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Refugee from Burundi who worked as custodian about to graduate USM

Prudent Ndihokubwayo left his home country of Burundi in 2011 and found a life in Maine where he is graduating with a bachelor's in English from USM.

GORHAM, Maine — When Prudent Ndihokubwayo was fleeing Burundi in early 2011, he didn't know Maine existed. 

It was a tip from his uncle which started the idea. And by 2012, he had paperwork that allowed him to find a job in Maine. 

He found the University of Southern Maine, Gorham, which had him working temporarily for two years before he started working full time.

"I was working nights. This was hard. It was really not easy," he said. 

But Ndihokubwayo was not only working. He was teaching himself English.

"I used [the] internet, and Netflix was helpful. I also brought a book called 'Mastering the American Accent,' which I am still mastering," he said.

But soon after working full time, Ndihokubwayo was able to take classes at USM. He's always had a love for education, even taking classes back in Burundi for business administration. 

"Where I'm from, there's not a lot of people who write. But that's what pushed me to do that," he said.  

Ndihokubwayo decided to major in English. 

"I always think education is a pathway to success. But what pushed me to continue was, yeah, you can make it. Then, if you can make it, the people who are looking up to you can too," Ndihokubwayo said. "Even right now, I still have that feeling of quitting. It doesn't go away."

Ndihokubwayo said he still speaks with his siblings, and his friends in Burundi look up to him.

"I can say I am proud of myself. When you have a dream, it's easy to quit. It's possible to quit. But when a dream has you, you cannot do that. It's impossible to quit," the future graduate said. 

Ndihokubwayo graduates on Sunday. He told NEWS CENTER Maine he plans to sleep for a bit and then weigh his graduate school options while writing novels.

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