For the majority of her life, third-year law student Anelga Doumanian has been on the move. From city to city, state to state and continent to continent, her family travelled for better opportunities for their future. Now, 16 years after moving to North America, Anelga can finally settle in as an American citizen.
On Friday morning, Anelga joined 42 other petitioners from 28 countries as new Americans, taking part in a naturalization ceremony co-hosted by SLU LAW’s Public Interest Law Group.
Anelga was born in Switzerland and briefly lived in Bulgaria before her family immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1998. In 2002 the Doumanians moved to the United States when Anelga’s mother, a doctor, switched specialties and began a residency program in psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. After four years in Nashville, Tennessee, the family was once again on the move, this time to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she completed high school.
In 2008 she packed her bags and headed for St. Louis to attend Saint Louis University where the school’s engagement with the Jesuit mission intrigued her. “I visited SLU, and I really liked it,” she said. “I grew up in a very secular home, so I didn’t know what the Jesuit mission was. I loved the hands-on experience in classes.” As a SLU Presidential Scholar, she also regularly participated in service projects.
When it came time for her next move, Anelga did something she hadn’t really done before: she stayed put. Growing up as an avid watcher of injustice documentaries, she always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. A combination of wanting to practice in St. Louis and continue the Jesuit mission experience led her to SLU LAW.
As a lawyer she sees the opportunity to involve herself in a cause. “I always felt a very clear sense of ‘this is right’ and ‘this is wrong,’ and I want to do work where I can pinpoint and conceptualize an actual wrong,” she said. “I don’t know if I can make a change or not – I hope I can – but I think there’s a lot to do.”
Anelga has interned for the past year with plaintiffs’ firm Chackes Carlson, LLP in downtown St. Louis. She’s also continuing this semester in the Criminal Defense Clinic. “I love it. We’re in and out of court almost every day.”
She hopes to continue working as an advocate for people with traumatic life experiences.
Becoming an American citizen was always something she wanted to do. “It’s strange,” she said. “I’ve lived on this continent my entire conscious life. I never considered myself anything but American.”
Anelga’s legal education provides a unique perspective on what it means to her to be American. “It’s this idea of upholding your civic duty. But I think it has much more meaning to me going through law school because you understand where these laws come from, where this foundation comes from.”
Anelga’s family is in the midst of the naturalization process as well and hopes to have it completed by the end of the year.