Junior Yofthae Hailu’s journey from Ethiopia to the United States

Junior Yofthae Hailu poses wearing a pink pom pom headband.

Junior Yofthae Hailu immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in 2006 at the age of three.

He immigrated to the U.S. with his family.

Like many immigrant families coming to the United States, his parents came here with his family’s future in mind.

“My family immigrated here because they wanted to give us more opportunities to succeed than we might’ve received in my home country,” Hailu said.

Even though leaving Ethiopia was a decision that his parents had wanted to benefit the family, this wasn’t a decision that Hailu was too eagerly happy with.

“I didn’t really want to leave because we had a good life back in my country close to a lot of my family, and we were very happy,” Hailu said.

As he first arrived in America, he recalls not feeling the best because of what he had to leave behind.

“When I arrived, I was pretty anxious and sad because I left behind all of my friends and family in Ethiopia,” Hailu said.

Moving to a completely new country also came with new challenges for Hailu.

Language was definitely something that Hailu struggled with at first.

“I didn’t understand English that well back then so I was scared I wouldn’t be able to fit in,” Hailu said.

However, since Hailu immigrated at a relatively young age, he was able to adapt quickly and grow up like all the other kids around him.

“It wasn’t hard learning English because I came at a young age so I got to learn it from the beginning like all the other kids,” Hailu said.

He also fortunately didn’t miss that much learning since he arrived at such an early age.

Hailu has very well adapted to a life in America.

He’s made many new friends and even participates in the cross country and track team after school.

As Hailu thinks back on what it was like living in Ethiopia, he recalls some differences between America and his home country.

According to Hailu, freedom from his parents changed as they moved to the United States.

“Back in my home country even though I was young, I had more freedom to go out because my family knew everyone in our neighborhood very well and they knew us too,” Hailu said. “But in America I never left the house unless it was with my parents or I was going to school.”

Hailu also noticed that the attitudes of the people here and back in his home country were quite different.

“The people seemed slightly less friendly when compared to the people in my home country,” Hailu said.

In his home country, he lived quite close to his relatives and was able to see them frequently, but moving had made that much more difficult.

This was another downside to immigrating for him.

“I liked that in my home country I had family everywhere that I could visit whenever I wanted, but now I have no family in close proximity to me so it’s kind of sad,” said Hailu.

Fortunately, Hailu has not completely been cut off from seeing his family, as he still goes to visit Ethiopia every now and then.

“I visit [Ethiopia] about every two years or so over the summer and I stay there for two months,” Hailu said.