Immigrant stories: coming to America

How junior Kaleab Mengistu made his way from Ethiopia to America

Yabi Bereket, International Editor

On his awaited trip from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to the U.S., junior Kaleab Mengistu was only three years old when he first arrived to America.

The trip he took, along with his parents, older brother, and aunt, lasted a total of 13 hours. After making one pit stop in Italy, Mengistu arrived to Tennessee with his family in 2004.

Mengistu only stayed in Tennessee for a couple years, then made his way to Annandale, Virginia with his family in 2012.

Since Mengistu was only three years old when he first left Ethiopia, the memories of his early childhood are too vague to recall, but from trips he has taken back home, he is able to keep some memories with him.

“I was pretty young, but I can remember how some parts of Ethiopia were heavily gated, there were lots of gutters, and some dirty roads,” Mengistu said.
It was through the memories of friends and family which helped him piece together what Ethiopia was like in previous years.

Regardless of some of the more rough looking areas, malls were continuously bustling with friendly faces, and helped balance out his memories of the good and bad.
“Some of the nice places I remember seeing and going to were shopping centers, which were considered to be the nice places in Ethiopia,”Mengistu said.

Some significant differences he noticed were the lack of traffic lights in Ethiopia, as opposed to the abundance of them in the U.S.
“Driving around in Ethiopia is definitely always a risk since people don’t have traffic lights to depend on,” Mengistu said.

On top of that, stray animals are found all around the country, and has proved to be a danger to the people there, “A couple years ago, I got clawed in the calf by a wild dog, and the scar is still there,” Mengistu said.

The education system in Ethiopia differs from that in America as well. Students were consistently ranked based on their grades, one being the best on the scale.
It was Mengistu’s dream to come to America that brought him and his family here, “When I was little, my parents said I used to put shoes in a bag and tell them I’m going to America” Mengistu said.

“They then wanted to go to America after I kept doing that,” which then led them here.
Mengistu misses his family back home, and hopes to see them soon enough.

“I try my best to keep in touch with my friends and family back home, but it’s hard because of the time zone differences,” Mengistu said.