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An Education Without Borders

$13,510 of $14,000 goal

Raised by 152 people in 7 months
Created June 22, 2018
Eliza Schloss
on behalf of Songhee Back
On April 20, 2018, Songhee Back's U.S. citizenship was denied — for the third time. Songhee found out this devastating news while walking in the hallway to her last class of the day at Glenbrook South High School. This call from Congressman Schneider's office sent Songhee into tears and shattered the future that she came to America for. Walking into her next class, Songhee saw the faces of her fellow classmates that would never have to make the nerve-wracking decision that she shortly would: whether to move Canada or reside in the U.S. with limited opportunities for higher education. Ultimately, after much deliberation, Songhee has decided to complete her high school career in London, Ontario. Almost a decade ago, Songhee Back moved to America on a visitor's visa. Later in 2009, Songhee acquired an F2 visa. Due to tougher American immigration policies, Songhee never obtained the full U.S. citizenship that her family dreamed of.

Words do not describe how unfair this situation is. It is unfair that I have the opportunity to go to college in America and she does not. It is unfair that I get to experience my senior year of high school with my best friends and she does not. It is unfair that I get to walk across the stage at graduation to receive my diploma with my entire family sitting in the audience and she does not. Despite her unfathomable situation, Songhee has persisted. She has single-handedly prepared, researched, and submitted the paperwork for her Canadian student visa, which was approved on June 14, 2018. On top of this, Songhee balanced AP classes and exams, the ACT, volunteer work at a local hospital, advancements in the STEM field, and so many more academic and extracurricular achievements. Staying in America would hinder the limitless opportunities that Songhee has proved herself capable of. Canada provides the education that would advance Songhee's future. Canada also ensures Songhee the chance to attend medical school, a lifelong dream of hers that would be difficult to achieve in the U.S. Songhee's move to Canada comes at a high cost as well. Tuition for her senior year amounts to $14,000 as an international student. Donations from this GoFundMe page would also go toward living expenses such as gas, groceries, and rent. Any amount would be greatly appreciated by Songhee and her family to ease the financial burden of such an already difficult time. Below is a revised column written by Songhee for Glenbrook South's student newspaper, The Oracle. 


What factor determines one’s nationality? For most people, the answer is clear-cut and straightforward: it is simply the country that they are born in. On the other hand, there are people like me, and the definition gets a little more complicated.

I am one of the million undocumented children who have immigrated to the United States in hopes of having a brighter future; our parents traded their national identity, culture, and friends for us to obtain more opportunities. Personally, ever since I came to the U.S. on July 1, 2009, I thought of myself as an American; not even a Korean-American, but just simply an American. Every Fourth of July, I would go all crazy with the red, white and blue, watching the fireworks at Gallery Park with my friends like a typical American teen. I know every word of the Pledge of Allegiance by heart, proudly saying it every morning while placing my right hand over my chest. I am more knowledgeable in the history of United States than the average U.S. citizen.

For the past eight years, I have been able to live a relatively comfortable life, indulging in the American Dream. This luxury was thrown out the window when I got that letter from the immigration office.

Then, I finally realized that I was unwanted in a country that I had been proudly calling my home. Although I was mentally aware of what was going on, I could not comprehend the situation; I wanted to scream at the world, “THIS IS MY COUNTRY!”

“On April 17, 2017, [the immigration office] denied your Form I485.” I will never forget the day that I first read these words. At first, I could not really grasp the meaning; it was as if I was reading a Shakespearean play without SparkNotes.

As I began to comprehend the meaning of the letter, my hands started to shake uncontrollably as if the temperature had dropped about a hundred degrees. I could feel the paper getting heavier; it took me a while to realize that the water from my eyes was the perpetrator. Little did I know, I would get this notice two more times.

For weeks, this sentence continuously circled within my head, steadily eating me alive. At the climax of this frustration, my anger reached unparalleled levels. The rage washed over me like a tsunami.

I thought to myself, “How could these people be so brutal?” I was astonished that something so formal could be so excruciatingly painful. For me, this rejection would determine the course of my whole life, my identity. The most upsetting fact was that I had come to the U.S. legally with the F2 visa. However, during the process of applying for a permanent residency, I let go of this visa, believing that I would easily receive the green card.

I kept yelling, “WHY ME?” None of my friends had to give up their hopes or worry about getting kicked out their homes; their lives and futures were not dependent on a decision made by a stranger! A simple letter had triggered a whirlwind of emotion and catalyzed the obstacles that I would have to face in the near future. Despite all of the challenges, the hardest came in the form of just three words: who was I? Such a simple question, yet the answer seemed so complex.

Now, I was on a split road: leave the U.S. and give up my future or stay and be undocumented. My only hope was that I would have a lengthy chunk of time to combat this egregious error. I was wrong. Because I turned eighteen in March, I had to make a decision within 180 days. After countless sleepless nights, I made the hardest decision in my life: leave and finish my education in Canada.

As of right now, I am enrolled in the Thames Valley School District in London, Ontario. I am planning on moving there on my own to finish my high school education. Since I am going there with a study permit, I need to pay $14,000 to finish senior year. This tuition has deeply burdened my single mother. I would be very grateful for any help that I can get.

My life is full of uncertainties and challenges; however, I know that my future is worth more than relying on a marriage to guarantee my citizenship. I am more valuable than paperwork. I need to take this opportunity for a chance at my future, and I just need to keep trying.

Thank you for your support!
Songhee Back


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Update 1
Posted by Songhee Back
22 days ago
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2018 has definitely been the most crazy year of my life. I am truly so grateful for everyone who has supported me through this wild journey. Due to your generosity, I am happy and well in London, Ontario, and finishing up my senior year at Oakridge Secondary School. I wish everyone a happy new year, and thank you so much for allowing me to continue my education!
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$13,510 of $14,000 goal

Raised by 152 people in 7 months
Created June 22, 2018
Eliza Schloss
on behalf of Songhee Back
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