Senior Melaku Arega, a native of Ethiopia, plans to pursue HIV/AIDS work in Asia.
Melaku Arega’s education has already spanned three continents. Born and raised in Ethiopia, he’s now in his final semester at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, after studying abroad in England last year.
Next, he’ll add Asia to the list. Arega was selected this month as a Luce Scholar, winning the opportunity to live and work in an Asian city for a year.
The program, launched in 1974 by the Henry Luce Foundation, identifies potential future U.S. leaders to promote cross-cultural understanding between the two regions. Arega, a pre-med student at Johns Hopkins majoring in neuroscience and molecular and cellular biology, is one of 18 U.S. scholars to land the coveted fellowship.
Though his placement isn’t yet final, he expects to head to Thailand after he graduates in May, working on HIV/AIDS treatment in a research or hospital setting.
He’s never traveled to that part of the world and doesn’t speak the language—the fellowship is designed specifically for scholars with limited exposure to Asia—but he’s not intimidated.
“I expect it to be familiar,” Arega says of the potential culture shock.
After all, he’s already been through that kind of change—at 14, he moved with his family from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Portland, Oregon. He started his freshman year of high school a month late and only knew the bare basics of English.
But he adapted swiftly, four years later graduating as valedictorian from De Salle North Catholic High School with a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins as a Gates Millenium Scholar.
In high school, Arega taught himself English by watching TV and YouTube videos, and by conscientiously studying the Oxford Dictionary. Later, when choosing where to study abroad, he picked the University of Oxford for that reason, thinking, “I’ll go to the place it’s named after.”
His choice of Johns Hopkins was also based on a teenage inspiration. In 2012, Arega saw a news story about Emmanuel Ohuabunwa, a Nigerian who immigrated to the U.S. and attended Johns Hopkins before earning a medical school scholarship at Yale.
“We had a lot of similarities,” Arega says. “He excelled at Hopkins and I thought it would do the same for me.”
Read more on: The Hub -Johns Hopkins University
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