CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia gained 45 new U.S. citizens during a Naturalization Ceremony on Monday.

Becoming a United States citizen takes anywhere from years to decades of sacrifice. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must pass a citizenship oral exam listed with questions about the U.S. government, the Constitution and more.

Moving to a new county means going out of your comfort zone. It also means a new culture, new customs and sometimes even learning a new language.

For these 45 West Virginians, this experience is all too familiar.

Coming from countries like India, Jamaica, Venezuela and more, their journeys of moving to the United States were each unique.

“I was born and raised in Iraq, Bagdad. I was 13-years-old when the war started there. I was a kid. I didn’t know what a war means. So, I thought it was something that would last for two to three months, and everything would go back normal, and unfortunately that didn’t,” Sura Hakeem Naser said.

Naser was one of 45 West Virginians who officially became a U.S. citizen on Monday. She said she spent years working at a reconciliation center helping Iraqi citizens after the war began in 2003. She eventually moved to the United States along with her family to prioritize their safety.

“It was a bit dangerous for me because I had to skip school a lot. I had to go undercover in lot of places. That took a lot of me, but I needed to help more people, and I saw that program helped both sides, saved a lot of lives,” Naser said.  

The new citizens were joined by supporting family and friends as they accepted their certificates of citizenship and celebrated officially calling the United States their permanent home.

“I think this is the place where people say you can be whoever you want, and you can. You have the opportunity to grow, to study, to work, to be a citizen, to be a resident. So, I think being an American citizen will be great. I pretty much feel like I already am,” Monica Blakeman said.

Blakeman came to the United States in 2015 from Brazil. After meeting her now husband, she said she decided it was best to make her life in the U.S.

“I was always excited about the fact of coming to the US at some point in my life. I never imagined I was going to end up living here. So, one of the reasons other than making sure I’m here with my husband is being able to vote, being able to experience things or even jobs that only Americans can have,” Blakeman said.