It took Cezary Kwasiborski two years to get to America and another five years to achieve his dream of becoming a citizen.
"The problems in our country cause many people to want to leave," said the 22-year-old Polish-born economics and political science student.
"It's easier to come here and seek other opportunities."
Kwasiborski, now a Baltimore resident, was one of 40 people from 39 countries who took their oath of U.S. citizenship at the State House in Annapolis yesterday.
The ceremony was staged at the legislative building, the oldest one in continuous use in the United States, to celebrate the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's centennial.
U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Garbis swore in the candidates during the 30-minute ceremony, attended by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"You are becoming a naturalized citizen at a very important time inour country," the governor said.
Schaefer told the new citizens not to be afraid to "stand up, square your shoulders, put your hand toyour heart and say: 'thank God I'm an American.'
"You have an obligation to work as hard as you can and be a productive citizen," Schaefer said.
"But you also have an obligation to lend a helping handto people less fortunate than yourself."
Kwasiborski moved to Germany with his father when he was 14, leaving behind his mother and most of his worldly possessions in Poland, he said.
Polish officialsprevented his mother from joining them, he said and in 1986, he and his father came to the United States.
Eventually, American officials here intervened, and Kwasiborski's mother was allowed to leave Poland.
"It's tough, but you have to carry on," the University of Maryland at Baltimore County student said. "You have to think of yourself instead of your friends in Poland," Kwasiborski said, remembering his family's start from scratch in their new country.
"I don't think I'd ever go back to Poland," he said. "Things aren't going to change there for 20 years."
Cathy Khosrovian, 36, an Armenian born in Iran, first came to the United States in 1979 after living in Europe.
"I came here to discover freedom," she said. "I believe in freedomof the people and human rights."
Khosrovian has lived in Italy, England and France, but she said she believes the United States is thebest place to be.
"The U.S. is a prime example of protecting human rights," she said.
Mette Czarzasty, 28, married an American and came here from Denmark three years ago.
"You hear about so many different nationalities here," the Crofton resident said. "But you really notice it when you are walking down the street and hear all the different languages.
"The American people are so helpful. I feel I have been accepted."