Being away from home isn’t always easy for college students whether they’re going to school two hours away, just in the next state over or across the country. But imagine moving across the world and becoming a part of another family entirely because your family wanted to be able to do what was best for you do. About 10 years ago, Mihret Coulter’s family made that happen for him and his sister in a unique way.

“My parents couldn’t really take care of us the way that they wanted to anymore because my father was getting older and ill and the benefits he had from being a lawyer previously weren’t enough to put my sister and I through a private education. So they knew we would have better opportunity if we came to the U.S. if they were able to get us to do that,” said Coulter. “And then we got adopted by our parents.”

At 13 years old, Coulter was adopted along with his sister, Tsion, by their parents, Kevin and Sarah, after seeing them on a video while they were at the orphanage. While some children may spend six years or longer at the orphanage, Coulter and his sister were fortunate enough to only be there about six months before being adopted.

The siblings were recently able to return to Ethiopia and visit their family over Christmas break for their fifth trip back since moving to the U.S. after not having been back in about five years.

“Not many people get to do that. I’m very fortunate and grateful my parents are actually able to do this and able to afford it; they’re willing to sacrifice something for us to have that. It’s amazing; again, not many get to do that and it’s kind of sad. It’s a great opportunity,” said Coulter. 

Though they had been back several times before, some things were a lot different about their trip this time around. Aside from it having been a longer period of time in between the visits, the outlook on the situation had changed a bit.

“The first time I went back I was like 14 and then 15, 17, 18, and this time going back I was 23. I guess that I was still in that childish mindset the first four times I went back, but this time I was able to see more into my surroundings instead of just focusing on more childish things, like trying to go see our friends and things like that. I focused on the politics and anything going on inside Ehtiopia and tried to compare that to things I’ve learned in my studies here at Charlotte,” said Coulter.

“It was an eye-opener because when you think about ‘first-world problems’…that always happens to me anytime I go back. I mean, my phone; I was so worried about my phone being dead, but then there were power outages in Ethiopia and I was like, ‘Come on, Mihret, this is not something you should be worrying about right now, there are people that have actual problems aside from not being able to see what people are posting on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.’”

One of the great opportunities that Coulter and his sister were given by being able to come to the U.S. was education, and they’ve worked hard to make the most of it.

“I could get education back in Ethiopia, but it was pretty competitive and yes, you’ll have high school pretty much free, but once you get to the higher levels, people often stop at grade 10 and you either go to university or college. To be able to be accepted to the university, you have to be like top-10 percent in almost the whole nation,” said Coulter.

With a major in criminal justice and a minor in political science, what Coulter’s been doing with his education also sort of goes back to his father and the things he’s learned and experienced in the past 10 years.

“I’ve always been interested in criminal justice and political science, or politics itself. I hope to go to law school. I’ll definitely look into it more when I’m done with criminal justice and political science and maybe give it a year and see if I want to commit three years of my life to it,” said Coulter. “My father was a lawyer so law and politics have always been in my family. And my parents here, they always talk about politics and it’s just something I grew up around. Plus, the criminal justice reform, I’m very interested in that and I hope I get to do something with that [and] helping people.”

Along with his opportunity for education, Coulter was able to pursue a collegiate career in running as well where he has garnered an individual championship at the Charlotte Invitational, an individual championship in the 3,000m steeplechase, earned First Team All-Conference USA, helped to get his team to a Conference USA Championship and many other individual accolades over his career. But the titles are certainly not the only plus. Within college athletics, it’s often that teams feel more like family than anything else and the same has been true for Coulter who found sort of a third family in his “Charlotte Track Squad.” A lot of wonderful things have come out of the opportunity that he had to come to Charlotte and prosper.

“It’s taught me to adapt. I’ve lived in Ethiopia and then I’ve lived [in North Carolina], so coming here, I’ve been introduced to different situations and different types of people so it’s definitely helped a lot. Having people here for you is something that’s amazing about being a part of this team and being here,” said Coulter.