Studying Medicine at Transylvania University: Ajibola Bakare’s Story
A personal account of a 21-year-old Nigerian student – Ajibola Bakare’s – quest to study medicine abroad.
Ajibola Bakare, born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, finished his high school education in his home country before deciding to pursue undergraduate studies in medicine at Transylvania University in the United States.
We caught up with Bakare – currently enrolled at the University of Queensland pursuing a postgraduate degree – to find out more about his study abroad experience and especially about his time spent studying medicine at Transylvania University.
Here is his story:
As a young boy, Ajibola Bakare was enrolled in Computerland School, an elementary school in his hometown of Lagos, before transferring to Mayflower Secondary School, a boarding school in the secluded Ogun state in Nigeria. Bakare shares, life at Ogun was sometimes tough – owing to Ogun’s remote location – and as a result he always looked forward to returning home to family for the holidays.
Why Medicine; Why Abroad?
From early on Bakare developed an inclination to study medicine. Although this interest was motivated by many factors, the most poignant incident he shares was when “I lost both [my grandparents] to illnesses that could have been managed with the right medical intervention.” As one would imagine, this left a lasting impression on him, and as a result, he decided that he wanted to become a doctor in order to “help people and prevent unfortunate losses”.
He contemplatively adds, that he has long thought about what is means to “help people”, and says he found the answer in something a friend said: “‘I realised that being a doctor is about facing life and death in reality [and] I've come to appreciate that perhaps accompanying people through the path to death is a huge and privileged part of a doctor’s life.’”
In pursuit of his dreams, Bakare says, although Nigeria has “exceptional medical schools” his decision to study abroad was based on the fact that, the country has “a lack of access to modern medical devices.” Hence, he explains “while doctors who complete medical degrees in my home country have vast theoretical knowledge, they may lack the practical knowledge that is required.” Hence Bakare wanted to ensure that he was equipped in both aspects, so that he could be in a better position to handle the medical challenges of his home country where he wishes to return and practice medicine.
Search for the ‘Right’ College
Bakare’s search for a college, spanned “some European countries and the United States”. However he says the latter destination appeared more appealing, as "many of the schools in the US provided scholarships and the application process was easier and less complicated as compared to the other countries.”
As Bakare started his search, he says “I realised that there were thousands of schools to choose from, which is very different from my home country where tertiary institutions are limited.”
During his search for the right college, Bakara was advised to apply to liberal arts schools so that he would have other options if he decided to change change his mind about medicine. Taking this advice, his search led him to Transylvania University, a liberal arts university, located in the heart of downtown Lexington, Kentucky in the United States.
Life At Transylvania
Starting out at Transylvania, located in the US state of Kentucky, was a refreshing change for Bakare, especially after his secluded boarding school days. “Transylvania’s location is perfect; it was just a short walk to the city, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about the community, its culture and people."
Like any international student, Bakare faced the usual adjustment challenges in terms of acclimatizing to a new environment, culture, food and weather. However he says the support from his academic advisor (Ms Gehringer), SOL group, fraternity brothers, friends, faculty and staff members made the transition easy. “The entire Transylvania community was very friendly and accepting of me and my differences.”
Speaking of his experience as an international students, Bakare says, “When I started out at Transylvania, the international student body was really small; but I took advantage of the support that was offered.” He fondly speaks of the international students support members: Ms Baker, "she always had her office open to have chat at any time” and Ms Allen, “was equally supportive”.
Bakare adds that since the time when he enrolled, the University has witnessed a drastic increase in international students and likewise the facilities offered them have grown as well. “International students now have international student ambassadors (‘I served as an international student ambassador in my senior year’), tutors for those students for whom English is a second language, international student clubs and organisations and much more to assist them.”
He admits that he is a tad envious of these facilities and wishes the same were available during his time there as well. Nonetheless he says, "I am glad that the school is making an effort to not only bring in more international students, but also providing them the support they need to succeed and compete with their peers."
Beyond the initial challenges and balancing his academics, Bakare says, “I enjoyed an exciting social life. I met some of my closest friends at a social event held at the college.” Bakare also actively participated in the school’s many clubs. He was involved in the “Greek life (Pi Kappa Alpha), the Student Alumni Association, Student Government, Pre-health club, Phi Delta Epsilon (Premed fraternity), Black Student Alliance, and the International Club, to name a few.
Bakare shares his experience of the faculty at Transylvania saying that while they each had their own style of teaching, they all had a shared objective "of crafting the best minds". "I appreciated the fact that the faculty always had the interest of their students at heart.”
He reminisces, “I miss being able to walk into any of my professors’ offices (without an appointment) to talk about chemistry, pingpong, thanksgiving or life in general.”
The Transylvania Experience
Bakare sums up his time spent at Transylvania as “fulfilling and enriching” and adds that "an education at Transylvania will not only liberate your mind but also give you that advantage you need to succeed among your peers.”
He says he would highly recommend the University’s “outstanding and wholesome educational experience” to more international students and also particularly Transylvania’s medical program, saying, “Transylvania University has a very strong science department that would be a great fit for students determined to get into medical school or looking for a pre-health degree." He cautions however that any student pursuing this path should follow the advice of the pre-med faculty at the school and strive to perform to the best of their abilities both inside the classroom and outside (while shadowing and volunteering). He adds, if students follow the advice of their guides, this will definitely increase their chances of getting into a good medical/health related program.
Bakare underline his educational experience with borrowed quote from Ben Carson’s book, Think Big: “I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”