A New Citizen and a Richer Culture

Submitted by VEP Tutor, Joyce Hurt


Jihong and her husband, Bob, at her ceremony.

On Monday, November 26, 2012, my student, Jihong Korbonits, became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. This journey began when Jihong came to the USA from China in February 2009 on a fiancee visa to marry her husband, Bob Korbonits. Jihong was a professor of Physics and Math at a university in China. Traveling with Jihong was her daughter, Yao, who enrolled at Henderson High School. Jihong contacted VEP soon after arriving and began learning English with her tutor from VEP and also taking classes at OIC. After a few months, her tutor left to teach in Japan, and I was assigned as her new tutor. Jihong was eager to learn and worked very hard. She soon knew enough English to apply to Wegman’s Grocery Store where she now works. Her daughter excelled at Henderson and is a sophomore in chemical engineering at Villanova University. Both had arrived speaking virtually no English.  Jihong continues to refine her knowledge of English and can even use idioms and joke with her co-workers. When her daughter finishes college, Jihong hopes to return to school in order to be certified to teach in the US. All of this in three years!

Jihong was one of about 50 immigrants being sworn in at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services located at 1600 Callowhill in Philadelphia. The new citizens represented 34 different countries. We were all shown a video about the United States and another video where President Obama spoke to the new citizens. We sang the Star Spangled Banner and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony was very moving, and a woman sitting next to me, who had been sworn in six months ago, expressed her heartfelt, sincere gratitude to the people who volunteer to help immigrants learn English. She had the unique experience that her tutor, who was from Hungary, was naturalized at the very same ceremony that she was. I assume that the tutor already spoke English when she arrived. At this ceremony, my seat-mate’s 77 year-old father-in-law, who had never imagined he would become a citizen, was also being naturalized.  He has been here for 20 years but had never learned English as he lived in a community of Colombians in Queens. With his family’s encouragement, learn he did; and he cried as he received his certificate and so did the rest of us!

After the ceremony, Jihong, Bob, and I went to Chinatown where the blend of cultures is shown beautifully. We enjoyed the Chinese markets where Jihong instructed us in the various foods, and we had a wonderful dim sum lunch. It was a day where we appreciated our American freedoms and citizenship, but also realized how enriching and
valuable other cultures are to our lives.

Student and Tutor Celebrate

Student and Tutor Celebrate

Editor’s note:  If you are moved to become an English tutor with the Volunteer English Program, please call us at 610-918-8222, or visit our website, www.volunteerenglish.org. Jihong is one of several VEP students who met the goal of citizenship this year.  Congratulations!


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