Barry McNamara  |   Published May 16, 2017

Citizen Cem

Monmouth student gains his U.S. citizenship
  • Fighting Scot soccer player, and new U.S. citizen, Duh Cem ’20
By the end of 2006, Duh Cem’s family had had enough of the political corruption and grim outlook in the Southeast Asia nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. They decided it was time to leave.

So began a journey that reached a high point last month for Cem. The Monmouth College freshman completed the application process for U.S. citizenship by passing his citizenship test.

In addition to the corruption and the bullying of Chins and Christians by soldiers, Cem said another factor made his mother determined to move her family out of Myanmar.

“My mom was a teacher,” he said. “She had a bachelor’s degree in math. There was a girl our family knew. She was really smart, and she wanted to study abroad. The Burmese government wouldn’t give her a passport. It was hard for us to get higher education and become somebody. My mom decided we should go to the United States.”

Cem’s parents and his four siblings escaped Myanmar in 2006, eventually reaching Malaysia. They stayed there until November 2010, when they moved to the United States.

Cem said he wasn’t ready to leave his adopted U.S. city when he graduated from Monmouth-Roseville High School in 2016. The College’s hometown connection, plus its strong business program and Cem’s contact with men’s soccer coach Kooten Johnson, led him to enroll at Monmouth.

For his citizenship test, Cem said he was told to study 100 questions. On the day he took the test, he was told that if he got the first six questions right, he would pass without the need to answer additional questions. That was indeed the case. (One of the questions he was asked: name America’s founding father, George Washington.)

After he completes his college education, Cem hopes to one day return to Myanmar.

“Life’s not easy over there,” he said. “I’d like to teach people there to start their own businesses, to help in any way I can to help them have a better life.”

His experiences would provide a tremendous example.

“It was one of my plans, but I never thought I’d be a U.S. citizen and going to college,” said Cem. “I’m living a good life. It’s all a blessing.”

Cem hopes another blessing follows soon. As of this writing, his mother is still waiting to hear back on her application for citizenship.
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