MSD student Michael McLaughlin

Michael Abayneh: Why a Devoted Family Man and Educated Professional Joined MSD

Meet Michael Girma Abayneh from Ethiopia. Michael has 3 higher degrees and comes to MSD with a great deal of professional experience,  in both Chemistry, and Accounting and Finance.  Michael took this courageous step to come to the USA and leave behind his beautiful wife and 5 children in order to advance his career and create a better life for his family. Learn about his first impressions of MIU, how he believes he can practice TM and still be a strong member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and how he hopes to create more efficiency in diversified companies through implementing software applications.

 Interview by Christine Albers

 Christine (CA): It’s great to have this opportunity to sit with you and learn how you are doing as a new student in the Masters of Software Development program (MSD), Michael. Let’s start with your first impression of MIU. What was that like for you?

Michael: The day I arrived at MIU I made three friends as soon as I got to my dorm room. They were my neighbors and the good thing is that we are still friends. Everyone, from the program coordinators to the senior students welcomed us and gave us all the information we needed, and it really helped us feel at home. I missed Ethiopia and my family but the environment was so welcoming that it helped me get over being homesick.

CA: How are your courses so far?

Michael: From my side, the courses are exactly what I was expecting on the Standard Track. With the block system, we focus on one specific course in detail and each course prepares us for the next one. So far, we had Introduction to Java, Procedural Programming, and Object-oriented Programming (OOP). These are foundational courses for MSD because we don’t have a background in computer science. If I was taking the Accelerated  Track, it wouldn’t be the same amount of detail; it would be in the form of a summary. The foundational courses are preparing us to join the fast track in August.

 CA: How do you like your professors?

Michael: Our current teacher is Dr. Renuka Mohanraj and before her was Dr. Muhyieddin Al-Tarawneh, who played a big role in preparing us for Dr. Renuka’s course. I really like them both. I have a background as a teacher and lecturer back home so I can figure out the requirements for the course. I give equal appreciation to both professors because they provide more than enough knowledge of their subjects.

CA: How did you hear about MIU and the MSD program and what inspired you to join MSD?

Michael: I heard about MSD from a friend of my brother-in-law in St. Paul. He said I should do it, even though I already went to three universities and have three degrees.  He said I need to go back to school in order to gain a good job in the USA. I have basic computer application skills and I’m eager to learn more about software applications.

Computer science makes all my previous education and knowledge meaningful because I can practice accounting more effectively. In the past, I worked for diversified companies and I believe that implementing new programming concepts will make that work more efficient.

With MSD, I’m finally putting myself on the right track, which will help me achieve my dream to become a competent, intelligent, and energetic software developer.

CA: What would you say to someone who wants to enroll in the MSD program?

Michael: MSD is greater than my expectation. I really appreciate the way our professors treat us and how MSD graduates are getting jobs.

I like how the dorm proctors manage the dormitories. If they see something wrong in the kitchen or the bathroom, they post it on the group account so all of the students are informed and take care of it right away.

Everyone respects quiet hours in the dorms so we get enough sleep.

I also like the healthy vegetarian food in the cafeteria. My cholesterol was high before I came here and now it is normal, which is due to the healthy food. At this university, we learned that taking care of our health by getting proper rest and exercise actually helps us in our studies and future career.  There is a gym in our building and I manage to get in some exercise twice a week for 40 to 60 minutes. We also walk a lot during the day.

 CA: What are your plans when you graduate?

 Michael: I will graduate in August 2023 and plan to find a good software development position, and create a better life for myself and my family in America.

I am confident that Maharishi International University will add significant value to my life along with making me a competent, intelligent, energetic, and creative software developer who can serve the community.

CA: Michael, All of us at MIU wish you great success in finding a wonderful job and bringing your family to the USA. With your strong moral values and work ethic, you would be a great addition to any company. When did you arrive in the US? And what were you doing prior to coming to MIU?

Michael: I arrived in the United States in July 2019 and lived with one of my sisters in St. Paul, Minnesota. I joined Wells Fargo Bank and worked as an operations clerk for about two years. Right before coming to MIU, I went back to Ethiopia to see my family and stayed for 2 months because I knew I wouldn’t be able to visit again for 12 months.

CA: What was your educational background and career in Ethiopia?

Michael: I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s of Science degree in Accounting and Finance.  I also have a diploma in Chemistry from college. I started my career as a teacher and became a unit leader and Vice Academic Director for a secondary school. After that, I joined Midroc Technology Group. Midroc has 20 sister companies, and I worked for 3 of them, Midroc Gold Mines,  PLC, and Elfora Agro-Industry as an accountant and senior accountant. My most recent position was at Unity University where I was a Lecturer in the Department of Accounting and Finance.

CA: You had very professional positions and a good career in Ethiopia. What inspired you to move to the US?

Michael: From childhood, I believed if someone goes to school, the knowledge should be used to solve problems, and it was my dream to find solutions for any problem that can be solved with diversified knowledge.  Here in the USA, there is great potential for technology-supported knowledge, and there are many good job opportunities.

CA: You must really miss your family. Can you tell us more about them?

Michael: My wife is Lidia Yohannes and we were blessed with two sets of twins and a boy, five kids altogether. Life in Ethiopia is challenging because the economic instability is tough, but my wife is really strong and caring. She is taking care of herself and our kids, as well as my parents, who are her neighbors, and all this while she works as a customer service manager in a private commercial bank. It’s not easy for her to care for everyone, but she has help from a babysitter and a housekeeper. It was tough to leave my family, but I am always calling home and asking about their safety.

CA: Tell us about your childhood in Ethiopia.

Michael: I was born in the town of Debre Zeyit, which is now named Bishoftu. Like any native of a small town, I grew up playing happily with the neighborhood kids. I have six sisters but I am the only boy in the family. Since I don’t have any brothers, my father has always been my brother and my best friend. He worked as a master technician in Ethiopia and he was a former Ethiopian Air Force ground school instructor. My mom was an elementary school teacher. Both my parents are retired, and my father has more time to serve as a priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

CA:  Your relationship with your father sounds very special.

Michael: My father has been a great influence in my life. He served in the Ethiopian Church since he was a child and he taught me from childhood to serve the church in my spare time. From him, I inherited the habit of reading religious books, listening to spiritual songs, participating in holy mass, and volunteering at the church. For my father and me, the most important things in life are family and moral values.

CA: What are your sisters doing now?

Michael: Five of my sisters live in St. Paul and are all married, with kids, and working as nurses. One of my sisters still lives in Addis Ababa, working as a Customer Service Manager at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. She is also married and has 4 kids.

CA: Are you enjoying your Transcendental Meditation practice?

 Michael: I grew up in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, so I’m serving the church in the same way as my father. On the surface, it may seem that there are contradictions with my religion, but beyond that, there are also a lot of similarities. I utilize TM because I’ve found it is not related to religion.  It’s a technique that helps me settle and focus in the classroom.

 CA: Do you ever feel that TM enhances your religion?

Michael: One should understand the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The doctrine is a bit rigid, and there is nothing easy or flexible in our religion, so it would be harder for followers of this religion to accept TM. That is the toughest part. I try to match the positive features of TM with my religion and my daily activity and that makes me able to do TM and feel good about it.

 CA: Do you notice any specific benefits from your TM practice?

Michael: Yes, TM has a lot of positive impact on my life. My mind is tired after classes and TM gives me some rest, which helps me gain more energy to study and focus on my homework in the evening.

CA: How did you enjoy the first introductory course, Science and Technology of Consciousness (STC)?

Michael: In our Science and Technology of Consciousness class we learned a lot of things to help us be healthy, such as having a good daily schedule and the value of getting enough sleep, getting exercise, and practicing TM.

We also learned about some basic universal principles, and when I think of them, I have a lot of positive thoughts. Some of the principles are “Harmony exists in diversity,” and “Do less and accomplish more.” These basic principles can be implemented in our life without contradicting our religion.

“Harmony exists in Diversity” holds my attention because of the current instability in my country which may be due to a lack of consciousness about what we are thinking and doing regarding diversification. Diversity could be a beautiful thing if accepted with full awareness.