Dubai She looks like your average 16-year-old, but when you get a chance to talk to her, you are sure to realise you have been gravely mistaken.
Parizad Bidshahri — Raya to her friends and family — has an astounding record for her age.
She's the Deputy Head Girl of her school, The Winchester School Dubai; president of the school's Astronomy Club and Science Club, She writes for the Phoebus online magazine, a keynote speaker at the Winchester Leadership Conference, and the 2011-12 winner of the school's Principal's Award.
Bidshahri is also the recipient of the Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Award for Excellence 2012.
That is not to mention her dearest achievement to date, which is earning multiple medals and breaking a record at this year's World Scholar's Cup.
The World Scholar's Cup is an international team academic tournament that was held in Dubai on March 23 and 24. Bidshahri swept 10 medals in various categories, finished in first place overall and broke a record.
Her passion for knowledge started when she began reading about science.
"The first encyclopaedia I ever read was in the second grade, I got a World Atlas and The Human Body from my mum for show and tell, because I didn't have anything else to take. Ever since then I have been reading occasionally, but in the 10th grade it seriously started, I stared reading more."
Bidshahri is planning to study neuroscience.
"It is the study of the brain that makes it all possible. I think it all goes down to how we perceive it and it all goes down to us. That is why I want to go deep into the problem — right into our heads." She said her next conquest and top priority is trying to get the best grades in her IGCSE exams so she can get into a good university.
"Honestly I do not see anything as useless knowledge, so I read as much as I can," Bisdhahri said.
Managing time comes naturally to Bidshari. She said the key thing is to do things over time and not to sign up for everything all at once.
She does not put all her efforts into academics. She is also highly involved in charity and community service. Bidshahri was completely responsible for the Smiles Campaign, a charity campaign in which students collected food and personally gave it to labourers.
Rohan Roberts, Head of Professional Development at Winchester School, who is Bidshahri's English teacher, said that what makes Bidshahri remarkable is that she "does not only read, but she understands it and is able to teach others."
Bidshahri gives lectures at the school's Astronomy club meetings.
Bidshahri is part of the Gifted and Talented Programme (G&T), an individual educational plan for students who are found to be outstanding in certain fields.
"I meet with Mr Roberts once a week every Thursday and we go through things that interest me and challenge me at the same time. We analyse a poem, or maybe talk about something scientific or we go through philosophical dilemmas," Bidshahri said.
Roberts said, "It is not the case of the school telling Raya what to do, what to believe. She lets us know what she is interested in and we let her do her own research and present back to us."