Class of 2014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Born to farmers in the town of Liera in Ethiopia, Musbah Dilsebo sought something greater than an agrarian life in a place with no available secondary education. So he found his way to Addis Ababa, the capital, with little more than the clothes on his back, and enrolled in a local school.
"I was all by myself," he says. "I had to find my own food, support myself."
Musbah set up a makeshift hut of plastic and cardboard boxes, but he could never let his guard down living on the streets. During the day, he worked as a shoeshiner and part-time construction worker. At night, he set his mind alight by attending classes and reading about the world's great politicians.
While others were enjoying their free time, Musbah studied deep into the night. He was driven by a "passion about finding myself and what I can do."
His dedication paid off when he scored in the 96th percentile on the Grade 8 Ethiopian National Examination, an achievement that got him an interview for a scholarship at a private school that provided full room and board. It was among the most tense days of his life.
"I waited outside the interview room, too emotional to breathe," Musbah says. "I knew this was a moment I would never forget in my whole life. It seemed as if time stood still."
He was accepted and became a top student, acing his subjects and diving into new areas of history. He scored the highest ranking on the Grade 12 National Exam and became an activist for AIDS awareness as well as a student ambassador at the Economic Commission for Africa. One teacher in particular, Mr. Tewodores, introduced him to the great men of history, including Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela.
The lifestyle at the School of Tomorrow, the private school where he lived for four years, was a shock at first. No longer did he have to worry at night about dangers lurking in dark alleyways or making enough money to survive.
Now, four years later, Musbah says there is no frontier too challenging for him to achieve his vision of becoming a member of Ethiopia's diplomatic corps. With his experiences of the different strata of human life, he sees the study of political science as a means to help his fellow compatriots find a better way of life.
"It seems like a dream to be here now," he says of NYU Abu Dhabi. The diversity of the students will prepare him for an engagement with the leaders of the world.
"I want to be an ambassador of Ethiopia or work in the United Nations," Musbah says. "I want to inspire people about personal freedom and the possibilities of education."