Mehdi’s punt on Cambridge pays off

Mehdi Arif had everything going for him when he decided on a change of direction. So he studied Access to Law at Kensington and Chelsea College and is now on his way to Cambridge University.

Here he tells his story.

Growing up, I’ve always been told that there were some things that I could not do. But then again I’ve always challenged the limits that were set to me by other people.

I was born and raised in Morocco, where my friends had a defeatist mentality.

While in the United States the motto is “Yes we can”, in Morocco, I was told many times that I will not succeed. My Physics and Chemistry teacher in my final baccalaureate year affirmed in front of me and my whole class that I not only won’t pass my final exam, but I will never amount to anything. So did a previous high school principal. Just because I chose unorthodox ways of learning without caring about what other people thought. An uncle told me that I was too soft for combat sports. Former classmates told me that I will never make it to a top university.

To this day, I have fully pledged myself to focusing on one and only one priority. Proving everyone wrong. I have always and will forever be that kid who was stubborn enough to do what people told him he could not. In many instances I have been thinking about my old Physics and Chemistry teacher, wanting to show up and tell him that I’ve gone against his speculation and beat his odds, and passed my baccalaureate with a major in the same subject he taught. Many times I’ve wanted to have a sit-down with my uncle to tell him that I’m doing very well at martial arts. Many times I’ve wanted to see that principal that never believed in me to show him that I’ve become more successful than he could have imagined.

A few months after getting my baccalaureate, I have decided to leave Morocco and move to the United Kingdom. That was the biggest challenge of my life so far, given that my English was not that great and that I had little to no connections or friends in this country. I did not know what to expect, but one thing I was sure about was that the environment here is competitive and that I was going to have to grind in order to gain something significant out of this move.

The move happened in late 2012. At first it was nothing but confusion, not socialising due to my previously poor English, locking myself in. Later on I found a martial arts gym. That’s where I found all the support I needed, people that I could socialise with, great coaches and good friends. They saw the potential in me and the “want” factor. Once the time was right they’ve pushed me towards various competitions, locals at first, then regionals, onto nationals and internationals later on.

The competing process was packed with failure. However, as the motivational speaker Eric Thomas said: “Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour or a day, or even a year. But eventually, it will subside. And something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”

If there is something I am not, it’s definitely a quitter. I am naturally stubborn, therefore the little bumps on the road were not enough to stop me. I kept grinding every day, Monday to Monday, until I started winning, then I wanted some more so the grind never stopped. Everyday I woke up with one and only one goal, and it’s to be the best at what I was going to do that day.

A few years later, my body had to take a break from the competitive aspect of sports due to several injuries. But I was not planning to stop there anyway. Being the hyperactive person I am, I had to find something else to do well at. After spending a few days trying to find myself again I have decided to take a step forward and hop back into education.

This time it wasn’t to study a science, but an art. I chose to become a Law student – and there can be no doubt that effective advocacy in a court of law is an art. I decided to put my heart and soul into it.

Following that decision I have started to do some research. However holding an International Baccalaureate with a major of Physics was not opening many doors to me, therefore I took the decision to take two steps back in order to create momentum and leap forward.

I started researching foundation courses in Law, and that’s when I landed on the Access to Higher Education course in Law offered by the Kensington and Chelsea College. Without an ounce of hesitation, I filled out the application form and waited impatiently for an answer and an invitation to enrol myself into the course. An invitation received a couple of weeks later marked the beginning of a whole new journey, with the sole goal of a bright career in Law.

Being a student with little to no legal knowledge at the beginning of the course, I did not have any high expectations. The end goal was simply to make it to university. My law tutor saw the potential in me and pushed me to apply to a top university amongst my more average choices. I was sceptical at first but I did it. After all it was just one choice wasted out of five.

I did not think much of it. All I was focused on was performing well at my assignments and writing satisfying essays in order to achieve flawless marks, therefore my daily life was mainly waking up, training, heading to college, going back home, doing my own independent studies and research before going to sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Following application, I ended up receiving an invitation for interviews and a law test at Cambridge. I had spent the days leading up to it being extremely nervous. However that did not hold me back from showing up. I showed up and performed. Following the interviews and the exam I decided to clear my mind completely from what has happened and focus entirely on getting the perfect score of 45 credits at Distinction in order to fill in the university’s requirements which I eventually got at the end of the year, securing myself a place at a university no one has ever thought I’d get into.

After graduating I would like to keep studying and learning. I’d also like to study other legal systems such as the American legal system, and possibly move onto political science. Following this course and the support offered by my tutors, I have finally discovered my true potential. Thanks to them, I am not going to stop at a Bachelors degree in law. The sky is the limit and I am planning to test those limits.