A Zimbabwean-born mother from Banbury made her dream come true as she was one of numerous Oxfordshire people to become a British citizen this week.
Twenty soon-to-be Brits from 17 nations made an oath of allegiance (or affirmation) and pledged to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK at County Hall in Oxford.
Sadia Gregory was among those to made the pledge and pass the test, accompanied by her proud husband Tim, a Charlbury Primary School teacher, and eldest son Donel, ten, a Banbury United FC youth team player.
The 35-year-old mother-of-three came to the UK for a working holiday after completing a degree in Australia.
She fell in love with Oxfordshire and her then husband-to-be and, with indefinite leave to remain status, never went back.
“Britain is my home now and where we are raising our family,” she said, adding jokingly: “Now I’ve done this my husband says I am more British than him now!”
Sadia and Tim, who planned to celebrate her new citizenship with a British traditional fish and chip supper, spent several thousand pounds navigating through a complex set of procedures on her citizenship journey.
Trips to Zimbabwe were required, a lawyer was hired, fees paid and the all-important Life In The UK test was studied for – and passed first time.
Everyone who applies to become a British citizen must show their knowledge of the English language and of life in the UK in one of two ways.
They can either take a special English for Speakers of Other Languages course, or they can take the Life in the UK test.
The test covers British customs and traditions, history and the laws and political systems that govern the country with 45 minutes to answer 24 multiple choice questions chosen randomly by computer, with a pass mark of 75 per cent.
Sadia said: “I studied at Banbury Library during the summer holidays when Tim was at home with the kids.
“For me the hardest part was the history behind the country. It wasn’t just recent history.
“I had to know all about the Stone Age and Iron Age, memorise all the Kings and Queens and know all Henry VIII’s wives in all the right order. It was tough, but I passed first time.”
Each new citizen is presented with their naturalisation certificate and a specially commissioned book on Diverse Oxfordshire.
Once the formalities are over, it’s a chance for everyone to rouse to their feet and join in with the National Anthem. They belt it out with gusto and pride.
Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Felicity Dick, who was officially representing HM Queen, told the crows: “As a fellow citizen of Oxfordshire It is my privilege to formally welcome you into our community as a full citizen.
“In becoming a British citizen you are making a commitment to the local community; to Oxfordshire as well as the city, town or village in which you live.
“Britain has played many roles in the wider world and continues to do so.
“We have not always done so wisely or fairly, but I hope you will find this is remains a nation that has a bedrock of fairness, a strong respect for justice and the rule of law and a genuinely open and democratic system of government.
“We are a society in which free speech means what it says. We are a nation that allows people to express themselves and to better themselves.
“In the current situation of Brexit I don’t believe, and I very much hope, that the upheavals that might be caused won’t change these fundamental British traits.”
The citizenship ceremonies are one of the duties performed by Oxfordshire County Council’s registration service.
Since ceremonies began 14 years ago, 19,250 people have become fully-fledged Brits – bringing wide-ranging skills and acumen with them to enrich Oxfordshire’s thriving communities and economy.
Often there are scientists, nurses, doctors, surgeons, nannies, academics and business people among the changing weekly cohort – all vital in the running of our hospitals, universities and science industries.
Superintendent registrar Alicja Gilroy is one those who performs the ceremony in the council chamber each week at County Hall.
She said: “It’s one of the most uplifting, inspiring and privileged roles we carry out. Every individual has their own special reason for becoming a British citizen.
“They come from all over the world and some of their journeys have been quite harrowing. They help make this county such a vibrant and diverse place.”
Do you have what it takes to pass the Life In The UK test? Try it for yourself at officiallifeintheuk.co.uk/test