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“Eritrea is a world of its own”

Professor of Psychology at Roxbury Community College in the U.S., Dr. Aradom Tesfay was born and raised in Asmara. Moving to the U.S. in 1973, he has been a long supportive member of hafash wudubat, and is someone highly respected and admired by the Eritrean community. It is our privilege and honor to have him as our guest today.
Would you kindly tell us about yourself?

One of our traditions is the importance that we give to “being humble” and not to brag about ourselves. Generally, as Eritreans, we are very modest, and not used to boasting about our personal achievements or accomplishments. However, for the sake of informing, I was born and raised in Asmara.

I completed my undergraduate studies in 1975, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Psychology, and then went on to complete my Master’s degree in Political Science. However, for some reason, I felt hesitant in pursuing my Master’s degree in Political Science; since my childhood, I had found myself attracted to psychology books, so I contemplated studying about human behavior. As a result, I then ended up pursuing psychology and attained my Masters’ degree.

At the same time, I was running an organization that was working with young children that had special psychological needs, such as severely emotionally disturbed children. This inspired me to upgrade my education within human behavior, and I went on to receive my Ph.D. in 1993.  Furthermore, from a young age, I was also very involved in supporting the armed struggle for independence. At different times during the struggle, I visited the liberated zones and attended political events. This also gave me the opportunity to gather information about the status of children living within the liberated areas. We did what we could to support our people.

Recently, I’ve had the wonderful experience of teaching at the Orotta Medical School. Such experiences have made me a “new person” every single time.

What can you say about your experiences as an instructor at Eritrean colleges?

I’ve taught behavioral sciences, general psychology, abnormal psyche and research methods, and this summer I just completed a course on abnormal psyche. To me, being here and teaching is really important. There is a certain psychological and emotional gratification that I get from teaching in Eritrea. When you see how grateful these students are, and how they are always ready to learn or do more, it is highly impressive and also makes things so worthwhile.
Aside from the economic stability that the government is seeking to achieve, there is also a great national endeavor towards social reconstruction that I take very seriously; what I do here at home is very important to me.

You’ve conducted several conferences in the U.S. and Europe regarding culture and identity. Can you discuss these latter concepts in regards to Eritrean youth abroad?

I’ve traveled extensively around the U.S. and Europe. Studies show that amongst immigrant communities, a divergence of generations and loss of identity and culture is bound to occur after the third generation. However, in our case there is a good reason for us to be optimistic, since the E.P.L.F had a very strong organizational capability. As time has passed, it has actually become a science, particularly in terms of how we organize things. So we are very aware of how we need to preserve and pass on our values, culture, and identity to younger generations.

The YPFDJ chapters are still strong, mainly since our youth have grown up nourished by the E.P.L.F’s principles and concepts. The strength of a community is reflected by its ability of transmitting its values, culture, and identity, and we’ve done well, even though I believe there is still much to do. Comparatively, we are okay in light of many other communities.

However, there are more challenges and obstacles to face, since it only becomes harder as generations pass by. We need to work hard to make sure our existence in foreign countries does not lead to the disintegration of our identity or culture.

In that context, we are focusing on third and fourth generation Eritreans abroad. We have the Hidri group, made up of young children that are involved in various social and cultural activities that help them to learn their culture and remain engaged with their homeland. Our complex history has only made the significance of Eritrean identity even stronger. Our determination to pursue social justice, despite our difficult conditions and economic challenges, has made us wealthy.

Do Eritreans abroad have challenges in pursuing ideals of the ‘Eritrean identity’?

Growing up away from home, amongst different cultures and a different society can often lead to cultural clashes or shock. Nevertheless, Eritrean youth, with the help of various organizations, are often able to find ways to overcome these potential challenges. Knowing about your people and history, and being directly involved with nation-building projects is a big help. My own advice to youngsters facing challenges would be to embrace your new culture, making the best of it in order to both benefit yourself and your homeland as well.

I’d dare to say that Eritrean youth abroad are very proud of our history and culture. Most of them excel in school, and think about ways in which they can contribute back home. Of course, the responsibility for creating such youth lay upon the shoulders of parents raising children abroad. Practical work has to be done in order have youth within the Diaspora contribute to the nation-building process.

What would your advice be to Eritrean youth willing to contribute?

Based on my experience, I’d say that coming back home and contributing what you can is truly helpful, rewarding, and gratifying. In terms of growth, I can assure you that just being with our people presents an array of emotions and benefits that are difficult to describe. Also, as an investor it is good to be consistent and respect the policies of the government and the interests of the people.

Since Eritrea is a world of its own, there is so much that can be gained just by being around your compatriots, in terms of inspiration, motivation, and other intangible rewards.

Are there any other comments you’d like to share with our readers, Dr. Aradom Tesfay?

Yes, as a nation, there are still challenges that we have to face, so in that regard, I’d note the importance of patience, which has already been greatly illustrated. I am quite certain that we will continue to see radical changes. Our country has been a victim of unjustified illegal sanctions, but this has also strengthened our resilience. We have proved that the sanctions have been baseless and irrational, and also that they have failed.

The Eritrean people, both within the country and across the world, are focused on peace and development. We have been known for stability, built on a variety of strong values, and forever shall it continue.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Aradom Tesfay.

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