to pursue this dream. “When they closed the company, I went to school… I took a course called CNA: Certified Nurse Assistant. After I graduated, I found a job at Maine General.” Now, Kowalik works with Alzheimer’s residents. “I love my job at the Alzheimer’s center because it is very rewarding.” She has been working there for 14 years, as well, as long as she has been working at Colby. Kowalik said she enjoys working with the Alzheimer’s residents because “they had good lives, they had families, children, and now they are affected with that horrible disease, and they really need help.” In the mornings, she said, she works for Home Health and takes care of two women before coming to Colby in the afternoon. “I have three jobs, but I like what I’m doing. I like being with people—I’m a people person.”

Though she spends much of her time working at one of her three jobs, Kowalik still finds time for numerous hobbies. Outside of her work, Barbara enjoys traveling, explaining that she has been to Italy, England, Nova Scotia, every state in the United States. She said the food in Italy is delicious, and there are a lot of things to see there. She also enjoys learning languages, reading, knitting, crocheting, and cooking. She said her favorite books to read are history, in particular American history. She recommends Poland for people who are interested in history because of their excellent museums.

At home, Barbara says she enjoys spending time with her animals: Tigger, her cat, and Malina, her golden retriever/yellow lab mix. She said one of her daughters named her dog, and that Malina is the Polish word for “raspberry”.

Barbara has spent many years working at Colby, and is a constant face at Dana dinner. Colby is lucky to have such a dedicated employee, and Barbara says she has enjoyed her experience at Colby. Though she works two other demanding jobs, she says she likes working at Colby the most. “When I come here it makes me so happy to be here. I like to greet people and talk to them. Sometimes they tell me their stories– it’s very rewarding for me. I love it.”

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