Feb 23

“I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself”

Heldana Tekeste is an Ethiopian repat who returned home in 2016. She has been involved in many areas, including the issues of startups and some humanitarian work.

My homecomer experience has thus far been interesting to say the least! It didn’t feel like that grand of a decision at the time because I grew up here and wasn’t a stranger to the country. But I came to realize that living in Ethiopia as a working professional is an entirely different experience from whatever I was used to, and I’m grateful for (almost) every moment. My experience can pretty much be summed up like this: trying to adjust/resettle in a place I’ve always considered “home” after being away for over ten years while also trying to not sound completely diaspora every time I speak Amarigna.

I’ve been exposed to a lot of truths I didn’t know/realize about Ethiopia by moving here, but I know I haven’t even scratched the surface. I have a long way to go. More importantly, I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself – and we all know how fun that can be. If it weren’t for my mom living here and being my support system, I probably couldn’t do it. Living here comes with its challenges of course – but I’d rather be challenged in my own country than anywhere else.

My Kent University graduate school dissertation thesis was on the “Transnationalist Understanding of Diaspora Engagement in Ethiopia”. 

So as part of my research, I spent some time in Addis interviewing Ethiopian diaspora returnees from the US, and asked them questions regarding their experiences moving back home, some of the challenges, and also their reasons for doing so. I ended up changing the argument of my thesis entirely because of what responses people kept giving me. Almost all of my interviewees detested the fact that they were referred to as a ‘diaspora’ due to its associated stigma.

And most of them didn’t exactly plan to move back home – it just happened. I went into the research hoping to find that the government’s increased diaspora engagement initiatives are what led to so many Ethiopians returning. My research instead showed that the decisions to return stemmed not from top-down mechanisms, but more so from a grassroots phenomenon rooted in their ties and attachment to “home”.


The fact that youth entrepreneurship is being encouraged and supported by so many organizations and donors says a lot about where our country can potentially be in a few years. So many young Ethiopians have shared their desires to create something impactful for their own country and they’re ready to do the work for it! So we need to keep empowering them and giving them the tools they need to do better than we did. Let’s continue to create more opportunities to invest in our youth because they know what they’re doing.

Source: The Reporter Ethiopia