06/09/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/09/2023 15:44
Last summer, Abigail Berhane, '23, interned at the International Rescue Committee in Oakland, Calif., and felt greatly rewarded by helping migrants who found in Berhane somebody to whom they could relate.
"We finally have a person who gets our situation, can speak our language and just understands the struggles we're facing here," Berhane says. "I felt like I was finally doing something that I've really wanted to do for a long time. I felt like I was finally giving back to the community that really needs it. I've been privileged enough to be able to go to school. Many Eritreans in the United States don't have that privilege because they have to support their families."
Born in Eritrea, Berhane left for Ethiopia then Tunisia before arriving in the United States two years ago after attending an International Baccalaureate school in Tunis. She picked Seattle University to be closer to family and will be walking with classmates at commencement on June 12, earning a bachelor's degree in International Studies.
"I always envisioned myself in a university that has a strong commitment to promoting different social justice," Berhane says. "Plus, Seattle University's location was influential in my decision-making."
Her interest in migration studies stems from her own experience as a refugee and member of the Eritrean diaspora. She plans to apply for graduate school in the fall-likely on the East Coast-studying international relations with an emphasis on migration studies and human rights.
After finishing her education, she plans to work for an NGO, helping with the resettlement of immigrants.
The feelings of isolation from being away from her home and much of her family have been difficult.
"Not being able to speak my native language, not having people understand some cultural or historical background or when you make a reference," Berhane says. "It took some adjustments."
But Berhane loved exploring Seattle-and its boba tea-and becoming active with campus organizations and clubs.
Berhane was a student campus minister for social justice with Campus Ministry and a member of the African Student Association and Advocates for Migration Justice, all while carrying a heavy course load.
So how did she find time for anything but schoolwork?
"They are mostly in the evening," she says of the clubs' activities, adding: "I like to say you make time."
While at SU she's most proud of forming a tight-knit community of friends and mentors, who she knows care about her.
This is part of a series spotlighting SU graduates from the Class of 2023 who will be celebrated at the undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies, June 12 at Climate Pledge Arena.