Emma becomes an inspiration, and every summer, she will recognize all those who unknowingly embody her spirit.
Nourhan and Emma have something in common: an uneven journey that left them disoriented at times. But who would we be without our stories and the adventures we lived when we found ourselves off course? Without losing our way, we would miss the happiness that comes with finding your way once again. Something like that happened to Emma, and it is that, which she tried to teach us, inspiring us with how she found ways around dead-end situations that seemed to have no path forward. Above all, Emma continues to be a courageous spirit.
Her love for others, her joy of life and her strength will inspire us and will be shared every summer with students who she would have connected, who would have reminded her of herself, even if she would not have known that, one day, there would exist an award to link them to her. The Emmanuella Vernikou Award for Inspirational Spirit was bestowed this year to Nourhan Tarek El Shenawy, a senior Deree College student. Nourhan will now have something of Emma’s, because she “inspired those around her to transform challenges to opportunities, to overcome obstacles in order to realize their dreams.”
Shy and rather introverted, she found her own strength along with support from her new academic home when she arrived from Egypt to study at Deree. She was an exceptional student and was rewarded academically, while simultaneously took active part in the student community in spite of having to face many difficulties, which she surpassed decisively with optimism for life. In other words, she carved her own path until she attained her goals and lived her dreams. She showed us the exact elements that Emma would applaud: power of spirit with strong motivation and courage.
After Nourhan realized that isolating herself was going to thwart her from moving toward her vision of life, she began to see big improvements in the quality of her own learning. She improved the way she conceived of education, learning and knowledge; she discovered how much more she could learn and grow every time she allowed herself to take part in creative conversations, and every time she expressed herself.
How did she manage this? Through self-reflection. By observing everything and trying to analyze her own behavior. “We must understand who we are in order to become able to change ourselves,” she says, and she explains: “I began to expose myself to all kinds of situations that allowed me to realize what I like and what I do not like. By pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I had the opportunity to explore many aspects of my personality, and that increased my self-confidence; I learned which conversations I enjoy and make me feel good about myself.”
Her inspiration gave her the strength for the “impossible!” “I am talking about the times when people tell you that you cannot achieve something, because you do not have the means—e.g. time, money, intelligence. But I believe that everyone can succeed in attaining any goal, as long as he or she perseveres, something that can happen when we have sources of inspiration and energy.”
“For me personally, inspiration means finding your Muse, and this is different for each one of us. Finding inspiration in adversity is a rare quality that is not shared by many people.”
“Maybe this is why Emma inspires us so much. I try every day to be as strong as she was. Knowing that someone can have such strength inside their heart helps me to carry on knowing that, whatever happens, I can overcome it, just like her.”
“I hope my example will also become an inspiration to others, helping them to feel good about themselves, and to believe they can change the world. I wish this especially for girls from my own country Egypt.”
“In general, I try to deal with everyday challenges in a positive way, without complaints. We all have bad days when we give into negative thoughts fueled by daily exhaustion, but the key is to take strength from small things.”
“Emma’s motto is “do something you love every day with people you love and who love you; find your life’s goal, and work to achieve it” – and I am in full agreement. I could not have expressed it better. That is the way to overcome daily difficulties.”
And as Emma’s father once wrote, “She lived without letting cancer dictate the way she was going to behave in her life.” To succeed in this goal, Nourhan says that you need “constant self-knowledge and tough personal work, so that you can continually refine your position toward life and everything around you.”
“Personally, love is what gives me most of my strength. Especially, my relationship with my mother, but also my family’s love, the little things like the sunrise, a song or a smile I exchange with a stranger.”
“The most important thing that enables you to deal effectively with adversity is to control your mind, and I believe everyone can do that. Nonetheless, we need mental strength and self-knowledge. The best road to achieve this is to push ourselves to go beyond our limits.”
As for the strength that she gets from all those who inspire her, she in turn shares it with others—and that is her biggest gift. As Nourhan says, “The thing you take each time you refuse to give up is in itself strength, which becomes a type of fuel propelling you forward.”
by Ero Partsakoulaki