WATERVILLE — Moeketsi Justice Mokobocho had never been to the United States, let alone Maine, before he decided to come to Colby College for school four years ago.

Colby College senior Moeketsi Justice Mokobocho, shown Thursday, said he looks forward to graduating this Sunday. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

While he was a boarding school student at a high school in India, Mokobocho said, his academic adviser suggested the school based on his interests and the type of community he wanted to be in.

“I had no expectations whatsoever,” said Mokobocho, 23, who is originally from Lesotho, a tiny nation encircled by South Africa. “I only knew a lot of people from my country just love the U.S. from how we see it in the media. It’s just a place people want to be, and I was grateful to have the opportunity to actually be here.”

Now, a few days before graduation from Colby, Mokobocho said he is happy with the decision he made.

On Sunday, he will be one of about 460 students from 38 states and 32 other countries to graduate in a ceremony on the lawn of Miller Library.

Mokobocho also was selected by his peers to speak at graduation and will address a crowd of graduates, friends and families.

“I haven’t been able to sleep,” he said Thursday. “I’ve just been trying to figure out why someone like me might be deserving of such an immense opportunity. I wouldn’t have imagined I would be speaking at graduation, so I can’t think of any reason why my peers would choose me. It never crossed my mind I had such an impact on so many people.”

Last fall, Mokobocho was one of close to 200 students who moved into the new Bill and Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown.

A criterion for living in the building is that students participate in a civic engagement program that consists of either volunteer work, research or independent study looking at connections to the community.

Mokobocho, who has been tutoring since he was in high school, used the opportunity to continue volunteer work at Mount Merici Academy, where he started volunteering as a mathematics tutor his sophomore year.

He said the first year of the program was successful despite some initial push-back from the community with concerns about the elimination of downtown parking because of the new dormitory and the struggle to bridge the gap between the Colby community, contained for so many years on the main Mayflower Hill campus, and residents downtown.

“We can’t just hop in and say, ‘We’re here to save you,’ because that also just makes the gap between Colby and Waterville worse,” Mokobocho said. “We want to actually connect with the community, not just try to change things based on how we see them. It can be hard to find that balance.”

A biology major with a concentration in neurobiology, Mokobocho is hoping to get a job after graduation as a laboratory technician in a cancer research institute and has applied for jobs in the Boston area and in Maryland.

“Never before have I been so excited, anxious, happy, sad, and just all at the same time,” Mokobocho said. “It has been a roller coaster of emotions, especially this week, because it’s starting to become real we’re graduating. We’re going out into the big scary world.

“It’s not only saying goodbye to the people you’ve known this entire four years but also trying to embrace the fact you’re going into this great unknown, and it’s terrifying. It’s exciting because it’s a new adventure, but it’s scary because some people know from the day after graduation what their plans are indefinitely. But there are some people who are still trying to figure it out. I’m honestly confident it will all work out.”


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