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From Refugee to Fulbright Scholar

Adversity is the gift that everyone receives and nobody wants.

Abbas Nazari is a former Afghan refugee who fled the Taliban in 2001.

Abbas was one of more than 400 asylum seekers who were rescued by the Norwegian container ship, the MV Tampa, in the Indian Ocean as they sought asylum in Australia in 2001. After being denied asylum in Australia and held offshore for weeks by Australian special forces, Abbas and his family were eventually resettled in New Zealand.

Having arrived as an eight year old with no English, Abbas went on to place third in the New Zealand Spelling Bee a few years later, play representative rugby, and graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelors in Diplomacy and International Relations.

In 2019 he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and went on to complete a Master's at Georgetown University in Washington DC. While in the United States, Abbas wrote and published his family memoir, After The Tampa: From Afghanistan to New Zealand which has received critical acclaim and become a number 1 New Zealand bestseller.

As a speaker, Abbas shares his journey, his experiences of thriving in a foreign country, and some lessons learned along the way.

Talking Points

A Story of True Grit: A Journey Across Continents & Cultures

Abbas Nazari's extraordinary journey from fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan to becoming a Fulbright scholar encapsulates the essence of resilience, adaptability, and the human spirit. He shares incredible tales along with imagery from his inspiring journey, offering unique perspectives on overcoming adversity and building a community in a new country. His story is a testament to his resilience and the generosity of nations which inspires hope and emphasises the importance of understanding and empathy in the challenges we face today.

Key Takeaways:
- The Power of Perseverance: Learn from Abbas' remarkable journey from fleeing the Taliban to excelling in the academic, sporting and business world.

- Thriving Through Adversity: Delve into the challenges and triumphs of creating a new community while maintaining one's roots, as experienced by Abbas and his family.

- The Art of Storytelling for Change: Discover the impact of storytelling, as highlighted by the success and influence of Abbas's bestselling memoir, and how it contributes to broader dialogues on immigration, shared identities, and resilience.

Abbas tells his story candidly, with humour, intellect, and warmth. In inviting Abbas Nazari to speak, audiences will be enlightened by a firsthand account of the most spellbinding journey of determination, the challenges faced, and the incredible resilience that can guide one to success against all odds.
Abbas is an incredible speaker, and leaves everyone wanting more. We have had plenty of speakers, but he is a cut above. Cromwell Paper Plus

Outstanding! Authentic, true, moving. Highly recommended.

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

Abbas was AMAZING. He is truly a professional. We loved working with him and wow'd our crowd. He received a standing ovation and truly was one of a kind.


Abbas was communicative, on time, very engaging and friendly. He is a true professional, though he felt more like a long-time buddy coming to talk than a professional which is a great fit for us!

BCD Group

Abbas was engaging and connected with the audience well, he had a good mix of personal, historic/context and humour in his story. He stuck to time well and all comments post the session have been positive. By looking at the rate his book sold out after the session I would say attendees were very happy with the event, and left wanting to read more.


It was a privilege to have Abbas speak at the Steadfast convention, he was an engaging and exceptional speaker, he had the audience, laughing, crying and everything in between. He had everyone captivated and with his moving stories and inspired all present at his presentation. I would highly recommend him as a standout speaker, you are in for a treat!


Abbas did an incredible job at engaging with our audience, his down-to-earth personality, topped with his professionalism, makes him so easy to listen to and get along with. Our staff thoroughly enjoyed his session and took a lot away from his life experience! If there is one word we could use to sum up how Abbas’ story made us feel, it’s Gratitude - an overwhelming sense of gratefulness and feeling thankful for the lives we have, and the journey others have been on for safety and freedom.


Abbas was a delight to work with and he really resonated with our audience. He has a very relaxed and a engaging manner, yet his story is compelling and challenging. He was very relevant for this conference and gave our delegates much to think about. A resounding success!

New Zealand Principals’ Federation
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