GREENSBORO, NC (WFMY) - A North Carolina woman is achieving her dreams a dozen times over.
Lily Zerihun, 23, from Greensboro was accepted in to 12 medical schools.
“It feels surreal,” said Zerihun. “It’s a dream I’ve been working for my whole life.”
It’s a dream that started when she was still in pull-ups.
Lily’s father, Dr. Zerihun Assefa, says she started studying the periodic table of elements when she was a toddler.
"Before she was 3 1/2, she was able to study about 18 elements,” said Assefa. “She would pronounce them, she would see the symbol and would tell me what element they were."
When the first acceptance letter showed up from Wake Forest University, Zerihun says she was too nervous to open it.
“At the beginning of the process, I was just excited to get into one of them so the excitement never really wore off,” said Zerihun.
She went to Early College at Guilford before graduating from Duke University with a major in Global Health.
She also studied in Haiti, England, and India.
"She is highly motivated, very planned,” said Assefa. “She is extremely focused and she is determined to be successful."
But even he didn't know his daughter would be this successful.
“When (the letters) came, we just kept on counting and counting and counting,” said Assefa.
The acceptance letters kept arriving.
In total, Lily was accepted to 12 medical schools including UNC, Duke, and Yale.
“Regardless of what field you want to go into or what you want to achieve in your life, if you have the passion and motivation behind it then the hard work will come,” said Zerihun.
She was even accepted to her dream school, Columbia University.
“It's still just feels like a dream that I've been working for so long,” said Zerihun.
Now, Zerihun has her sights set on the future, which also involves her past.
Lily's family is from Ethiopia, which is where she wants to pursue her career.
“It's just a really beautiful thing to me to foster those relationships with people who are in need and to have a skill set that allows you to make them feel better,” said Zerihun. “It's just a marriage of all of my passions.”
It wasn't a clean sweep for Zerihun.
She actually applied to 21 medical schools -- 10 rejected her.
Zerihun starts her first semester at Columbia University this fall.
But, she’s not even taking a summer break.
Zerihun is currently working as an intern at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
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