MTS Voices: Becoming an American Citizen


MTS Voices

 Barbara Guarriello, MTS parent and teacher, shared with us the her experience of becoming an American Citizen. Born and raised in Sorrento, Italy, Barbara moved to the United States at the age of 27 with her American boyfriend, and after many years living and working in the United States, and marrying that same American, Barbara finally took the leap. 

Barbara taking the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance in Oakland on October 16, 2019

Becoming An American Citizen 


It all happened suddenly one night at the dinner table. I was expressing, yet again, my frustrations about renewing my green card, lamenting about the complex bureaucratic process, the fees, and the time I had to take off work to drive to the immigration office. Amid my emotional thinking process, my 10-year-old son exclaimed that it was time to become a citizen. Everyone happily agreed, and I started the process the next day. 

The dream of becoming an American citizen, though, did not start that night, but many decades earlier, when I was a typical Italian teenager who fantasized about moving to the States and living the American Dream after watching Fame, The Nanny, and Friends. Who could have imagined that many years later, on October 16th, 2019, I would have sworn an oath to always  defend and protect this country? My husband still believes that I married him only to pursue this dream, but no, it was just a very happy coincidence. 

I moved to the US in 2005, following my boyfriend, who later became my husband. The initial plan was simple: I needed to understand if I even liked living in a different country and, consequently, try to find a job to support myself. I immediately felt at ease and sensed that this far-away country, so very different in culture and traditions from my own, could indeed be home for me. I quickly found a teaching job in Connecticut and started a brand new chapter of my life. My teenage love for the United States of America only grew stronger and deeper, as I discovered a bit more about this country every day and navigated my new American life. 

Initially, I was hoping to apply for citizenship as soon as I could, which was two years after getting married. Our growing family’s needs and a busy work schedule interfered with that plan, and 14 years went by before I could make that dream a reality. In late 2016, in the midst of a delicate and fragile political situation, immigration and the role of immigrants in our society were often in the spotlight of local and national news. Benefits were being revoked, and existing laws modified in alarming ways. My children, who were very young at the time, started to hear information that they lacked the sophistication to understand, and they were anxious and concerned about the uncertainty of my status. The desire to give my children reassurance and stability, combined with my love for this country, encouraged me to begin thinking more seriously about the citizenship process. 

The process was supposed to take between three to six months, but it lasted almost 18 months. Collecting the necessary documents proved to be time-consuming and, at times, frustrating, but I still remember how excited I felt when I finally submitted everything online. After an initial appointment to take my biometrics, I was told to expect my notice for the final interview soon. In the meantime, I was encouraged to study all the questions and other information about civics, history, and government contained in the booklet I was given.  Until that moment, I had managed to remain calm, quiet, and composed, but after a quick glance at the booklet, I vividly remember my heart beating faster and faster. Deep breath, deep breath,I kept repeating to myself as I read about amendments, government cabinets, and other innumerable historical facts. I quickly decided to approach this as any teacher would …by creating a Quizlet set. As my interview date approached, I enlisted every member of my family to help me review and practice. Though some of them were not very gracious about my mistakes, they were all willing to help me study. I very much enjoyed learning about civics and history, and I sincerely appreciated the process of learning about my new country and understanding the historical connections between past and present. I was nervous and scared once the day of my interview finally arrived, but everything went well, and my interview was successful. 

Then, on October 16th, 2019, the whole family gathered at a beautiful theater in Oakland. Thousands of people just like me, representing more than 50 countries, were there to take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance and officially become American citizens. The ceremony was solemn and highly emotional. All the countries represented that day were mentioned, and their citizens asked to stand and be recognized. In the end, we all swore our allegiance to the United States of America and the entire theater erupted in heartfelt and lengthy applause to celebrate our achievement. Officially becoming an American and being able to share the experience with my family was incredibly special and I will never forget this day. 

Though I was very excited to become an American, I need to mention that I only pursued American citizenship once I was certain that I would be able to keep my Italian citizenship as well. Not every immigrant is allowed to have double citizenship, and I was thrilled that Italy was one of the countries that allowed it. Having dual citizenship is the ultimate reflection of my own truth and identity, allowing me to maintain my deep roots in my own culture and country of origin while at the same time being connected and grounded in the country I choose to live in every day. I am forever grateful to the United States and its citizens, who kindly adopted me and gave me the opportunity to pursue the amazing life I enjoy today.

Barbara Guarriello
March 2022


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