Bold & Polished

Pistil of the Month

Rahwa Zerihun

By: Maquita Donyel



“Personally, I don’t really care about wealth, I want create a [positive] ripple effect, that’s the biggest goal for me. ‘A good name is far better than a million riches'”

“Maquita, I don’t know how I finished college.”

Rahwa Zerihun, the woman with a Bachelors degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in International Studies/Political Science, a Master of Internal Relations degree from Webster Graduate school, and now a full-time student working on her second Masters in London, couldn’t fathom how she finished college.

“May you tell me more about your journey?” I asked.


“Well you knoowww, I finished one degree and just kept going! I was supposed to go to a University for Fashion Design. I ended up changing gears after my dad passed away and decided to do humanitarian work. Social justice became the reason I was going to Eritrea once a year. During my dads funeral, I witnessed 10,000 people come [to pay respects]. We went to Mekelle, another state in Ethiopia where he’s from, and I saw the amount of work he did for them. His work will live on forever and effect people for the rest of their lives. I want to cause the same ripple effect.”

This easy to love, quite hilarious and beauty/brains combo was raised in Alexandria, Virginia. She spends her time studying, not sleeping, traveling, volunteering at the Red Cross, and soaking up every bit of London that she can.


“I fell in love with London! The student life is perfect and the social life is amazing. My fellow students are just as in to school as [I am]. I don’t work, they wont allow you to work full-time.—I don’t sleep. I take two classes a term [for] eight weeks. Eight hours a week [are spent] in class and 20 hours on top of that [is spent on individual research]; it’s an accelerated program.”

How does one manage to balance all of this with a social life?

“I have a good social life! Not so much a great night life anymore, but bowling, coffee with friends and I love traveling!  I travel [every] moment I get a chance. I grab all my things and say ‘I’m going here this weekend’. I learn history about the place [I’m traveling to], socialize with my friends and add a stamp to my passport.”

When asking Rahwa how she landed this beautiful gig, she explained:

“I looked up schools in the states and abroad, I  ended up finding a school that would allow me to be a student at both universities. I get all of the privileges of a British student and a US student, [it’s called] dual studentship.”

Although it appears that she is already living quite the dream, I was curious to know what Rahwa’s ultimate dream job would be.

Rahwa holding the sign that shows a hall was named after her father.
Rahwa holding the sign that shows a hall that was named after her father.

“Well, I always joke and say I want to become President one day. Ha! But I would like to work for The World Bank. I want to work with development projects [that include] working with AIDS. I want to do humanitarian work and be able to go back and fourth, gather information, and bring it back to the States. My main focus is Africa. Until I have a family, that’s my dream.”

Throughout this entire interview, Rahwa did not once mention “financial gain” as one of her goals. Rahwa has dedicated her journey to the wise words of her late father, Araya Zerihun,

“A good name is far better than a million riches”

by ensuring that her goals are tied to the wellness of people and not solely the wellness of her bank account.

“My ultimate career goal is to start my own NGO, non governmental organization. It would be a nonprofit to help towards AIDS in Africa. In 2009 I worked with AIDs patients as a peer counselor in Eritrea. They had nothing and yet they were some of the most generous people I knew. The government gives them medication but not the nutrition to get the medication to work. My ultimate personal goal would be to get the vitamins they need in order to benefit women and children. But, who knows? I may end up just being a banker,” she laughs.

Rahwa’s road to London was by no means easy. Like the greats, she too had to overcome quite a few hurdles to be where she is now.


Financial Hurdle:

“I worked two jobs in undergrad while being a full-time student with 18 credits in school. I applied for scholarships, financial-aid and then some. While I would never tell my European friends this, I learned that the American systems is not friendly to students at all; we need help.”

Self Hurdle:

“I also had to gain enough self confidence to believe in myself before other people believe in me. I lacked a little bit of self confidence. Not in the my looks or anything (she innocently laughs) but intellectually. The more I watch, the more music I listen to, and the more things I learn,  the more confidence I gain in myself.”

Away from Family and Friends Hurdle:


“I had to learn to be alone.  You are alone when you move a lot, and especially in graduate school.”

Rahwa’s self confidence and beautiful spirit was felt from the UK all the way to my cozy living room. She went from graduating High school with  two point something GPA to establishing plans to complete her PhD in a few years.

Her advice to others that are capable of doing the same is:

“Step away from [negativity] and listen your heart. You know what you are capable of and you should do it. You don’t need anyone’s approval in life but God. You take your own advice when it comes to serious decisions so that you cannot blame anyone but yourself. [For example] You cannot ask someone ‘Should I wear a blue or red sweater’ and later you realize how fat you looked in the blue sweater and then get mad

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at their choice. You have to know what is good for yourself. [In the case of the sweater], you should’ve known better. You should listen to yourself and listen to someone that has your best interest.”

While Rahwa hopes to spread love and wellness to those around the world, she also hopes to come back to Alexandria,VA and the DC area to give back to the community that raised her.

“I need to go back where I came from. I want to speak to students that are now in the same seat I was in. I need students to know, even if you graduate high school with a 2.0[GPA] you can still graduate and get a PhD. I didn’t think I was going to make it as far as I did, but I did. I also want to join the Big Sister Big Brother program when I go back home to DC; I want to do it in Alexandria.”

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Rahwa believes strongly in uniting those around the world. She also believes strongly in uniting those within our own communities. So when asked  “What do you believe we could do better as ladies,”  her answer was:

“Cliche, but we need to support each other more. I feel like unless you are in sorority you don’t look out for each other. As woman we need to look out for each other. The older I get, [the more I realize] I could’ve saved so much time just by saying ‘You’re beautiful’”.

Rahwa’s drive to not only help herself, but help others is what landed her title as the October 2013 Pistil of the Month. Not only does she want to  save and impact the lives of others, she understood the importance of first finding such a love within herself. Believing in herself led to accomplishing goals that not even she knew she could achieve. It is that kind of boldness, fearlessness and faith that we embrace here at Polished Pistil. The inner beauty that shines through Rahwa onto others is worth showing the world.


You can follow Rahwa on Instagram: @rahwa_az

We hope that her inner light has sparked yours. We hope that through her story you are encouraged to be the person you were born to be. That you are inspired to complete the tough task of reflecting on yourself and your life  and then follow through by taking your own advice.

We hope that you are inspired to stand your ground as a lady, spread your light as a child of God, love yourself as an individual and love the world as a woman.

Stay Strong. Run Wild. Live Untamed. Look Deep Within.

Stay Polished Pistil


Alexandria + Native | Arlington + Resident | Late Twenties
| I Love = God + Mini + Simple Thrills + Art + Love + Humility


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