Minnesota was the last place Lebanon native Ziad Tedini thought he would end up, but this summer he is celebrating his newly awarded U.S. citizenship after spending the last seven years in Canby as a dentist.
And he couldn't be happier.
Photo by Phillip Bock/Photo illustration by Aaron Schlemmer
Canby dentist Dr. Ziad Tedini recently became an American citizen.
"My family and I have been blessed," Tedini said. "I am really proud to be an American. It's the greatest country and I worked hard for my citizenship."
His road to citizenship was not an easy one.
While in Lebanon Tedini studied hard and dreamed of studying abroad. Originally he wanted to be a doctor, but an older sister turned him to dentistry.
"She told me it's medicine and art at the same time, and I always liked working with my hands on sculpting and art," Tedini said.
He first went to school in Lebanon, but dreamed of going to college abroad. When the University of Michigan-Detroit accepted him, he jumped at the opportunity.
"I had a dream to get an education, and you always hear about the education in the United States," Tedini said. "The most technology and advanced things you see - it's usually in the United States."
Having not been taught much English in Lebanon, Tedini first had to attend an English language school. After getting a grasp on the language he began studying implant dentistry. Though he loved learning about dentistry, after graduation he decided not to stay in the Midwest.
"I said, 'that's enough with Michigan' because it was a very rough city," Tedini said. "I didn't like anything about Detroit."
With his student visa running out, Tedini needed work. A friend had suggested California, claiming its weather would remind Tedini of home. Tedini followed the advice and moved outside of Los Angeles and got his dental license in California. But, though the weather was nice, it did not seem like home.
"I wasn't comfortable. I was like anybody who dreamed to live in California: single and young, but it was a huge city," he said, adding that the daily two-hour commute to work was taking its toll. "I was stressed out and would have no energy when I would get to work."
Following a friend's suggestion, Tedini started looking at jobs in Minnesota. There were a few in the cities, one in Rochester, and one in a town called Canby. He came for an interview during one of Minnesota's more frigid Januarys.
"In my hometown of Aley, Lebanon, they called cold weather 35 degrees," Tedini said. "That would be a nice day in Minnesota."
But once here he fell in love with Canby's small-town charm and friendly citizens.
"When I first met them it was like I had known them for a long time. They were really nice, friendly people," Tedini said. "It was just like growing up; my mother was the nicest lady in the world."
Business also brought Tedini to Canby. The dental office was still being built and the Sanford Canby Medical Center agreed to let him help in the designing of the dental office.
"When I came in January in 2003 the building was empty space," he said. "They had an architect and a dental engineer to plan it, and we worked together."
After settling in Canby and receiving permanent residence there, Tedini applied for his green card. After five years as a permanent resident of Canby, Tedini applied for his citizenship.
"There are so many ways to get your citizenship, and I did it the best way," he said. "You can be here legally and work legally and become a citizen and do it the right way, but a lot of people choose not to do it the right way and it's a sad thing."
Tedini met his wife on a visit back in Lebanon. She is now working toward her own citizenship and recently graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University with a master's degree in business administration and an accounting degree. They have two girls, Miah, 3, and Lilly, 1.
"When I look at a map I think, 'How did I end up in Canby?'" Tedini said. "But it was a blessing."
Activities in the town keep him busy. Tedini says he plays volleyball and pickle-ball, but that his favorite time of year is the fall.
"Hunting season is the most fun season for me," Tedini said. "The first time I got a deer I was like a little kid jumping up and down. I couldn't believe how excited I was."
Tedini now maintains a dual citizenship with the United States and Lebanon.
"It means a lot for me. I love this country a lot," he said. "I love Lebanon and appreciate Lebanon, but there is something unique about the United States."
The city of Canby held a celebration for Tedini on Flag Day to congratulate him on becoming an American citizen. Tedini said he couldn't be happier now that he is officially a citizen of the United States.
"We really need to appreciate this country more and appreciate what we have," Tedini said. "It is the best place in the world."