Lessons from Twenty-Fifteen

Hello everyone!

I haven’t written in this blog for over a year! So, so, so much has changed. First of all, I am no longer nineteen, I have hit the big 2-1. I’m also not in my second year of University anymore, I am in my fourth year of Uni and last year of law school. And of course, during this period I sort of disappeared, so many events have occurred in my life, part of me has grown and become so much wiser, and part of me has remained my same old, flawed self.

However, the coming post is to update you on the adventure I had the privilege of going through this past summer. But before I go into that, I’d like to give a brief account of what the haps of 2015 were. The adventure will be in the next post (or post above).

Well, I’m going to be extremely honest and candid here and not sugarcoat anything- and if this offends you well there’s not much I can do. This post is mainly to motivate and inspire and let people see the silver lining in every dark situation and  to keep pushing through.

So to begin with, I came back home in 2015 after my summer break not in the best mindset, I had some difficulties with some people at University and I just wanted a fresh start but living in a city so small, I knew it wasn’t going to be possible. However, to keep it short, I ended up coming back, got involved with a few initiatives and groups, cut out a bunch of not-so-good people from my life and stepped down as president from the group I created in my first year because studies and workload was overwhelming and I had to take care of myself for a bit.

During this time, someone I had cut out of my life reached out to me expressing how horrible she felt about not having a relationship with me anymore and me being the empathetic person I am, immediately believed her and we met up and spoke. This same person took over my old group and I was still very supportive and offered my advice and assistance whenever I could. We became friends again and everything seemed fine, but unfortunately, I was put in the same circle I had made sure to leave before my summer break. To move this on a bit, it didn’t take much time before this same person kicked me out of that group I created (even kicked me out of the social media page I set up with original content, and sent some pretty mean texts). Another person in that circle gave me the cold shoulder relating to another matter and refused to speak to me (included a bunch of other things that I really don’t want to get into) and I eventually decided to end communication completely with her (funny enough, she continued trying to get in contact with me after I ceased contact and moved on with my life, but the damage was already done). And of course the odd childish, immature texts/ giving me the evils/ calling me weird and ‘too sensitive’ (as if that’s such an insult)  went on from the rest of the members of that toxic circle.

At this point, I was over the bullying and waste of space and time from these individuals and cut out every, single person. After all, we weren’t kids anymore (at least I wasn’t) and it was time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself and move on.

I mean, maybe if you read the above you’d be like “come on, that doesn’t sound too bad.” But honestly, I just cannot be bothered writing everything related to the issue because I’m pretty over it and all of them and refuse to play the silly games they play. But it was pretty bad and damaging to the point where I almost didn’t sit a practical assessment I had (which would result in an immediate failure of the paper). But luckily, with the support of my older sister and knowing that my partner in the assessment relied on me and I didn’t want to let her down, and my lecturers words of wisdom to me, made me push through and I ended up actually getting a decent grade on that assessment.

So Lesson #1: Don’t ever, ever, ever let anyone stop you from your education and the things you are passionate about.

And Lesson #2: If you  are passionate about something, and someone screws you over, don’t you ever, ever give up! You go out there and do what you were born to do a hundred times better and stronger!

It was such a struggle seeing those people the first few months after all those incidents happened, and every time someone would ask me about the group related to the issue, I would bite my tongue and refused to stoop down to their level by badmouthing them. (Of course, now I’m more outspoken about the issue because I realize you can be truthful and honest without being rude and mean).

After all this, I ended up spending a lot more time alone and just focusing on doing things that made me more productive. It really made me see how much you can succeed on your own and accomplish things when you don’t have people blocking you.

So I stumbled upon an advertisement of a competition organized by the ICRC and NZ Red Cross on Missing persons in armed conflicts using International Humanitarian Law(IHL). Now I knew from the very beginning that Human Rights Law and International Law were my areas of interest but stumbling on IHL was such a wake-up call and the area that I fell in love with at first sight.  So I began writing, and I wrote about Syria and Palestine, and after I submitted it, I didn’t dwell on it. In fact, I immediately assumed when I received an email back that I didn’t win the competition but by the Grace of God, turns out I had won first place and scored myself to an International Law conference in Wellington with flights and accommodation included. So I after a bit of a rocky start trying to convince my parents to go, I eventually packed my bags and flew solo to Wellington for the first time ever.


Wellington was a city I fell in love with the moment I looked out of the window and saw the landscape mid-air. I was fasting at the time as it was Ramadan but I honestly couldn’t care less! This city was magic. From the artwork in the street, to the beautiful victorian buildings (at one point there was a Burger King in a very fancy old building and I found it extremely amusing), to meeting the new Syrians at the Kebab Shop, the buskers, the late night cafes, and exploring the city solo and with a friend. I would finish the conference and immediately run outside between breaks (when people were having lunch) and go to the Beehive and Parliament buildings and just enjoy every moment of it. I even go to visit the Red Cross Offices and received amazing material and resources from them.

And the owner of the house I was staying at was the nicest and kindest woman ever, truly a gem ! I just loved Wellywood, the wind would occasionally make my Hijab fly in my face but ultimately it was wonderful!

First time riding a train, ahhhh!

First time riding a train, ahhhh!

My university was extremely supportive of my achievement and I truly felt like slowly my pieces and life was molding itself back into the normalcy it once was.

(See here for article written by my law faculty). 

So Lesson #3: Don’t be in a circle just for the sake of having one. A circle can either be your circle of failure or circle of success. And trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in the first one. There is no shame in being alone. Quality over quantity any day.

I ended up after this enrolling in a Law paper on the Law of Armed Conflict at our university with my best friend and mentor and it was a delicious paper (yes, I just called the paper delicious because the information and knowledge we gained from it was superb).

I was also selected as one of 30 youth in New Zealand to attend a BootCamp for Campaigners and was partially sponsored by Oxfam NZ.

Although I haven’t spoken to many of the participants since then, I still keep updated with their lives and my God they are such amazing, inspiring influencers. They don’t know how much they influence me even though we don’t talk much anymore. I was pretty down after a spending a week with those change-makers but the camp refreshed me and made me so very motivated to tackle the issues I am passionate about.



Lesson #4: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals! Go out there and find opportunities to be in the presence of people who empower you and help increase your knowledge on important issues in our society.


I then also was nominated by my sister for the Westpac Women of Influence Awards 2015 and was selected as a finalist in the Young Leaders Category. It was truly such a humbling and magnificent honor! I was nominated alongside amazing women that included Parris Goebel (you may know her as the choreographer of Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ Music Video).

Sorry it's not great quality, can't find the original one. But this is my sisters and I at Skycity on the big day.

Sorry it’s not great quality, can’t find the original one. But this is my sisters and I at Skycity on the big day.


Lesson #5: Cherish the good moments. As simple as it sounds. Remember them, and use those memories to keep you persevering in the challenges you might face later.

There are so many other things that took place in 2015 (LIKE A LOT) but the last one I’ll mention is my experience to join my first Mooting Competition. It was on International Humanitarian Law and was organized by the ICRC and NZ Red Cross.

So I put my name down, got paired up with another Law student and we had to audition (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) twice in two days in front of law lecturers and professionals. I ended up making it through to represent my law faculty alongside with three other students (as counsel, research clerk, and coach, respectively).

Well, I’m not gonna lie, the process of the preliminary rounds were extremely stressful for me and I cried a lot which brings me to,

Lesson #6:  Try to keep your complaints to a minimum, and if you do have to complain, make sure it’s to someone who will never use it against you. It can seriously backfire.

But anyway, we ended up flying together to Wellington as a team and it was one of my favorite experiences. My team was amazing and supportive and I wish I would have made more of the opportunity.

So you may have already guessed it but Lesson #7:  Make the most of every opportunity. Don’t let fear slow you down and ruin your moment. After I finished the competition, I realized just how fun it was and there was no reason to be so anxious.

A big shout out and thanks to our Coach who was the most patient and encouraging guy ever. I mean, I literally sat in front of my computer late at night sobbing my eyes out like a maniac while he patiently tried to calm me and pep talk me. Not gonna lie, I kind of feel embarrassed, but he’s so cool that he would never use it against me.

Teams from Waikato, Auckland Uni, AUT, Otago, and Victoria at the Old High Court in Wellington.

Teams from Waikato, Auckland Uni, AUT, Otago, and Victoria at the Old High Court in Wellington.

I’m getting kinda drowsy writing this, and I do have a really big day tomorrow, so I’m gonna end it here. I hope you enjoyed reading this and thank you so much if you read the whole thing!

Life can be a bit of  a downer at times, but please know that you are able to change the course of your future and if you are adiment, no one can stand in your way.

The next post will contain the amazing journey of getting chosen to be one out of 11 Kiwi Youth to join the Ship for World Youth program. Now thats a post that encompasses so much positivity and love and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.


Aroha and Salam,


And Ramadan Mubarak!

And Ramadan Mubarak!


Apologies and Overview

Okay, first i’d like to apologize that i havent written in over a month, i’ve just been super busy with alot of things!

A few things i have done:


In December 

In December, i ended up going to Spookers which is a haunted house in the middle of nowhere and it was terrifying. Basically you enter a house and have people chasing after you and its just altogether really scary. And then you enter a forest at night and the same thing happens and i could not stop yelling.
Heres a trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipw3Aqh6hqg and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyyGo_ZJiGE
I didnt even know we were going so imagine my shock when they stopped in front of it and they told me i had to go in. But i recommend it to everyone and i would definitely go again if i could!

During the late night we continued our way to Hamilton and stayed over for the night and the next day went to Hamilton gardens.
And this is no particular order now, we went berry picking at Julians Berry Farm in Whakatane (must go if you ever visit that area) and made delish smoothies. 

We visited Rotorua and rode the Swoop at Agroventures (You wont regret this!), we also went to Paradise Valley- an interactive zoo. The animals were adorable and super friendly. 
We visit the thermal areas in Rotorua and it was pretty scary. Actually put my hand in one of the water pools on the ground and it was boiling hot! 

Alot of fishing and bbquing! We did alot of fishing, even though we didnt catch anything, it was super fun!

In January, i rode the flying fox for the first time and could not stop yelling the whole time. 
I had to dress up as a devil and perform a skit in front of heaps of people i dont even know. 

And during the end of January, i visited the beautiful point wells for three days. Everyone must visit this beautiful place!



And now its February and so a new post to follow up soon! 

Sorry for all the lost time. Busy busy busy 


Well my friends,

Christmas Holidays are here, and I cant promise i’ll be writing anytime soon because i’m leaving town for a week and spending it with my sister and brother in law.

So today we’ll be driving for an hour and a half to a city and staying over and then tomorrow we’ll drive for another two hours to their town and stay for another 6 days.

I have no idea what they planned for me.

This is the text i got.

“Prepare yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.”

Looks like adventure time is near.

Happy Holidays,

An Excited Teen


Daily Prompt: Flawed. Stutters And Sensitivity

‘Its our imperfections that make us beautiful.’

To anyone writing about this specific topic, just remember that. That no matter what our flaws are, they are what make us unique.

Just to be clear before i begin pointing my own flaws, i wont be talking about my physical/ biological flaws( at least i dont think they go under that category), because if i had to talk about that then…well it wouldnt be such a good idea, to be honest.
Its more emotional/ psychological but in the non dramatic way.

Its exactly as my title reads. I have two flaws that I’m not a very big fan of: Stuttering and Being Overly Sensitive.
Now, you’re probably thinking that contradicts what i wrote at the beginning, but hear me out.
I dont mind being sensitive, everyone SHOULD be sensitive, but with me its like i see two minutes of a ten minute clip of war movie and you’ll find me crying my eyes out and thats not exactly going to help me out in the future.

So, lets go back a step, and let me start from scratch.
I have many flaws. But the two that i would prioritize to improve.
Now, i dont stutter prominently, thats not the case with me. This is probably the best way to explain it: Most of the time, if I’m in a heated argument and I’m debating something i truly believe in and am passionate about, i tend to stutter midway through the conversation.
Its happened many times, and well it ruins everything.

I remember i was debating against a a student representing France in the Human Rights Committee, and i was so into it and i was getting cheered on and then bam! The stuttering decides it wants to join in on the action. And well…the whole house begins to laugh. Now luckily at that time, i didnt storm out crying, i stood my ground and laughed with them, and continued my point.
Thats just one of many examples, and seeing as I’m entering Law, this could be a problem. I can just imagine myself standing in front of the high court, defending a serious HR case, and all of a sudden begin to stutter and i would hate it if that really happened.
But i guess some people find that cute? If I heard someone else stuttering in some situations, i would probably think so, too. But since its ME who this applies to, i find it rather annoying on my behalf.
Now dont get me wrong, I dont think stuttering is something to be ashamed of, my own little sister stutters alot, but it is something that holds everyone back and it would be wonderful if people go to speak without that little monster interrupting them.

Okay so my second flaw would be: Sensitivity.

I. Hate. Being. Overly. Sensitive.
I am not even kidding here, when i was 10, we were watching Oprah and she was talking about self harming and i went to my room and couldn’t stop crying. I cry about almost everything. Not because i want to, be sure thats not what i want, its just like this thing, where i feel strongly about everything.
And while its a beautiful thing to always sympathize with issues, it isnt the best thing in the world to show too much sympathy. And its happened in front of situations where i would cry in front of someone i was fighting with and it just overall isnt nice because it  shows your weakness.
I have gotten better within the last year though, swallowing hard at times seems to stop the tears from falling but i still need to work hard on not showing too much emotions, especially before i start Uni.

And just on a last note, something extremely funny i heard once when my teacher saw me crying that made me laugh in the midst of my pointless former highschool drama. I was crying and in the moment and i go to class and my teacher casually says, “You know, Shay, if someone were to ever propose to you, let your mum slap you a few times and go in there, you look prettier when you cry.”
That was probably the randomest thing i ever heard a teacher saying, i just stood there like. What?

Haha, it was funny though. But yeah, seriously, you’re all beautiful unless you’re simply a mean person on the inside (most polite way i can put it?)  So our flaws can be fixed, but its up to us, and if we choose not to fix them, thats alright, too, Because that it was makes us different and Brilliant 🙂

“I don’t know. Just because someone’s pretty doesn’t mean she’s decent. Or vice versa. I’m not into appearances. I like flaws, I think they make things interesting.” 
― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

 And there you have it =)

Embrace who you are Always,

Shay Arif.