Civil war is bloody and devastating. In the small country of Burundi in East Africa, civil conflict is active and destroying lives, homes and communities at an alarming rate. Southern Utah University exchange student Ranger Iradukunda knows the devastation firsthand.
Now two years into his program as an information systems major at SUU, Ranger’s journey from Burundi did not follow an easy path.
He left his home in 2015 after protest erupted following the announcement of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term in office. First, Ranger travelled north to Rwanda, then to Moldova. Struggling with the Romanian language and basic communication, he accepted an opportunity to move to the United States where his parents are located on employment visas. Following a brief stay in Pennsylvania with his family, Ranger was accepted to SUU, and continued West to Utah to begin his university experience.
Not quite as prepared as the traditional student for Utah’s higher education system, Ranger found welcoming arms at the school's International Student Ambassadors (ISA) program. The support he received from ISA was a huge help with adjusting and transitioning into the American university experience.
“ISA was fun and helpful,” said Ranger. “Americans are used to the system and they know how things are suppose to go. High school explains to them how to go to college and apply, but for international, we have a different system. We end up being more lost. I saw how really helpful ISA is for students.”
This support lead Ranger to apply for a position in the ISA program, where he now assists new international students with their transition. The mission for ISA is to create a dynamic environment of growth, learning and enjoyment. ISA also assists students with international paperwork, vaccines, and introduces them to their academic advisors. Ranger appreciates the value SUU places on all nations and cultures.
Bryce Thurman is a senior majoring in communication from Riverton, Utah, and a member of ISA. Thurman said Ranger is always pushing himself forward with a positive, fun attitude, and is an accomplished leader.
“Ranger is so willing to help,” said Thurman. “Once you start working with him he's the funniest person. He has a big leadership role in ISA to the international students. His connection to the students is outstanding.”
A self-motivated student, Ranger said he has found mentorship from Keri Romine, international support specialist, and Jamie Orton, director of International Student & Scholar Services. And although ISA does not directly assist with his major, he has found a passion and joy in helping fellow students and plans to remain with the program until he finishes his bachelor’s degree.
“Sometimes you need ‘your time’ to focus on your goals, but at the same time you don’t forget others,” said Ranger.
As far as Ranger’s studies go, he has found a great passion for both computer networking and programming. Unsure which path he wants to take, he said for now he plans to go down the road of networking, with programming in the back of his mind.
Ranger’s long-term goal is to stay in the United States as long as he is legally allowed, but hopes to someday return to his home country.
“In someway, Nkurunziza is going to move out of power,” said Ranger. “Everything, including hardship, has an end.”
Ranger has utilized his time at SUU with multiple opportunities, and hopes that all students look towards the positives of being at a university.