Reunited: Graduate From Ethiopia Relishes Mom’s Presence at Commencement

Roza Azene ‘18 graduated magna cum laude with honors after adjusting to life at Brandeis Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. (brandeis.edu)

Brandeis

Roza Muluken Azene ’18 was keenly aware of Commencement’s concurrence with Mother’s Day this year.

For Azene, a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, graduation marked just the third time in four years that she’s seen her mother, Muchit Reta, who made a 27-hour journey to Waltham last week to see her daughter receive a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics.

“The distance and time apart has been very hard and challenging for both of us. Getting my diploma this Sunday definitely feels more significant given that it’s also Mother’s Day. It’s such a great coincidence,” Azene said.

Muchit, who works as a math teacher in Ethiopia, encouraged her daughter to pursue educational opportunities in the United States after a family friend recommended Brandeis.

Azene heeded her mother’s encouragement and applied to Brandeis. She was subsequently accepted into the Class of 2018 and was named a Lawrence A. Wien International Scholar. The Wien Scholarship Program provides four years of free tuition to a select group of international students. Since its inception in 1958, the program has brought over 860 scholars from 112 countries to Brandeis.

Even so, Azene was hesitant to leave home and face a new country, language and culture on her own. Today, she remembers the moment her plane took off from Addis Ababa en route to a new adventure.

“I remember sitting on the plane, waiting on the tarmac to takeoff,” Azene said. “And I remember saying to myself ‘What are you doing? What have you done?’”

Azene credits Brandeis’ community for welcoming her on campus in the fall of 2014 and making her transition easier. She made friends and enjoyed new student orientation. That said, she also experienced homesickness and culture shock.

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