A Pathway to Citizenship, One Step Closer to a Dream Come True

Written by Samantha Ickes on . Posted in Features

A Kent State freshman became a U.S. citizen in early November to help her on her journey to becoming a medical doctor.

Integrated life sciences student Joanne Kim. Photo by Emily Kaelin.

Joanne Kim, an honors student studying integrated life sciences, recently went through the process of becoming a citizen to accomplish her academic and career goals of becoming a medical doctor. She believed becoming a citizen was the first step to achieving her dream. She waited for her 18th birthday to apply for citizenship since it is one of the eligibility requirements listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I’m very happy. I was just waiting for it because it’s a step I have to take for my dream,” Kim says. “I knew I was not going to go back to Korea to live, and I knew I had to finish schooling and get my license here if I wanted to practice or become a doctor.”

Kim came to the U.S. from South Korea with her family at the age of three when her father, an LG Corp. employee, was transferred to the U.S.

“My education was based in this country. So I guess it’s easier for me to see the end of my dream in America and living here,” Kim said.

When Kim turned 18, she filled out the N-400, the naturalization application needed to apply for citizenship. She had been waiting for that moment since she began her high school career. Kim was certain she wanted to become a doctor and practice in the U.S. and was excited that the moment to apply was finally here.

Once Kim sent in her citizenship request, there was nothing left to do but wait for the letter to come to request her presence for fingerprinting, the next step in the process. Waiting in anticipation for these letters was the longest part of the citizenship process. Kim had to wait weeks between each step to receive a letter that would tell her if and when she could continue on her journey to citizenship.

According to the official website of the Department of Homeland Security, the fingerprinting process, referred to as a “biometric appointment,” is a background check of the individual applying for citizenship. Once the background check is completed, the individual may continue with the citizenship process.

After fingerprinting, Kim said she received a booklet containing 100 questions that the test portion of the citizenship process would be polled from. The booklet contained a CD and gave the answers with explanations to all possible questions. Kim studied this in preparation for the big test, knowing it would be the most difficult part of the process.

There are two tests taken during the citizenship process. One is an English proficiency test and the other is a civic test, which covers government questions that the U.S. believes every citizen should know. In order to pass the civic portion of the test, the applicant has to answer six questions correctly in a row out of ten total questions, Kim said. Kim described these questions as “simplistic.” For example, the booklet contained practice questions such as “what is the job of the president?” and “what are the three branches of government?”

Kim took her citizenship exams in the Immigration Office located in downtown Columbus.

“I just prayed and hoped that I would pass the exam,” she said.

As she sat down to take the exam, she hoped her nerves would not get the best of her. However, her studying and preparation paid off.

“I was lucky because I grew up here, so it was easier for me to go through the process than most people,” Kim said.

Not long after taking the citizenship tests, she received a letter in the mail requesting her presence for the Oath of Allegiance. An individual cannot become a citizen without completing the Oath of Allegiance, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is administered by the USCIS at an administrative ceremony or by a judge in a judicial ceremony. Kim was almost at the end of her journey to citizenship.

“I think she’s intelligent and compassionate and is great when working with people. She’s going to be very successful in the medical field,” Bridget Wilson, a close friend and roommate of Kim’s, said.

By November, Kim had completed her Oath of Allegiance and officially became a citizen of the United States of America.

“There was a sense of patriotism and proudness but at the same time a sadness because I’m not legally part of the country my family and ancestors are,” Kim said.

When Kim became a citizen of the U.S., she had to renounce her citizenship to South Korea because Korea does not currently recognize dual citizenship. Kim is sad she is no longer considered a South Korean citizen, but she knows it is a sacrifice she needs to make in order to achieve her ultimate dream.

Some applicants find becoming a citizen a great accomplishment and celebrate the final Oath of Allegiance ceremony with pictures and parties, but Kim said she didn’t think it was a big of a deal. Unlike some of the other individuals who were taking photos like “they were in a photo shoot,” Kim and her father didn’t take pictures of the ceremony. Kim wanted to keep it quiet.

“I told some of my friends that I was getting my citizenship. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all because it was one thing that I had to do for my dream,” Kim said. “It was more of a necessity, so I didn’t think it was special in any way.”

However, her friends decided to throw her a surprise citizenship party anyway.

“I think she’s intelligent and compassionate and is great when working with people. She’s going to be very successful in the medical field,” Bridget Wilson, a close friend and roommate of Kim’s, said. “I’m really happy for Joanne. I know she’s going to be a kind and intelligent citizen, and that’s something we really need.”

Alex Malik, another friend of Kim’s, said the party was a complete surprise. He and Wilson invited many of the ILS students to come to Kim’s party.

“We wanted to make sure everyone else knew because it is a big deal,” Malik said.

Kim celebrated her citizenship in early November with all her friends and fellow ILS students. She began attending school in August as a permanent resident, residing in the United States. However, only three months later, she was now an official U.S. citizen. She said she is happy with her decision to become a citizen and is looking forward to continuing her education in order to become a doctor someday. Joanne Kim is on her way to fulfilling her dreams of being a medical doctor, practicing in the United States of America.

“It’s for my career and my dream. I would be able to do the same thing in Korea, but I’ve been so integrated here I feel like it would be hard,” Kim said. “My education was based in this country. So I guess it’s easier for me to see the end of my dream in America and living here.”