Faben Girma of Manvel High School will be going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.Faben Girma of Manvel High School will be going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall. Photo: Pin Lim, Freelance / Copyright Pin Lim.
Starting at a new high school is a big adjustment for any teen, all the more when adding relocation to a new continent. That adjustment hasn't held back Ethiopian-born Faben Girma of Manvel High School.
"Faben is an intelligent and well-rounded young lady. Although faced with a drastic transition, she never stopped in her pursuit of greatness and has showed determination to win," said Kushana Collier, Manvel High School career and college counselor.
Girma moved to the United States with her parents and sister in 2010 and entered Manvel High School as a sophomore.
"From the moment she entered school here everyone knew she was special and had many academic talents," Collier said. "Faben quickly realized the differences in the culture and the school system. Despite the obstacles, she quickly adapted to her new environment and by her junior year was involved in clubs," Collier said.

Girma said, overall, she has had a great transition.
"Academically, it is completely different than back home. In Ethiopia everyone takes the same classes, the same tests and the same finals. Here, there are so many electives and choices. It was confusing at first, but my counselors helped me a lot," Girma said.
She said being enrolled in Advanced Placement chemistry and AP psychology at the outset helped set the tone for her tenure at Manvel High School.
"I realized the AP courses were more rigorous and decided I wanted to take more AP courses in my junior year," Girma said.
Her family immigrated to the United States on a "diversity visa," Girma said. Diversity visas, she said, are based on a lottery system, "So we won the lottery," she said tongue-in-cheek.
One of the first things she noticed about the difference between American and Ethiopian cultures was "people here like their personal space more." She said in Ethiopia, it is more common for people to share kisses and hugs and she noticed immediately that Americans tended to engage more in handshakes and less personal contact.
Girma also noticed that the teens tended to spend a lot more time hanging out together outside of school.
"In Ethiopia, the school day is longer and you had most of your classes with the same students all the time, so when the end of the day comes you are less likely just to hang out with your classmates because you already see them so much more," she said.
She noted that though the transition to a new culture has been pretty smooth for her and her sister, it has been a little more challenging for her parents.
"Back home my father worked as an architect and my mother as a chemist. Because of the differences in educational credentials and licensures my parents have had to take on lesser paying jobs here for now. They wanted to come here to do what is best for my sister and I think it is rewarding for them to see us doing well," Girma said.
Girma served this year as treasurer for her school's chapter of the National Honor Society and as a member of the Student Council.
"In NHS we work well together. We go into the community and serve and interact with people. It is helping us become better leaders. We also tutor students our age and younger who would like assistance. I also join with others to take a leadership role, as a member of the Student Council. We plan things like 'Fish Camp,' an orientation for incoming freshmen. We plan and organize homecoming as well, for example," she said.
Collier has noticed a lot of drive in Girma. "Faben is driven and has a sincere desire to change the world. She is willing to assist anyone in need," she said.
Girma shyly agrees with Collier's assessment. She said she wishes to go into the pharmaceutical industry as a career because of the suffering she witnessed in Ethiopia.
"Growing up I saw so many sick people who could not get the medications they needed. I saw a lot of people with polio, for example, a disease which has been mostly defeated here in the States.
"I want to go into the pharmaceutical industry to see what I can do to help develop cheaper drugs which are better and also to help work on facilitating smoother distribution," Girma said.
She plans to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.