Miriam Agyakomah Maame Yaa Kwarteng-Siaw is a Ghanaian-born senior in the college. Raised partly in Ghana and Texas, Miriam grew up with a love for her country and people. She is a Biochemistry major and Pre-Med. Miriam has been an active and passionate member of ASA from day one of Freshman year as one of the two Freshmen Representatives. She has served as Secretary of ASA (2011-2012) and President of ASA (2012-2013). She was also a Co-Chair for ASA’s major showcase, Afropolitan in 2013. She aspires to be a Medical Doctor and eventually take her skills back to Ghana.
What initially drew you to ASA?
I came on campus searching for ASA even before the first meeting. This is because growing up in Ghana and then in Texas, I had always been surrounded by Ghanaians and people of African descent and when coming to Columbia I didn’t know if there would be enough people who identified as Ghanaian or African. As a result, I made sure to find that safe space in ASA. I found my niche in ASA with the people I connected with like the sophomores and seniors at that time. Undoubtedly, the people kept bringing me back.
What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?
I wanted people to understand me as a Ghanaian because this is something I didn’t really have in high school. These expectations were definitely met. I also wanted to learn more about Africa and my personal country because I didn’t have substantial intellectual knowledge about the place. This was met through weekly discussions, political roundtables, and also through Afropolitan cultural performances.
So you have clearly held a lot of positions in ASA, how were you able to juggle that with Gospel Choir?
Hmmm…. that’s a good question. I have had people ask me this in the past. I think that learning how to prioritize: knowing what needs to be done at an exact moment and knowing what comes first is how I juggled multiple things. Also having a passion for everything I was involved in helped me execute them well; it prevented those things from becoming a chore. It helped me balance everything so that things did not crumble in the midst of the chaos.
What is your favorite memory of ASA?
Pick one!? Ay! ….
LOL…Okay top three then….
1. Weekly Introductions….. appreciate knowing what people are doing and where people are from. It also let’s freshmen know people by connecting a name to a face.
2. Spade Tournaments (Card playing) …. I’m not sure if this is still done, but it’s one of my favorite things. You know now!… Africans and their gloating and things like that…. *laughs*
3. “Voices Unheard: Liberia” was also one of my favourites as well as the “Voices Unheard: Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya” too!
4. Also I cannot forget, Afropolitan…eh… too many memories.
How has ASA impacted your time here?
Definitely the connections; making friends …… if I start to name some names we will be here for ever… and then if I forget someone’s name, I will be in trouble…(you know Africans!) *laughter*
But ASA is more than just connections it’s also a support network…. to be honest there are some aspects of school that are miserable without that kind of support. ASA has saved me from the sometimes overbearing stress.
Miriam and Oluchi Okoro enjoying the Nigerian Independence Day Parade!
Fufu or Jollof Rice?
Oh my sista! Fufu now….! Jollof rice is Rice and rice is everywhere; you can get some form of rice at John Jay or Hewitt ….. but Fufu is special oooo; moreover John Jay will not give me Fufu!
So yes, Fufu all the way, and it must be with Peanut Butter soup…
Modern or Traditional Highlife?
While I can appreciate the modern/contemporary jams…. I am more of the old skool type. I get down with the old skool …. and you know now, it’s usually with my one and only: Ginikannwa Ezeude….. *hysterical laughter*
So in your description you mentioned that you were Pre-Med, and I know you just took the MCATS, how was the experience?
The exam….. study hard! *laughs*
But no seriously, you have to stay organized in your studies. Review the material from your classes, start ahead of time and be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit to studying throughout the week or in a month, or whatever time frame you’ve given yourself.
With regard to general advice about pre-med life at Columbia: be pro-active….. we have a good support network…. but you have to go to them and do your own research and be direct in what you want here at Columbia.
Alright! And what’s next for you? Is Med school directly next year or time off?
The plan was originally to go to Med School straight when I came to Columbia… but plans change; so I’m taking a gap year after graduation. I’m looking into research in immunology and neuroscience. I have a couple of interviews lined up, so hopefully one of them works out. Then after a year, Med School….. then by God’s grace, I will be a physician and make my way back to Ghana.
So you failed to mention wedding bells in this your future plans…. Please tell us if there is anyone special?
(shy) No….. *side wink* ….
Any words of wisdom for returning ASA members?
Stay connected! There are times when things get stressful and it’s hard to do it on your own; its good to have other people supporting you…. stay connected always…. Even if it’s not amongst ASA, just have two or three friends you can turn to and keep in touch with.
Be optimistic and positive about your experience here at Columbia. Even though it may not always look too exciting or fun, just know that you never know who you will run into and something good may come out of things unexpectedly.
Also take advantage of being in the city more, go out more because after four years it becomes sad when you realize that you don’t know as much about the city as you would have liked.
Miriam, Thank You for your service to ASA over the years! We wish you the best of luck in the future and hope to see you again SOON!!