On a recent trip to Mekelle, I took the time to interview an alumnus of Cherokee Education Program, Mulegeta Adhanom. The Cherokee Education Program provides an opportunity for the top 11th grade Ethiopian high school students to live abroad in the US for one year with a host family. The exchange is primarily an opportunity for the students to experience American culture. Below is a brief interview I conducted with Mulegeta, to get his thoughts on the experience and the impact it has had on his life.
What was the best experience that you gained from spending last year abroad in the US?
It permitted me to see the world in a different dimension…It allows me to know Ethiopia more, because I hear perspectives from the outside.
What was the most challenging aspect of the past year?
The food, and adapting to the cultural norms of the family.
What was your favorite activity?
It was fun to learn with American students and to visit different places [in the US].
What do you miss most about the US, now that you’re back in Ethiopia?
Wow, tough question. Mmm, I would say the people, especially my host family.
How have you changed since you left Ethiopia?
When I was here, I was thinking only of Ethiopia, and it seemed so big. But then when I flew to the US, I felt like I covered half the world…Initially, I had stereotyped the US people as all educated, wealthy and with planned families. Now, I see people more as individuals.
How did last year affect your long-term goals?
[It] inspired me to work harder to achieve my goals and to be optimistic. I remember when I was a kid I had [an] ambition to be just like an American doctor, now I’m even more inspired to do so after getting to shadow US doctors and visit health centers there.
Do you have long-term plans to remain in Ethiopia?
Oh yea, I’m not obsessed with money, and I want to help people and there’s a great need here.
What was the most surprising thing about the US?
The great communication [channels] (via emails, cell-phones, regular mail, etc.) and the design of buildings in Chicago.
Mule is in the process of completing his senior year at Kellamino Secondary School (one of the very best in all of Ethiopia) and will then apply to universities in Ethiopia and the US.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia