COLUMBUS, Ga. – 38 people from 22 different countries are now officially American citizens.
They took their oath Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in Columbus.
For them, today is a day when the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t just something they heard. Now, it’s a rite of passage.
One college student, who is originally from Thailand, said some becoming a naturalized citizen makes her excited, but nervous.
“It’s a big step,” said 19-year-old Kanokporn Bua-ngoen. “It’s like almost like you’re becoming a new person.”
Grace Jung is 26 years old. She moved to Georgia from South Korea when she was 13. For her, becoming an American means blending the two cultures, not turning her back on her roots.
“It’s kind of a validation to myself,” Jung said. “You know, it is who I am. I mean, it’s not like I forgot about where I come from, or you know, my the language that I first learned.”
Keren Vallina moved to the United States from Cuba. She most appreciated the freedom the United States offer.
When speaking of Cuba, Vallina said the following: “You cannot express yourself, you cannot practice any religion, you cannot go anywhere, it’s really tough.”
Vallina said becoming a US citizen is something she’s wanted for years.
“A long time ago, when I was a little girl, when my family and they were the ones who decided they wanted to come to the US, I was a minor when they decided so it was a long process,” she said.
For now, Vallina is a bus driver in Valdosta, but she wants to be a nurse…a dream that begins, she said, with becoming a US citizen.
“Without that, I couldn’t move forward. I had to do that first,” she said.
This ceremony is held yearly in Columbus, which is about the same time it takes for naturalized citizens to complete the process.
For information on becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, click here.