NORWICH – As voting day draws near, this election season means much more than ever for 34-year-old Philippines native Don Currie, who for the first time, will be eligible to head to the polls as an official United States citizen. This year, the Norwich resident is among a wave of new citizens who look forward to finally having a voice in the November elections.
For Currie, taking the United States Citizenship test was a long time coming. His endeavor began nearly eight years ago when he started collecting the required paperwork and looking into the federal mandates. It was an intimidating process, he remembered, and one he wasn’t willing to jump into right away. He obliged the federal residency laws, renewing his Visa every eight years since first moving to Norwich 25 years ago, but it wasn’t until April of this year when Currie seriously considered taking the test. With overwhelming support from his wife, Teresa, he paid the required $800 fee, showed evidence of enlisting in a military draft, and finally began the months-long process.
“A lot of what we had to fill out was about his background and personal information,” recalled Teresa. “It was about a 20-page form about his personal history.” Forms were followed up by a series of biometric tests, including Don’s background checks and fingerprinting, all of which were the easiest part of a drawn-out process, he recalled.
“They sent me a lot of information in the mail to study,” he explained. “It’s intimidating.” Piles of history books and reference materials covering everything from early American civilization to current politics sat on his coffee table – all of it pertinent to the citizenship test. “They told me I needed to study it,” he said, “but they weren’t specific about what I needed to know.”
In the following months, Don went through each book given him, page by page, making notes and flash cards useful for studying and always preparing for the worst. “I couldn’t relax for a few months,” he recalled. For the duration of the summer, he juggled his studies with his full-time job in Binghamton, and his home life with Teresa and their two girls, 5-year-old Mia and 7-year-old Kayleigh.
Test day finally arrived in mid-September. Don and his wife drove to the nearest testing center in Broome County, where Don, along with several other would-be citizens from different areas of the region, were asked a series of questions that tested their competency of American history, as well as their verbal and written English communication skills. Each subject was given two hours to complete the interview, with the requirement to correctly answer six out of ten questions. “I was nervous,” he recalled. Don was given the first six questions and had to respond verbally in order to be simultaneously evaluated on his adeptness to communicate. Having gotten the first six questions right, “they told me I could stop there,” he said...