For CU Denver graduating seniors Robera Oljira and Abel Mebrahtu, a bond grew as they dined on Ethiopian delicacies and sipped strong coffee.

By Chris Casey (CU Denver Today) |

Food is often at the center of the strongest friendships. For CU Denver graduating seniors Robera Oljira and Abel Mebrahtu, a bond grew as they dined on Ethiopian delicacies and sipped strong coffee. It evolved further as they tried to best each at billiards, ping pong and on the soccer pitch.

On a recent visit to the Nile Restaurant in Aurora, the graduating seniors laughed and reminisced about their fast-moving college years. Like a flavorful Ethiopian stew, their academic career has been a blend of sustenance and spice – challenging classes and interesting jobs combined with outings of fun, friendship and adventure.

As this chapter of life winds down, they reflected on the rewards of attending CU  Denver and talked excitedly about friends and relatives who will journey here – some flying in from Africa – for Spring Commencement.

Robera hoped that his oldest sister, who essentially raised him, can make the trip. Abel, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing his mother and little brother for the first time in four years. “The graduation list is growing,” he said, referring to relatives who are scattered across the U.S. “It’s all gone by so fast.”

Between bites of injera bread, the roommates, who met in the Tivoli Student Union game room two years ago, talked about the role food plays in strengthening friendships within the Ethiopian community. “It connects us,” Abel said. “It reminds us of home, where we come from.”

New goals, new freedoms

The CU Denver years have been rich with new experiences for the two men, whose upbringings were starkly different. Robera’s parents both died from illness when he was young, leaving him to be raised in a rural village by older siblings. Abel, meanwhile, experienced a somewhat sheltered childhood, growing up in a middle-class family in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Continue reading this story on Colorado University (CU)  Denver Today
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