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Former Refugee Finds New Home on Rocky Top

For many students, one of the most important aspects of the university experience is the chance to leave home and become part of a new community. For Cedric Twizere, a master of accountancy student at the Haslam College of Business, finding that sense of belonging has been particularly meaningful.

“I knew that I was from Rwanda, but I did not know what being Rwandese meant,” said Twizere, who was born in a refugee camp in Goma, Congo, after his family fled from the 1994 Rwandan civil war and genocide. “I did not know what it feels like to call a place home.”

When Twizere was eight years old, his father died, and Twizere, his mother and older sister moved to Kenya. Unable to make a living there, his mother relocated the family to Zambia, where she opened a grocery store. For Twizere and his sister, however, Zambia held very little chance of education or employment.

With hopes of securing a better future for the whole family, his mother applied for refugee status for herself and her two children. After a three-year screening process, the family received refugee status and learned they would be moving to the United States. Bridge Refugee Services helped Twizere, his mother and sister settle in Knoxville in 2013.

When he arrived, Twizere spoke English but had trouble understanding American speech. He took ESL courses administered by Bridge Refugee Services, and as his language proficiency increased, he enrolled in GED classes. After earning his GED certificate, he enrolled at Pellissippi State Community College. In 2017 he transferred to UT, but the transition wasn’t easy at first.

To read more about Twizere’s experience at UT you can go to the Haslam College of Business’ student spotlight here.