Nearly 200 strong, representing 149 countries, many new Americans received their citizenship Wednesday, June 26.

Mikan Bigwood, Wahpeton, was among those pledging at a naturalization ceremony in Fargo. Originally from Ivory Coast in West Africa, the 35-year-old spent nearly two years working to become an American.

“Having all those people there made me feel comfortable,” Bigwood said. “I wasn’t the only one there.”

The Americans’ oath included a vow to support and defend the U.S. Constitution as well as the country’s laws against all enemies, domestic or foreign. Each man and woman who pledged said they would bear true faith and allegiance to the country.

Bigwood and her husband, Zach, are the parents of Ethan, 2. Her youth included the turmoil of two civil wars and the experience of hiding in a small room.

“Once the sounds of firing began, she had to lie on the floor to avoid the risk of being struck by a bullet,” Daily News previously reported.

Bigwood has not forgotten where she came from. She is hopeful that Americans-to-be feel the same way.

“There’s a reason why you came here,” Bigwood said. “You’d never leave your country if something wasn’t missing in your life. Whatever they came here for, they’ve got to keep that in mind. If it’s for better opportunities, then keep that in mind.”

Distraction is a bad thing, Bigwood continued. So is looking for the easy way out.

“You have to work hard to get what you want. You need to respect the country and the people here because they give us hospitality,” Bigwood said.

In addition to her citizenship, Bigwood also has degrees in business and ministry. She looks forward to having a career in both fields.

Being a wife, mother and student wasn’t always easy, Bigwood said. She is appreciative of her husband’s love and support as well as her family and friends.

“I’m so thankful. I want to share it this with other people,” Bigwood said.

Bigwood was joined in Fargo by her extended family, friends and several members of her church community. Her naturalization ceremony is being followed by another special event, Independence Day on Thursday, July 4.

Family and friends are coming to the Bigwood house. Whenever she throws or attends a party, Mikan Bigwood likes to bring a dish from Africa. This year, it’s her ginger juice.

“(Sharing dishes) helps us all feel like one family,” Bigwood said.

Patti Alleva, a professor emeritus from the University of North Dakota School of Law, spoke when Bigwood received her citizenship. Alleva discussed the Statue of Liberty and what it represents.

“We all have different backgrounds, but many people have similar stories,” Bigwood said. “We’ve come here to find a safe place and opportunities. This lady let us know we found the right place.”

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