"I made up my mind to have a good experience at Stockholm University. I look at it as an adventure," says Yeneneh Hailesalassie. Photo: MÅ/Orasis
"I made up my mind to have a good experience at Stockholm University. I look at it as an adventure," says Yeneneh Hailesalassie. Photo: MÅ/Orasis
 

"My education is the best part of the experience here in Sweden," says Yeneneh Haileselassie, who has come to Stockholm University to get his Master's in Biology. "At university in Ethiopia, I was focused on the larger organs of the human body, the heart, kidneys and so on," he says. "Now I am studying cellular life, narrower but more complex. It's very interesting, says Yenenah. He credits his professors for the change in his focus. "They have stimulated my interest in new areas," he says.  

Yeneneh's enthusiasm is obvious when he talks about his professors. "Not only are they well educated and professional," he says "they are also doing research." This is of particular importance as it is what Yeneneh intends on doing when he completes his Master's program.

"I will return to Ethiopia and get involved with health issues there" Yeneneh says. Before coming to Sweden, Yeneneh worked in a research centre where he realized that although malaria and other subtropical diseases are the biggest problem in his country, no one was researching them. "Researchers need income and financing comes from private companies," he explains. Yeneneh is concerned that these important areas are not being studied. "I am prepared to sacrifice aspects of my life to begin research in these areas. Someone has to be the first" he says.

Before he returns to Ethiopia, Yeneneh plans to travel and explore Sweden and its culture, but for now his coursework comes first. He has made a smooth transition from Ethiopia to Sweden. "In Addis Ababa I went to an international school and met people from different parts of the world and it helps that I live with relatives," he says. But Yeneneh also understands that attitude is important when living abroad. "I made up my mind to have a good experience at Stockholm University. I look at it as an adventure," he says.

Part 2: End of spring term 2009

Photo: Sarah Hollister
Photo: Sarah Hollister
 

 Good friends, a supportive community, stimulating courses, these are the ingredients that have helped create a positive international experience for Ethiopian Master’s student Yenenah Haileselaissie.

 Yenenah Hailesellasie will spend the summer break in Sweden studying Swedish. “I think it’s important for social life, to feel part of things, and, also for example, to understand letters from the University.” But he makes it clear that he is pleased with the international mix of friends he has made through his master’s programme. “At one time you will find me with a Canadian, at another with a friend from Iran or Ethiopia. These are the friends I would turn to if I needed help.

He’s still not sure whether or not he’ll have the opportunity to visit Ethiopia before finishing his two year master’s programme. “I know one thing though,” says Yenenah, “when I do go back I’ll look at the people in my country differently.  He feels he has learned so much from people here, so much about life and not only from his professors. “I know now that I had the same opportunity to learn from my own people as well, but didn’t realize it then,” explains Yenenah.  “I also plan to explore the traditional medicine of Ethiopia when I go back, medicine that cannot be tested scientifically. I took a lot of things for granted before.  Coming here has shaped me, helped me see new possibilities.”

With Yenenah’s busy schedule he has had little time to explore Stockholm, but he has found one special place:  City Hall. “After completing each of my three exams,” he says, “I’ve taken a bus to City Hall, gone down to the water and sat there for a while. “It really helps me relax. It’s a beautiful building, I love the architecture.”

On Sundays he goes to the Ethiopian Church in town. “It’s the same as a Christian service in most respects,” he explains, “except for Easter which we celebrate a week earlier than the western Easter, on account of the calendar.”

Good friends, a supportive spiritual community, stimulating courses, these are the ingredients that have helped create a positive international experience for Yenenah. He feels grateful for the opportunity.  “I thank God for all of it.  This has been a life changing experience,” he says.

Part 3: Start of spring term 2010

Photo: Sarah Hollister
Photo: Sarah Hollister
 

"Every day, there is something new, a new experience," says Master's student Yenenah Haileselassie from Ethiopia. "It's all in how you look at things. The glass is either half full or half empty," he adds. Yenenah attributes his positive attitude to his mother and for him, it appears that the glass is full.

Master's student Yenenah Haileselassie from Ethiopia was one of the first students we interviewed in our ongoing dialog with International Masters and Exchange students at Stockholm University. Recently, we caught up with him again to talk about his life in Sweden.

"Every day, there is something new, a new experience," says Yenenah. "It's all in how you look at things. The glass is either half full or half empty," he adds. Yenenah attributes his positive attitude to his mother and for him, it appears that the glass is full.

Yenenah points out that it is the half way mark for him. "I began my Master's program one year ago," he says. He has recently begun a research apprenticeship working under the guidance of an associate professor. "I will learn from doing the procedures that are given to me to do," says Yenenah. "It's hands on and very valuable," he adds.

Although Yenenah takes time to socialize, his studies take priority. Friends form part of his support system. He is also active in the Ethiopian Christian Church in town. Celebrating holidays there brings him closer to his own culture. "I love Ethiopia and I miss my family, but this time in my life is about studying, learning," Yenenah says. "If I work hard, I will have success and be able to contribute to my country," he explains.

Soon Yenenah will begin the process of writing his thesis. At the same time, he will begin applying for a Ph.D program. "My first consideration will be the type of program offered," he says. "The second will be the location. It could be Stockholm, it could be anywhere," says Yenenah.

Text and interview: Sarah Hollister