Polish students working at South Lake Tahoe have come a long way, literally.
Gosia Krajewska, 25, is one of many Poles who came to South Shore this summer through a work and travel program.
Krajewska, a veteran South Shore visitor, now is spending her third summer in the program working at Horizon Casino Resort. She worked at Harveys Casino & Resort during her first two summers at South Lake Tahoe.
Foreign students may apply for a special visa which allows four months of work and one month for tourism, Krajewska said. The big catch is the price, which ranges from $1,300 to $1,700.
"That explains why we get so upset when we lose our jobs or get worse ones than promised at first," she said. "That also explains why some of us work two full-time jobs. We have to at least break even."
Krajewska and many of her friends are staying at Heavenly Valley Apartments. They purchased bicycles and utilize the city's public transportation.
Most of the Poles interviewed said the United States differs from Poland in numerous ways.
"The major difference between Poland and the USA for me is that here, everything is bigger," said 25-year-old Agnieszka Cisowska. "It's not only cars, food or even people, but also such things like possibilities, challenges, problems and of course, 'bigger' money."
Money is a major reason Polish students wish to come to America, or as many refer to it, "the Dream Land."
In Poland, an average job pays between $300 and $400 per month, the students said. Working in South Shore's service industry allows for a much larger paycheck.
"Any job in Lake Tahoe gives us a chance to earn much more than we could in Poland," said Marcin, a 24-year-old student from Wroclaw, Poland. "Thanks to that, we may cover the costs of getting here and have some extra money to travel and some more to take to Poland."
The money in the United States may be better than in Poland, but when it comes to bread - well, the students said there's no place like home.
"Whoever you're going to ask what we miss the most, there is always one good answer, Polish bread," Krajewska said.
Bread and Polish beer, or "Zywiec," were in fact the most common answers. Family and friends came in at a close second.
Three summers in South Lake Tahoe have taught Krajewska quite a bit about the United States, she said.
"There are many stereotypes," she said. "I had quite a few customers who were honestly surprised that the Poles they meet in Tahoe are not the stupid, almost illiterate rednecks and small hustlers they know from the Polish jokes."
Krajewska, who has a master's degree in economics, now is working toward a doctorate degree.
Interested in answering some commonly asked questions, she volunteered the following:
"There are a few things I would like Americans to know," Krajewska said. "Poland is in Europe. Poland and Russia are not one. It is an independent democratic country. We do have our own mother language and it is neither Russian nor German. It is pure Polish, with 24 letters in the alphabet.
"There is no war in Poland right now and it is not the biggest dream of a Polish girl to marry a nice American boy, as many people think. We have nice Polish boys, too.
"One more thing," she added. "Poland is far more than vodka and Polish kielbasa."