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Making a Difference from the Other Side

Burundian refugee Fulgence has earned his political science degree after forging a pathway through the Adult Migrant English Program at TAFE Queensland.

After growing up in Burundi, Fulgence Ntahomvukiye went on to represent his country of birth as Second Counsellor of the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

During his time at the embassy from 2009 to 2011, Fulgence revelled in the opportunity to meet and connect with new people and organisations.

Unfortunately, this first job came to an abrupt end. On the spin of a dime, Fulgence’s position in Ethiopia morphed from diplomat to asylum seeker, and then to refugee.

“As a refugee, I never felt I was living,” Fulgence admitted. “I was surviving; hoping, one day, to make a new beginning.”

After an extensive waiting period, Fulgence arrived in Australia in April 2018.

Once in Australia, Fulgence admitted, he allowed himself to begin dreaming again. From the moment he landed, Fulgence began thinking about how he would face these new circumstances—new land, new language, new everything.

“In every way, I had to start from scratch,” Fulgence said. “The question was, what was my starting point?”

Soon after arriving, Fulgence’s humanitarian settlement provider referred him to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) at TAFE Queensland.

Through the AMEP, eligible migrants and refugees can access free English language classes to support their settlement journey.

After dedicating some time to develop his English language skills, Fulgence was eager to start working and move into further study.

“I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere before I had some experience in the Australian workplace,” he admitted.

To overcome this hurdle, Fulgence joined TAFE Queensland’s AMEP Work Ready course, which offers students the opportunity to participate in two weeks of work experience.

For his work placement, Fulgence worked at Milpera State High School as a tutor and in administration support.

Spurred on by this experience, and having become more confident in his language skills, Fulgence began volunteering as a tutor to his peers in the AMEP. At the same time, he applied to study political science at a local university.

As part of his degree, Fulgence was required to participate in an internship—and though the university pitched a number of workplace options, Fulgence had another suggestion.

“Without hesitation, I stated that I was the product of TAFE Queensland, and so I understood well how my course and the kind of service I was providing as a tutor were complementary to each other in that particular domain,” he said.

“I described TAFE Queensland as the image of the international community—the perfect internship opportunity for a student of political science.”

The university approved Fulgence’s pitch to serve his internship as a volunteer tutor and shadow student support officer.

In mid-2022, Fulgence graduated with a Bachelor of Government and International Relations, and has since commenced work as a research assistant. His role as an AMEP tutor is ongoing.

“I am forever grateful to TAFE Queensland for the opportunities it presented me,” Fulgence said.

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. In Queensland, the AMEP is delivered by TAFE Queensland.

Participants in the Volunteer Tutor Scheme support our AMEP students to improve their English language skills for work, further study, and everyday activities.