@ cross roads

April 14, 2009 at 12:00 am 21 comments

I haven’t received my social security number yet but I’m swamped with career choices: with what to do, where to go and what to study. Chris, who knows what it means to do a job you hate, wants me to join the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to study literature. I do not want to, since pursuing my passion instead of what would bring food to the table feels too spoiled, especially at a time like this. An editing course here, a graphic designing or a photography class there, that’s as far as I’m willing to go when it comes to getting involved in the fine arts.

I googled my options, ofcourse. Nothing satisfactory. Then I sought advice from a couple of abesheets who have been here before me. My cousin Rute (that’s how she writers her name) said I should go to school first, for I wouldn’t have the heart to go to school once I started working. My ex-colleague Biruktayit said I should give it time, weigh my choices, and decide what I want to do. While Enat, the youngest of my cousins, begged me to pro-create first, before it’s too late and I regretted it, then to go to school and study nursing. “Kezia behwalama..”, she added confidently, “kuch bilo birr meZaQ newu, beAmmet eske semania shih yemikefelachew alu…alwu”.

Now I want to know what you think:

[Taking the job market, convenience and affordability into consideration] which do you suggest I consider:

  • Working or going to school?
  • College or university?
  • Online or offline?
  • Criminal Justice, Law or Psychology?

And why?

Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

To: Mazzi, sistu, Inem, others.. A home away from home

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chuni  |  April 14, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Back in hs my counselors all stressed choosing a career you love and enjoy. When i told this to my mother, she laughed and said, “do something you can tolerate”. It may not be what you really want to do but something rewards you with more than a paycheck.
    At a time like this, i would recommend you doing something in health care. I do not agree with putting off school for few yrs. It will be very hard at first but it’s just gonna be few yrs and before you know it you will be done.
    Nursing is a good option if you like meeting new people everyday and enjoy talking to them. It is in such a high demand and you can get your associates in 3yrs and bachelors in 5yrs I believe…including pre-reqs. I know people with associate degrees who’re making 70k with less than 3yr experience. You can then go back to school for managerial positions while working.
    I would recommend going to a community college for the cost…At the end of the day, a degree is a degree and because nursing is in such a high demand, hospitals don’t discriminate. If you don’t want to get you degree from a CC then you can at least take your pre-reqs at a CC and transfer the credits.
    If you are not that into people, you can do Radiology or Laboratory Science.
    If you don’t like to be bothered with ppl all together and wanna do research, Biochemistry and Biomedical Physics is very marketable. There aren’t a lot of people in these programs (specially biomedical physics) so the departments are very accommodating. You can do research as a student for one of your profs. The money won’t be much but if you work hard, you can get grants for your research. If you wanna go this rout, then I would recommend a research university (big universities usually have programs/grants to help minority students in the sciences, definitely look in to that) . The down side of this is you have to work with the same lab mates everyday and you may not get immediate gratification from your work as it will take a while to see if your experiments worked or not. It requires patience.

    But as a person with a lit. background, i think you would like Law….but that’s a good 8yrs program, including undergrad. If you have a plan to stay in school that long straight off the bat then i think it will fit you well. But you have to keep in mind that you probably can’t work while in law school…

    I hope this helps…

  • 2. sistu  |  April 14, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Abesheet, I support everything that Chuni wrote. If you are considering school, then a Community College is definitely what I recommend too. There is no reason to spend your money/financial aid on big universities, especially for prerequisite classes like Chuni mentioned.
    For most of the health science programs such as nursing, the waiting list in colleges tends to be long but it depends on where you apply. For example, colleges that are accessible by public transportation tend to be in high demand, so you can look into the more remote CCs that you can get to by car. By the way, wherever you might apply, I advise you to approach them as a transfer student by using your courses at AAU. Whatever program you choose, they all have common courses that are probably similar to those you may have taken at AAU or elsewhere such as sociology/psychology. Typically admission officers at any universities/colleges tend to be very dismissive of foreign qualifications but you should fight tooth and nail to receive credit for them with Chris by your side. They usually operate at their own discretion and chikichik aywedum so I would advise you to try that.
    Another thing I recommend is having any completed degrees/diplomas from Ethiopia appraised so that you know their worth here. A diploma, for example, may be appraised equivalent to an associate’s degree depending on the major, which will save you at least 1 year of school. However, sometimes a completed degree/diploma might disqualify you from financial aid, so I guess that is also a consideration. I think the downside of going to school right now is that schools have tighter budgets and financial aid is harder to get. An upside to school now as opposed to later is that once you start earning, you will be disqualifying yourself from financial aid as they use your past earning history when they decide your eligibility. But not having worked yet, I think now would be when you would qualify for the most available aid, however small/big that might be and depending on whether Chris has claimed you on his taxes over the last years.
    From the choices, I would pick working and going to school part time. The ‘why’ would be so that you have some money to sustain yourself while setting the ground work for easier times in the future. I think it will be somewhat hard but I think its also worth it. As the good book says it is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other or another about doing things young so that we may enjoy them in our old age. (is there one like that?)

    And I know this will be very welajawee, kewelajim Ethiopiawi, of me, but I have to be honest and passionately agree with your decision to stay away from literature, law and the like. You will forever be competing with home grown talent (i am using the word broadly) who tend to have their way with the job market/classroom. I feel the sciences are the safest sanctuary for us aliens. I might be corrected/reprimanded for that so I shall brace.

    And of course how can you expect better of me, I do think procreation trumps all.

    but at the end of the day, i think the most important thing is to do what you think you are most ready for or be able to do well in (I had to redeem myself for my abatawee mikirs by offering a bit of modern philosophy)

  • 3. abesheet  |  April 14, 2009 at 5:00 am

    You know ladies, i threw the nursing thing in as a joke. Hoping to see blushes and to hear some giggles from you. Not only are you not blushing and giggling; but are actually advising me to go for it. Do i sound a closeted Florence Nightingale? A nursing material? Mazzi, tell them!

    Ok, first things first:
    What are community colleges and how can you tell them apart? What is a financial aid and how does one go about asking it? How about other careers: like software/desk top maintenance thingy, graphic designing, criminal justice (you know… forensic studies and shit), education, or the US Army?! (they have an awesome veteran packages, i heard)

  • 4. Sawel  |  April 14, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Glad that you made it through and finally came at a point to decide what to do here in America. Let me start from my own experience first. I came here through the DV program in 2006. I was 23 back then. After settling in Seattle I started working as a parking attendant for 6 months. To be honest the money that I use to earn was good, and started to live by myself etc… Later on I started to observe and think about what I should do for life. I realized that if I go on working at the parking job until I reach 25 then I’d possibly do the same type of jobs for the rest of my life. But thank God I made a good decision. I consulted some people and decided to go to college and study Pharmacy. I had to learn English from scratch but I was quite good in Math. I’m still in the pre-pharmacy school and working hard to get into the pharmacy school. Therefore if you have the chance to go to school then do it. That’s my best recommendation for you. You have a great English command and that would be an advantage.Trust me you would learn a lot and be acquainted with the living in the U.S. Good Luck!

  • 5. sistu  |  April 14, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Okay Abesheetiye, Mazzi meta lik likakachinin iskitnegren for mistaking you for a nurser, let me squeeze in a few words feten biye. (by the way, I believe Florence Nightingale and your 4th/5th(?) grade English textbook are currently rolling in their graves in protest/solidarity with the nursing industry)

    Community colleges are 2 year schools that offer associate degrees that are similar to diplomas in Ethiopia. Usually they are state-owned and a lot cheaper where you pay for classes on per-credit basis. They usually have the title ‘community college’ in their names. Sometimes they are called junior colleges, although those tend to be private and slightly more expensive (I could be wrong about that). Having just checked wiki, it seems like they have all the info there that I might write here so I will spare you the repetition. About financial aid, usually colleges would guide you through the application for it. Normally you would apply for federal/state aid using documents that show your income for the past years. I think the best thing to do is approach an admissions and financial aid adviser at one school. Normally you can just walk in to one of those places and ask to see one and ask them every imaginable question in your mind.

    In terms of majors, I am not a fan of graphic design or other creative areas for the same reason I discriminate against lit and law but I am greatly prejudiced. Usually I only see natives studying CJ as well, I don’t know what its advantages and disadvantages are.

    Now the US army thing.. I do hope you have one readren who has tasted those waters.. maybe all Florence wanted to do was join the Army after all.

  • 6. Mamitu  |  April 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I too am for doing something in the Medical field, and the Community College, you might look at pharmacy as well. It is very competitive to get into but if you have some college credits and go into a community college and get some science degree, you can get into a good University and after five years be earning six figures (in the East Coast that is you may have to check how much pharmacist earns in the west coast). I hear that the schooling can run upto 80,000 but those I know who have studied Pharmacy say it is well worth it.

  • 7. Mazzi  |  April 14, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    LOL Abesheet for not being down with the closeted Florence Nightingale that might be in you!! I could infer from some of what you wrote before how you probably never thought you might be expected to join the “nursing is the in profession” fad in the name of practicality. I so so can identify with your sentiment as practical as that option is for all the reasons mentioned.

    Even with my sentiment, however, I too have to admit anything in the medical field is truly a practical option, nursing of course being on the top of that list. EdmE le rapidly aging Baby Boom Generation Shimagilewoch ina arogitoch not to mention the whole country turning obese (so it feels anyways) with all health complications that come with it, nursing will not go out of fashion a-n-y-t-i-m-e soon! And the high salaries with few years of schooling also are big incentive and part of the practicality.

    BUT … man how I hate potential decent salaries being the driving force into people’s career choices. What is worse than a person who doesn’t have one once of nurturing personality in him/her becoming a nurse for the money, and how I pity their patients. I have met nurses like that! Being a nurse’s daughter, I have tremendous respect for the profession my Mom dedicated all her life too, and she is wonderful at it. It is her calling and she does it well, but how I cringe for people who do jobs they would not touch with a ten foot pole had it not been for the money. It is a dilemma though…. Not as straight forward as it seems. None of us are immuned from that possibility!

    Not to be over dramatic or anything (I have been found guilty of that on occasions), this cross road you are facing now is probably one of the MOST important decisions you will have to make in your new life on this side. You truly have to give it a well considered thought, and weigh all your options wisely and carefully. You will have to consider all angels, and the pros and cons of taking a certain path both short and long tern.

    You can never talk to too many people about this and get as much guidance as you can get. Chris being ager-beQel, he would be very resourceful in helping you navigate this difficult maze, and figuring out the system. You should also get as much guidance from outsiders who have come to this country before you and had to make similar decisions as you will need to make soon at some point in their journey. And everyone would have their own stories to tell, helpful advices to share, and horror stories to divulge. Most things you hear will be helpful in assisting you make a decision that is right for YOU and no one else.

    As someone who has had varying successes and crushing failures in navigating through college education in this place, I feel like I have so much to share about the do’s and don’t for those considering this journey on this side. I am with you completely about doing a PRACTICAL major (what ever that may be) and really nothing in literature or social sciences that do not end with viable and gainful career options. You can always take non-degree-granting classes in literature or any other field you will truly enjoy when you have the time and the money at any time in your journey.

    I am all for going to school one way or another as a degree earned in US college/university will open many doors for you in the long run. But the question is when and where to go to school and what to study. If you carefully plan your life, you can go to school AND work at the same time. Multi tasking is talent that goes a very long way in this country. How you learn to manage this skill will dictate how much you succeed in your degree pursuit not to mention the quality of your personal life.

    You don’t even have to postpone “procreating” as someone said in the name of going to school first if that is part of your long or short term plan as Sistu and your Mom’s god-daughter insist. It can be included in your multi tasking plan. Is it going to be hard, almost impossible, thinking of all what would be expected of you? No doubt!!! I can tell you ahead of time that it ain’t going to be picnic. But NOT impossible!!! Enenu rasEn argi sew aybelegN enji, le memkeruma andeNa negn ;-). I have had female friends (she heroes) over the years who had it in them to work, attend graduate school, take care of difficult husbands (I have very little to say about some of the African husbands I have met over the years…shame shame), AND raise children. Not that I am saying that this has to be your path as well, but I am just saying that you don’t have to look at all your options as being mutually exclusive.

    All the advices you have received from Chuni, Sistu, Sawel, and Mamitu are worth considering, and I am with them in standing by starting with a Community Colleges first. What would matter in the end is of course which major you choose to do, but also the school that IN THE END awards your degree (not the school you started from!). So, considering the ridiculously expensive nature of college education in this country, even with financial aid sometimes, college level credits you will be able to transfer to larger schools from relatively inexpensive Community Colleges will come in VERY handy. And I support Sistu in fighting tooth and nail for any AAU credits you might be able to transfer for pre-requisite courses since that will save you a lot of money and time.

    To make a long story short, I am all for going to school part time while also working part time for now. This is truly an awful time to look for work, but working will also help you integrate into ‘the system’ faster, and that by itself is valuable experience. The sooner you become part of the system, the better your personal and professional life would be. And I am definitely partial to majors that will land you with practical (can’t emphasize this enough!), and professional degree in the health profession since it is a growing field.

    I am sure I will have more to say about this subject at a later time, but just wanted to leave you my two cents for now.

    Feel free to ask more questions anytime, and I wish you all your best in making a decision that is right for you.

    (P.S. check your e-mail later, I might send you some info)

  • 8. abesheet  |  April 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    *can’t sigh enough* 😦

  • 9. Mazzi  |  April 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Didn’t mean to overwhelm you dear, but just felt like you deserve to have to consider all the angles :-). It is actually a challenging but exciting journey to embark on, and trust me it won’t be as hard as you imagine ;-).

  • 10. Totit  |  April 15, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Hey Abesheet….why dont u stop by the nearest hospital next time u r out and about andsee about volonteering for a couple of days at a hospital, and shadow a nurse, and see exacly what they do, to see if u r cut for it….

  • 11. Scooby  |  April 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    `I am sorry Abesheet, i used to think you were strong person. Now i am thinking i was wrong.You went to america,land of opportunities. and you want to live the life the rest of us are trying to avoid?What happened to pursuing your dream,and becomeing what you want? It may not be easy but please don’t be like these people.Don’t bury your talent for the sake of money.

  • 12. abesheet  |  April 16, 2009 at 2:01 am

    I wish it was that easy, Scoob. If there weren’t bills to pay, houses to build, families to lend a helping hand to from time to time, etc. But thanks for the comment.


  • 13. Abiy LA  |  April 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm


    Confucius says: Avoid real estate biz in SoCal!

    Habesha Confucius says: Nursing & Health Field

    Here are my two cents:

    * Working or going to school?
    – Both (part time work)

    * College or university?
    – University 55% College 45%… close, but if you are accepted at both and the only difference (program, commute, cost, etc…) are the same – go to the U!

    * Online or offline?
    – (or Low-Residency)… it does not matter.

    * Criminal Justice, Law or Psychology?
    – Really these are the three options you’re looking at?… if so Psychology.

    ….. finally whatever it is – keep writing!

  • 14. chuni  |  April 17, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    I really like Totit’s idea of shadowing!

  • 15. abesheet  |  April 20, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I hear you guys. And i’m glad to announce I’m considering applying for Criminal Justice. First, though, I’d get a job; a certificate in Copy Editing from UCSD and learn Spanish.

    Thanks for all your help.

    By the way, Abiy, how is my favorite Amharic newspaper of all times: Addis NeGer?! I miss it to death. Speaking of which, just read on Arefe’s blog that Tilahun Gessese passed away. It’s a sad day for Ethiopians! 😦

  • 16. Abiy LA  |  April 20, 2009 at 10:51 pm


    beruuku mazen ena ers berasachen metezazen!



  • 17. selam  |  April 24, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    You have 3 choices.
    Go to school now
    Work at Burger king etc.
    Easy way out find a husband who works.

  • 18. tpeace  |  April 28, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    abesheet…i suggest really exploring what you want to do with your life…what things you would regret if you don’t do. after all you get once chance to live right?

    i think the shadowing ideas are great.

    while I do not know what experiences you have had so far. part of it is, that you may need to really explore and experience how work is like to get a feel for what you want out of a career in life.

    for the job trends check these out:


    I’ve also heard discussions about how the new big assets are jobs versus investment and that the public sector as one of the most stable job providers is where a lot of ppl is highly sought out.

    Also, from writing this post i’ve learnt a bunch by doing google searches myself! 🙂

    I wish you Luck and good omens!

  • 19. tpeace  |  April 28, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    also — one thing to keep in mind…
    I would really recommend that you are very interested in the content of the job that you work on. the topics that are discussed and will comprise the main element of your work should interest you or else u’ll prolly be doing a half-azz job at the end.

  • 20. habeshaviews  |  May 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I am just going to say what I think. I tried to go through some of the comments but they are just too long to follow. I don’t understand why ppl have to go on and on to say the same thing over and over again.

    That being said, I think schooling is critical in the states. Otherwise, the jobs you’re gonna get are more of physical . You can always find a way to go to school and work at the same time. you will just have to be strong and dedicated. Don’t get scared to explore ur areas of interests.
    good to know you have settled well.

  • 21. bre  |  June 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Follow your heart, sister – not the money. When you go thru all successful people’s portfolio who make/made change and meaning, almost all followed their passion.


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