I Left My Heart Stateside: A Short Story of Then & Now


It actually happened. Who would have thought? Well, quite a few people but then there’s me, doubting almost every step of the way until I have the approval - the approval of my permanent residency application. Yes, this is the newest permanent resident of the United States of America writing this! I cannot wrap my head around it.

But let me start from the beginning. My goodness what a journey it’s been.

January 8, 2008 was the very first time I set foot on American ground. Ever. I was young, I was naive. With a bunch of other foreign exchange students, I landed in Newark. It was cold. We were tired, yet so absolutely thrilled to be there: in the states. From there, we should all take different flights sending us all over the United States. The greatest adventure yet was lying ahead of us, living in host families, and attending high school for 6 to 12 months. We were 16 at that time - and this is when I lost my heart. Technically, I didn’t really lose it, I left it in New York state - or the U.S. at large, I should say. Funny, because I didn’t even know this country at that time, hadn’t even seen a fraction of it, but the way it welcomed me and the time I had was enough to know that this would not be my first and last time in the Land of the Free.

When something just feels right. When you just know. Little did I know, however, at that point, how my American love story should unfold during the next 10 years. Yes, you heard it right, it’s been 10 years since I first set food on American soil. It sounds so long, yet, in retrospective, it seems like the time flew by. Doesn’t it always?

I made wonderful connections during my first time abroad, which lead to me coming back the year after - and after that, and then in 2012. I always secretly dreamed of going to college there but the costs were just not feasible. However, after I had finished my postgraduate degree, life should take an unexpected turn. Deeply unhappy with where I was, I started an internship that eventually turned into a paid position - and the big opportunity to go abroad. Not just anywhere. No, to the southernmost city of California. Could this really be within reach? Three months was the time frame we were talking about - turning into 18. My life changed. Not knowing for a while if this was really going to happen but pushing through and hanging on to this opportunity I was so longing for, everything was eventually finalized within a matter of three weeks.

And then I was sitting on a plane. San Diego - I have to admit I did not have a lot of knowledge about this city - within reach.

On December 2 in 2015, one suitcase, one stuffed carry-on, 11 hours later, I arrived in California’s southernmost city. A Cali dream began. I stepped out of the airport, inhaled the mild air, saw the palm trees, and couldn’t believe it: I was here. This should be home for a year and a half. All the hard work and struggles had paid off. A rollercoaster of emotions.

Hello again, America. This time waving from the west coast. Having adulted and matured more, with a different perspective on life but the same affection for the Land of the Free than before - maybe even stronger.

A suitcase, a stuffed carry-on, and a new city that was unfolding in front of me like a blank piece of paper. It was my opportunity to write my story.

And this is what I am doing.

Fast forward, I definitely got into a routine but soon realized how this is the place I have always wanted to be at. I just knew. It felt right. I have never been happier. The way of life, the people, the opportunities - my heart was reaching for the sky. I made it here. Yes, I did.

Life is a beautiful thing.

And who would have known that this American love story should get even better?

Well, as many of you know, I found my better half here. My Rickey. The man. My husband. And from that day on, the rest is history.

And here we are. I cannot grasp what happened on October 31, 2017. I guess I need time to process all of that. We had our final interview - after a lengthy immigration process - determining whether I would be granted permanent resident status. WE DID IT! This is unreal. I AM OFFICIALLY A PERMANENT RESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I have a new home. I have found the place that has made me a better person, changed my thinking, my way of living and loving, my outlook on life.

My love story started when I was 16. Ten years later, and this love is burning, bearing the fruits of loyalty throughout those years.

Thank you, America, for having become my official home, where I can create my life, where we can freely build our family.