Student’s citizenship path began with big leap

Reading education Mater's student Saumi Liyanage becomes a citizen

Dec. 8, 2020 – DENTON – A journey begins with one step. For Saumi Liyanage, that initial step was more like a huge leap.

Liyanage left her home in Sri Lanka to pursue higher education in America. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, meeting and marrying her husband, and teaching in Arlington ISD, Liyanage continues her journey in higher education, but now as a United States citizen.

Liyanage gained U.S. citizenship in October 2020 while working toward a Reading Specialist Certificate and Certificate of Biliteracy as part of Arlington ISD’s Reading Education cohort at TWU. She plans to graduate with a Master of Education in reading education in Spring 2023.

“My husband, friends and second family are here,” Liyanage said. “This is the community I think of when I think of ways to contribute to my community. The students I worry about, care about and love are all here.”

Those are the reasons she chose to pursue citizenship in the United States, a desire that first arose when she met her best friend and now husband. The aspiration deepened as her teaching role provided a sense of purpose.

But the path was not easy. It took time, commitment and resources.

“It was a long process to first get my residency, renew my residency card, and then finally apply for citizenship,” Liyanage said. “I have collected an abundance of documents, tokens, souvenirs, receipts, etc. to prove that my relationship with my husband is a bona fide one. I understand there is due process, but it was certainly taxing to keep everything for years on years.”

When she gained her citizenship, Liyanage felt a sense of relief.

“It feels like now I truly belong here. I finally feel like I can claim the life I have here and not be considered an outsider, even though I will still carry my Sri Lankan culture with me,” Liyanage said.

Page last updated 8:35 AM, December 8, 2020