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A Sudden Change of Scene: A 25-year-old finds himself inspired in Ethiopia

By Matt Miller, courtesy of Abroad View

A serendipitous trip to an Ethiopian restaurant sent one college graduate on a path around the world.

Matt Urbanski went into an Ethiopian restaurant in California with his girlfriend, seeking nothing more than spongy bread and curried beans. Inside he found the Third World immersion opportunity he had always dreamed of.

"It just sort of happened," Urbanski recalls. He was talking to the Ethiopian owner about marathon-running one minute and accepting his offer to live and work half way around the globe the next. "I had always wanted to experience the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum," he explains.

Urbanski spent the first half of 2005 in Ethiopia. The 25-year-old University of Cincinnati graduate first taught philosophy at Unity University and helped with marketing in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Toward the end of his stay, Urbanski hiked the northern Simien Mountains, sleeping in mud huts for 30 cents a night.

Urbanski emphasizes the pious, friendly personality of the Ethiopians he met; every student in his classes held strong religious beliefs and valued family ties. "I felt safer there than in the States," Urbanski says.

Living in Ethiopia solidified Urbanski's conviction not to follow the "typical American life sequence" of college, career, marriage, and kids. Instead, he wants to further his travels in order to understand developing countries like Ethiopia, where he encountered people battling political repression and devastating poverty. "Ethiopians don't have anything, but they're still probably happier than most Americans."

Urbanski advises travelers to spend more than just a few weeks abroad if they truly want to know the culture. "You have to buy groceries to really understand a place," Urbanski says.

The Abroad View Foundation is an international education organization that fosters global awareness and cross-cultural understanding among study abroad students and international students.

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