After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from college in her native Ethiopia, Rebecca Girma has spent the past two years studying her passion — mathematics — in CSU’s College of Natural Sciences. She is receiving her second bachelor’s degree this month.
Girma has always loved math, but she recognized that having a math degree in Ethiopia didn’t give her many opportunities unless she wanted to go into teaching, a field she didn’t see herself pursuing. Soon she realized she loved electrical engineering, but still faced challenges.
“In addition to the education and the difficulty of finding materials, there were many more things I had to deal with, especially being in engineering,” Girma says. “Engineering is seen as a more masculine field in general. With maybe five girls in my class, being a female in the field wasn’t easy.”
Moving to a new continent to take up a new field of study here at CSU wasn’t always easy, either.
“The first semester was quite the struggle with adjustments,” Girma says. “Especially the food, the food was the hardest. I’m just used to a lot of spices. My hallmates used to really laugh at me because I used so much hot sauce when we would go to the dining halls. They were like, ‘They’re running out of hot sauce because of you, Rebecca.’”
Overall, however, Girma has thoroughly enjoyed her experience at CSU. She noted that the campus is very student-oriented and provides resources for extra help outside of class, as well as professors who are available to students for further assistance.
Girma also works in the Office of International Programs as a student program coordinator. Serving as a liaison between the office and the nonprofit Fort Collins International Center, she uses her personal experiences to assist international students while they are here.
As a member of the President’s Multicultural Student Advisory Committee, she also helps identify concerns and advises CSU President Tony Frank and the administration on opportunities for improvements on issues of diversity and inclusiveness on campus.
Football games will certainly not go down as one of her favorite things to do at CSU, since she still doesn’t understand the rules, but International Programs is here to help.
“We have Basketball 101, Football 101 and Tennis 101 for the students, as they may not know the rules to those different sports or have them in their home country,” she says. “We try to give new international students a general overview of the rules, and we coordinate with the coaches of the teams to come and talk to us about the rules and how the game is played before going to see a game.”
With her experience in math and electrical engineering, Girma plans to become an IT consultant.
“I love being given a problem and working through it, coming up with new ideas and trying them,” she said. “They may not always work, but I am persistent.”