• Karin said she had a blast “doing it for the girls” on Child Genius Australia. (SBS)
Born in Egypt, Karin has been shattering expectations since she was a baby, with her eyes set on space.
By
Sharon Verghis

20 Nov 2019 - 8:20 AM  UPDATED 20 Nov 2019 - 1:34 PM

In her high school yearbook, future NASA astronaut Jessica Meir wrote down a big, seemingly impossible dream: to go for a spacewalk one day. On October 18 this year, Meir and fellow astronaut Christina Koch made history after they successfully completely the first all-female spacewalk.

At home in regional NSW, this week, Karin, 13, has been making her own wishlist for the future. Top of the list? Following in Meir and Koch’s footsteps and venturing into space herself.

Born in Egypt, Karin has been shattering expectations since she was a baby.

Her mother, Mourine, a GP, recalls her surprise when her infant daughter memorised the words of an Arabic song at just 14 months old. “I was, oh my goodness, she can sing it. She could also read from four, she could memorise the Arabic alphabet and read words.”

“I was, oh my goodness, she can sing it. She could also read from four, she could memorise the Arabic alphabet and read words.”

In 2014, the family left Egypt for Australia where Karin began year two of primary school. She immediately showed a flair for maths and spelling, taking out the school spelling bee. Recently, she’s developed another passion - science.

Now in Year 7, she is doing accelerated maths and extension work in her other subjects, and according to Mourine, also excels outside academia with her passions including tennis, swimming, flute and karate: “she keeps us pretty busy!”

When Karin came to her and said she wanted to participate in SBS’s second season of Child Genius Australia, the four-part documentary competition series overseen by Australian Mensa and featuring 16 of Australia’s brightest kids, Mourine was happy to provide support and encouragement.

While Karin was sociable with plenty of friends, she needed a peer group on her intellectual wavelength, she says. “She’s interested in a lot of stuff, but often, she does things on her own. She doesn’t have someone to share her interests.”

The family travelled to Sydney and met other parents and children: one of the highlights of the show, Mourine says, was the social networks that were created with families still keeping in touch through What’s App groups.
For Karin, too, the highlight was the new social ties she formed.

While she loved the buzz of the actual competition - she had a blast “doing it for the girls”, she says – the best part of the experience was the sense of homecoming among a tribe of likeminded peers.

While she loved the buzz of the actual competition - she had a blast “doing it for the girls”, she says – the best part of the experience was the sense of homecoming among a tribe of likeminded peers.

“I’ve always been a bit different in class, I like to put up my hand and answer questions. I think that the best bit was this, knowing that there are other people out there who are exactly like you.

“We all connected, we all had the same train of thought, we were all on the same page, we were all able to challenge each other because we all knew each other’s limits. But for us, there weren’t really any limits because we were always open to things.”

With her passion for mathematics and science and new pathways opening with the rise of women in STEM, not having limits is a useful thing to have when you’re dreaming of a career in space.

“There are all these things we need to do about climate change but world leaders are just not getting the point. And I always keep saying, there’s so much we can do, but very few people are really taking a step.

“I feel like I want to make it better, see what we can do with science and what we can do in space, and see if there’s anything we can do about what’s happening on earth.”

“An astronaut? I’m definitely into to it. Anything fun, exciting, with a bit of risk and that has got lots of science. I mean, wow - that’s perfect right?”

Four-part series Child Genius Australia will air weekly from Wednesday, 20 November at 8.30pm on SBS. Catch up anywhere, anytime after broadcast on SBS On Demand.

Follow the conversation on social media using #ChildGenius

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