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Mandarin Chinese teacher Tzuhsuan Sophie Kuan celebrates her naturalization with students.

At long last, citizenship

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Tzuhsuan Sophie Kuan says she understands her students a little bit better now.

Kuan, who teaches Mandarin Chinese at East Ridge High School and Lake Middle School, went through a naturalization ceremony Jan. 18 to receive her United States citizenship.

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"I feel closer to students now," she said. "Through the whole process, I know what it means to be American a little more.

"You can teach a student, but if you know their background more, that's better because you know them more."

The steps to U.S. citizenry

Kuan came to the U.S. from Taiwan in August of 2008 for graduate school at the University of Minnesota.

Kuan said she decided to attend school in the U.S. because of the many opportunities it would provide for her.

"I wanted to have another cultural influence," she said. "Here, there is good enrichment to learn another language and culture to open your world view and life experience."

While at the University of Minnesota, Kuan studied a variety of foreign languages including English, French and Spanish.

"I am a language lover," she said. "I really like learning languages."

It was her love of languages that eventually led Kuan to the career path of Mandarin Chinese teacher.

"That's what kind of initiated me to want to teach," she said." I like the education system here since it brings more variety for students to choose from here."

This is Kuan's first year as a full-time crossover teacher at both East Ridge and Lake. Previously Kuan worked as both a substitute and part-time teacher at Lake.

Shortly after Kuan's arrival in the United States she received her green card, which allows permanent residence in the U.S.

Even though Kuan already has permission to remain in the U.S., she said she decided to apply for citizenship because of the increased rights it would provide her.

"Green card does not allow you to vote or have other rights," she said. "With citizenship you have more responsibility, but you have more rights."

According to the U.S. Immigration Support website, an individual with a green card has the right to live and work permanently in the United States. A person's valid green card also means that he or she is registered in the U.S. in accordance with United States immigration law.

Whereas the green card allowed Kuan to live and work in the U.S., U.S. citizenship offers the maximum rights available in the United States, according to the U.S. Immigration Support website. The benefits of U.S. citizenship include: the ability to sponsor relatives and family members so they can immigrate to the United States. U.S. citizens can live and work permanently in the United States, cannot be deported or denied entry into the United States, have the right to get a U.S. passport and U.S. citizens are also eligible to receive additional services and assistance from U.S. embassies and consulates.

"With the whole process of being a citizen you can vote," Kuan said. "You can have good involvement in the whole society."

The first step for Kuan in receiving her citizenship was to fill out the citizenship application.

Next she had to be fingerprinted.

Kuan had to study English, history and facts about the U.S. before taking the "English and civics" test.

Once Kuan passed the test, she then went through an interview process with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"They interview you as a person to see if you qualify as a good citizen," Kuan said. "If all that goes well, you then get to attend the ceremony."

The final step in the citizenship process was to attend the naturalization.

Kuan actually celebrated her citizenship two additional times outside of the naturalization ceremony.

Both East Ridge and Lake held celebrations for Kuan where students dressed in red, white and blue and presented Kuan with an American flag.

"It was pretty touching," she said. "The students are very sweet to celebrate it for me."

Kuan said she feels very proud to have received her U.S. citizenship.

"You do have a sense of accomplishment," she said.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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