Tesfaye and His Family’s Journey to MIU’s Master’s of Software Development

Tesfaye headshotMeet Tesfaye Abrha, from Ethiopia, who made the bold decision to relocate with his family from Ethiopia to Maryland, and finally to Maharishi International University (MIU) to join the Masters of Software Development (MSD) program. Tesfaye’s journey from stability in a bustling Maryland city to uprooting his family for the pursuit of educational and career advancement is an inspiring example that change is attainable for anyone seeking to enhance their career opportunities.

“MSD is a great opportunity to change your direction from your current career to computer science. Even if you come from a different background, if you have an interest in IT and computer programming, I encourage you to join. You can have a master’s degree and a BA degree in different subjects, but if you want to get into Software Development, this is the program for you.” ~ Tesfaye Abrha

Interview by Christine Albers

Tesfaye Abrha and his family were fortunate winners of the United States Diversity Visa Lottery of 2019. At that time, Tesfaye, who had a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, was pursuing an MBA in Construction Management at Addis Ababa Science and Technology University while working as an office engineer for a construction company. Despite having just four months left to complete his master’s degree, he made the bold decision to leave his studies and relocate to the USA with his family, arriving in Maryland just in time to celebrate the holiday season and welcome the New Year in 2019.

Upon his arrival in Maryland, he promptly enrolled at Montgomery Community College to gain certification in apartment maintenance, a program offered by the American National Apartment Association. Following the successful completion of this program, he worked for a real estate and property management company and dedicated four years to this field before taking the transformative step of enrolling in the Master’s in Software Development (MSD) Program at MIU.

Tesfaye and his wife are the proud parents of a wonderful seven-year-old son and a beautiful baby daughter, who is just four months old. Together, they made the courageous choice to seize this opportunity for Tesfaye to embark on a new career path in software development.

CA (Christine): How did you learn about MIU?

Tesfaye: A friend told me about MIU, and I remember asking myself, “Is this a place where my family could thrive?” Back then, it seemed like a distant dream. Over time, my friend completed the MSD program and secured a promising job. He assured me that we could find suitable housing for my family in Fairfield and that the MSD program was exceptional. I decided to apply but COVID-19 caused delays. Finally, in January 2023, I joined the MSD program.

CA: What inspired you to join MSD?

Tesfaye: While working in Maryland, I was searching for a university that would accommodate my educational background in civil engineering while providing computer science courses. I discovered that the MSD program would recognize my unique background and offer a valuable pre-enrollment program to help me transition into the computer science curriculum. This pre-enrollment program provided exposure for newcomers like me who lacked a formal computer science foundation.

CA: Do you have any advice for new MSD students?

Tesfaye: I would tell new students who are interested in coding, web development, and web applications, that the MSD department offers a free Pre-Enrollment Coding Course, which I consider an absolute necessity. I wholeheartedly recommend that incoming students take advantage of this course. Personally, it took me two months to complete it, because I was still working full-time in Maryland. However, once I started MSD and took my first JavaScript class, I immediately recognized the immense benefits I gained because I started my first class with a sense of familiarity with coding. 

CA: How was your transition from Maryland to Iowa?

Tesfaye: It was a big challenge to quit my job and move to a new state as a family. I drove a long way to get here, and I had never driven more than 100 miles in the US. After I was settled, my wife and son joined me here in Fairfield. It was a great pleasure for me to have them with me and they were happy to be here with me too.

In Maryland, the metropolitan area is very large, and Fairfield is very small, but the people here are good people. It’s easier to be friendly. For example, when we went to Walmart for the first time people were very welcoming and said hi.

CA: Most of the students in MSD are single. How has having a family affected your experience?

Tesfaye: Bringing my family from another state added a layer of complexity to our journey. There were various social and logistical considerations, including dealing with insurance companies. Initially, we assumed our Maryland insurance would seamlessly transfer to Iowa, but it wasn’t accepted here. This became frustrating, especially considering my wife was pregnant at the time. However, after some effort, we managed to secure insurance at a reasonable rate.

Moreover, when my wife arrived, she was already six months pregnant, and we discovered that the nearest doctor was in Ottumwa. This meant I had to occasionally miss class to drive her there once a week. As newcomers, we lacked a support network of friends or family in the area, and our son was in school, so we couldn’t leave him home alone.

It was hard to even ask permission to miss class once a week, but my professors understood our situation, they were very helpful and luckily our classes were recorded so I could watch them at night and still be ready for the next day.

CA: How do you like programming?

Tesfaye: It’s a new language for me. I had never taken Java courses before, and coding was new, fantastic, and interesting. How it works is fascinating, especially for someone like me who comes from a different background in civil engineering, which is quite different from computer science. Learning coding and what the language means is like the way we communicate in any language, like English, but coding is a language between the person and the computer. It’s interesting.

CA: How are your professors?

Tesfaye: Our MSD professors are so great. They offer as much knowledge as they can incorporate into the classes.  They want us to comprehend everything and they do their best to deliver in a way that we can absorb and retain the knowledge.

CA: Do you feel you are getting all the knowledge necessary to gain a great job?

Tesfaye: While it requires dedicated practice over time to establish a strong foundation in coding and to become a proficient web developer, MSD offers a unique advantage. Our professors not only provide guidance, but they also empower us with the knowledge and skills needed to continue our journey independently.

Additionally, I’m thankful for the Career Strategies department, which offers us a valuable one-month course tailored to prepare us for job interviews and the technical examination at the end of the program as well as essential skills for the job market.

CA: Where do you want to live when you graduate?

Tesfaye: Our plans are somewhat flexible and contingent on my job opportunities. Ideally, we’d consider returning to either Maryland or Seattle, but it primarily hinges on where I can secure employment. We might opt to stay here in Fairfield, especially if I can work remotely. One compelling reason for this is that our son is currently enrolled in the Maharishi School, and we believe in the benefits of a stable educational environment. For him, it’s valuable to continue attending the same school for an extended period, perhaps 3, 4, or even 5 years. He’s an active and sociable young boy who thrives here, and his happiness is a top priority for us.

CA: Why did you choose Maharishi School for your son?

Tesfaye: According to NICHE.com, Maharishi School is recognized as the top-ranking Private K-12 School in Iowa.  I was impressed by the school’s exceptional educational system and curriculum, which places a strong emphasis on science and technology.

We also liked the school’s incorporation of Transcendental Meditation (TM) into the learning process. The TM practice contributes to a sense of calm and composure among the students and plays a significant role in shaping their attitudes and behaviors toward science, the natural world, and their interpersonal relationships. We wanted a school like this for our son.

CA: What would you say to someone who wants to join MSD?

Tesfaye: MSD provides a great opportunity to change your direction from your current career to computer science. Even if you come from a different background, if you have an interest in IT and computer programming, I encourage you to join. You can have a master’s degree and a BA degree in different subjects, but if you want to get into Software Development, this is the program for you.