Haimanot Bihonegne is up for a challenge.
As a mother of two from Ethiopia, she has worked hard to balance school, her job at Lowe’s and parenting.
“It is challenging, but it’s very good for my kids,” she said. “When I read, they read. When I do my homework, they do their homework. It’s really good (but) it’s hard.”
With work on the weekends, and classes and family time on the weekdays, Bihonegne’s schedule is a careful balancing act, she said. When she started school, she wasn’t sure how she would do it, but believes that if you start something, you have to finish it.
“It was a long way to go, but I’m here now,” she said.
Bihonegne started college the same year her daughter started kindergarten, she said. She started as a part-time CNM student, but by her final year was taking a full course load so she could graduate sooner.
“I have two kids, so after my second kid was born, she just go into kindergarten, so I said well I have to go do something, so I started at CNM, and then I transferred to UNM,” Bihonegne said.
Her son, 10, and daughter, 9, are excited to see her graduate, she said.
“I’m going to be this role model for them. Like, oh, okay, my mom’s tough. She got through that. My little one, she said, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be graduated before I get married,’ and I say, ‘Oh, you’re right.’ So it’s really good,” Bihonegne said.
Bihonegne moved to the United States sixteen years ago, and Albuquerque has welcomed her, she said, calling the environment “friendly” and noting the similarities in weather patterns between Ethiopia and Albuquerque.
After completing all of her schooling, she hopes to stay in Albuquerque, she said.
“My little one, she was born here,” Bihonegne said. “This is our hometown. So hopefully when they’re going to school, they finish school here. I would really prefer that, I don’t know what will happen, but I want to stay here.”
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After four years of college, Bihonegne will graduate with a degree in accounting, she said.
“In accounting there’s so many ways you can do whatever you want. There’s so many varieties in there. So that’s why I like it,” Bihonegne said.
But after graduation she won’t be done with classes and tests.
Bihonegne plans to take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and a few more classes, so she can become a Certified Public Account.
“Being a student is a very nice thing,” she said. “You’re going to be stressed out on the final or the exam, but it’s pretty good.”
Bihonegne’s favorite class was Accounting Information Systems, because its large project offered an exciting obstacle to overcome.
“It was so stressful, but it’s nice,” she said.
Her biggest obstacle in school was managing homework, she said, but her professors have helped her through.
“My professors are very nice,” Bihonegne said. “They’re always helpful. I’m not like, ‘It’s an easy time.’ It’s really really difficult. I go to their office, and they help me a lot.”
She plans to celebrate graduation with her extended family coming in from Ohio and Texas.
“My brother, he used to live in Dallas, but he just went back home for good. He didn’t like that, so he came back. So I didn’t see him for a while,” she said.
Whatever comes next, Bihonegne will be ready for it.
“I like challenging myself. (If there’s) something I don’t know, I’m eager to know that thing,” she said.
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.