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First year students' year going swimmingly at McMaster

Last year, 15 per cent of approximately 4,800 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering were international, coming from nearly 60 countries. Engineering I student Kareem Elmokattaf, an Egyptian citizen from Saudi Arabia, was one of them.

If you ask Kareem Elmokattaf what he’s passionate about, don’t expect a short answer.

The 18-year-old Egyptian citizen from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, loves math more than almost anything. He also spends as much spare time as he can with friends and socializing at events. Swimming? He tries to make time for it every day. 

In other words, Elmokattaf is a lot like his peers at McMaster University who aren’t afraid to get involved and pursue their passions inside and outside of the classroom.

The Engineering 1 student hopes to pursue Mechatronics, which can be found in the most unexpected places, including the pool where he swims (pace clocks, waterproof clocks and performance tracking devices are just a few swimming-related products mechatronic engineers can work on).

Elmokattaf also makes time to be part of the Solar Car Project, an undergraduate student initiative that builds and races electric vehicles powered by the sun, driven by the goal of sustainable technology.

He says he always wanted to go to a university that would help get him out of his comfort zone, and was sold on McMaster after attending a university fair in Riyadh, where local alumni spoke about their experiences. After arriving on campus, it didn’t take him long to feel at home.

“My favourite thing about McMaster is definitely the community,” says Elmokattaf. “I feel part of it and that everyone around me is there for me. I can go up to someone random, ask for help and they wouldn’t reject me, or would lead me to someone who could help. Being part of this community is amazing.”

When Elmokattaf first made the move to Canada, he says he worried about figuring out the logistics of living in a foreign country, such as setting up a bank account and getting a police check for work. The kindness of perfect strangers made getting settled easier than he anticipated, something he says is “very Canadian.”

“No one would look at me different and people would accept me into their friend groups and family,” says Elmokattaf. “People would just talk to me for the sake of it. It was really cool to have people I could just talk to and open up to on a regular basis and share experiences with them.”

Having a busy schedule and a multitude of hobbies can make it difficult not to get overwhelmed, but Elmokattaf has found the perfect solution.

“I love going to the waterfalls,” says Elmokattaf. “I like sitting there and taking in the nature. It gets me in the zone.


Want to more Journey to McMaster Engineering stories? Read our feature story.