International student finds connections



“Education wise, Bluffton is a very good university,” Assefa said. “The other international students are great. We have so much in common, so it’s been fun to get to know them.”

international student finds connections through classmates, major and job on campus

Encouraged by a high school teacher to pursue higher education in the United States, Ermias Assefa ’23, an international student from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is fulfilling his goal at Bluffton University. Now in his third semester, Assefa believes coming to Bluffton was “absolutely” the right choice.

“Education wise, it’s a very good university,” Assefa said. “The other international students have been great. We have so much in common, so it’s been fun to get to know them.”

Assefa speaks two languages: Amharic and English. Adjusting to the new culture and atmosphere, as well as the language barrier, were challenging during his transition. However, he stays in contact with his parents through Skype and finds support through the student organization International Connection (Icon), led by Louise Matthews and Paul Neufeld Weaver.

“They are here to help us” explained Assefa, who is also a member of Peace Club.

Assefa is also connected to the community through a host family, and he regularly attends Salem Mennonite Church in Elida, Ohio. “I am fortunate to be part of Salem Church, and spend time with my host family. They truly are dear to me,” Assefa said.

Assefa chose Bluffton because of its connection to the Mennonite Church. He attended a Mennonite school in Ethiopia, and while Christians and Mennonites were persecuted when the government turned Communist in the 1980s, his family’s faith grew stronger.  

“Through the persecution, many people became followers of Christ,” explained Assefa.

As for academics at Bluffton, he appreciates the willingness of Bluffton’s faculty to engage with students.

“The professors welcome questions with open arms,” Assefa said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to have your questions answered. Math is my strength and my passion, and Professors Steve Harnish and Daryl Nester are my role models regarding math.”

While numbers are his choice topic of study, his top place on campus is filled with words.

“One of my favorite parts about being at Bluffton is working at the library. It’s one of the best jobs ever. I’ve met with many spectacular people who are diverse and who know so much more than I do. I’m really glad I have the opportunity to work there,” he said.

Assefa will take part in the Research Fair during Bluffton’s annual Celebrate the Library Week, Feb. 4-6.

- Aubrey Bartel, public relations student assistant