By Allison Cooper
Esias Bedingar always knew he wanted to study medicine. After deciding he wanted to experience a new culture in an English-speaking country, he came to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, to pursue this dream. There was one challenge that Bedingar knew he had to overcome: He spoke no English.
A native French speaker from Chad, Bedingar did not study English in high school. But within just one semester, he completed the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at UK and, three and a half years later, Bedingar finished his undergraduate degree and was accepted to Harvard University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in public health.
Bedingar’s undergraduate degree from UK is in public health with a minor in neuroscience. He said that the unique combination of science and critical thinking that the two fields provide helped with his acceptance to graduate school.
“I want to be that kind of doctor that understands his patients and also understands how health works in a community,” Bedingar said. “Public health and neuroscience are very different worlds. Combining those two worlds helped, and challenged me mentally, and because of that I felt academically prepared. I think that’s the combination that got me to Harvard.”
Bedingar credits his mentors and research experience as being one of the reasons he was accepted to the Ivy League school. He spent his entire undergraduate career working with professor Yang Jiang from the Behavioral Science Department in the College of Medicine, his mentor throughout his research.
“I recall that my first conversation with him was in a mixture of English and French, because Esias had only just started learning English. A year later, he was fluent and won a national writing competition on global health,” Jiang said. “Esias impressed me not only with his linguistic talent – he can speak six languages — but with his fearless drive to make great contributions to improving health with cutting-edge scientific methods.”
Part of Bedingar’s research with Jiang involved clinical neuroscience approaches to his project called “Motocross for Malaria,” which offered new solutions to eliminating Malaria in his home country of Chad. Bedingar said this is his ultimate goal in life.
Another mentor was Audra Cryder, director of international enrollment at the University of Kentucky International Center, who motivated Bedingar to complete the ESL program in 5 months instead of one year.
“She really gave me the incentive to work hard,” Bedingar said. “She told me, ‘If you want to be somebody in the U.S., your work will make this happen.’ I listened, and this is why I continue working hard and have become involved with many organizations.”
To any student wanting to pursue a goal, Bedingar gives this advice:
“Don’t underestimate yourself. If you want to succeed in life, put in the work and you will.”