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Welcome to my second year at Mac. I'm Kwasi.

The first time I heard the word McMaster was during a high school basketball tournament when I was approached by a scout.  My initial thought was he was mentioning a type of burger - maybe one with extra cheese?  But after talking to him, and meeting the team, I realized McMaster University could mean a lot to me.  I could feel at home.

 

At the buzzer

Two minutes before the university acceptance deadline, I was faced with a life-changing decision. Attending U of T, the safer path in my hometown, or McMaster, the route with a lot of uncertainty.  I'd be the first and youngest in my family to move away.

In this moment, advice from my guidance counsellor came to mind. She told me choices that scare me are often ones that will pave the way for new adventures, and the fewer risks we take now the more “what ifs” we’ll be left to live with in the future.

So with the clock ticking I made the decision to choose McMaster Kinesiology.  It was the right decision for me.

 

When I first arrived at Mac

I was nervous for several reasons: I was the first of my brothers to move away for university, I was unsure how I'd fit in a new city, and my financial situation was uncertain. Welcome Week immediately helped get rid of most of those fears because of the inclusive and warm environment I was exposed to. People were always around with smiles on their faces ready to help, whether it was the reps or the nice ladies at Centro (a Mac eatery).

Paying it forward

On Faculty Day, during Welcome Week, we were assigned groups within our program to do several activities together. It was the most fun I had that week, and it made me realize I wanted to become a rep myself and make incoming people feel welcome. So this year that's what I did, along with one of the closest friends I made on Faculty Day (in the picture).

As a rep for Welcome Week, I made it my goal to help show first-year students the inclusive environment I felt as I was coming in. I realized I'd do this by adapting how I acted around different people. Welcome Week has the reputation of being an event full of dancing and cheering when parents and first-year students arrive. But I learned it was more than that. Some students were shy and a couple one-on-one conversations helped them feel welcome. With others it was like they prepared their whole lives for this cheering, and for them I'd be right there to hype them up. Wearing my baby blue Kin suit and jersey, I tried to show people what McMaster means to me. I was happy to help people that week, and also show them that if they needed advice throughout the year, I'd be there then too.

A big thank you!

Financial stress has always been an obstacle growing up, which is why my parents pushed me to excel academically in the hopes of a brighter future. Thanks to the Royal Canadian Institute for Science scholarship, McMaster Basketball, the McMaster Men’s Basketball Bursary, and donors, I’ve been given the opportunity to pursue my post-secondary education and ambitions for basketball.

Juggling life as a student-athlete can be tough

As student-athletes, we have the responsibility of balancing academics with our athletic commitments.  This can be a challenge at times.  Thankfully, Mac has a community of professors, friends, coaches, teammates and donors who I can depend on to support me in various ways.

I want to give a shout out to one of my Kinesiology professors, Krista Madsen, who took the time to meet with my coach and I to help me find balance.

An evening with my family

This was a special night.  My parents came to watch me play basketball for the first time - against my brother who plays for York.

Mac lost the game, but we'll get them next year!

My oldest brother also attended. He's been someone I've looked to as a role model for as long as I can remember. From the days when we played Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 to today, he's always looked out for me. I appreciate it. Whether it be basketball or my hobbies, a lot of who I am is because of him. He's always ready to give me advice, but he also makes sure I experience life on my own.

My high school team came to cheer me on

My coach from high school also attended our game against U of T, and he brought the senior team to watch. He said I motivated a lot of them to work harder.

We got on the court to take a group picture in remembrance of one of our teammates who passed away last November. He meant a lot to me. We all made a gesture - L.O. ("lights out" shooter) - in his honour.

 

 

Second semester

The second half of the school year I told myself I want to do three things: enjoy the university experience, focus on my athletic commitments, and push myself academically like I haven't before.

Our season wrapped up earlier than we would have liked, but we made a good run at the end. I was happy to be a part of it. In my first year, I didn't really get an opportunity to play, so I worked hard every second I got on the court this year. I gained a lot of experience, and I'm looking forward to training with the team in the summer, so as the team grows I do too.

I got more involved in the school in two ways.

A meeting with the MSU

First, I helped set up a meeting with the McMaster Students Union (MSU) President, Chukky Ibe, and varsity athletes from many of our school's teams. We discussed the struggles student-athletes face and how issues can be resolved or better voiced in the future. Hopefully, this meeting becomes the first of many.

Walking the runway

Second, I was a model for a True Hamiltonian fashion show in April. Some of the varsity athletes were asked to do the show to connect with the community, and I was one of them. It was an amazing experience because I got to see something so foreign to me, at a close view. I won't lie I was really nervous the first half of the runway, but by the end of it I realized I won't have another opportunity like this so I pulled out some dance moves.

I learned even more this year that life is about making choices that aren't driven by fear and doubt.

This was a successful academic year

In March, I officially received my 2016-2017 USport Academic All-Canadian certificate. It's an honour roll for athletes who maintain an 80 or higher average. On top of that, my marks for my second semester courses started to rise. Initially, my marks weren't where I wanted them to be, so I decided to treat every midterm like it was an exam and excel. This worked out for me. In one of my Kinesiology classes, Neuromuscular Exercise Physiology, I managed to be one of a few students who received 100 on the midterm. That in itself gave me the confidence to believe that when I put in the time, I will see results. One of the best things I realized by studying like every midterm was an exam was that studying during exams felt a lot easier. I already worked hard to retain a lot of the information.

I'm proud that with my marks this year, I'll be named a USport Academic All-Canadian again!

My closing reflections

I’m happy to be here attending one of the best academic institutions in the world.  I’m loving the memories I'm making, becoming a better athlete, the friendships and the experiences that are helping me better myself into the person I strive to be.  Basketball has always been a passion of mine.  Whether playing on the court beside my building as a kid, or now in Burridge Gym, pushing myself to be the best player I can has always been my focus.  And I’m happy I can do it as a Marauder!

Thank you for reading about my year at Mac!

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