Though I was born and raised in Indiana, my parents are from Ethiopia and immigrated to the US in the late 80s. Alongside my grandmother, they raised me and my older siblings, working long hours and overtime to provide for us. My parents wanted us to inhibit the American Dream and through their hard work, gave us the greatest life that we could have had.
My family has a huge impact on me and influenced who I am today. My brother, David, is six years older than me, and my sister Edna is seven years older. Both led me to be who I am in a way, because of the big age gap. Being the youngest, they were somewhat like ‘in-between parents’ for when my parents weren’t around. My sister gave me my work ethic, and my brother gave me the idea of ‘just be yourself’.
I am a first-generation college student, and the first person in my family to get a master’s degree. I did both my undergraduate and postgraduate programs at IU Bloomington finishing with a master’s degree in information systems. There, I found the FAIT Fellowship, which is the Foreign Affairs Information Technology programme, which led me to the Foreign Service.
Working for the Foreign Service, I feel like I am making a positive impact while being able to travel to different places and meeting new people. At the embassy, I’m helping people troubleshoot their hardware and software problems as well as developing programs to make tools easier in the office. Until I came here, I didn’t know how big my impact would be. But I truly feel it and I truly appreciate it. I’m seeing people helping others out. And I’m having the opportunity to make things better within the embassy. I don’t think I would have that that same impact if I was working at a big firm or a start-up back home. I feel like I’m making my own footprint.
My parents are retired in Fort Wayne, IN, and my siblings live and work in the U.S. I miss thembut they’re supporting me and tell me that “This is for you.” It’s awesome when you have a great support system.
I’ve always had a close relationship with my family and siblings. I always wanted to do whatever my brother was doing and be like him and my sister. For example, I love basketball. It’s my favourite sport: I love playing it, love talking about it. I love everything about it. I think it grew because I saw my older brother watching it and playing it. Whatever my siblings were doing, I was trying to do it too. My love for basketball stemmed from wanting to play it with him. And wanting to beat him.
When we’re all together we love to joke around and like to make fun of each other. Either my siblings double team me, or I’m with either my brother or my sister to double team the other sibling. And we have this little thing where no matter what we’re doing, we just kind of get on one another if we see something. That’s one of the things I think we rejoice in.
With my parents, movies connect us. I remember after our grandma passed everyone was just in a funk. I was the only one at the house during COVID, with online classes and everything going on. And I made it my mission to set up this movie theatre. And I was like, “Hey, we have to have like a movie night on this weekday,” and that gave them something to look forward to, so movies brought us together in a way.
My parents, my sister, my brother, they’re my motivation. They really inspire me to be my best every day. But they also inspire me to do what I want to do. They’re so fulfilled, they say, “You know what, we’re so proud of you. And whatever you decide to do, if you don’t decide to do this, or this, we support you.” That’s what I take away from them. And I’m so happy that I’ve had that my whole life.
– Isaiah Makonnen, FAIT Fellowship, U.S. Embassy Singapore