Andrei Muntean – Work Ethic Scholarship Winner & New Certified Electrical Tech
Seven years before Andrei Muntean was born, his grandparents immigrated to the United States from Arad, Romania. Andrei’s parents remained in Romania with the hope that one day, they would follow. When Andrei was 4, his father went to the American embassy in Bucharest and applied for a visa to join his parents. That was in 2001. Every year his father would wonder aloud if this was the year they would get to go to America, and every year they didn’t. Andrei continued to live his life believing they would never move to America, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to.
In 2013, when Andrei was 17, his dad got the call from the embassy; finally, he and his family could move to the United States. Everything changed. “I was heartbroken. It hit me like a train.” Andrei had lots of friends in Arad, and a lot of dreams. He was studying to get his pilot’s license. His “dream job” was to become an accountant. “It was the wrong moment at age 17. I couldn’t see the doors that would open by moving to the US.”
On the plane ride from Bucharest to Chicago, Andrei recalled thinking, “What am I going to do now?” He decided he would “take it one day at a time.” But that was easier said than done.
His family settled in Skokie, Illinois, just north of Chicago. He found it hard to integrate. The differences were just too big. And then there was the language. “I didn’t get the jokes. It was hard.” Andrei also found that the social scene was vastly different. “In America, everyone minds their own business, in Romania, everyone knew everyone else. I missed the social life.”
While attending Niles West High School he began to look for work on the weekends. There is a large Romanian community in Chicago and many are in the skilled trades. Andrei asked around if anyone needed help. They did, and Andrei took all the work he could get – plumbing, flooring, tiling, framing, and electrical – he learned it all. At school he learned that electrical work involved physics, and that intrigued him. Andrei started to like it more and more. “Its work that I can see – I make it work.”
That’s when his dreams changed. “I never thought I would choose a skilled trade to be my career.” But that’s exactly what Andrei did. He enrolled at Coyne College in Chicago to pursue a career in electrical. He remembered seeing Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on TV in Romania, and through the wonders of the internet he found the mikeroweWORKS Work Ethic Scholarship Program. Andrei applied and got a work ethic scholarship, the only financial assistance he would get. He worked two jobs while studying; one at an electrical supply store called Grant Electrics and the other at the Skokie Public Library Talk about working “hard and smart.”
In September, Andrei graduated Coyne as a Certified Electrical Technician. He’s working full time at Grant and hopes one day to own his own business. Andrei has come a long way, both literally and figuratively, from the Romanian boy who dreamed of becoming an accountant.