I was born in a small village in Surin province in Thailand. I first visited the United States 17 or 18 years ago because I fell in love with Bill and I wanted to be with him. We met in Bangkok where I worked as a cook in a hotel restaurant. After we met we stayed in contact. He visited Thailand many times and every time he came back he connected with me. That’s how we started a relationship.
Our love was growing stronger and stronger, and in 2013 Bill and I got married. I applied for a green card. After I had a green card I could apply for citizenship. We didn’t like the uncertainty of renewing a green card. And even with a green card, when I traveled I didn’t like coming back to the United States and going through immigration at the airport. It always made me nervous. They always asked a lot of questions and one time they stopped me for two or three hours to answer their questions.
I found a lawyer to help me apply for citizenship, but still I worried. I wanted to make sure I knew my American history and that I understood the types of questions they might ask. So I took a two-month-long citizenship class at the local library in Portland, Oregon where we live now. I only had a few friends in Portland before I went to the class, but that changed after I began attending classes. There were probably 30 students in my class, and I became really good friends with about a third of them. One is from Ethiopia, three from Vietnam, two from China, and the others are from Cameroon, Venezuela, Russia, and Japan. I am the second in this group to become a citizen. When I returned to class the day after my citizenship ceremony everyone congratulated me. Even now that I am a citizen, I am still going to classes at the library where I study English grammar and conversation.
When I took the citizenship test I felt very well prepared. But even though I knew the answers to 100 potential questions, my heart was pounding. Then the immigration official only asked me six! She told me if I answered the first six questions correctly she wouldn’t ask me the rest, and I thought to myself, “No! Ask me more.” It was much easier than I thought. After becoming a citizen, I felt complete relief. I was even able to register to vote right away; someone approached me right after the ceremony. In the following days, I also immediately applied for a United States passport. In my old country they often discourage people from pursuing their dreams. Here, people appreciate me and encourage me. I like being an American. Here I feel free, like I can be myself.