The journey to citizenship for Adeile Lyons has been a long time coming. Seventeen years, to be exact.
"I was born in the Philippines, and when I was 3 my parents decided to move to New Zealand to bring us more opportunities," Lyons said.
Her parents, well into their careers as a veterinarian and an accountant, gave it all up for a chance at something better.
"We pretty much started from the ground up. From being a vet to working in factories, packaging boxes. My mom was working in a factory, too," Lyons said. "As much as my dad was happy and thought we would do fine there, he was like, 'We want more for you guys.'"
So they picked up again, this time for Sydney, Australia. They lived there for three years before Adeile's dad was offered a position as a researcher at Georgetown University.
"My dad, since he was a little boy, had always dreamed of coming to America. He just didn't know how to get there," Lyons said. "He believed there was more, and when we got here, he was right."
Seventeen years, five homes, one wedding and a bachelor's and master's degree later, and Adeile's roots are firmly planted in America. She is one of 12.6 million U.S. green card-holders. More than 8 million are eligible to become American citizens. Adeile's one of them.
"We pretty much sent the application last year. It's online. Its pages of just filling in your information: 'How long have you lived here? Have you been charged?' It's basically a waiting game. Then I got my letter saying I was approved and will have my oath ceremony. But it's been a year," she explained.
Adeile plans to take all she's absorbed about American culture, both in her personal life and in her years as a history teacher, and vote on Nov. 6.
"It's been hard," she said. "I have wanted to vote and put my two cents in for this country."
She says now that she's been given the right to vote, she plans to be more engaged in the American political conversation. Because at the end of the day, she knows the elections are part of the American dream that she's worked so hard to achieve.
"The American dream is real, but you have to work your butt off for it," she said. "If you want the dream, you do have to work through the challenges. But when you do, it is worth it. Life's not about being comfortable. It's cool to see how far we've come."