Throughout 2017, Aqua will be highlighting each of our eight states for a month at a time. In March we put a spotlight on Aqua Illinois, and now, for the month of April, our focus is on sharing all about Aqua Indiana. One way we’re sharing our story, is by sharing our employees’ stories.
As a company, we know it’s our employees who make us great! And throughout these state spotlights, we are making an effort to point out some among the many who have interesting and impressive stories to share, both professionally and personally. In Indiana, one such employee is Financial Accountant Yan Ma.
Yan, a Chinese native who moved to the United States 20 years ago, will celebrate her seventh anniversary with Aqua this August. But that’s not all Yan will be celebrating this year! 2017 will mark the year that Yan became a U.S. citizen. Yan is excited about this milestone in her life. This is her story:
What made you want to move to the United States, from China, 20 years ago?
When I was in high school in China, I had a dream to come to America and get my education in the States. This is a land of freedom and opportunity. I knew that if I moved here, worked hard and got a degree, that I could have a better life.
In early 1980s, China opened its door to the Western World. A lot of younger generations had similar dreams of coming to America, and we studied English to carry those out. I had my mind made up that I wanted to give it a shot. I had an uncle who came to the states in the 1960s, so I knew I’d have some family so I wouldn’t feel too lonely in America.
How did you go about making this dream a reality?
I continuously worked on my dream; I self-motivated. I kept working on my English, went to college and graduated with a degree in economics, and got a job in Beijing. Eventually, I left my job and focused on intensive English language training for a year.
During that time, my husband Mark and I worked part-time as translators for Beijing Warner Gear Company, which had a joint venture with Borg-Warner, on a project called the China Action Plan. Through that project, we met some managers and engineers who had graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. My husband and I decided to apply to that school, and were accepted with scholarships. It is highly competitive for someone from China to be granted a visa from the US Embassy to attend school in the states. We were lucky!
Once at Ball State, I started my schooling over in an undergraduate program and earned my Master’s Degree in Accounting, and graduated with honors. My husband has degrees in environmental geology and computer science.
Has your experience in the U.S. been equal to the dream you had?
It’s living up to the dream. America is a melting pot, where people come from all over the world; we have been treated well in America. We have decent jobs; Mark works in programming for Indiana University’s medical school. We have three-year-old twins, Emma and Baron. We love to travel and being a U.S. citizen means you have the passport and ability to travel to most countries without limitations.
Is that one of the reasons you decided to become a U.S. citizen?
It’s one of the reasons, yes. We’ve been here 20 years. Our children were born here and will be raised here. We feel more at home here, and more comfortable working and living here.
What was the process like becoming a U.S. citizen?
It was a long process, so we started off completing one step at a time. I was eligible to apply to be a citizen in 2013. China doesn’t allow you to have dual citizenship, so I knew once this was complete, I’d no longer be a Chinese citizen, which is a little hard. Now when I want to visit family, I must get a Visa to China. We mentally prepared ourselves for that piece of this while going through the process.
I found out recently that I passed the final process of this, the interview. Now I just have to wait to be told when I can attend the ceremony, in the courtroom, to document and make my journey official. That should take place in the next month or two.
Do you plan to celebrate?
Absolutely! My husband is also getting his citizenship, so we will celebrate together.
What does completing this process, and being named a U.S. citizen mean to you?
I am getting excited; it will be a great milestone in my life. Becoming a citizen means other significant changes in my life, such as being eligible to vote, and not having to worry about being deported.
While I am proud to be named a U.S. citizen, I will continue to celebrate the bridge I’ve established that connects my Eastern and Western cultures through the art of Chinese folk dancing and singing. Check out Yan’s Aqua blog on her experiences performing in Chinese festivals.