Journey to Italian Citizenship: Can I still claim dual citizenship if my mother is born before January 1, 1948?

One year ago, I wrote about my personal experience going through the dual citizenship process. I am surprised and thrilled that over 1000 people have read about my little adventure. A few reached out to ask questions, or advice. So, thank you! It warms my heart to see other people going through the same process. It was difficult, but now a fondly remembered adventure.

After studying abroad in 2008-09, I was bit by wanderlust (as they say) to keep exploring. As a citizen of Italy and part of the European Union, I could live and work anywhere within the EU without having to go through the expensive and time consuming visa process. Dual-citizenship opened doors and I haven’t looked back ever since. Have I mentioned I’m getting married, as well? 😉

This post answers MY TOP questions I get asked the most often, which are as follows:   

No. 1: Do I have to pay taxes to Italy and the United States?

marca da bollo
marca da bollo

When I first received my Italian passport I paid administration fees and the “marca da bollo” which means passport stamp. This stamp had to be purchased every year if you travelled out of Italy. For example, when I travelled around Europe (not Italy) no one cared about the expired marca da bollo.

However, GOOD NEWS EVERYONE!

On the 24 June 2014, the passport stamp was abolished! I wish I would have known when I travelled to Italy in July and spent another 42 EUR at the Florence airport. ::glares at Florence:: Ah well, live and learn! At least I know I never have to pay again. 

Other than the marca, I do not need pay taxes to Italy. I pay taxes living and working in the United Kingdom, of course. 

What about taxes in America?

This is not an easy answer, and I will refer you to the professionals on this one. Please see this website for any more information about paying taxes as an ex-pat.

I will note that my income in the UK is not super high which requires you to pay the US government, therefore, I do not have to pay double taxes in the US and UK. I fill out a form, and that’s that. 

No. 2: My mother was born before 1 January 1948, does that mean I can’t apply for Italian citizenship?

Italy loves its laws, and such, two important laws were passed for allow descendants to apply for DUAL citizenship. 

For example, the Law n. 555 of June 13, 1912 was passed partially to help protect minor children from losing their citizenship when their parents naturalized. Before this date, minors (considered less than 21 years of age at the time) lost their citizenship if their parent(s) naturalized in another country. If the ascendant that you are claiming citizenship through moved out of Italy before 1912 as a minor with their parent(s), confirm their parent(s) did not naturalize prior to this date or it could impact the consulate’s acceptance of your application.

The second, Rule 48 (or 1948) meant anyone born to an Italian mother and she was born BEFORE January 1, 1948, could not apply for citizenship. That meant, only fathers could pass the citizenship (called jure sanguinis, right of blood in English). This is gender discrimination against women. 

Now, if you asked me a few months ago, “Hey, my mom was born before January 1, 1948 … can I still go through the process?” I would have shook my head no and said, “I’m sorry. You’ll have to find another way, that’s just the law.” 

But apparently, there is another way. 

Lawyers are challenging this particular discrimination law and are winning. One lawyer in particular, Massimiliano Castellari, Founder and CEO of Castellari & Abogados Asociados, specializes in bringing gender discrimination cases to Italian courts.

I had the opportunity to speak to Massimiliano about his law practice. He is based in Bogota, South America and also operates at his satellite office in Italy. 

“The process itself can take anywhere from seven months to one year. My practice currently helps dual Italian citizens in almost 20 countries, and we’re growing. I help clients obtain documents needed, then facilitate getting them approved by the Italian courts,” Mr. Castellari explains, “The most important piece is obtaining all the correct documents. Without them to show an Italian judge, you cannot begin the lawsuit.”

I appreciate ambitious lawyers like Mr. Castellari. Those who are looking outside the box and helping people achieve their dreams. It’s a specialized field, as only a couple of law firms are challenging this patriarchal law. Although changing the law (at this time) would be unconstitutional, bringing these cases to Italian courts gives clients the approval needed to proceed with their dual italian citizenship endeavors.

I need help with this! Now what? 

If anyone is on the hunt with this discrimination law and have questions, do get in touch. I’m happy to help point you in the right direction and I’m curious to know how many individuals this has affected. You can have a look at Massimilano’s website, also he mentioned he would love to help any North American clients, too. 

Disclosure: I have not been paid for this blog post. All thoughts and opinions are of my own. 

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Liebster award nomination

liebsteraward_3lilapples1I’ve been nominated for a Liebster award for my blog by another amazing blogger, Sarah Elizabeth Lane. I’ve never heard of this award, truthfully, but I like the idea behind it. It’s a great way for us newbie bloggers to reach out and connect with one another and it’s a nice incentive to keep writing! Who doesn’t enjoy a gold star now and then? Writing is damn hard, and it’s a lonely occupation. So thank you, my dearest Sarah, for the nomination. I have always been impressed with Sarah’s well-crafted stories, she makes writing look so easy, but we all know it isn’t! Plus, she has my heart as another lovely Italiana. Sarah, you have a beautiful soul and way with words I can only dream of aspiring to, not to mention, your self-effacing humor makes it so darn easy to love you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Now I get to answer some questions! So without further ado, here are my responses. Enjoy.

1. Why did you start your blog?

This is my third blog. I started my first one in the late 90s, another one when I studied abroad in Wales, and now this is my third attempt. Throughout my childhood I kept a journal. I’m not the best conversationalist, it’s just easier for me to write when I want to accurately convey my feelings. I started this blog as a way to communicate with other expats and Sci-fi/fantasy people. Truthfully, I write for myself. I’m not expecting to make money, it’s just a way to express my thoughts and share with the incredibly engaging and loving writing community on WordPress.

2. What was your dream occupation when you were a young child?

I’m pretty sure I changed my mind as often as I changed shirts! Two in particular stuck with me the longest: veterinarian and marine biologist. The vet thing didn’t happen because I couldn’t deal with animals dying around me and marine biology, to be fair, I considered until I was about 18. About then I realized I’d have to go to college for most of my 20s, and I could expect to make pennies on the dollar. It didn’t seem to add up to me. Should I have received a scholarship, perhaps that would have changed …

3. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, in only two words, what would they be?

PURSUE SCIENCE! I had no idea that I was so passionate about astrobiology until later in life. I’ve read so much about astrobiology. I wouldn’t mind if my career led me to a science writer or communications specialist working at a Space Agency (ESA, NASA, you just wait!). Maybe there is hope for my science fiction career yet …

4. If you could get lost purpose, anywhere, where would it be?

I would love to get LOST in Italy. Florence was so incredibly beautiful, and getting lost was half the fun! All the secret alleyways with beautifully hidden hole-in-wall restaurants. I need another Italy trip. I don’t even want to go to any touristy locations, I just want to go to Italy and EAT.

5. What is your most prized possession, and why?

I still have my security blanket named Dee Dee. This is the only ‘thing’ which has been with me since the start of my life, until now. I’ve lost touch with people and given away objects, but DD has been with me forever. I knew Lewis was a keeper when he didn’t make fun of me and introduced him to DD.  🙂

My goal is to eventually make a quilt and turn the few lasting bits into a square.

6. What is your favorite quote, and by whom?

My mom use to always say, “this too shall pass.” It seems really trite, but it’s become a mantra. Not only will things change (better/worse) but life does indeed go on. It’s an important thing to remember on bad days.

Another favorite Lord of the Rings quote (neeeeeeeerd!) by Tolkien, or really Gandalf, is when he says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” It’s so true. How many times have we looked back thinking, if only… life is about seizing the opportunities when found.

7. What is your guiltiest pleasure?

For a few years I enjoyed watching Army Wives! That was my sinful pleasure. Now my guilty pleasure is drinking port and eating delicious  dark chocolate which has orange, vanilla and chili’s. It’s sooooooo delicious. I think I upgraded my guilty pleasure big time.

8. If you could spend a year anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do there? Let’s pretend money is not an issue, per say, but that you’re not necessarily a Lottery winner either.

Belize. I’ve always wanted to go to Belize. When I was 25 my co-worker just came back from Belize with the most amazing outlook on life. She was positively glowing, and not just from the best tan I’ve ever seen, she genuinely looked 10 years younger. She sat down next to me and said, “Kassie, when you get a chance…. Belize. Just go. Trust me.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

9. Waffles, pancakes, french toast…or vodka?

OMG. Best question, ever!!! I really miss Saturday morning brunches. The British just have NO IDEA how to do a good brunch. Waffles and hot chocolate and mimosas, pleeeeeease.

But I’ll never say no to a bloody mary.

10. Name your go-to driving in the car/home alone/shower sing-along song.

Alanis Morisettte, “You Oughta know” and Metallica’s “Sad But True”

I’ve belted out these renditions more times than I can count. They are also my karaoke go-to songs and I know them by heart.

— and now to continue on the tradition. Here are my nominees —

Bridget Hoida

I met Bridget through her brother, Jeff Hoida, as we were in the same high school class together. Bridget is an amazingly talented (and published!!) writer. Her So LA is an amazing read, I couldn’t put it down. Oh, and she’s a teacher and helps students with their college applications. Bridget is someone I wish I met earlier in life, we could have been besties. Her creative energy is infectious, plus she’s a down-to-earth good-natured person.

To the baby in the restaurant

Lili and I had the most fortuitous meet-cute. We met in San Francisco, as we were both working for a short-term contract position. She asked me how to fill in a W2 form, which I thought “Has she never had a job before?!”

She explained she just moved over from England. And hey, guess what, she use to live in the same town as my British boyfriend! You couldn’t make this stuff up. We instantly bonded and have been friends ever since.

Lili writes a series of letters to individuals. Her conversational style is effortless. She’s a true talent, and I see her writing screen-plays one day. Her soul belongs in New York I feel. I’ve often told her she has the soul of someone older than her early 20-something would lead you to believe.

BexAdler

I hope Bex starts updating her blog again! I loved reading her book reviews. I have a tendency to stick to one particular genre, but through her different recommendations I’ve starting reading a bit more outside my ‘comfort zone’, so to speak. Not only did she also go to Sacramento State (woot!) she has also taught abroad in China and is now teaching in Oregon. Bex is ambitious young lady, and seasoned world-traveler. I keep hoping she’ll write a book about her experiences abroad one day.

If my fellow bloggers choose to accept their award, here are the rules:

1. Post the award on your blog
2. Thank the blogger who presented the award to you and link back to their blog
3. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator
4. Nominate a handful of bloggers  with less than 200 followers
5. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer
6. Notify your nominees by posting on their blog

— Here are your 10 questions, fellow nominees —

1) If you could re-do one event in your life, what would it be?

2) What do you like about blogging?

3) Describe your life at age 65.

4) N’Sync or Backstreet Boys?

5) If you could get into a verbal sparring match with one person, alive or dead, who would it be?

6) You life will be made into a movie. Who would play you?

7) What is your go-to drink?

8) Fill this in.  “When I see a group of hipsters in the street, I want to _____ ”

9) Gym or watching TV?

10)  Who has inspired you to make some of the decisions you’ve made today?

 

 

 

I’m Fighting Back Against Debt. How do you slay the 26K Monster?

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Writing about student loan debt has been tremendously helpful. Now it’s something I cannot deny or run away from because there it is, written out clearly for the world (and ME) to see.

Debt is fucked up. It’s certainly not something we like to admit to our friends, family and more importantly to ourselves. Who likes to saunter into dinner parties and casually mention, “Yes, that is a wonderful new car to purchase, Brenda. And John, Hawaii is lovely to visit. As for me, I’m walking around saddled with 50K in student loan and credit card debt! Isn’t that just delightful?!” Uhm. No.

Debt is a tough pill to swallow. It’s embarrassing. There are times when I think to myself “what the hell is the point of working if half my income will be going to paying off debt?!” Seriously, it’s the worst feeling ever. It’s a rollercoaster of embarrassment and emotional feelings you can’t ever escape.

“I can’t afford to (:insert the biggest dream you want here:) because of my fucking debt!”

As much as I want to push away or ignore it, I just can’t. It’s a constant daily reminder. “Oh wait, I can’t afford to travel around Europe this summer after all!” The only good thing is that debt helps when it comes to reevaluating priorities. What is it exactly that you want? Is debt actually holding you back or are you too scared to move forward? It’s a great wake up call.

Now that I’m in my 30s my priorities have changed. Nothing would bring me greater joy than to get married, have kids and own a comfortable home with my partner. But when you’re saddled with debt these “pursuits of happiness” are not easy. How is it possible to afford a mortgage if you’re writing off half your income to student loans?

Denial is a fucking bitch and I’m tired of it. So I’ve decided to grab debt by its collar and slap it across the face. It’s no longer controlling me, I’m going to control it. I’ve climbed to the top of the mountain just to scream — SCREW YOU DEBT. YOU’RE NOT HOLDING ME PRISONER ANY LONGER!!!

It’s time to grow up. You’re not going to beat me.

snowball1First order of business: What is Debt Snowballing?

Snowballing is simple but also very effective. The snowball method involves making a list of all the balances you owe to various institutions (credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc.) and then tackling your smallest balance first. What you’d do is pay the monthly minimum on all your balances, except your smallest balance, which you’d pay off the most aggressively by applying as much extra money to it as possible. Once you eliminate the smallest balance, you tackle the next smallest balance, and then the next until you’ve paid everything off. This is a similar method I’ll be employing. Now that I’m in a healthy job, I can afford to make large payments each month. Every year I get a promotion, more money towards debt pay off.

Suze Orman also says it’s important to also pay yourself. So each month, I’ll continue putting additional money into my savings account.

Have a plan

Moving to a no-interest (for 18 months) credit card was a super wise investment. That is, by far, the debt with the highest interest rate. Credit card debt has no redeeming features either. At least with Student Loan debt you can deduct up to a certain amount on your taxes. But that’s about the only good thing.

Looking at my figures and what I can afford each month, I’ve found that I could pay off my entire credit card debt and one student loan completely by next summer. That’s about $13K worth of debt alone.

In savings, I’ll have roughly £3500. That’s money I can continue to save for emergencies or I can put half it towards paying off my next sizable loan.

Keep Moving – Paying off Student Loans A, B, and Krakken

After my credit card debt and first of THREE student loans are paid off, I’ll SNOWBALL that money and pay off my second student loan by December 2014. So that will be two out of three KILLED in a year and a half,

220px-Colossal_octopus_by_Pierre_Denys_de_MontfortKill the Kraken

My worst “debt” is an amalgam of three combined student loans, which was formed after the Wachovia 2008-2009 bank disaster. I fondly call it the $26K Monster, where the K actually stands for Kraken. The worst bit is that the fixed interest is at 6.8% . Good in a sense, because I hear that if these politicians ever decide to go higher they can’t because the interest is fixed. But it sucks as interest is at 3% (which is great for my one variable student loan).

Over the next year and a half, I’ll have to pay the minimum to keep the interest in check and pay down part of the principle. But here is where is also gets tricky. Do I choose …

OPTION A

Acquire a personal loan. The personal loan would pay off my remaining student loan balance. Now I wouldn’t have conduct a bank transfer overseas each month (which costs an additional £100 each year) and can payoff the loan directly from my bank account in Stirling. The personal loan has a lower interest rate and would cost less each month. I’d chose the option to pay off in three years but instead pay it off in two, thus, completing my debt reduction in roughly three to three and a half years (depending on any future promotions I get in the future). Or do I choose …

OPTION B

Not taking a personal loan and continue making monthly payments to have the student loan paid off in a two and a half years. Both options are highly dependent on a number of factors namely, if I get approved for a personal loan (and that will pay off the total amount) and if I get a good interest rate which will enable me to have it paid off in a few years.

Overall, it’s a highly aggressive but also satisfying plan. There’s a bit of excitement knowing that after a few years whatever I earn I will be able to put into my checking and high interest savings account. While it’s said that most student loans will be paid over a period of ten years I can’t imagine spending another ten years in absolutely misery of seeing my money flush down the drain.

BTW, people who are considering going back to college but it will cost them thousands and thousands of dollars to do so, please take my advice and apply for scholarships and grants! Off set the charge as much as you can.

How are you tackling your MONSTER debt?

Does anyone else have debt they are trying to avoid? How are you going about to solve the problem?

Relearning the Joy of Being Thrifty

So far, 2013 has treated us well. After working a year for Delphi, I’m starting a rewarding career at Oxford University. Lewis is transferring his work in another section at Jaguar, and overall, we’re looking at planning our future together.

2010-2012 were not great, financially and mentally. After graduating, I found myself unemployed with immediate student loan debt. I was able to work as a contractor keeping my various bills paid, but it just wasn’t enough to live on my own. Unfortunately around this time as well, a lot of friends were into lavish entertainment; this was their preferred adult lifestyle, which I completely understood. But this didn’t make it easy for me on a day-to-day basis. I got to choose between a) staying at home feeling sorry for myself, or b) spend a bit of money to have a social life with some great people. Some good friends knew of my situation and always offered to pay (because they are bad ass nice sweethearts). But for the most part, this was out-of-pocket expense I just didn’t have.

That landed me in a bit of hot water. 😛

Fast forward to present day and I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve slowly regained my footing, I’m making the ascent out of the slippery self-created mud pit. This nagging beast of burden has been a constant thorn in my side and I’m sick of it. It’s time to SLAY THE DREADED THREE-HEADED MONSTER.

I’ve put myself on a timescale to have almost all debt wiped out three to five years, depending on my future career with Oxford progresses. While that makes my heart smile knowing I FINALLY have a plan, that’s still a LOOOOONG time. Life gets in the way. Events will happen. How do I learn to balance life without going deep into my shell and not reappearing in a few years?

Surprisingly, it just took some soul-searching. I had to prioritize choices and goals. I’ve acquainted myself to a college lifestyle. I’ve decided to cut my spending and look at: charity shops, reuse/recycle shops and travel deals.

Charity Shops

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I found this at 70% off, for only £3.50.

In Britain, there are some fantastic charity shops absolutely everywhere. Charities like: Oxfam, Red Cross, Sue Ryder, British Heart Foundation, animal welfare. Shopping here BEFORE going into a high street shop has saved me lots of £££, plus, proceeds go to a great cause. It’s definitely been a win-win. I’ve been lucky to find some gorgeous second-hand cardigans for work, books, scarves, brand new IKEA plates/dishes and things I’ve needed for our place.

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Reuse empty coffee tins for planters.

REUSE/RECYCLE

The town “tip” (recycle garbage, for my American readers) has a fantastic Sue Ryder charity shop next door. I love, love finding hidden treasures! One of the coolest things I’ve found was an A4 sized 100-year-old large postcard, depicting the old mill in Warwick. Grand total, £3. I’ve also found glass bottles (for my plants), cookware and wooden plant stools for under £5 a piece.

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Picked up this jade plant (money tree) for FREE on freecycle.

I’ve also grown to love Freecycle.org! The people I’ve met are incredibly sweet and down-to-earth. I’ve been able to nab some free mason jars and scored an absolutely gorgeous jade plant (money tree). I almost got a king sized futon and brand new IKEA kitchen island, but sadly, someone just picked it up as I enquired. It’s all about timing with freecycle!

Traveling Smarter

Unless we’re traveling with a group of people, Lewis and I have decided against hotel room travel for just him and I. Instead, we’re going to network more with people we know globally and use travel websites, like couchsurfing.com, Livingsocial and Groupon. If we can’t find a deal, then we’re not traveling there. Hotel rooms cost a fortune, that’s money we can pocket instead.

For all its positives it MIGHT be frustrating once you’ve become thrifty. It’s so much easier going to the store to purchase things you need instead of hunting for the best deal. This is why the majority of my shopping is now also done online with vouchers, and/or free shipping.

But it’s also rewarding. I know in a few years my debt will be slashed by 50% and I’ll have a sizable amount in savings for my rainy day and emergency funds.

What thrifty tips do you have? Have you found that being thrifty is really more enjoyable? What sort of amazing deals have you found?

A few more pictures! Here are a couple of pictures of things I’ve gotten for a few quid recently:

Wooden jewelry box for £2.

Cookware for only £3.

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My One Day Experience with Coding

Coding is fucking hard. 

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Personally, I would look over ‘said individual’ and wonder if their next words might be, “In addition, I have great deals on purses in the back of this van over here…”

So, imagine my surprise when this start-up company, Makers Academy, decided to offer a free one day course to give a sample of what coding FEELS like.

First let me clear something up. When I say coding I’m not talking about medical coding, as a few of my friendly comically suggested. I mean software development coding. Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Heroku. Website development.

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Myth No. 1: I know nothing, can I learn?

What I love about Makers Academy is their honesty. Right away we’re told the exact opposite of what we’ve learned in school from the beginning.

“You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail a lot. Only after you fail do you learn.” – Jedi Master aka Makers Academy Instructor

Sound discouraging? At first yes, and this was a huge eye-opener. We’re always expected to exceed, excel in everything. Society looks down upon failure. How many lectures have I received in a work environment if something didn’t work out exactly? Failure is indeed an option. It is the ONLY option. Why? Because making mistakes is part of the learning process. It’s all so simplistic and yet complicated at the same time.  It’s all about asking loads of questions, questions and more questions. Then testing, testing and more testing.

I’m an English major working in brand and communications. Guess what, I wasn’t the only brand person in the one day course. Nor the only FEMALE (ladies, take note). That said a lot in my opinion! Creative minds, analytical minds work across a broad spectrum of different fields not limited to only computer science. It boils down to a) personality b) analytical abilities and c) motivation. Men and women are both on an even playing field with coding.

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Myth No. 2: Is Learning is a Waste of Time?

No, being a Kardashian is a waste of time. Learning to code is AMAZING. Aside from learning the language of computers, you’re able to actually create useful things in the world. I can’t express how many times I’ve said, “Gee, wouldn’t it great if I could just make this app to do X and help with Y” or, at work, “If I could create this web program/database/SharePoint centre for our global teams it would make life SO MUCH EASIER.” Instead of hiring someone to do it, we can do it ourselves.

Coding provides skills for DOERS who want to create. 

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Myth No. 3: Coding is solitary work

I pictured techie geeks in their solitary corners, plugged in, typing away at macs for hours with hardly any social interaction. And yes, there are times where this is necessary in trying to finish projects. But coding actually works BETTER in pairs. That is, two people coding together on one computer. I really like this concept. Not only does it provide human/computer/human interaction, but promotes that age-old expression “two heads are better than one.” It’s absolutely true. While we worked on coding our own websites there were certain CSS things I remember reading previously and other things my partner remembered, which I completely forgot. Together, as a team, it just WORKED.

Not to mention, there was crazy good energy with everyone in the team environment. I dig that.

Myth No. 4: Coding takes years to learn

Makers Academy, again, floored me with their honesty. “After 10 weeks you will NOT be a pro, but you’ll be a proficient entry-level software coder.” Going back to my “Coding is fucking hard” statement, this does take time to develop. You’re learning a language, computer language. Did I leave the one day course feeling more confused than ever? Absolutely. But you know what, I enjoyed every freaking minute of it. The day went so quickly, I was eager to learn more.

Lastly, Myth No. 5: There will be no jobs for entry-level coders

Not only is coding in extremely high demand but it’s only going to keep increasing each year.

Here’s a video: 

My Take Away From the One Day Course

I had an extremely positive experience with Makers Academy. I found the staff and CEO very friendly and approachable. They are a start up I’ll be watching closely in 2013. Ideally, I’d love to sign up for their 10 week course given the opportunity. Their initial tuition is a bit steep though, which is probably turning a lot of people off.

It’s full-time, which makes sense, but it’s difficult to manage if people are already working full-time, or have monthly expenses.

I’m leaving the door open and seeing what happens. It would be a fantastic opportunity.

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not paid nor asked to blog/post anything about Makers Academy. 

My Personal Truth Living with Student Loans

Today, I’m writing on a subject I live with every day: student loan debt.

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Living with Student Loans Debt

See, I had no loans as an undergraduate. I turned down college at UCB and UCSD to attend San Diego State University. Why? Because at 21 years old I didn’t want loan debt in my early 20s. My parents helped pay my tuition and I earned an income working part-time for Syrrx, a bio tech company in La Jolla.

While at times I do regret not participating more as an undergraduate in student events, having work experience made life so much easier! Syrrx provided free breakfast, lunch and/or dinner and my earnings went towards living expenses. I had fun working, too! Because of my work experience I found a job in Sacramento after only two weeks of graduating at San Diego State.

Now, fast forward four years to graduate school.

I could not afford graduate school unless I had student loans. I lived within my means, with a bit of credit card debt. I put a healthy chunk of money into my savings for global education. But, I could not afford the ever-increasing tuition.

The Good

Student loans let me to live abroad. I’ve always dreamt of having a global education. Without student loans, I would have remained at my job at UC Davis Medical Center only dreaming of something more. Student loans let me walk through 12th century castles in Wales, drive cross-country with friends to Scotland, listen to British professors explain Irish poets, or meet a certain someone whom I live with now. Student loans made the world an accessible and smaller place. But more than that, I finally had time to research and write to my heart’s content! Student loans made me believe I could pursue all my dreams in only a few years.

I never would have grown out of apathy if it weren’t for student loans. They gave me the chance to kick ass.

The Bad

But, the world after graduating instead kicked my ass. Everything changed within a few years. Before it took two weeks to find work, now I wouldn’t even hear rejections. For every 15 CVs I sent out I would maybe receive a few rejections and, maybe, receive a phone interview. I did receive positive feedback from recruiters. People liked me and liked my experiences. But I didn’t have that extra OOMPH to land a job. I was competing against better caliber people with higher degrees and more professional experience. When I finally did get hired from a few companies they were contract only, providing barely enough money to get by. I did have a good job working as a Research Assistant in Sacramento, but I was laid off after three months. So, what the hell?!

Meanwhile, my student loan interest accrued. The little I did pay back only went towards interest, hardly ANY to the principle. The majority of the money went to living expenses.

I began to worry about my future and question my past decisions. What the hell did I do to myself?!

The Straight Up Ugly

When I finally confronted my student loan debt it was a staggering $50,000. That’s a very jagged pill to swallow. Hell, just looking at that number sends shock waves throughout my body. That’s like paying for three or four cars. Only I couldn’t sell this debt away, this was my monster creation.

I deal with that everyday.

Aside from student loan repayment misery there’s the extra added emotional turmoil. I do not LIKE having any debt. I want to get married, have kids, buy a house. I’m plagued with having too much debt. I have every intention of paying it back but let’s not forget, the cost of living increases each year. Student loan interest, if not fixed, can fluctuate. That’s a shit load of uncertainty.

Whilst I am chipping away at my debt as best I can, each month I change tactics at how to confront it. Some days I feel it best to put everything I have towards paying it off (and live on ramen) another part of me is saying don’t kill yourself! Pay it down modestly. This is not debt that will go away any time soon, is it worth living like shit? Meanwhile, I’m not getting any younger. This is my internal struggle.

Did I learn anything? Yes, you bet. 

My advice to people considering student loans: know exactly what you are getting into. If I could talk to past Kassie, who was bouncing around with no plan, I’d tell her to get her shit together and focus on helping others. Take enough for a few loans, forget the rest. Focus on marketing skills like pursuing science, web coding, ANYTHING contributing to the world. Securing marketable job skills NOW. Not having a clear focus is what landed me in hot water to begin with.

It’s great I realised where my passion lies, but now I have an extra special weight with student loans. I need to plan three months ahead before making decisions. Like poor Frodo, it’s a burden that I alone must bear. No one else will pay this back I need to do it. Also, thankfully, having awesome family and friends helps alleviate some of that heavy burden when I get too hard on myself.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. This is a shift in thought people need to realise. Let’s mentor our young students! Really, truly think about what debt you’re going to inherit when finished.

Only then we’ll start tackling the root of the problem.

Road to Italian Citizenship, Part Two: Obtaining Certified Documents

A few weeks ago I wrote about considering dual Italian citizenship. Hopefully, you’re not dissuaded by the initial hoops you have to jump through. In case you missed it, please click here for part one.

Hopefully now you’re thinking, “Yes, I qualify! Yes, I want to DO EEEIT!” Okay, awesome! But look, I’m not going to lie … now you’re starting the hard part: getting shit loads of certified documents and then having those aforementioned documents Apostilled.

APOSTILLE: additional authentication required for international acceptance of notarized documents. 

In the United States, an Apostille is a legalization issued by the Secretaries of the fifty states. It’s a separate page bearing the seal of the state and the signature of the Secretary of State, stapled to the document it legalizes.

Yeah, that’s right folks. After you receive certified documents you’ll need to send those to out to STATE for further authenticity.

Did I lose you yet? Before you grab that bottle of wine, keep going 🙂

As I wrote in blog one,  I claimed citizenship through my great-grandfather, Pasquale. I never met Pasquale, obviously, but as my ascendant I claimed Jure Sanguinis or law of the blood.

Before you even get STARTED, call or email the Italian Consulate and get an appointment. Trust me. It will most likely take almost a year for you to get in (maybe longer now). It will take almost that long just to gather all the documents.

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I have to file what again?!

To help organise what you’ll need, I’ve broken the process into FOUR separate categories:

  1. Certified documents. These are the long form birth certificates, death, marriage, and divorce. They must be certified copies. You will need to get them from county records.
  2. Certification of Naturalisation: County or USCIS. If you cannot find the certificate of naturalisation through the County courthouse, you will need to request your ascendant’s naturalization record through USCIS’s Genealogy Program, or a Freedom of Information Act request. OR, USCIS will issue you a document saying naturalization could not be found.
  3. Your Italian-born ascendant’s birth certificate from a Comune in Italy (and marriage!). You will need to write to the Comune and ask for them to send a copy.
  4. Apostille documents which link YOU to your ascendant. The state government conducts all apostilles. You’ll need them translated into Italian. Do NOT use Google translate, get yourself a legitimate Italian translator (unless you already speak it yourself, fluently).

Yes. It is a SHIT load of work! However, you’ll find that once you get started it moves quickly. You may also find a treasure trove of forgotten family history. Apparently, my great grandmother had property in North Italy. I also found countless pictures, letters written in Italian and even their original passports from Italy to New York!

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PART ONE: CERTIFIED DOCUMENTS

Depending on who you are claiming through, the list might be longer or shorter. To give you an example, here is a list of documents I needed:

  • Pasquale’s birth certificate (in Montegrosso, Italy!), marriage certificate to my great grandmother, Cristina (Calosso, Italy!) and his death certificate (Madera, CA).
  • Pasquale’s certificate of naturalisation (USCIS).
  • Cristina’s birth certificate (in Calosso, Italy).
  • Birth certificate for my grandmother, Adele (Madera). Her marriage certificate to Charlie, my grandfather (in Nevada — yes, they eloped!).
  • Charlie’s birth certificate. (Manteca, CA).
  • Birth certificate for my mother, Kathy (Madera). Marriage certificate to my dad, Tony (Madera).
  • Tony’s birth certificate (New York).
  • My birth certificate (Fresno, CA).

You may not believe it, but gathering certified documents is EASY. Just find the county, download/fill out the appropriate forms, send in a check and wait for it to arrive. For all my local documents, I just dropped by the county office to pick them up. Since none of my family members divorced that cut down on time and cost.

 Word of warning: New York takes a long time! 

This should come as no surprise, given the massive Italian population. For my dad’s birth certificate I ordered online, but it took over a month. In comparison, I received my other certified documents from California and Nevada in less than a week.

DHS_cis_WR_atPART TWO: USCIS AND NATURALISATION PAPERWORK

You might get lucky (I didn’t on this) and get all naturalisation paperwork from the local country courthouse. Until 1991, naturalized U.S. citizens were sworn in at a local or federal courthouse. As a result, many U.S. Counties’ courthouse records include naturalization records. Except when an applicant has his or her ascendant’s certificate of naturalization, a County record is always required. Remember that a County record must have the signature and seal of a County official.

If, like me, you cannot locate these at County, you’ll need to search at Federal. It takes more time, but it’s definitely doable. Take a look at the USCIS Genealogy website. You’ll need to request a FILE NUMBER. I pulled some documents through Madera County which had my great grandfather’s case file number, but the rest of the documents were illegible. If you DO NOT have the file number, conduct an Index search. This will cost about $20-30 dollars.

Anticipate federal taking two or three months, maybe longer. Email them every few weeks and call. Ask to speak with someone. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I hounded these people and they finally sent me what I needed. It’s not their fault, they have only a few staff members and too much demand. They will most likely not send you a certified copy, which is perfectly fine. Just remember to keep the envelope, as you’ll need that as proof for the Italian Consulate.

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PART THREE: WRITING TO ITALY

When I first started, I thought writing to Italy would take the longest. I’ve heard horror stories about the postal network and figured I’d have to write two or three times. Boy, was I totally wrong. I got them in few weeks! They even sent the postage back. Color me pleasantly surprised!

Hell, even locating where to send is easy. In my own example, I just googled “Comune di Montegrosso di Asti”. BOOM! 

Address: Via Re Umberto, 60, Montegrosso d’Asti, Province of Asti, Italy 

So, write to the “Comune” where your ascendant was born, request a birth certificate in “formato internazionale”, or in “estratto per riassunto” (showing his/her parents’ names), enclose three/four dollars for shipping and handling and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. When writing to the Comune, address your request to:

COMUNE DI ____________________
Ufficio Anagrafe – Stato Civile
(zip code) _______ (City) _____ (province of) ________
ITALY

I had a friend write a little note in Italian explaining I needed information to process my Italian citizenship. Maybe that helped speed up the process, I’m not sure! Either way, it’s incredibly easy.

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PART FOUR: APOSTILLE DOCUMENTS AND ITALIAN TRANSLATIONS

You’ve gotten everything above. AWESOME!! You’re really getting there. Now, only a few things remain:

  • Your birth certificate needs an Apostille and translated into Italian
  • All your marriage certificates, if any, with Apostilles and translations
  • All your divorce decrees, if any, with Apostilles and translations

For the Apostille, just look up the Secretary of State online, find the document needed, fill out and send with the appropriate check amount. You may need to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope (I know I did).

The Italian Consulate does not require you to go through a professional translator, which is great. So if you or a family member speaks fluently you can do this all yourself. By far, translations are the most expensive part of this process. I went through a family friend and had no problems. Please note, you do NOT have to get the Apostille translated, only the certified document. This is because they will send your birth certificate to the Comune in Italy. So for example, my birth certificate is now located in Montegrosso in their records which proves I’m an Italian citizen.

Now, this might have changed but when I applied for citizenship I needed to do a few extra steps:

  • Provide Adele’s (grandmother) birth certificate and marriage certificate with Apostille, and translation
  • Provide Kathy (mother) birth certificate and marriage certificate Apostille and translation

I needed to get those done to PROVE my blood line to Pasquale. Check with your Italian Consulate if this has changed. 

Once you have this all finished, you’re well on your way! BE PROUD! Celebrate with some wine and gelato!

In part three, I’ll discuss problems you might come across and solutions if they do happen. Grazie!

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You’re so close, you can practically feel the Italian beaches!

Road to Italian Citizenship, Part One: How do I know I Qualify?

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Wanna be a dual citizen?

Let’s be honest. Coveting dual citizenship is an appealing concept. Having more than one passport reminds me of grand espionage, James Bond or Jason Bourne style. But on a serious note it can look great on your CV, possibly landing you a career globally!

I speak from personal experience: I work abroad! I’m a dual citizen in the United Kingdom. As part of the EU, I can work/study/travel in different European countries without any visa worry. Italians work in Belgium. Germans work in France. You get the idea! [EDIT: because of the Brexit decision, we’re not sure how this will affect current/future Europeans working in the UK]

From my understanding, dual Italian citizenship is an “easier” dual citizenship to pursue. I put this in quotations for a reason. Firstly, obtaining citizenship through jure sanguinis (ie. the blood-line) is more than just proving your Italian heritage through connections, you’ll need to collect forms, forms and MORE forms. You really need to do homework! Plus, like any government establishment, it requires a good deal of patience. Like the army, you’ll experience a lot of hurry up and wait as you send away for appropriate documents.

Do I regret it? Not for a second. It’s ABSOLUTELY worth the process. It took me about eight months of work to go this and I’m really glad I did!

I’ve broken this into a few parts to help those who are looking into obtaining citizenship for themselves, and their families.

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The road can be long, but it’s worth it!

How do I know if I qualify for dual citizenship?

Through jure sanguinis: “Italian citizenship is granted by birth through the paternal line (with no limit on the number of generations) or through the maternal line (for individuals born after January 1, 1948). If you were born in any country where citizenship is acquired by birth, and any one of the situations listed below pertains to you, you may be considered an Italian citizen.”

There are lots of different ways to qualify. Here are a few of the most typical:

  • Your father was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your mother was an Italian citizen at the time of your birth, you were born after January 1st, 1948 and you never renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your father was born in your native country, your paternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of your father’s birth, neither you nor your father ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your mother was born in your native country, your maternal grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, you were born after January 1, 1948 and neither you nor your mother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your paternal or maternal grandfather was born in your native country, your paternal great-grandfather was an Italian citizen at the time of his birth, neither you nor your father nor your grandfather ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship.
  • Your maternal grandmother was born in your native country, your maternal great grand-father was an Italian citizen at the time of her birth, your mother was born after January 1st, 1948, and neither you nor your mother nor your grandmother ever renounced your right to Italian citizenship. (This is the one I chose).

To find more, please look at this webpage:

I know all of that looks extremely daunting, but go over all of it slowly. The only way to actually RENOUNCE your citizenship rights is to declare at the embassy you no longer want to be an Italian citizen.

In my own example, I decided to go through my mother’s lineage (see above).

My great-grandfather was born in Montegrosso and moved to the States at a young age with my great-grandmother. My grandmother was born in Madera, California. And my mother was born in 1950 (not 1948). Although my great-grandfather became a naturalized citizen in the 1930s, he did not formally declare to the Italian government he wanted to renounce his citizenship. Because of that my grandmother, mother, and myself were all entitled to citizenship through his blood-line.

Why should I get this done?

In my own example, I chose dual citizenship to work abroad in Europe. I don’t speak Italian, but have always had the desire to learn other languages. Having dual citizenship allows me the freedom to be a full citizen. I will have an easier time purchasing property and can even vote! I’m also entitled to universal health care and retirement benefits, if I choose.

What about taxes?

If I decide to travel in/out of Italy, every couple of years I would have to pay a small tax. Currently I pay 50 EUR, however this will probably always change. As I don’t live or work in italy now, I’m exempt from this tax when I leave or travel out of the UK. This is ONLY when leaving Italy.

What about being in the army?

The Italian army is like the American army: strictly volunteer. Plus as a woman, I wouldn’t have to serve.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about the process of obtaining certificates and how to get those tricky documents in Italy!