Erwin Cariga walked inside Mammoth Cave as an immigrant from the Philippines this afternoon, but an hour later, he left as an American citizen after living in Louisville for six years.
He didn't think he would end up here -- thought he'd go to Japan until his aunt changed his mind.
"I wasn't really happy about being here. It's a big difference -- cultural, language, people, race," he said.
He said some people treated him differently.
"It wasn't easy for me to adapt. Even though I learned how to speak English before when I came over here, my accent is different, so people were making fun of me, you know. For two years, it was all about how I have to learn how to speak English properly. And then, here I am. I'm a citizen now, and I'm proud of it," Cariga said.
Another couple is familiar with the challenges of starting in a new country.
They said they began the process right before the September 11 attacks. They had a few months until their case was going to be processed.
"And then, everything was frozen and it went back about three years. And what do you do? We waited...and wait and wait and wait," said Doros and Ellada Hadjisavva.
Then after living in America longer than in her home country, Ellada became a citizen three years ago, and her husband did today.
"It's a land of opportunities and freedom. Here, you dream of something, and you can make it a reality," Ellada said.
Forty-one immigrants from 23 countries were part of today's naturalization ceremony.