Daniel Islanders on the path to citizenship: Part 2
Editor’s Note: In last week’s issue of The Daniel Island News, we began a three-part series on the path to U.S. citizenship - as experienced by three foreign-born Daniel Island residents. Through these stories, we hope to put a local face on the national issue of immigration. This week, we bring you the story of Danish-born American Rikke Fryman, who has had her fair share of twists and turns when it comes to gaining citizenship in this country. But at the center of it all is something that transcended everything: love.
Case 2: Rikke Fryman
Rikke Fryman grew up in the small town of Fredensborg, Denmark. Located just under 20 miles from the Danish capital city of Copenhagen. The town is home to the iconic Fredensborg Palace, one of the official residences of the Danish Royal Family.
Life in a small town did for Fryman what it does to teenagers world wide who are sent off to live in the big city. In Fryman’s case, she went even further. After a stop-off in Copenhagen, she made the big leap and decided to take on expat status and move to the United States. And while she sought adventure, what she found was unexpected. A new life - and a new love.
“I came to America as an 18-year-old,” begins Fryman, a Daniel Island resident, wife, and mother. “I was later living in the Caribbean when I met my American husband. I lived there for a year-and-a-half, in St. Thomas, and then I went back home (to Denmark).”
“He followed, and his poor parents, he told them he was going to Denmark to goof off for a semester,” giggles Fryman, the way people giggle when reminiscing about their personal love story. “He ended up staying for four years, not having finished college, the whole deal.”
Fryman and her boyfriend, Bill, were soon married in Denmark. Then, in what would become habitual for the couple for the next two decades, they made the cross-Atlantic move as a family. They returned so Bill could finish his undergraduate degree, but their stay didn’t last long and they soon moved back to Denmark.
It was in 2006 that they made the journey once more. This time, the move had staying power. The Fryman family had grown to five in number, including three children, aged eight, three and newborn.
“Eleven years ago we moved to Daniel Island, we quit our full-time jobs in Denmark and said ‘it’s time to live in America,’” begins Fryman. “We quit our jobs moved with three kids, all under eight and we had no jobs and no idea where on the coast we were going to live. His parents had a condo here and we fell in love with this place.”
Back in 2006 however, Denmark didn’t allow duel-citizenship. Not wanting to lose her Danish citizenship, Fryman didn’t apply for citizenship for a decade, during which time she lived here legally as a green card holder with permanent resident status. Denmark changed the policy last year, however, and Fryman soon after put in her application. She got it in February of last year, and on the leap year day of February 29, 2016 she took the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
“I said my oath and became an American citizen with 31 people from 25 countries in Charleston,” says Fryman. “It was a huge day for me to finally be able to vote and serve the country in which I live. A day I had waited 20 years for, since I was waiting for Denmark to allow dual citizenship so I didn’t have to give up my Danish citizenship by becoming an American citizen.”
“The reason I did it right away was because I had waited a long time,” Fryman continues. “It’s for many reasons. Of course, I wanted to be an American citizen like my kids, because my kids automatically have dual-citizenship with the two parents being from two different places.”
And while she did proceed through the process without problems, Fryman admits that the immigration test all applicants must study for and pass to gain entry was a sticking point. A full-fledged American citizen now for a full year, she believes the test would be tough for any American to pass.
“I don’t think anyone would pass it if they had not studied. I really don’t think the normal person would have any chance. Even if you were a trivia person,” laughs Fryman. “It’s like ‘How many representatives of the House are there?’ And it’s not an even number and it changes all the time.”
“Another is, ‘Who is your U.S. representative in South Carolina?’ Well then one is kicked out because of something and you could get that wrong if you don’t keep up with it.”
“English and civics,” interjects immigration lawyer Kristen Ness Ayers, who participated in Fryman’s interview with The Daniel Island News. “A lot of which frankly we wouldn’t know. We would fail. We wouldn’t know all of the 50 answers to the questions.”
The test asks applicant to prepare to answer 100 civics questions. Applicants end up only being asked to correctly answer seven of 10 questions, but the ten are random. They have to prepare for all 100.
“You come in and have to sit with this officer and you’re sweating, so nervous,” says Fryman. “You sit there and he just kind of looks at you.”
In the end, Fryman passed the test, took the pledge, and became a citizen of the United States, and while she’s thrilled to be here, becoming an American in all senses of the word has taken some adjustment, namely in becoming “politically correct.”
“It’s hard because in Denmark it’s not taboo to talk politics. Here it is, maybe because everyone is so polarized,” she says with a laugh. “In Denmark, we’re not so polarized and we speak politics at the dinner table, at family reunions. It’s just what you do. It’s so sad that that’s part of who I was and I had to give it up.”
Next week in The Daniel Island News, we continue our “Path to U.S. Citizenship” series with a profile on Daniel Island resident Carina Buckman, a native of the United Kingdom.