I remember the very morning my father woke me up at 5am to get sworn in for my Citizenship. I was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school. We had an appointment at 1pm at the Los Angeles Department of Justice. My father couldn’t wait so we left the house at around 5:00am. Even though we live only 45 minutes away, he gave me 15 minutes to get ready. He wanted to be the first one there. 2 hours after we arrived, the door finally open and since we were so early we ended up passing out pamphlets all day. We were more than happy to help out to keep ourselves sane. What I had to give up to get here? Well for starter, my home country of Vietnam, grandparents and relatives that I love, move to a country I know nothing about.
The process: I was lucky enough to get grandfather in with my dad; my two older brothers weren’t as lucky and had to apply separately on their own (they were over 18). My second brother took it for granted and never applied, now pays dearly, up to today he is still a green card holder and will never be granted U.S citizenship because he has a felony on his record.
The process is easy and simple: you pay a fee and you get a 10 questions test (more like an interview). You only have to pass 7 questions. My cousin who hardly speaks any English passed with flying colors. My mother who doesn’t speak English at all took the Vietnamese version and also passed.
How I got to America: My father, who was a POW of the Vietnam War, escaped to America when I was 3 years old. He took my oldest brother with him and left as a refugee. My mother, second brother, and I were left behind in a small village of South Vietnam. I didn’t know my father until I came to the US at the age of 11. For my father it was a journey that nearly cost him his life. His boat was maliciously attacked and robbed by pirates (children were thrown off the boat, men beaten savagely and engine ripped out of the boat), a common tragic story of those days. Fortunately for my father, the men on the boat were smart enough to hide a spare engine and they also got rescued before the boat sank. So for me, the day that I became a US citizen is the day that I am united with my family and gain the ultimate freedom of an American. Becoming a US citizen means, “freedom of speech, freedom to education and most importantly freedom to be myself.” I am someone who likes to be independent and be free to live my life. Raised by a single mother I had to do everything on my own. I traveled alone, I walked to school by myself and I had to work at the age of 10. I dreamed of America since I was a little girl. At the time, America is where my father and brother live, where I can have moving toy cars and celebrate birthdays, things people take for granted but a priviledge I did not have in Vietnam.
With my citizenship I can now travel and work anywhere in the world and I am doing just that. Currently I am teaching English at a University in Korea. A privilege that is exclusive to citizenship holders. With all my struggles and sacrifice I now benefit for the long haul of “a United States’ citizen.”