In four years, Tina Zhuang has accomplished more than some people do in a lifetime.
On Nov. 20, the 18-year-old daughter of Xin Zhuang and Ling Lin traveled from Glen Rose to San Antonio and took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony to become a U.S. citizen.
In taking the oath, she swore to support the Constitution, renounce fidelity to her native country and defend her new homeland with true faith.
Tina was born in Fujian, China on June 2, 1994, and moved to Texas at 14. She graduated from Glen Rose High School in May, not long after her family moved to the city to open China Wok restaurant.
Rightfully beaming with pride and ready to tackle a bright future, Tina spoke with the Reporter Monday and shared insights from her road to citizenship.
While the test was difficult, she said high school prepared her for questions related to the country's history and government.
"All of the questions that were asked were taught in school," Tina said.
Questions on the civics portion of the test include the naming of two cabinet-level positions in the federal government, rights of the Declaration of Independence, freedoms of the First Amendment and the political party of the nation's current president. It is not a multiple choice test, it is administered orally when a candidate for citizenship is asked 10 of 100 possible questions - six must be answered correctly.
She passed the test Oct. 23, which she prepared for between taking orders and serving patrons at the family restaurant.
Tina said the test was long and asked also many questions you might not expect, relating to morals - had she been in jail or involved with prostitution or used drugs.
"Some of the questions are strange, but it is all part of the law," she said.
But Tina said the hardest part of becoming a citizen began years ago, when she was suddenly immersed in surroundings starkly different than those of her native country.
"When I came to America, it was a strange environment. I was surrounded by strangers and a different culture," she said. "It was very hard when I didn't know English. People were so nice and so welcoming, but I didn't even know how to respond."
The ability to write, listening, speak and understand English is one of the key requirements for becoming a citizen. And Tina said there was only one way to prepare for that portion of the exam. In addition to school, she said tuning in to American television programs and taking time to truly listen to what people around her were saying and studying their every word made learning easier.
"That's how I came through," she said. "When I first went to English class, I didn't understand at all, but after half a year, I started picking up on the language and my understanding continued to grow."
Tina said her newfound status is not the last stop on life's path. For now, she is focused on helping her parents make the most of the family business in a city they love.
"We want to stay here and stay in business," she said. "But I do plan to enroll at Hill College next month and take my basics. After that, I want to transfer to Tarleton State University and major in nursing. I am excited, they have a very nice new facility. It is so cool."
As for Xin and Ling, they are also excited about the doors opening for their daughter and those also opening for their son, Benny, who is studying architecture at the University of Houston.
And while Tina pledges allegiance to the United States, she said she will also remain connected to things that remind her of her youth.
"I love Chinese websites and reading Chinese novels," she said. "It's a part of who I am."