My mother is a story teller. She is extraordinary at coming up with her own characters. One of these characters was Becky, an adventurer to America. Unbeknownst to my mother, this story may have ignited my course towards immigrating to the US.
Growing up, I had knack for languages. It just came easy to me. I also loved travelling and visiting new cultures. After a family vacation in Australia at age 12, I had “Fernfieber”, which literally means “distance fever” and is the opposite of being homesick. I had to have my travel adventure. I begged my parents to allow me to live a year abroad. I was particularly interested in the US; perhaps because of MTV, or watching too much Dawson’s Creek. And at age 16, I finally embarked on my adventure. I moved from Tuebingen, Germany to Vacaville, CA to live with a family for one year, improve my English and learn about American culture. It was a formative year in which I learned a lot about myself, relationships, and God. I fell in love with America. I felt at home. I was a foreigner but also becoming American. Upon my return back in Germany I didn’t quite fit in. I was changed. I was German but also American.
I continued to move back and forth between the two countries, doing an internship in Illinois and a semester in Kansas while completing my Bachelor’s degree in Germany. Then I decided to do my graduate studies in the US and was thrilled to be accepted to the Clinical Psychology program at Wheaton College Graduate School, IL. The summer of 2009, I entered a plane on an F1 student visa not knowing that this would be my final move. While in grad school, I attended Willow Creek Community Church. During one of the young adult services a tall, handsome guy in a leather jacket caught my eye. He charmed me into a coffee date and then into being his girlfriend.
I graduated in May of 2011 and had 90 days to find a job to secure an extension on my visa for a practical training year. After sending out resumes and praying fervently, I was able to start my first job exactly three months after graduating. My boyfriend and I continued dating. After 10 months of being “facebook official”, he proposed. Shortly after that we got married. Now it was time to apply for residency. It was an exciting day to receive that little green card in the mail! Two years passed and I decided to make the official transition and apply for citizenship. In November 2015, fourteen years after my first move, I became a dual-citizen. One year later, I started my own business, NewTree Center, Inc. I suppose you could say I am living the American dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a foreigner. I think differently, I pronounce some words in my own unique way; I have arguments about cultural differences with my husband at times. I am aware that this country has its challenges just like any other nation. But I like living here. I like how friendly people are. I like the sense of opportunity. I like that it’s not unusual to be a Christian. I like that there are so many cultures represented. I like the diverse countryside. I like the skyscrapers in the city. I like being an American.
Everyone has a story. Mine is actually quite simple. I did not have to flee persecution or war. I did not have to work my way up from nothing. Yet, I relate to anyone who has come from another country seeking to build a life in the US, whatever the circumstance. I feel hurt when people speak out against immigrants because I am one. I realize that it is a complex task to come up with laws on how someone can enter a country and this is not a political post. Instead, I want to speak an invitation to all Americans to pause and listen to the stories of those who immigrated. Cultural transition is a significant life experience and you may be inspired by plot-line of resilience and love for this country.