Mei Yu Huang first came to the United States from Taishan, China, on the coast of the South China Sea. This conversation was translated by Allen Wong.

Mei Yu Huang became a US Citizen 17 years ago.  (Photo: Lilli Dang)

I came to the United States 22 years ago from Taishan, in Guangdong province. I came looking for a better life. I have three children. My second daughter sponsored my husband and me and we lived with my daughter for our first eight years in Chicago, in a three-bedroom house. It wasn’t easy. I could not speak any English, and it was very difficult to get around. I found work here as a tailor, and today I am retired.

My three grandchildren were born here. They are citizens, but they are too young to vote.  When they are older, I will tell them that in China there are no elections. They shouldn’t take voting for granted. I wanted to become a citizen so that I would be able to vote. I wanted to vote for the president, for the governor and for the mayor. I want to be prepared, and to help choose good ones.

Mei Yu Huang (far right) enjoys English classes at the Chinese Mutual Aid Association of Chicago. (Photo: Lilli Dang)

I became a citizen 17 years ago. I studied for the citizenship test with the help of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) where I learned some American history and I learned about living in the United States. Learning the language was the hardest part. I studied very hard. I listened to English language tapes for 8 months, staying up every night until midnight to study. I took the test in English and I passed it. I am still taking ESL classes. The CMAA teachers are very good. As I told my cousin, don’t be nervous, don’t be afraid, join the citizenship classes, and become a citizen. My cousin said if it had not been for me pushing him, he might not be a citizen today. When I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen, I was very nervous, but I was also excited and happy. The first time I voted I went with my husband to the Truman College in Chicago with the CMAA students for early voting. The United States has given me freedom. As a citizen now, I feel a responsibility to make sure we have a good government.