Saakshi Arora Interview

April 23, 2012 - no comments. Posted by in Citizenship Rutgers.

Saakshi Arora, a junior at Rutgers University, recently attended a naturalization ceremony hosted by Citizenship Rutgers at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. There, she and her mother became fully naturalized citizens of the United States. Vanessa Matthews, a volunteer with Eagleton’s Program on Immigration and Democracy, interviewed Ms. Arora for a feature article in Citizenship Rutgers’ newsletter and web page at http://epid.rutgers.edu/gallery/citizenship-rutgers/.

Saakshi, a Rutgers student, her mother, a research scientist, and other new Americans raised their rights hands as they were sworn in as US Citizens at Rutgers University, in November 2011.

Vanessa: What is your native country and how long have you been living in the United States?
Saakshi: I am 20 years old and was born in India. I have been living in the United States for 11 years. When I was 9 years old, my mother got a work (H1B) visa with a pharmaceutical company in the United States, which is when we moved.

Vanessa: What was the process like for you to become a naturalized citizen?
Saakshi: I actually thought it was really nice. When I went to take the (citizenship) test in Newark, I was really nervous but they said I passed! About five minutes later someone invited me to the Citizenship Rutgers ceremony. I was excited to accept because being part of Rutgers and Douglass (College) has been an amazing experience so being naturalized on campus was a great idea.

Vanessa: Can you describe your experience as a LPR at RU? Did you face any obstacles?
Saakshi: I came to the U.S. on an H1B visa through my mom’s job, so I didn’t really face any big challenges at Rutgers. After a couple of years, we applied for a Green Card through her company and 5 years after that we applied for citizenship. It took a while but we finally got it and Rutgers’ program to help review the application and documents was great. We were really concerned on whether or not we were doing it the right way, so it was great to have all our questions answered.

Vanessa: How, if at all, has naturalization changed your perspective on higher education or living in the United States in general?
Saakshi: You know, I was asked the same question when I completed the exam in Newark after they found out I was a Rutgers student. At that moment, I didn’t feel anything different; I thought of it as just changing from being an Indian citizen to being an American citizen. But then I realized this is a big deal. I am now really excited to vote, which I couldn’t do when I turned 18, and this is a huge year to do it. Being a citizen of the U.S. also gives me an extra benefit of qualifying for education grants, which I didn’t have access to before, so that’s great.

Vanessa: What insight or advice would you offer to other students, LPRs or undocumented students, in pursuing a path to citizenship?
Saakshi: I would definitely tell them to take the time to research everything. It is difficult to be comfortable with changing your citizenship and people will go through those mixed feelings. But I think it is great once you do because you have so many more options and are able to develop a career path to give your kids better opportunities, like my mom did. I didn’t have that many attachments back in India since I was only 9, so it was less difficult for me, but once people accept that change, then I think the benefits are awesome.

Vanessa: What, if any, other resources did you use to learn about or facilitate your naturalization?
Saakshi: We mainly used the general USCIS website and the Citizenship Rutgers tools.

Vanessa: Since you attended the naturalization ceremony at RU, how did it feel to get your citizenship on the same campus where you are also earning your degree?
Saakshi: I cannot tell you how excited I was. It wasn’t like a normal day. I told my mother, “Mom, I am going to my own campus to become a citizen.” It was such a big deal in my life. My mom changed her life to bring me to the United States for a better opportunity and I couldn’t think of a better person to get naturalized with.

Saakshi and her mom pose with an employee of the Department of Homeland Security after taking the Oath of Allegiance.


Vanessa: Since you and your mother were naturalized at the same time, could you describe how you felt about that mother-daughter experience (or with other relatives)?
Saakshi: I have a younger sister who is 8 and was born here, so I don’t have any other siblings who were going to get naturalized, so it was just my mom and me. However, my sister was extremely excited for us. She saw how special the experience was and was even upset that she couldn’t do it, too. My mom has been my rock; she’s been with me the whole time, so it was amazing to do it with her. Meanwhile, now my sister is excited I can go and vote for her school’s budget so her class can win an ice cream social (laughs).

Vanessa: What are your professional or future goals as an “official” American?
Saakshi: (laughs) Right now I am studying Psychology and Neuroscience and I want to pursue medical school in the future.

Vanessa: Is there anything else you would like to share with Citizenship Rutgers or the immigrant community about your experience?
Saakshi: I would just say this is an amazing process to go through, but everyone needs to be willing to get the help. It is an extensive and expensive process, I don’t know how people with who struggle with money would pay for it, but I’d research for any assistance. I think that the main reason why people hesitate to apply is because it’s tedious, redundant and difficult to understand, so definitely do not be afraid to ask for help.

Vanessa: Thank you so much for your time, Saakshi! It’s been great chatting with you!

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