Although junior Asmait Asgedom no longer lives in Africa, she has not forgotten her Eritrean and Ethiopian roots. Asgedom’s mother is Eritrean and her father Ethiopian. She was born in Asmera, Eritrea. When the Eritrean government began kicking out Ethiopians, her father and two older brothers escaped the country.
Two years later, her mother decided to leave as well because she wanted to reunite the family. She made the trip across the Eritrean and Ethiopian border with Asgedom and the rest of her siblings, which is incredibly risky. “It’s life or death,” Asgedom said. Upon crossing the border, her family lived in a refugee camp.
The refugee camp was crowded and the housing dangerous. They constantly worried about their homes catching fire because the grass roofs acted as perfect kindling in the extreme heat.
Even though crossing the border was dangerous and life in the refugee camp was difficult, Asgedom’s parents knew fleeing would give their children safer lives. “They know it’s the right thing to do. It’s safer. They did it all for their kids [so we could] have better educational opportunities [and] a better life,” said Asgedom.
Asgedom’s background led her to value the opportunity to pursue her education. “She takes her education seriously; she doesn’t take it for granted,” said sophomore Liz Marin. “She likes to be social and study with friends, but her school work is a priority. I can tell that she doesn’t feel that the opportunity for education was just handed to her.”
Her professors also see her passion for making the most of her education. Assistant Professor of Department of Applied Social Sciences Deanna Durham said, “She often draws on her own life experience in class assignments and is able to communicate with a seriousness and honesty about what has been hard and also reflect a tremendous gratitude for all the ways she is able to pursue personal passions and dreams. She brings much needed perspective to my classes and I have enjoyed watching her find her voice and place here at EMU.”
Asgedom studies social work because social workers helped her family transition to the United States. “I can connect to almost [every aspect] of social work,” Asgedom said. Circle processes in her classes have helped her connect with herself and other social work majors. They have also given her an opportunity to reflect on her past. “I am not over it. I am still in the process of healing from my past,” Asgedom said. “The life I had when I was back in Africa … still has an effect on how I act towards anything.”