This month I’ve continued to prepare for my trip to Ethiopia, where I will be interning at a new boarding school called the Haile-Manas Academy. The date I leave, September 25th, is fast approaching, yet I still have so much to do! Although I have had the opportunity to travel in the past, this is my first experience organizing an international trip on my own. And there has been a huge learning curve. Applying for a visa, booking plane tickets, getting international healthcare coverage, and taking numerous COVID tests—these are just a few of the many things I am trying to get together before I leave. And then there are all the little things to consider—will I need to bring hangers for my dorm room? How will I withdraw money while I’m abroad? What kind of adapter do I need for wall outlets? How do I get my hands on a burner phone and SIM card? (I know that sound questionable, but I promise everyone—I’ll keep writing these blog posts! I just can’t get an international phone plan in Ethiopia.)
Even with most of these questions answered, admittedly I still feel nervous. I’ve never been to East Africa before and despite research and conversations with Ethiopian faculty members, I still don’t really know what to expect. This is the first large-scale moment that I’ve been entirely responsible for myself, and that kind of scares me. Luckily, I know that my nerves are natural and even necessary. To move halfway across the world during a pandemic with absolutely no worries at all would be pretty foolish.
It also helps that I have a close relationship with those involved with the Haile-Manas Academy. The school’s founder, Rebecca Haile, is actually the mother of my childhood friend, Amalia. Rebecca fled Ethiopia as a child refugee after the 1974 Revolution. Her family’s decision to leave was triggered by an attempt at her father’s life: the Derg, the communist group that came into power at the time, was trying to cleanse the nation of any individuals associated with the former imperial regime. Rebecca’s father wasn’t in government—he was actually a university professor in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital—but Derg revolutionaries still viewed him as a threat to their authority. Thankfully, after receiving medical care in London, Rebecca’s father survived and the entire family relocated to Minnesota. Yet to this day, neither him nor his wife have ever returned to Ethiopia.
But Rebecca has, and after years of reflection, she made the decision to open a boarding school there. Fast-forward to this month, and the Haile-Manas Academy is officially opening in mere days! I feel so lucky for the opportunity to be part of such an inspiring, powerful project, and I can’t wait to move in, get the school year started, and prepare for the arrival of all our students! Next time you all hear from me, I’ll finally be on campus!