Sunny Harshdeep’s first memory of moving to Arkansas from India is getting a giant soda at Subway.
“I remember the first time I came here I was pretty sleepy,” Harshdeep said. “It was a long trip from India. The first thing I remember is going to Subway and getting one of those humongous cups of soda. I have never seen a cup that big, only in America. Everything in America was bigger in general.”
Harshdeep, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, immigrated to America with his mother and younger sister in 2009, when Harshdeep was 12.
Now Harshdeep is celebrating another milestone in his life. He and his entire family have recently been naturalized as United States citizens. Harshdeep and his mother took the oath of citizenship Sept. 20 at the Little Rock District Court with U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, in attendance, while his father and sister became citizens in August.
“It felt good to realize I was a U.S. citizen,” he said. “It opens me up to a lot of opportunities I didn’t have. I can finally vote. I can also run for office one day if I choose to pursue that path.”
His family’s journey to become citizens has taken eight years. After five years as permanent residents, they applied to become citizens. The application process involved background checks, interviews, and written and oral tests, all to make sure that Harshdeep’s family had fully integrated into American society.
Although Harshdeep and his family gave up citizenship to their native country of India, Harshdeep thinks the sacrifice was worth it to become a U.S. citizen. The family is also applying for lifetime visas to India, which would allow them to travel more freely between the U.S. and India.
“This is where our lives have been for the past eight years,” he said. “This is where I see my future. We have the most freedom and opportunity to succeed. I love it.”
Coming to America
They left their hometown in India, Anjar, and followed Harshdeep’s father, Inderjeet Singh, who came to work at a new manufacturing plant in Little Rock set up by his company, Welspun.
“That company is always expanding,” he said. “One branch is pipe manufacturing for the gas and oil industry. They wanted to expand to the United States, and they chose Little Rock because it’s almost in the middle of the country, and they can transport their pipes to anywhere in the country.”
Harshdeep came to UA Little Rock with a plan to major in mechanical engineering and minor in information technology. He is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps, a student ambassador for the College of Engineering and Information Technology, and a resident assistant. After graduation, he had planned to start his own research and development company focusing on robotics.
“UA Little Rock offers one of the finest programs in the country, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to attend the only college in the state which offers an engineering technology program.”
Things changed after Harshdeep completed a one-year internship as a data verification intern at First Orion in Little Rock.
“I got a taste of the technology field and what it has to offer,” he said. “I enjoyed that environment a lot, which is why I am starting to pursue web design and development as my main career.”
Now Harshdeep is planning to work in the tech industry after he graduates in 2020 and is earning an associate degree in mechanical engineering to keep his skills sharp.
“UA Little Rock has been awesome,” he said. “I am trying out a lot of new things, and it has given me a lot of chances to grow. It’s always welcoming and gives opportunities to students who show they are willing to put in the effort.”