Editor's Note: Today through Friday, we will be running a series of articles on St. Louis Park residents who moved here from all corners of the globe. Everyone we interviewed was in an Adult Options in Education class at . Adult Options in Education offers a variety of programs geared toward people looking to improve their English writing, reading and speaking skills. On Tuesday, a number of students in the General Education Development program will be graduating with their GEDs. For more info on Adult Options in Education, visit its website.
Name: Yeshareg "Mimi" Birru
Birth Country: Ethiopia
First Year in United States: 1995
St. Louis Park Patch: Why did you move to America?
Birru: That’s a good question. I graduated high school back home, and after I graduated, there was a chance to win a lottery to come to the United States. We have a (sponsor) family in Seattle, and they tell us of this chance. So I say, “Why don’t I take this chance?” But I also didn’t want to leave my home. I never dreamed of going out somewhere else to live. But I try, and I win the lottery. After like six months, they come for me and my sister. Somehow it didn’t work for my sister, but it worked for me … I filled out the application and everything, and they said, “Congratulations, you can come to America.”
St. Louis Park Patch: Did you move straight to Minnesota?
Birru: No, I went to Seattle. I lived with (my sponsor family) for almost a year, then my cousin came and I lived with him. Then after that, a group of friends, we decided to help our family (who live in Ethiopia), so we went to Alaska (to earn money). There, I worked like nine months. And my now-husband—he was then my boyfriend, my first boyfriend—after three years I went and married him.
St. Louis Park Patch: He lived in Ethiopia?
Birru: Yeah. I went back. I helped my family, but my husband, he didn’t need any help. He’s a mechanic and had his own shop. He even said “Go (to America) and help your family, don’t worry about me … If you want me still, I’m available. We can get married.” But he said he wasn’t interested in going to America—he had a good life there. After we were calling each other, he said he missed me, and I missed him. Then he decided to come to America.
St. Louis Park Patch: How long ago was that, when he moved here?
Birru: Eight years ago.
St. Louis Park Patch: What have you enjoyed about life in the United States?
Birru: I really enjoy the peace, and also I’m very happy to help my family. If I’m home, they will help me, but I came here—I chose to help my family … It’s a good life.
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you have any children?
Birru: I have a son and daughter.
St. Louis Park Patch: What challenges have you faced living here?
Birru: The first time I came, you know, I was very young, and my husband—my first love—it was very hard to leave him. And my family also. For three years, when I talked to my dad I would be crying.
St. Louis Park Patch: You missed him that much.
Birru: A lot. And not only my dad.
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you go back home now ever?
Birru: I was there the last three years for Easter.
St. Louis Park Patch: How was your English when you first moved here? Did you speak any?
Birru: I spoke some, but not really well. I applied at McDonald’s—they couldn’t even hire me because I didn’t understand anything. We learned at home, but we learned to write. We didn’t talk (in English). I knew how to write, but I didn’t know how to speak.
St. Louis Park Patch: Talk to me about these classes you’re taking. How long have you been in them?
Birru: I started in October.
St. Louis Park Patch: Have you learned a lot?
Birru: Yes. These classes have helped me a lot. When I came to America, I went to school also—English as a Second Language. It helped me a lot. But my mind was with my family, so I stopped. People told me to go to school, but I said I have to help my family. I made a big mistake ... But I have a chance, now. I realize I have to go to school.
St. Louis Park Patch: How do you think your English is now?
Birru: Still, I need more (education). But I can (have a conversation).
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you work currently?
Birru: I work part-time. At . I couldn’t find a (full-time) job because of the schedule. When you have kids, it’s hard to work full-time.
St. Louis Park Patch: And your husband works?
Birru: He works for Delta. He’s a mechanic. At the airport.
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you feel you’ve been welcomed to the United States?
Birru: Oh yes. I love America.
St. Louis Park Patch: What are some of your goals in the next five to 10 years?
Birru: My goal is to learn more, and to have some education and a career. I was thinking about working in a hospital. When I see doctors, they work so hard. And nurses—I wish I could just be next to them … (And I like kids), and I think, “Can I (work) with kids? Or can I (work) at the hospital? Where should I be?" I’m asking god—he will guide me.
St. Louis Park Patch: Do you want to go to college?
Birru: Yes. I want to have a degree and a diploma if I can.