Student Crosses Cultures and Holds On to a Passion

By Andrew DeHaan

hailee andrews

Andrews is seen here kicking the ball during a soccer game. He has played on Loy Norrix’s varsity soccer team both his freshman and sophomore year. Photo Credit / Andrew DeHaan

For many students, the process of moving away a few hours for college is quite frightening. In fact, 70 percent of students feel homesick in their first few weeks away according to a UCLA study. But sophomore Haile Micael Andrews has made a life changing journey from a small village in Ethiopia to our urban school in Kalamazoo.

At the age of 7, Andrews  and his two-month-old sister, Minna, boarded U.S. Airlines in a 24-hour direct flight to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, eager to experience life in the states.

“I slept a lot on the first flight, that was the easy part. I remember being on the second flight from Detroit to Kalamazoo and that being where it all hit me. I realized my life was about to completely change,” said Andrews . “The second flight was the worst. It was extremely hot, and small.”

Little did Andrews know, the challenges he would face didn’t stop when the plane touched down in AZO airport. Haile enjoyed his first meal, a pepperoni pizza, and watched his first ever American movie, laughing at only the images as he couldn’t understand a word being said.

“I remember getting off the plane and arriving at my new home. Everything was so different, the food, infrastructure, culture, people. It was all so much,” said Andrews. “People in the states seem so much more selfish. I feel like the majority [of people] do things to benefit themselves, even when it comes to helping others people do so; just to feel some personal gain.”

Ethiopian culture emphasizes the progression of the whole as opposed to each individual. Haile believes it is a team effort and misses that part of his old culture. According to Worldbank, the average Ethiopian earns less than $350 annually, one of the world’s lowest incomes. Andrews  sees that the lack of money in his native culture creates a community where people want to help each other and pitch in for the good of the whole, as it is nearly impossible to be materialistic in Ethiopia.

“I have almost completely transitioned to American culture in whole. In fact the only thing in my life that has transitioned from Ethiopia to the United States is my passion for the game of soccer,” Andrews continues, “I used soccer to help this transition. The sport opened me up to  experiences like travel ball, and showcasing my talent on the field helped me make friends before I could speak English fluently.”  

Andrews  has been playing soccer for 9 years now and has made varsity for Loy Norrix both his freshman and sophomore year. He wants to continue to be a star in high school and further his career playing in college. As many of his teammates see a bright future ahead of Andrews, he hopes to someday return to his home in Ethiopia.

“I believe that Americans can learn something from Ethiopian culture. I believe that American culture is much more selfish and greedy. If people here would have a selfless mindset and the resources Americans have, the U.S. would be a better place,”said Andrews

Moving states is always a challenge, regardless of your age. The transition from a third to first world country creates a culture change that may cause a child to lose a sense of traditional ways. 

“This experience has changed my life and ultimately made me who I am today,” remarked Andrews, “I think everyone should visit a third world country like Ethiopia to gain an appreciation for what life is like around the world. This can humble people and give them a different approach to life.”

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