My name is Kidest Ketema and I am one of the international students that were fortunate enough to come to Cottey College. Most of my P.E.O.s ask me how I came to Cottey or why I choose Cottey, which I am sure you are also curious to know. To answer that question I would have to tell you a little about myself and the three major factors that helped me get here.
I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I grew up in a big family with two older sisters and two younger ones. My mother is a stay-home mom, caring for my siblings and me. My father, on the other hand, works hard to make sure all needs are met in the household.
This was not the same case for my father. In his time, being the male in the house meant less responsibility. His family would give him the proper support and encouragement to do well in school, but it was not entirely easy. In order to reduce the electricity bill, my dad would either get a candle to be able to read the whole night for his exams, or he would go outside and use public light to aid him. With determination and hard work, my father became the first in his family to get a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. More than anyone, my father knew the importance of education and would highly emphasize it with me, as well as my sisters.
My parents played a major role in my life and I think that the best way for you to get to know me is to know more about the people who have shaped me into the person I am today. When I was a little, I remember coming back from school and my parents asking me what I had learned that day and checking my notebook to see if I had any homework assigned. At that time their attention to my schoolwork did not matter to me, but as I have grown I have realized how much they cared about my education. My mother was not as fortunate as I was when it comes to education. Being the firstborn in her family, it was her responsibility to take care of her younger brothers and sisters as well as the household work. She would tell me stories about her childhood when she would wake up early in the morning to make breakfast for everyone, dress all her siblings, clean the house and then go to school. Sadly, the burden on her shoulders made it difficult for her to finish high school.
The first elements to my success are my parents. If you were to compare my childhood to theirs, you could say I was lucky, and I would agree with you. I did not go through what my parents went through because they did not want me to. Instead, they showed me the significance of being an educated woman. Without their support, it’s hard to say that I would be where I am right now. For these reasons, and so many more, I owe my parents everything and hope to pay them back someday.
Senior year of high school was around the corner and I asked my sister about the education and the environment at Cottey. She told me the environment was just like home and that everyone was willing to help her. Hearing that made me happy, so I started looking into Cottey myself. After submitting application forms and test results, I received a letter of acceptance that opened the door to my incredible future. Next to my parents, the second major elements of my educational success are my sisters. As a middle child, I was blessed to have sisters to look up to and also look after. Whatever I learn from my older sisters, I pass down to the younger ones. Sisterhood is the best kind of relationship! For the majority of my childhood, Helina, one of my older sisters, was my role model. She is one of the hardest working students in our family. She took her education seriously and would set the bar high for the younger ones to follow. During her senior year of high school, she was studying for SATs and looking for a college in the United States. At that time it was uncommon for Ethiopians to apply for colleges outside of our country, but my sister knew what she wanted and my parents supported her choice. Cottey College accepted Helina and she became the first daughter to set out to pursue her dreams abroad. This role model gave me the ambition to work just as hard as my sister and achieve my dreams.
These two elements are important, as I have explained, but at that same level of importance there is one vital factor that I need to mention. Even if I was supported by my parents and guided well by my sister, it would not have been possible for me to be here had I not received a scholarship from Cottey College. This grant was a great relief for my parents, considering mom has no source of income and my dad supports the entire family. My dad is retired and is using the money he has saved to support my mom and two of my younger sisters. Receiving the email of nomination for the International Peace Scholarship brought me joy. Cottey keeps giving me the chance to prosper through my studies!
One of the things I love about Cottey is that there is a network of support, not just any kind of support, but women-standing-for-women kind of support, which is very powerful. This is something I had growing up with my sisters, and because of this I have always been interested in helping others. As Cottey helped me with my tuition, I know how it feels to be helped. It is a wonderful feeling and I want to be able to make someone else feel it, too.
I am a senior majoring in International Business and minoring in International Relations, and I am graduating in May. This semester, I have had the privilege to work as an intern in the Marketing Department here at Cottey College. Some of my work includes assisting students with marketing projects on campus, writing and editing blog posts, as well as providing administrative support. By being part of the Marketing team, I am able to give back to Cottey.
I feel very proud and happy to be a Cottey student. Once I graduate I plan to practice what I have been learning in school and implement it in the real world. After doing that, I want to go back to school to get a master’s degree in either business administration or human resources.