Sharia Bahar: Barrister-at-Law at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn
Posted: 18 January 2023
Sharia Bahar is a Chittagong Grammar School (CGS) alumna (2014) and a Law School Graduate who thrives on innovation and diversity of thought. Sharia experienced an education that went beyond the textbook. “We were taught that we were able to offer something, be part of a group or a community. You don’t realise what you are learning when you are part of such an international environment – you’re subconsciously learning, but you really are learning a lot.” Sharia continues to seek connections, develop ideas and find ways to innovate.
Sharia is a City, University of London Law Graduate (LLB and BPTC) who is planning on continuing her studies in Law in New York. After her studies in London, Sharia returned to Bangladesh. Her plans were disrupted, it was the beginning of the pandemic, and she needed to stay close to family. It was during this time when Sharia once more realised the value of her diverse educational experiences, both from her family and from her school.
Her family had always encouraged her to take risks and learn to solve problems on her own; their belief in experiential learning and capacity building set the stage for Sharia. She shares that her father strongly believes in empowerment and leadership, and this was most evident when she did not want to go to Australia on her own. She remembers his words and how they emboldened her to take risks she was unsure about. He told her that it was important that she made the journey on her own, drawing on the skills she already had to solve new problems. He told her not to be scared, “You know what to do, you can read English so there is nothing to be afraid of”.
Sharia believes that the experiences she had on exchange and at conferences prepared her for life when she left Chittagong and went to study in the UK.
“I was always clear in my head that I wanted to do my BPTC and LLB, I knew that I would have to travel. I’ve seen students go through culture shock when they move to another country. The students struggle to mix and socialise with people of different backgrounds, but because at CGS we were part of Round Square, we had been thrown into different environments.”
Sharia thinks that her participation in conferences prepared her to reach out to others, embrace diversity, celebrate difference, and look for what connects people rather than what sets them apart.
“Although you might think that you have nothing in common with others, you soon realise that there is a lot of common ground. You realise that it is only in your head. Everyone is a friend if you make an effort.”
When she returned home after her studies in London, Sharia was able to observe the differences between her way of thinking and the thinking of others. With the backing of her mother, she took over as Head of Operations at two restaurants and founded a bakery and coffee shop. Although vastly different to her studies at university, Sharia found that she was able to draw from, and build upon, skills she has developed throughout her schooling. The times she had taken risks and put herself in problem-solving situations had developed her confidence and her entrepreneurial spirit, “entrepreneurship really shapes your personality – I am so glad that I had these experiences because now I feel more confident in taking risks. It was because of CGS and Round square that I was able to push my boundaries. I was more confident in the way I saw myself, in the way I conducted myself.”
Working closely with her mother, she understood how traditional leadership and innovative leadership could complement each other. Her experiences in different contexts meant that she brought new ideas to conversations and her visions enhanced her mother’s business. “We had this generation gap between the way she conducts business and the exposures I had from my learning at school and my years abroad.”
Sharia explains that it is her comfort with innovation and creativity- her ability to think outside of the box – that came from her school experiences. “Why do I think outside the box? It’s because I was engineered to do so from a young age. I was exposed to different conversations. I was exposed to different cultures.”
Sharia has a unique perspective; in addition to running her businesses, she is working at Chittagong Grammar School as a teacher of Law. Her experiences, both as a teacher and a student, bring a richness to her responses as she reflects on how a values-led, experiential-focused education has influenced her beyond school.
Sharia encourages all of her students to go on exchanges. “It really does change you” she says.“Before going to Australia, I was a little more scared but I came back more confident and saw myself navigating difficult situations in a calm and poised manner.”
At a recent Round Square International Conference, Sharia was able to observe her students embracing many of the experiences she had as a young student.
“It was so lovely to be a spectator, knowing that they are not going to be the same after the conference. They are going to take so many positive things away with them. Much more confidence and many new friends. They will have friends for life, like I do!”
Sharia is looking forward. She will complete her master’s degree in New York and take the Bar Exam. Her ability to adapt and re-invent herself is testament to her resilience, flexibility, and creativity. Although the pandemic interrupted her plans, she has drawn upon her skills and desire to share her experience and knowledge with others and created a lasting impact on those around her.
When asked to reflect on the advice she would give to students today, she says,
“grasp every experience that comes your way. Be a part of things beyond the textbook. Grades are important but go beyond the knowledge and look for the experiences.