CLEMSON STUDENT TRAVELS THE LONG ROAD TO U.S. CITIZENSHIP
By Vince Jackson
Mel Shehu grew-up in what is now the Republic of Kosovo, first under a communist dictatorship, and then in the crosshairs of a war involving ethnic cleansing. Last week he became a United States citizen.
The Clemson University student, who is pursuing a graduate degree in business administration, feels very lucky to live in America, he says.
“Kosovo is not the best place to live. My family is there and the economy is very bad. I am very close to them and know they have a difficult time. I help them when I can,” he said.
“During the fighting that occurred my father was wounded and our house was burned by Serb forces. My family is OK now, but it is hard for them. I feel very fortunate to be a citizen of the United States,” Shehu said.
Shehu, an ethnic Albanian, says that he was able to come to the United States on a student visa and aid provided by the United Methodist Church, Spartanburg Methodist College and Bruce and Dot Yandle of Clemson.
He was selected to be a student at SMC largely because of work he had performed in relief efforts in Kosovo. After about a year he was able to transfer credits he earned at the university in Kosovo and SMC to Clemson University where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
‘I have Dot and Bruce Yandle (professor emeritus at Clemson University) to thank for helping me come to Clemson,” Shehu said.
Last week Shehu took part in a ceremony in Charleston where he took the oath to become a United States citizen.
“I feel good about it. I wanted to live here as a legal resident. I have followed all the rules now for over 8 years. I do not think people understand how difficult it is to become a legal citizen in this country,” he said.
Lane Glaze, campus minister for the United Methodist Church of Clemson, said he spent time with Mel and saw him frequently while Mel was completing his degree.
“Mel is a hard working person. I am excited to hear that he has become a citizen. I feel fortunate to have shared a part of his life here in Clemson,” he said.
Asked how the United States differed from his homeland Shehu said, “In Kosovo people are very close to family and friends. I find it hard to make close friends here. Some of it is the cultural difference, but some of it is because here people stress the individual and not close-knit family and friends.”
Shehu said other differences he sees between the United States and Kosovo is the freedom of speech, freedom to believe what you want and peace of mind about your personal safety.
“In Kosovo if you criticized the government, under the dictatorship, it would not be long before you were singled out and perhaps killed. Now Kosovo has free elections, fighting has stopped and people feel somewhat safe again,”
The Yandles attended the citizenship ceremony in Charleston where Shehu took the oath of citizenship with about 25 other people.
“We wanted to be with Mel and be a part of his special day. He is a very hard working individual and Bruce and I wish him the best,” said Dot Yandle.