Former HSU athlete comes to U.S. From Mali for education. Photo | Danny Dunn
Former HSU athlete comes to U.S. From Mali for education. Photo | Danny Dunn

Former HSU athlete comes to U.S. From Mali for education


By | Danny Dunn

Moussa Sy is a 21-year-old junior at HSU, majoring in environmental science. Sy moved from the country Mali, located in West Africa, to Ojai, California in 2011 at the age of 16.

Every year scholarships are given to African students, to give them the opportunity to come to America and study. The scholarship is good for three years.

Sy was awarded this scholarship and began attending a boarding school in Ojai, where he was determined to learn English.

One of the toughest things for Sy was learning English once he came to the United States. Back home in Mali, he grew up speaking French and a mix of other African dialects.

It took Sy about a year to learn the language, he would study night and day trying to master it, while taking an English as a Second Language course at his boarding school.

Humboldt State was not Sy’s first choice when he thought about college. Sy had hopes of playing Division two, or Division three basketball before an injury hindered his plans. Sy broke his leg during his senior year of high school, which lead him to start considering other options in college besides playing basketball.

Humboldt State’s Environmental Science program caught Sy’s attention, and with a combination of the program and the Humboldt scenery Sy chose to attend HSU.

Upon arrival at HSU Sy attempted to join the Humboldt basketball team, however lingering injuries prevented him from playing.

This did not deter Sy from playing sports. In the fall of 2016 Sy joined the HSU soccer team and played the position of center guard. Sy felt welcomed by the guys on the squad from the very first day of practice. Sy admitted it was a little strange being the new guy, but his teammates helped him make an easy transition to team.

Sy was forced to stop playing after only one semester do to a heavy school and work load. Sy is currently enrolled in 15 units and works 20 hours per week on campus.

“I would wake up at 5 a.m. every day to get to the 6 a.m. soccer practice. I would not get home until 10 p.m. which left no time for studying or doing homework, just go straight to bed to wake up for practice the next morning,” Sy said. “ It was just too much to handle.”  

Thinking back on his first week at HSU, Sy recalled it being an interesting environment.

“The smell, and people were so different here at HSU, it was a little overwhelming seeing all the people,” Sy said. “The redwood forest stuck out the most though, that and the air was more pure than city air.”

Due to financial issues Sy has been unable to return to his home in Mali to see his family, specifically his mother who was Sy’s hero growing up. Sy’s father would travel a lot for work while Sy was growing up, so his mother acted as head of the household.

Back home Sy would play or watch soccer every day, his favorite team is Manchester United. Sy knew that in America soccer was not the most popular sport, but had to admit he was still shocked that people here really do not follow as much as back home in Mali.

Sy’s plan for after graduation is to stay in America for awhile, perhaps around Santa Barbara, California, and gain some experience in the working world. Once he returns home, Sy hopes to help the underprivileged children of Africa.

“Children are the future, and I would like to one day build my own orphanage to help the children of Africa,” Sy said.

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