Fexhrije Ilazi rekindles her dream of earning a degree in her new homeland
Fexhrije Ilazi had two years left of college when she was forced to end her pursuit of a degree. She was living in Kosovo and the war there left both her homeland and her dreams in smoldering ruins.
Fexhrije eventually moved to the United States as a refugee with two little children. She didn’t speak English, but she set out to find a way to both support her family and integrate into her new community.
She learned about the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation when she sought help to pay for driving lessons.
VSAC EOC Counselor Monica Sargent guided Fexhrije in the right direction.
Fexhrije said that meeting with Monica made her realize her dream of earning a degree could be rekindled.
“I was like, oh my God: I’m going to reach my dream, and these are the people who can help me get there. It was just amazing,” she said of her first meeting with VSAC.
Besides a diploma and a career, Fexhrije was searching for a way to make connections in her new neighborhood. Living through war galvanized in her a desire to serve.
“What I’ve been through, it just kind of gives me the strength and positivity to do something better,” Fexhrije said. “It’s not just for me and my family, but for the community to serve and give back,” she says of higher education.
Fexhrije worked for the Burlington School District and then The United Way.
“I got to learn the community very well,” she said.
Through the Assessment of Prior Learning class Fexhrije earned 85 credits and a jumpstart on her bachelor’s degree.
“What I got out of this class was just amazing,” she said. Now she’s thinking about pursuing a master’s degree.
“It’s been a great journey, but I couldn’t have done it alone. VSAC was one of my highlights,” Fexhrije said.
She encourages other refugees to seek out VSAC as well.
Fexhrije knows what it’s like to be scared and confused as a newcomer who doesn’t know the language.
“VSAC will make the journey so much easier,” Fexhrije said, adding, “Everything is possible.”