I disliked being called an alien; it made me feel like I was displaced, a human with limited political and social power. Yet, being an alien is part of an immigrant’s life in this country, and it shapes how and where immigrants fit in in the U.S. When I arrived in the U.S. early 2005, I had no interest of getting involved in the American political system. My direction in this culture was blurred with confusion about the foreign concept of American life.
Like most other immigrants, I wrestled with cultural differences including the language barrier, school system, cold weather, work, food, transportation and lack of funds. It was a long journey to rise above these challenges and to simultaneously form an educated political opinion with the desire to vote and get involved in local or national elections.
The dynamics of my political formation were a gradual process and shaped by different events including my political science major, jobs, internships and immigrant communities in which I had lived. Upon my arrival to Minneapolis, I landed in a dense, resident-immigrant population located on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, just three blocks from the Carlson School of Management. Despite this geographical proximity, the political disconnection was, and still is, very significant in this community. This inspired me to involve myself in campaigns and encourage people to exercise their voting rights.
Before becoming eligible voters, immigrants like me must go through a long process. The journey can take up to five years or more, and it is not easy for many immigrants to dust off the political culture of their home countries. Forming an American political opinion and gaining a sense of the modern political establishment presents a unique obstacle for those from different political atmospheres. I waited for five years and eventually became an American citizen in 2010. It was a relief to move from an “alien-ship” to a citizenship with full political rights. Despite the long journey, I am now able to practice my civic duty to vote and join my fellow Americans in letting my voice be heard.
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