55 students walked into SHAD McMaster on Sunday, July 1st, hands full of luggage, minds full of anticipation and excitement, and faces lit up with smiles. We were eager to know one another, to find those who liked and did the same things we did. And little did we know that just over the course of one week, we would find so much more.
Our quest at SHAD McMaster initially started with us exploring our hearts before our environment. We thought we knew who we were until we stepped into the SHAD program and saw not just who we were but who we could be. In the form of lectures, we explored the crossroads between our passions, and the joy and fear that is improvisation. We were also honoured with a visit from SHAD President and CEO Tim Jackson, who told us that SHAD gave us the opportunity to fulfill the natural curiosity that resides in every SHAD. And though we learned a lot from our guests, we learned just as much from fellow SHADs.
SHADSpeaks have coloured our days and we learned how different we all were. We heard a SHAD talk about societal expectations of men - and how he believes they should abandon them, with his own personal story of how he finally opened himself up to crying. We heard stories - how we saw ourselves in those stories and used them to connect with each other around the globe. ‘Sometimes you need to build a life -- not a resume.’ we learned. And sometimes, we proposed questions to one another that wouldn’t leave our minds until late at night: Were hot dogs technically sandwiches?
Science can be explored in many ways, and there is always more to learn outside the classroom, which is exactly what SHAD allows us to do. We ventured through the campus conducting site assessments of potential outdoor study locations and went on long hiking trips, bug spray all over ourselves. To test our mapping skills, we challenged each other to make the ugliest maps we could. Soon after, we explored forensic entomology - the study of the cause of death using insects! Though the sight of decaying chicken was not a pretty one, it was a rather unique experience. Our time at SHAD has allowed us to explore ourselves and the world through countless perspectives. It also allowed us a little room to be creative!
Let's face it - most of us have considered world domination at some point in our lives. But little did we know we'd have the chance to see it play out right here at SHAD. We were given the task to create a city - a SHADCity, with eight districts, twenty thousand residents, and all the necessary makings of the city. First step: elections for government. Mayor Matt wore a sparkly purple hat and had a fairly good approval rating, save for a few rebellious districts. The entire city was planned with negotiations made by city councillors… little did we know we'd be constructing the SHADCity the next day at Ipperwash Point, a beach on Lake Huron. What ensued was a couple hours of natural disasters, sketchy deals, and lots of laughter. Between lighthearted moments and seriousness, our time was packed.
Coming to SHAD, we thought that we'd be doing hardcore exercise every day, but we quickly realized that the PAs had something a bit different in mind. From capture the flag with four teams to group yoga, we've been challenged with activities we've never done before (in 38 degree weather!) Picture this: 55 SHADs lying in the grass under the shade of one of the beautiful trees on McMaster’s campus in the Bananasana pose (a fruity remix of the classic savasana), trying not to giggle. We then gave up on traditional yoga entirely to form highly unstable structures using the most ridiculous combinations possible: “Six people with three hands & two feet on the ground only!” Through it all, we smiled - and sweated - together.
We spent our days together and built a close-knit community of like-minded people. Particularly afraid of heights, one SHAD did not want to climb the 52-feet tall rope structure. He decided to go for it and we all gathered on the ground, heartily cheering for him until he triumphantly pulled himself to the top. In essence, for us, this is what SHAD is: a family of incredibly diverse and ridiculously talented people who push each other to reach new heights (pun intended) and overcome our fears. We encourage each other to do better, to be different, to burn as bright as we can. Every. Single. Day.
Yes, when we walked in we were nervous. Yes, we were excited. Yes, we were a little confused and a little lost. On the first day, though, we knew why we were there - we knew how we had gotten there, who had been with us through thick and thin. We started the very first day by thanking those in our lives who had bought us here, be it our parents, siblings, or friends. We ended our first week by thanking those at SHAD who had so quickly come to mean so much.