“I discovered sailing when I was 16. It was very late compared to the others, but I was hooked right away. It was love at first sight. I don’t know how to describe it. Sailing is an incredible feeling of freedom. The whole process of preparing your boat, putting on your gear, you’re in another state, almost meditative. And in Bizerte the water is beautiful, there is always wind, and it’s a lot of adrenaline. After the first year, I joined the competition team. It was quite rare to evolve so quickly. But it wasn’t that I was talented, I just think I was so passionate.
I did five years of competition. My first year I finished second to last, it was horrible (laughs)! The second year I had goals and a lot of pressure. I had progressed but I didn’t manage to reach them. And the third year is when I exploded. I was Tunisian champion in laser, 4th mixed and I also won the cup in individual and crew! After that, I was given a place in the national team for the African championship. It was also the selections for the Olympics. My coach didn’t tell me because he knew I would be too stressed. But in the end I finished 8th so I didn’t qualify.
Then I stopped competing because the pressure became too great and I couldn’t keep up with my studies. This last year I was still the Tunisian champion, and I decided to stop on that! Sailing has taught me a lot about myself and about life. For example, I am by nature very anxious about everything, and sailing has taught me how to manage my emotions in situations of pressure. And I learned that losing a race is not the end of the world, that you can still win the competition. And that is similar to life!
At university I studied international law and then I came to Switzerland to do a Masters. I had never been to Europe, and I had been told that the people here were very cold. But I found the people warm, even though I arrived in the middle of COVID. It was exciting to start this new adventure. The uni, the courses, the new meetings. And little by little I found my comfort zone here. When I returned to Tunisia in January, I felt like I didn’t belong to my circle of friends anymore. It was strange, as if we had evolved differently and couldn’t really get along. In just 2 years!
But now I don’t really know where home is anymore. I feel comfortable here, but I’ve kind of forgotten that I’m alone. You don’t realise it at first, but living abroad is being alone. That’s when I realised that I was so well surrounded in Tunisia. I miss the whole atmosphere there (laughs)! In Tunisia, my grandmother and my three uncles live right next door to us, so we see each other all the time. Here, people are more isolated. But Tunisia isn’t really my home any more either. It’s a weird and unpleasant feeling. I had friends who talked to me about this feeling all the time, and I never understood. But now I understand!
I grew up in an ordinary Tunisian family. I didn’t have to fight through life like some migrant women! I was able to do what I wanted, I was never told no to anything. This year, I did an internship at the APDH, and being confronted with all these experiences, I realised how privileged I was. Just by being Tunisian, I am privileged. Our revolution lasted three weeks. In Syria it’s still going on, and it’s very violent. There are many things in life that could never happen to me just because I am Tunisian. And I think part of my self-confidence is just knowing that I can always go home.”
Published as part of the mini-series “Of frontiers and women”, produced in partnership with APDH.