What started as a student's leap of faith, coming to the United States to pursue education, has transformed into something beyond his imagination.
“I'm really excited and coming here also. Being a runner and I have the opportunity to get on here with the cross country of RIT,” said Hassan Eissa, a junior cross country runner at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Hassan Eissa's cross country season was cut short by an injury and his dedication to academics, but he's not letting that get him down.
“I had a quite an adventure,” he said.
The 29-year-old discovered his love for running in junior college and carried that with him once he transferred to RIT this fall, but he wasn't recruited by the team.
Instead, Hassan sent an email once he got accepted to RIT.
“It was literally just a cold email, which I get from literally 100 or more athletes every year,” David Warth, RIT’s track and cross country coach. “That was one of the best ones that I've got to say the least.”
Eissa went from being a walk-on to the team's top performer.
“It was a major step for our team having him on our team, we actually had two of our top athletes this year on a co-op, so we weren't going to have them available and Hassan stepped right into what their roles would have been, he was immediately our number one guy, right from the start,” Warth said.
Eissa broke his personal record, finished 15th at regionals, and qualified for nationals.
It’s a career any athlete could be proud of, especially one with no previous formal training and years of turmoil in his past.
Eissa is a refugee.
“It's been quite a long journey for me,” he said.
He left his family in 2006 and made his way to Libya transporting camels.
That’s where he found himself in the middle of Libya’s civil war and fled to Egypt as a refugee.
He later came to the United States in 2013 where he earned a GED, attended junior college before coming to RIT this fall.
With next year being his senior year, and with athletic success already on the books, he's hoping his academics run the same track.
Eissa is “currently in electrical engineering,” but he has an interest in solar energy.
The region he's from in Chad doesn't have running water or advanced technology but he wants to change that when he finally goes back home.
“I actually can use those skills to come in and make a water wells from the solar energy to pump out water for the Sub-Sahara Desert which we don't have like rivers,” Eissa said.
He will be back on the cross country course next year, running to keep his goals alive and his future bright.