‘Where are you from’ is always a hard question for me. I'm a kiwi, but my background is Tunisian and I've lived in 4 countries. I was born in New Zealand, moved to Bristol in England, lived in Wollongong for a bit, then I lived in Saudi Arabia for 7 years. I came back to Australia in 2012, finished High School and started uni here.
I'm studying an Arts degree, majoring in International Relations and International Business. I'm also undertaking a research apprenticeship this year and am really involved in the UN Society. I just came back from a conference in Canada with UNSOC, which was amazing. Other than that, I love cats so much. Ask anybody, my snapchat is just photos of cats.
As a kid, I never did any sports whatsoever. The most I did was in primary school; running, swimming- the usual things a kid in Australia does. Then I moved to Saudi Arabia and during my time there I didn't do any sports. I also had some health issues with bone and joint inflammation, which really stopped me from being able to move for a while because of the pain. Thankfully I was able to get over that with some surgery.
When I came back to Australia, all I did was PE at school. Then by complete luck, my laziness actually led me to the sport I'm doing today. I wanted to do a sport that was indoors where I wouldn't have to go somewhere else. I wanted to do something where I could just change into pants, do it and get back home. Turns out my school had taekwondo! I did it for one term after trying and hating tennis because it was an outdoor sport in the sun. At school we used to do a very technical, strength oriented style that requires less sparring. It's more about the technical patterns. That got me interested in martial arts and I continued for almost a year. I stopped during HSC and completely forgot about it. When I came to uni, my friend was interested in karate and she was like 'wait, didn't you used to do taekwondo in high school?'
Initially there was that physical factor that I didn’t find very appealing. Also as it’s a mixed club my first impression was ‘wow, how am I going to fit into this?’ I was like ‘aw I’m not sure if I can get into this. I don’t know if I can get that stamina, get that build, be able to integrate with these types of people.’ The other thing was, particularly when I first started university, the feeling of 'oh, I just don't have time.' I felt I couldn't balance my work, my uni AND sport because it looked like such a huge thing! I just could not factor in another thing into my life.
Very quickly though, I came to realise that when I do taekwondo it's something of a cathartic experience that I actually enjoy. It's able to balance out everything else because I have that time of the week where I'm able to calm down; and by calm down I mean I can run all over the place and exercise. It's able to give me something else to focus on, something else to enjoy.
I was also really surprised by how quickly I got fitter. For example our warm up is so intense that at first I was like 'there is no way that I can reach that point. That level of fitness is beyond me.' But I didn't actually realise that our bodies are able to develop so quickly, particularly at this age. Never in my entire life did I think that I would be able to, you know, run a few kilometres or train for two hours straight. It took me about a month to just get into the warm up, and then I realised 'wow, I can actually do this'. My standards for myself started going higher and higher without me realising. Before it was 'I'll just get through this warm up' and now I'm like 'I want to get the splits. I want to be able to kick 180 degrees. I want to be able to run more than 5km.' It’s something that when I look back on it, I realise that was me before and here I am now. It feels like a distant dream.
Starting at the club, meeting amazing coaches and seniors and building some awesome friendships, I finally felt a sense of belonging with something that I loved, which is a big deal for me. It was the first time I felt like I could fit in and actually settle down. I don’t want to move from Australia because I've found these friends who enjoy the sport with me. From that group in taekwondo, the number of people that I've met has just expanded more and more. They're all just as passionate and interested as I am, not just about taekwondo but other sports as well.
Sport has really empowered me. As a Muslim girl who's lived in both an Arab country and a Western country and experienced so many different cultures, it taught me that no matter where you're from, no matter what you're going through, we all share the same worries and experiences.
It's made life so much more fun. I was always passionate about something, about life in general, but taekwondo has always managed to keep me grounded in some way. I always have something to turn back on. I am a very very busy person, but I try to find the balance between everything and that's how I enjoy it all. It’s made my personality a lot stronger, more than anything else.
It doesn't matter what your background is or what you’ve experienced in your childhood, be it health issues or family issues, all of those things have made you who you are today, and sport will just develop you more.
Yes it might be a hurdle at first, but it’s an experience you really learn from. It doesn't matter what sport it is, I can really guarantee that you're going to get something out of it physically and mentally.
As a girl, you might feel as though you're not up to a certain standard and that being involved in a sport means changing your life entirely, but it’s actually something you're able to adapt to. It's something that empowers you as a person and as a woman. Everything is step by step, like anything else in life. You break it down, you achieve those smaller goals, and then you're like 'oh wow, I'm here.'
Start with Arc Sport. Enquire what sports there are and try them out. There's so many sports to choose from that I can guarantee there'll be something for you. There's always going to be other girls in the club as well, so no matter what worries you have, especially when it comes to those girl specific worries, you're always going to have somebody there who you can ask advice from. If you're ever interested in taekwondo, I'm basically this generation's mum of the club, so if you have any questions about this or any other sports then you can message me or whatever. It's like any other society on campus, but we're just physically involved rather than just intellectually involved. Uni has got your back.