Global Heels: Melat Fiseha, Ethiopia

September 6, 2013
Melat Fiseha

Melat Fiseha

Hometown: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Major or area of study and expected year of graduation and degree:
I am a sophomore thinking about majoring in business and I expect to graduate in 2016.

Where are you from and what is your country known for?
I’m from Ethiopia and although there are a lot of amazing things about my home country, such as being the only country in Africa that was never colonized, we are probably most known for our coffee. Historically it is said that Ethiopia was the birthplace of coffee!

What languages do you speak? I speak Amharic, which is the national language of Ethiopia; Tigrigna, the language of Northern Ethiopia where my parents are from; English; and French.

Why did you choose to study in the United States? And why at UNC? When my parents moved back to Ethiopia after living in North America for a number of years, they put me in international schools with American-based educational systems. To graduate high school from those schools and then to continue at an Ethiopian university would not have been easy because the systems are not compatible. So I started applying to schools in the U.S. and Canada. During the process, a family friend, also Ethiopian, who was currently a junior at Carolina, told us about her amazing experience here and recommended applying. I was accepted and began in the fall of 2012.

What unique perspectives do you feel you bring to your classrooms as an international student? Growing up I was blessed to have experienced so many different cultures due to the group of friends I had from all over the world and some of the traveling I have done. These experiences have taken me from being just a citizen of Ethiopia into becoming a citizen of the world. I believe these experiences enable me to become an advocate for two different worlds.

Which course at UNC have you enjoyed the most and why? I would have to say my English 101 class because I really enjoyed my professor who pushed me to be a better writer, and my Folk 89: The Poetic Roots of Hip-Hop (first year seminar) with Glenn Hinson because I love anything to do with history. The class was also discussion-based instead of just lectures, which I enjoyed very much.

Which professor has motivated you or helped you the most and how? Professor Glenn Hinson of my Folk 89 class because he taught me that there was no such thing as knowing too much about one subject. Most of the topics he discussed went way over my head but it was refreshing to see how excited he was about what he was teaching us and it was a confirmation to me that I shouldn’t invest myself in something unless I was passionate about it.

What do you like best about UNC, and how is it different from or similar to universities in your home country? I love the people here at UNC because they are extremely hospitable and friendly. The Southern hospitality mindset has truly impacted my life because I come from a very community-oriented culture and seeing the similarities in our cultures has made the transition into American college life easier.

What do you like best about living in Chapel Hill, and how is it different from your hometown of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia? Chapel Hill is a small college town that is able to provide for the many needs of the students and local residents alike. Transportation is easily accessible and convenient for students (as it is free) and Franklin Street truly captures the ambiance of the town. It is different from my hometown because it is much smaller, much quieter, and more orderly.

What have been the biggest challenges in adjusting to life in Chapel Hill and as a student at UNC? Having to deal with the various cultural differences was probably the biggest challenge coming to UNC. And the fact that I couldn’t get Ethiopian food anytime I wanted. And at first UNC seems big and hard to navigate, but people are so willing to help it gets easier really fast.

Which campus activities do you most enjoy at UNC? I really enjoy the campus ministry group I’m involved with called “Every Nation.” I love anything that goes on in the Pit, from acapella groups singing to everything that involves free food.

If you could introduce activities from your hometown to UNC students, what would they be? Various ethnic food tastings, international music and dance festivals, and visiting local attractions. Ethiopia is a very interesting country and there is plenty to do there.

Why should international students consider attending UNC? UNC is the promise of a better education and future for all who attend, including international students. It provides many life experiences and integrates various walks and views of life that enable its students to grasp the world around them. For international students, it provides a great atmosphere for them to become integrated into a worldly society that will benefit them in the long run.

What advice would you offer an incoming international student? Have an open mind and enjoy UNC. Take advantage of all that is offered and never be afraid to ask questions of peers and professors alike.

What are you currently reading? The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. It’s about a woman named Kamila Sidiqi and her struggles of survival during the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan beginning in 1996. I am excited to finish this captivating story.