A student’s journey to graduation day is a meandering route, inevitably beset with its fair share of pitfalls and obstacles. But some student journeys are charged with extra challenges, making the end result a remarkable achievement.

International Tourism and Hotel Management graduate, Esther Dusabe, falls into the latter category. She graduated from Griffith University in July at the end of a turbulent journey which started in her African homeland.

Esther had just completed primary school in her native Rwanda when civil war prompted her family to flee for their safety. During subsequent years in foreign countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, she gained a proficiency in local languages like Kirundi and Swahili, while also developing her English-speaking skills. In her formative years in Rwanda she had spoken Kinyarwanda, an official language which had recently come to prominence.

Role as interpreter

When she arrived in Australia in 2010 Esther’s multilingual skills opened the door to employment initially with Access Community Services, a settlement support organisation for refugees arriving in Brisbane. Her ability to speak English was also furthered through a TAFE course before she secured a role as a NAATI accredited translator. Her job as an interpreter now takes her the length and breadth of Southeast Queensland, working in hospitals, courts and community centres.

Since 2014 Esther also filled her busy schedule studying a degree at Griffith which is ranked number two in the world by the ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects for 2018. “I hadn’t had the chance to finish my studies before I came here and I felt under pressure to do this,” she said. “This has been my goal; this is what I wanted, but it has taken a lot of hard work. Whenever I had thoughts of giving up, I said to myself ‘If others can do this, why can’t I?’.”

Esther says that the challenges of coming from a refugee background represent an added challenge for a student. She was also focused on being a parent and her daughter Delphine’s upbringing during this time.

“There is a time when you have to be strong and just move on. No one else is going to do it unless you do it,” she says.

Delphine (13) was in attendance when her mother was awarded her business degree. Esther is looking forward to new doors opening on the back of her studies. “I’m not a person to sit in an office. I’m someone who is jumping up and down, always going somewhere. I feel my studies have given me an understanding beyond tourism. I have lots in my mind to take forward in my life and work.”