Anthony Hanline is a full-time student and has tutored his learner, Abubaker, since September 2016. This past November, Abubaker was sworn in as a US citizen after passing the difficult naturalization exam. Anthony and Abubaker worked together closely to prepare for the exam, and Anthony agreed to share his experiences with the naturalization process to encourage fellow tutors and learners.
The Beginning: Studying for the Test
We began this process first by utilizing materials available through the Literacy Center’s library. We would practice with workbooks and flashcards during our sessions, and Abubaker would listen to CDs as homework practice each week.
We studied this content for over a year in our tutoring sessions, and over time Abubaker began bringing in resources he discovered in his own research—study materials he found online or from friends going through this process.
As we began learning more about naturalization, we discovered differences between real life experiences with this process and how it is presented in books. It was interesting to experience this process first hand—it was the first time I had ever needed to know about this.
Not only did I learn about the actual content of the interview, I also learned firsthand how this process affects our learners. I learned about the misinformation that is circulated in our community and the anxiety it causes our learners.
Challenges Along the Way
This process was rewarding to successfully complete, but intimidating to interact with firsthand. When completing the application and filling out the necessary paperwork, we found the language used in the documents and the requirements expected of applicants to be alienating. It doesn’t encourage our learners with lower literacy skills to apply and to reach for new goals.
Abubaker had a fear of being deported if he failed the exam on his first try, even though he is a permanent resident of the US. Because of this fear, he delayed applying until he was sure he knew the content, even though I recognized that he was ready much earlier.
Becoming a Citizen
Now that Abubaker has become a citizen, he is excited about the future and has less fear about his place in this country. His first step is to apply for his US passport. He hasn’t seen his family in over five years, and his parents are getting older; a passport will allow him to spend time with them. Now that he is a US citizen, he has the ability to travel home for the first time.
With the confidence he has gained in studying for this test, his next goal is to study for a commercial driver’s license.
I would encourage any tutors who have learners with this goal to take a leap—if you approach this process with humility, and you’re not afraid of making mistakes, you’ll be able to accomplish something that will really benefit your learner.