What It Took Me to Become a British Citizen

11 years of ups and downs and a happy outcome

Ellen Nguyen
6 min readSep 25, 2022


Me at my British citizenship ceremony

It’s a strange feeling — I’m now a British citizen. I can vote. Britain is my country now.

It took me over 11 years to get here.

I had to have top grades and go to a top university so I could get a solid job to secure visa sponsorship while paying lots and lots of fees along the way. The playing field was never really level.

I had to leave friends and families behind, watching my birth town and my own family change year by year to the point where they became unrecognizable to me. There’s a sense of grief that’s hard to describe.

Worse, the possibility of losing everything and going back to Vietnam mid-way through with nothing to show for it induced constant anxiety, holding me back from reaching my full potential at times because I couldn’t take the risks I needed.

My sister and me in Chinatown in 2011

I’m now a self-assured woman with a life and careers I love, so different from the girl who came to England in 2011, but I have few witnesses to this transformation as I’ve lost contact with most school friends in Vietnam. Few fully know how much it means for me to get here.

Well, it’s hard to maintain relationships when you could only visit for two weeks at a time every few years. I have missed every single Christmas and Tet (lunar new year) holiday since I left.

For many years over the last 11 years, I felt lonely, anxious, and sad. I have my sister in London with me, but with 6 years of an age gap between us and as she understandably had her life to worry about too, I felt like I was mostly on my own.

Navigating life, schools, jobs, and relationships as a Vietnamese woman in London was a terrifying minefield I had no choice but to walk through as I held onto the hope that eventually the rewards would outweigh the risks — that it would be worth all the sacrifices.

Little was given or naturally there as I was far away from the community I was brought up in. I had to learn to make independent…



Ellen Nguyen

Freelance writer & digital creator | London based | Psychology BSc. Editor of LovefulMind.com, empowering women.