Spotlight: Lydie Kitenge, Co-founder of Journey2Med

UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year 2023 and competition ambassador Lydie Kitenge, 23, is an award-winning medical student in her final year at Queen Mary University, London. Co-founder of Journey2Med, an initiative that reduces barriers for young people in London by increasing access to medical school, Lydie’s passion lies in helping others fulfill their academic potential regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic background.
Always striving to do, be, and achieve more, Lydie creates multi-platform educational content and uses her influence to do good. In addition to UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year 2023, Lydie’s trailblazing work has been recognised by the KYE Stem Awards 2020, YouTube Voices Creator Class 2022, Top 40 Sky Black Heritage National Awards, and Top 10 Powerful Media Black Future Leaders 2023 award.

In this interview feature, Lydie talks about winning the UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year 2023 and gives insight into her projects, motivation, and plans for the future.

Winning the Student Woman of the Year award is a remarkable achievement. What kind of impact do you hope to have with your work and how will this award help you achieve your goals?

The UNiDAYS fund has been immensely useful in helping Journey2Med launch in-person initiatives such as school outreach and our annual social mobility conference that saw disadvantaged students from various backgrounds come together to gain vital tips and tricks for their medical applications. I hope to continue to empower students to overcome internal and external barriers to achieve their dreams.

Beyond the prize money, what does winning this award mean to you personally and professionally?

Personally and professionally, it has allowed my work to be recognised, which is always encouraging! Additionally, it has improved my LinkedIn network opportunities.

The grant played a pivotal role in advancing Journey2Med’s mission. By allocating funds, we secured the services of a dedicated editor who worked tirelessly to optimise our online content. This strategic move has proven immensely beneficial, particularly in reaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have otherwise been aware of crucial events and resources. 

The positive feedback we’ve received underscores the impact, and concurrently, we’ve embarked on the journey to attain charity status. This shift will not only amplify our influence but also open doors to future opportunities that align with our commitment to inclusivity and support for underprivileged students.

What are your long-term aspirations, and how do you see yourself using your platform and skills to contribute to the community in the future?

My long-term aspiration is to be a multi-faceted doctor pursuing my various interests in the side of medicine, including social mobility work under Journey2Med.

Looking ahead, the next 12 months hold exciting prospects for Journey2Med. Currently in the planning stages is the much-anticipated Journey2Med 2024. Building on the success of the previous conference, we are eager to expand our reach and impact. Simultaneously, we are diligently working towards achieving charity status. This milestone is crucial as it will empower us to provide tangible support, such as scholarships, to disadvantaged students pursuing medical careers. As we forge ahead, our commitment to creating pathways for success and breaking down barriers in the medical field remains unwavering.

Can you describe a specific challenge or obstacle you faced during your studies or work that shaped your resilience and determination?

⁠I failed my 3rd-year exams, which was a huge setback for me in regards to my self-confidence and self-love. But in every setback, there is a blessing, and it encouraged me to view self-worth beyond academics. It also allowed me to resonate with and uplift many other students who had allowed their self-worth to be defined by grades.

What advice would you give to other young women facing challenges in pursuing their dreams and ambitions?

My advice would be to keep your eyes on the goal and to be okay with being called ‘cringe’ or ‘too much’ by external voices. If ‘cringe’ means that you live in purpose and get to experience really cool things– so be it! You’re striving for your dreams for yourself, not for the opinions of others.

Who inspires you the most, and why?

⁠My biggest inspiration is my mum! She has definitely played a huge role in teaching me how to be driven, resilient, and have the heart to help others.

Tell us about the specific project or initiative that earned you the Student Woman of the Year title. What were the key challenges and rewards of this experience?

⁠Journey2Med is a social mobility organisation that supports aspiring medics from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into medicine. Intelligence has no race, gender or socioeconomic background, so it is important that opportunities to access higher education reflect this too.

Can you share an example of a time you demonstrated leadership, innovation, or dedication to social change?

⁠I’d say that I demonstrate leadership, innovation, and dedication through all of the work that I do with Journey2Med and continuously strive to pass the ladder down for others to excel in their academic pursuits too. The greatest reward is being able to hear about the people that I’ve had the privilege of helping. 

Without a doubt, our standout achievement this year was the successful execution of the Journey2Med 2023 social mobility conference. Collaborating with UNiDAYS, we orchestrated an event that seamlessly brought together essential resources, a fitting venue, and invaluable advice. This conference wasn’t merely an event; it was a transformative experience for students facing socioeconomic challenges. Attendees gained insights and tips that are pivotal in navigating the complexities of higher education. The positive impact of this endeavour not only solidifies it as a significant success but also fuels our commitment to facilitating life-changing opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds.

How do you balance the demands of your studies, extracurricular activities, and personal life?

It wasn’t easy to balance the maintenance and organisation of this initiative alongside my intense medical degree, but doing it alongside my best friend really facilitated the entire process! I balance my various activities with lots of planning in advance and try my best to stick to my weekly to-do list.

Say a word or two to young women and students 

To aspiring female students eyeing the UNiDAYS 2024 Student Woman of the Year Awards, my advice is rooted in creativity and authenticity. Your submission is an opportunity to showcase not just your achievements but also your unique personality. Have fun with the process, and let your passion for your endeavours shine through. 

While addressing the key criteria, infuse your narrative with elements that make it distinctly yours. Remember, your authenticity and passion are powerful storytellers that leave a lasting impression on the judges. Embrace the chance to celebrate your journey, and let your application reflect the inspiring individual you are.