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13 July 2016

New Citizen Arbina Nayeem: You Can Dream What You Want and Dare to Realize Those Dreams

(Between June 30 and July 4,  we welcomed more than 7,000 new citizens during nearly 100 naturalization ceremonies in honor of Independence Day. We are featuring stories from some of these new U.S. citizens to show how immigrants add to the strength and character of our nation.)

For Arbina Nayeem her July 4th naturalization ceremony was the capstone of a long journey from India to becoming a U. S. citizen. Growing up, her parents dreamed that she and her siblings would have the opportunity to study in the United States.

Nayeem, a trained dentist and now a Captain in the U.S. Army reserves, started her journey 12 years ago when she came to the U.S. on a student visa. "When I got the visa, I was so excited. It was the best day of my life to that point." Her new life in America was anything but easy. "At first, I was homesick, I didn’t expect to be, but I was without my family. But over the years I have been here, I have grown so much."

She remembers the long days of studying and nights of classes as she worked her way through dental school. Entrance exams for dental school were demanding, expensive and competitive, but Nayeem never gave up. She earned both a masters and doctoral degree.

Captain Nayeem in front of the Battleship New Jersey, the site of her July 4th naturalization ceremony

Along the way, she decided to join the U.S. Army. "I have always admired the military lifestyle, and I wanted to give back to the country that gave me so much. I wanted to serve. I am the first military member of my family, and I am very, very proud."

After making America her adopted home, becoming a citizen was an easy choice. "When you leave your country and come to the United States, you want to be a part of the place that you live in, the place that has given you everything. You want to be a responsible citizen."

Nayeem remembers studying for her naturalization test. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is my favorite line now. I learned a lot about the history." She remembers how the test preparation materials helped her answer every question on the test right.

Captain Nayeem with family after the ceremony

The dream of citizenship became a reality during a special Independence Day naturalization ceremony aboard the Battleship New Jersey. "Becoming a naturalized citizen on the fourth of July means so much. It was so nice, people walked up and shook my hand and thanked me for my service. All the struggles, hardships, and sacrifices my family and I dealt with were worth it. It is surreal. It still hasn’t sunk in yet."

To others considering citizenship, Nayeem says "Work hard and focus on your goals. This is a land of opportunity, you can dream what you want and dare to realize those dreams. The sky is the limit here."



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