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This month’s Heart-to-Heart is with Old Girl Aalia Shariff (Class of 2002), a kind, compassionate and ambitious lady, whose friends describe her as goal-orientated and self-driven. Aalia is currently working as a Registered Nurse devoting her time on the frontline in the Intensive Care Unit at Alberta Hospital, Canada. Not only does Aalia dedicate her time to caring for sick patients, but she also teaches part-time at the Nursing Program at Alberta Hospital, passing on her vast knowledge and skills to the Nursing students enrolled.

Aalia moved to Canada in 2002 and has lived there ever since. Having worked in Paediatrics and ICU in the only hospital in Haiti, Aalia described this as one of her most humbling experiences. During that same year, she pursued a Masters of Nursing and shortly after she graduated, she published her first journal article in the Canadian Journal of Critical Care Nursing.

Aalia has a passion for travel and adventure, having visited many countries around the world. She considers herself pretty active with hiking, biking, soccer, camping, swimming, golf and gym occupying most of her spare time. She also enjoys baking and cake decorating.

It was a pleasure to catch up with this inspirational lady for this month’s Heart-to-Heart.

What did you love most about St John’s D.S.G?

As a boarder from Kenya being so far away from my family, at such a tender age was certainly not easy. However, St John’s D.S.G. fostered a sense of belonging and the tight knit community enabled me to establish some wonderful friendships. I was particularly grateful for my classmates and their families who welcomed me into their homes, as this made my holidays and weekends feel a little less lonely. My Matric year was my favourite! Matric girls were given all sorts of privileges, working up an appetite for responsibility and independence. I love that participating in sports was an integral part of our education. This taught me the importance of work-life balance and exposed me to activities I may not have otherwise experienced. Most of all, I loved the camps we went on, where I was given an opportunity to explore the beauty of South Africa and participate in all kinds of fun activities.

 What does success mean to you and how did St John’s D.S.G. equip you for life after school?

For me, success is more about one’s personal journey and the process rather than the result or the destination. It’s about feeling fulfilled when working towards a goal, regardless of the outcome. When one can reflect back on the experiences along the way and acknowledge personal growth with a feeling of contentment; this to me is success.

Boarding school in Canada is totally unheard of. When I first moved there, I had to take a couple of classes at a college. I so vividly recall how foreign it felt being in an environment where students were given so much liberty to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. That’s when the meaning of the word “respect” found a new dimension for me. The discipline, structure and routine at St John’s D.S.G., with the intentions of shaping mature, responsible and respectable individuals most certainly influenced my values and character. This has been invaluable in both my personal and professional life.

What advice do you have for our current girls and their families?

So often we spend time and energy fixating on what’s next, and looking forward to things in the future, that we forget to live in the moment and be present. Embrace and appreciate your youth, when life is mostly fun and carefree. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone because you’ll surprise yourself with how many memories are made, how much growth happens and how resilient you can be when you put your mind to it. Be cautious in waiting for “the right time” because often it never arrives. My favourite quote is by Zig Ziglar, “If you wait until all the lights are green before you leave home, you’ll never get started on your trip to the top.” The beautiful thing about this is that ‘the top’ can be whatever you want it to be, but take the leap of faith and trust the process.

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