Years to citizenship
Arrived in the US
What do you remember about your journey to the United States?
I remember seeing the escalator in the airport. I started running upwards on the escalator going down. My mother traveled to the United States with me first. My brother and sister stayed back with my grandparents for a little while. My mom made friends with a missionary on the flight. The missionary was very kind to my mother. We got stuck in an airport along the way. In that moment you realize: You’re an immigrant. You’re stuck. Who do you call? We didn’t even know how to navigate the airport. The woman took us into our house and took care of us until we could get back on our journey.
What have you learned?
Resilience. You do not stop. You keep going. Even when it’s hard.
What did you give up?
I wanted to avoid being teased. I had to try and assimilate as much as possible as a kid and that followed me through college. I was trying to cover up my culture and avoid being exposed. I tried to blend in, which meant I lost language and culture. Now, I’m trying to learn and retain my language as an adult and embrace my culture.
What message would you share with a newly arriving immigrant?
Embrace everything. Embrace the negative. Let that be your fuel. Embrace the positive. Let that be your teaching point. Embrace your culture. Let that be that voice to truly spread who you are. Don’t let anyone else tell your story. You tell your story.
What else do you want to share with our community?
Resilience is a part of us. If you show me, I can do it. I was in college when I got my citizenship. Once my dad learned about the permanent residency and citizenship process, he filed paperwork for many other immigrants. I remember holding his briefcase. You’ve got a lot of stress in the family when you can’t work. There aren’t that many F-1 visas available to work on campus. You can’t take financial aid or loans. You’re paying everything upfront. You can’t defer anything.