Graduation at Madison College: Pursuing Her American Dream

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Elena Antoci immigrated to the United States from Moldovia and settled in the Wisconsin Dells

By Jonathan Gramling

Elena Antoci had a dream growing up in her native Moldova, which is sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine in Eastern Europe. And even though she earned some degrees in Moldovia, she still had her heart set on living in the U.S., which she got a taste of as a foreign exchange student.

“I felt there was no future in my country,” Antoci said. “I said, ‘You know what? I think there is a way to get a better life, just to be who you are and to get a degree. I really wanted to get a degree that actually has a value for me personally and not just to have a

degree on paper. I came to the U.S. and that was my first goal. I was going to work, make some money and start going to school part-time because I knew there was a chance to do that.”

And so she applied for the visa lottery, was selected and came to the U.S. and settled in the Wisconsin Dells.

“I had actually been here through a student exchange program,” Antoci said. “I know a lot of people around here. And when everything happened, I was like, ‘Hey I’m just going to move there because I know people around there. I didn’t think exactly where I was going to be. It was a little bit of a challenge to know exactly where to go and where to start from. I’m happy that I ended up in the Wisconsin Dells.”

Antoci ended up working for Dells Resorts, which has three motels, two restaurants and a BP station in the heart of the Wisconsin Dells tourist area.

“I was pretty lucky because I started to work in accounting before I started my school,” Antoci said. “The family that I work for in the Dells knew me and said, ‘You know what? If that is what you wish for, we are going to give you a chance so that you can go to school and you can work part-time and you can still combine both.’ I thought that was unbelievable and awesome. I took the opportunity.”

Antoci wanted to get a degree in accounting and her first and only choice was to study at the Madison College Truax campus, even though it was at least an hour commute both ways.

“I found out that Madison College is one of the best colleges in the U.S.,” Antoci said. “The degree is awesome. I heard nothing but good reviews. I heard people from different faiths and cities and towns who all go to Madison Area Technical College.”

While Antoci could have earned an accounting degree by taking classes online, she had her heart set on the in-person experience.

“I have to be in class and be face-to-face with my teachers and classmates,” Antoci emphasized. “That will help me with my English.’ I would get a better understanding of everything. I had never been familiar with online learning. For me, it was always weird. ‘How am I supposed to learn everything online? I need someone to actually teach me the right directions so that I know what exactly I am doing, especially for something I had no idea how to do.’”

And it was the people who made the difference.

“That was the best experience of my life,” Antoci said about her four years attending Madison College part-time. “I enjoyed it. I honestly met a lot of good people who helped me. My professors were amazing and they were so understandable. They were explaining things to me 10 times if I needed them to just to make sure that I understood. That was probably the best part. When I was at the college, I met my advisor, Teresita Torrence. She was wonderful. She was so amazing and so ready to help me with anything and everything I needed. She just made sure that I went in the right direction, taking the classes that I needed, that I went and covered everything that I needed just to make sure. She was a very big help. Honestly, my time spent in accounting lab was probably one of the best experiences. If you asked me if I wanted to do that again, yes I do.”

Antoci received her associate’s degree in accounting in May. Part of her is reluctant to leave all of the great relationships she developed behind.

“I just want to say a big thank you to Madison College for giving me the opportunity to be part of their degree program,” Antoci said. “That means a lot to me. All of my professors and other people whom I met along the way being a student, I just want to thank them. And I will probably see them soon.”

Antoci is going to take a breather from school. For now she will continue to work for Dell Resorts and a part-time waitressing job she picked up at The Dell-Bar, which all of the locals call Jeannie’s. But no way is she done with higher education.

“I want to go for a finance degree just to be able to understand another level of accounting in finance,” Antoci said. “I plan to go to a four-year college. I hope I will get there. I will probably stay in the state of Wisconsin. That’s why I need to take off for two years to figure out what I want to do next. You never know what is coming tomorrow, so I will come up with some goals that I want to achieve and we will take it from there. Will it be here? I have a feeling it is still going to be here. But you never know.”

Everything seems to have aligned right for Antoci, from her exchange student experience to winning the visa lottery to finding a home and a job in the Wisconsin Dells to attending and earning a degree from Madison College.

“I can say I am pretty lucky,” Antoci exclaimed. “Thank God!”

Elena Antoci is on her way to earning and pursuing her American Dream.

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