New Americans on campus, Fisico and Tantrum become citizens


by Shannon O'Reilly

After living in the United States under a series of visas, Mark Tantrum, photographer in the Office of Communications, and math teacher Misael Fisico became citizens yesterday at a ceremony in downtown San Jose.

Originally born in New Zealand but a resident of Australia, Tantrum first came to the U.S. to work for Kelly Espinosa, Director of Summer Programs, in 2001.
Tantrum had no intention of staying in the US after his summer job was through.
“I really had no interest either,” he said.

After returning to Australia, Tantrum was offered a year and a half long internship by Espinosa and Director of Communications, Pam Dickinson.
Similarly, Fisico initially left the Philippines for a summer job in the U.S. He first taught at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) and then spent a year at an academy in Michigan. Fisico spent four years in America before coming to work for the Nichols in 1998.

Fisico appreciates Howard and Diana Nichols, Former President and Head of School, for hiring him. He was hesitant at first about coming to teach, but they assured him that, in return, they would aid him in the process of citizenship. Fisico expressed his gratitude toward their kindness.
Living in the U.S., Fisico has had a series of visas: a tourist visa, a J1 visa, a work visa, and a green card. “It’s so difficult. It’s a long process. I did it the long way,” he said. Fisico was granted a work visa for approximately six years, and then received a green card which he held for five years

Tantrum applied for a number of visas as well. “When the year and a half long visa finished, instead of overstaying or getting married really quickly or anything, I actually went back to Australia,” he said. When his visa expired, Tantrum applied for a fiancé visa. It granted that he could move to the U.S. with the expectation that he and his fiancé would marry within 90 days.

“I came and was married here after arriving on that visa,” he said. Now, Tantrum tries to visit his family in Australia at least once a year.
Fisico was one of five siblings: four brothers, all of whom live in Los Angeles, and one sister.

“My mom is in the Philippines, and that’s my family. When I consider family, it’s always my mom that’s on the top of my head,” Fisico said.
Living apart from his family was difficult during his first year in the U.S. Spending most of his salary on international phone calls, Fisico opted to stay in Michigan during Christmas time rather than going back home to the Philippines.

“That was the most difficult month for me, because Christmas is the most important season in the Philippines – family traditions and all those things,” he said.
Tantrum also felt the hardships of living in a new environment at first.
“I didn’t know anyone. The biggest adjustment over that time was getting a car and a phone – things you take for granted,” he said. Tantrum also struggled with a lack of credit. “I had no history here.”

Living in the U.S. on visas presented Fisico and Tantrum with daily challenges. When discussing politics with coworkers or friends, “whatever opinion I say, it doesn’t matter because I can’t vote. [Voting] is really an amazing privilege,” Tantrum said. Fisico, too, is looking forward to “vot[ing] in the presidential election,” Fisico said.

Fisico nonetheless believes he has been lucky in his past experiences in the U.S.
“I work in a very good environment. …I never experienced the public school. I was told that had I taught in a public school, I would experience the harsh America,” Fisico said.
One of the requirements of the application for citizenship is passing the U.S. Citizenship Test, which is based on the history of the U.S. and how the government is structured.

Along with others who similarly made the decision to become citizens of the U.S., Tantrum and Fisico, as part of the ceremony, took the Oath of Allegiance as administered by a judge and then recited the Pledge of Allegiance on November 19 in San Jose.