At 21, Cynthia Sularz is an accomplished policy maker. This Polish-American collegiette is familiar with Russian, German and Polish, has taught English in Russia, and studied abroad in both Germany and Poland. Her passion for international relations ultimately led her to represent the United States at the 2014 G(irls)20 Summit in Sydney, Australia! There, she worked with other international delegates to write a communiqué on how to empower girls and women economically around the world, which she and her peers then presented to G20 leaders.
At Seton Hall University, Cynthia is just as ambitious. This past year, she was president of the school’s Model United Nations team, and volunteered for two Model UN Conferences run by the United Nations Association of the United States, where she chaired UN Women. She participated in various events for the promotion of gender equality, a cause that she holds close to her heart. In her free time, she is also a Girl UP campus leader through Seton Hall’s Sexual Violence Elimination Act program and coaches soccer for children ages three to six.
This collegiette hasn’t had it easy: growing up, she saw her brother, father, and a series of other family members die tragically in the space of five years. Cynthia’s culture helped her through this unimaginably difficult time; the Polish anthem, “Poland Has Not Yet Perished,” especially speaks to her. She is determined to fight every hardship that comes her way and come out all the stronger from the experience—and she has been immensely successful so far. As Cynthia puts it, she has “not yet perished.”
Name: Cynthia Sularz
College: Seton Hall University
Major(s): Diplomacy and International Relations & Modern Languages with a minor in Eastern European Studies
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: West Milford, NJ
Twitter Handle: @cynthia_sul
Instagram Handle: cynthiasul
HC: What do you think is the biggest factor that led you to where you are today?
CS: It might be cliché, but my family is really one of the main contributing factors to my success. But I don’t mean family like the blood relatives necessarily, although I include many of them, too. I think of family as my best friends growing up, as well as the international family I have abroad. I know if I need something I can call my friend Thomas, who I met in Poland but lived in England, or my friend Caterina, who I met at G(irls)20, who lives in Italy. I try my best to find a “home” in every country I visit, and even if they don’t know it, I think of them like an international family.
But if there is one thing my family taught me, it was to make my own decisions. They never once stood in the way of my dreams and desires, even when things were extremely difficult. They let me fail and choose paths that sometimes took me around the world and away from them. But when failure came, they were always ready to help me pick up the pieces. My family is built on resilience, ambition and a refusal to take the easy way out. They don't pressure me to do what's best for them—they always want what's best for me, and that's love. Love isn't dependency; it's truly wanting the best for someone else and acting selflessly to ensure their happiness.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
CS: APPLY! Just apply to millions and millions of things. Every contest essay you write makes you a better writer, every cover letter helps you learn how to sell yourself, and every summit you visit helps you learn how to network yourself. Then every experience you do get accepted for helps you find your niche in the world to help others. For Her Campus’s 22 Under 22 Most Inspiring College Women competition, I was nominated by a woman who worked for a different company that denied me for something that’s criteria I didn’t exactly meet. So that “no” from her company resulted in a “yes” at Her Campus. You never know who will see your resumes, and who will be impressed by you. And yes, sometimes it’s disheartening to have an email full of “no,” but I promise you that one "yes" will make it all worth it.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
CS: "What I hear when I'm being yelled at is people caring loudly at me." – Leslie Knope.
I know it may sound odd, but this quote really inspires me to push past negativity of someone’s tone and find the actual content to which I can use to better myself. A lot of people use yelling as a defense mechanism, when they know they are just scared or confused, and I try my best to help the individuals I’ve known to see that while also using those experiences to better myself. I don’t hide from my mistakes or pretend they never happened. I own up to them and make myself better. I think only bad leaders are faultless. It’s really easy to yell, but it’s difficult to listen, and I try every day to listen and learn.
HC: What current women’s issue matters most to you?
CS: A lot of my focus in the past year has been on the rights of adolescent girls to get an education. Whether they are denied an education due to a lack access to funds, sanitary drinking water or safe transportation, or they are subjected to violence, sexual assault and conflict, the issue of education is extremely complex and differs from individual to individual. The study of those limitations has become my main focus, because it is so multifaceted and it truly affects the whole of the international community.
HC: Has knowing multiple languages influenced the way you see the world? If so, how?
CS: Yes. It really helped me see that my family, community or even nation is a part of a large-scale network of systems, governments, organizations, cultures, etc. It helped me to understand that there are multiple methods of communication and no one correct channel of dialogue. Learning language also helps one to understand history. For example the verb "to dance" in Russian is танцевать (Tanz-so-vat), in polish tańczyć, and in german tanzen. This instantly leads one to question where the origins of the word came from, and it gives the speaker a glimpse into the histories of these languages and cultures. I think the study of linguistics gives insight to culture. You can study Russian history all you want, but until you have the ability to speak the language, read the nation’s literature, and consume its media in its intended format, you will never even come close to understanding the identity and sociology behind the nation.
HC: What is your advice for collegiettes to come out stronger from the hardships they go through?
CS: This is always a difficult question to answer, because I truly see each person’s ability to cope with hardships as individualized, but I personally believe forcing yourself to list possible positive outcomes truly helps you get through hardships and gives you something to fight for.
When I studied in Russia, I had a co-worker who verbally harassed me as well as other girls in the program. It took a while, but I was able to report him to the individuals who worked above me and convince them of my case. This inspired other girls he had hurt to speak out and resulted in him getting fired. The time I spent in Russia was extremely difficult after that, because some of the Russian as well as foreign councilors had thought I had overreacted to the situation, but during the last week one of the women I worked with told me, “I never thought I'd actually see someone be punished for such behavior. I’ve been subjected to harassment before, but now I see how I can fight back.” Since my time in Russia, I’ve been able to tell my story, which has resulted in other individuals of all genders confiding in me their experiences of sexual violence. All those conversations made my experience worth it, and I hope other collegiettes will be able to turn their hardships into a positive experience for others.
Iris is the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.