My name is Hwanhee (Hilary). I’m seventeen years old, and I’m currently a junior in high school.
My parents brought me and my siblings to the US from South Korea when I was just ten months old. Due to the lack of pathways to citizenship, I am still a Korean citizen even though I have never left the U.S. since moving here almost 17 years ago. America is all I’ve ever known—I’m more comfortable speaking English than Korean, and because I was so young when I left Korea, I don’t remember a single thing about the country. Everything that I know about Korea is what I’ve learned growing up here in the U.S. Growing up, I’ve seen my whole family struggle due to the lack of permanent residency in America—my parents working tirelessly for as long as I can remember in fear of denial of E-2 Visa renewal and in turn losing the residency status for our entire family—my sister crying due to the limitations she faced as a student when deciding on a major to pursue, and applying for jobs and finding out that numerous companies only consider applicants that are green card holders or citizens—my brother who left the U.S. when his Visa expired.
Now that I will be applying to colleges in less than a year, I am fearful of what I will be facing. I had never thought about not attending college, but now I realize that whether or not I could go to college solely depends on whether my parents could afford expensive international student college tuition. My attending college would require my parents’ sacrifice not only financially, but also the time they could spend with my grandparents in Korea in poor health. If it weren’t for me, my parents could spend time with them.
I feel American and I grew up just like my American friends around me. I only wish that I could also have the same opportunities as them.