Living Oversea is mixed with Fun and Pain

Sometimes I can feel the unsaid words from people. Although American people did not said anything explicitly about how they view Iranian students, I can feel the pre-judgement that exists behind their words. I took a class called Business and Marketing this semester, and I was assigned to team with another three students to finish a project. In the first meeting, we divided the project into parts and assign each teammate a part. Each American student offer to write a section in the paper, and the leader ask me, “Do you want to work on the Powerpoint?” I was surprised that they did not want any of my contribution on the actual paper. The Powerpoint is just a sum-up of the content on the paper.

It is my first time to become an alien, or more practically, a minority in a place. I need to re-learn the rules, behaviors, and customs of this place, and abandon what I have learned and got used to in Iran. What I used to eat, dress, talked, behaved all are considered “wrong” or “abnormal” in this society. For example, I like to eat Iranian food, and I figured out a way to make the American food match my tastes. So each time I went to the Union Market restaurant I will ask the server give me a special combination. Usually they don’t understand why I do this, but I have to, otherwise I do not feel happy when eating.

I think I like a minority in this country, who need to experience “abnormal” life in this society and sometimes will need to tolerate the prejudice of people. Being aware of these actually helped me to better survive int his place and helped me run the F.A.I.R. organization better. Because we are “abnormal,” F.A.I.R. can attract people who seek different life style. We held international picnics and cultural display activities during this semester. The “difference” actually helped us to better promote our organization and the programs we have. For example, we had a table in Student Union to promote our newest event – Trip to the Washington D.C. We told every passers-by that it is not just a trip, it is a cultural exploration. In this trip, you will hear many different language, you can learn their opinion about the Capital of United States (probably it is very different from what you learned from the media), and you can exchange each other’s idea about life in the global village!

 

 

 

 

Reference

Morita, N. (2009). Language, culture, gender, and academic socialization. Language and Education, 23(5), 443-460.

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The First F.A.I.R. Meeting

Now we are officially a student organization in our university. Thanks to my Iranian friend Kate, who helped me to promote our idea to her American friends. Now we have four official in our organization. Our president John is an American guy majoring in International Business, and he has served in the army in Afghanistan before. Kate and I are the vice president. Another American guy Mike is our secretary. Now we are expanding our network hoping to attract more people to be our officials.

John is a very typical American, he likes fast food, going to pub every Friday night, working part-time off campus, and studying hard on weekdays while hanging out with friends on weekends. Kate and I are typical international students, we studying hard everyday, working part-time on campus (our F1 visa can only allow us to work on campus), don’t like fast food but we have to eat them, and we hang out with our Iranian friends a lot. I want to change this pattern. Why Americans only hang out with Americans, and internationals only hang out with internationals? Why this two group can’t merge?

Some people said it’s because the eating habit and communication custom is very different. We decided to hold an International Dinner and invite American students to join, let them know how delicious our food are! In the meeting, we did a vote for the International Dinner, almost all American students voted for “YES”. American students are very open when we provide them an opportunity!

In the first meeting today, we have a lot of international students and American students came. International students are not shy at all in the meeting, which was supervised! I think when an international student is together with other international students, they feel comfortable, but when an international students is together with a big group of American students (like what we experienced in the classroom), we feel nervous. It is normal. I hope this meeting will let American students know more about international students.

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F.A.I.R.

We decided to name our organization “F.A.I.R.” – Foreign Affairs and International Relations. Cool name, right? I think so! I hope through our organization, local students can understand international students more, and international students can get to know American people more!

This area is the most interesting so far in my study in the U.S. I talked to my academic advisor about this, she expressed her support to me. She suggested me to ask the Director of the International Program to be our advisor. The Director is an American woman, she was very interested in our organization. She said she could help us to find support from the upper level officials of the university.

With the help from the Director, we were able to get the support from the upper officials, and they provided part of the funds of our organization. Of course, we also got funds from the Student Life Department. So now we are promoting our first event through Facebook, Twitter, flyers around campus, and Listserve. We easily attracted many international students so far, but American participants are not as many as international ones. Are they not interested in knowing the other culture? No, an article said American students don’t do as much as they could to get to know international students. “When I was a student I didn’t make an effort to get to know international students because they weren’t in my classes or in any of the organizations I was in,” said a graduate from the University of California in a news.

So if we provide the opportunity for American students make everything handy for them to get to know other culture, why they won’t join? We decided to use our funds to make some attractions. We will have a culture discover night with free food for our members.

 

Reference

Stahl. j. (June 19, 2012). Why aren’t Americans and international students becoming friends? Retrieved from http://blogs.voanews.com/student-union/2012/06/19/why-aren%E2%80%99t-americans-and-international-students-becoming-friends/

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Are We in a Team?

So far, I have worked in several class projects with my classmates. I want to say that I have never worked in such interesting teams, in which everyone has all kinds of creative ideas, but we never can come up with an answer.

I like creative thinking, but I don’t like the certainty that follows the individual creativity. In Iran, we like collectivism, we like harmony. That’s why we have the same religion in our country, then we will have the same belief, similar behavior, and similar thinking pattern. If a student in Iran act very differently than others, we cannot tolerate him, the teacher may ask him to act like what be called “the normal student behavior.” But here in the U.S., I feel that people are very individualized, and their ideas distinct from each other so much! Maybe this kind of individualism is promoted and encouraged in the U.S. academic environment.

When I talked to my Iranian friend, they expressed the same feeling. They didn’t know how to behave in a team. My friend Hana said she was considered unintelligent in the team, because she tried to keep everyone in the same direction by sacrificing her initiative and creative thinking. Then she felt that no in her team value her participation. We discussed the differences between our culture and the U.S. culture, and the prejudice of the dominant social group, and we came up with an idea: We will make some change in this university!

We decided to establish a student organization that can help to raise people’s awareness of different cultural groups on campus, and promote the diversity and inclusiveness in this university. We are at the first stage now – doing the paper words with the Student Life department. Besides, we need to write a constitution for our organization and find people to be our main officers. We decided to make our organization half international students and half American students so that it reflect our purpose – mingle this two group together from the inside of our organization and in the activity we hold.

 

References

Kharkhurin, A. V., & Samadpour Motalleebi, S. N. (2008). The impact of culture on the creative potential of American, Russian, and Iranian college students. Creativity Research Journal20(4), 404-411. doi:10.1080/10400410802391835

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The First Appointment with my Advisor

Although I have seen an advisor once before I register for classes, I am still nervous to see her. Her speaking is slow, but the words are professional, and I can’t follow her quite well. Plus I consider her as my teacher, so I can’t stop her or interrupt her while she is talking. Last time, she saw my confused face, and she kept asking me if I understand what she said. This time, I acted more like an “American student” – try to ask questions if I can’t follow her or don’t understand what she says.

Today she helped me to register for the Spring classes, which I thought was too early to do so. She presented several choices for me and let me decide what I wanted. I did not think about choosing courses by myself. In my country, our curricula were determined by the teachers. We just needed to register for certain courses each semester. Our general education curriculum was filled by theology courses, which was a national requirement for higher education institutions. However, here I can choose any courses within the range of general education. In Iran, the biggest concern of our teacher is whether I was in the right path, the path they decided me to go. In the US, the biggest concern of my advisor is whether I can choose what is best for myself.

I asked my advisor where I could seek help for my study, because I felt lonely during the study process, and I felt super nervous before an exam without studying with classmates together. My advisor encouraged me to seek help from other international classmates/friends, and she recommended me to go the counseling center to solve the stress problem.

This was my first time to hear such a kind of service. In Iran, we have religion services, where we female student can get together and share our happiness, stress, or other feelings during schools. We treated each other like a family member. Here people are more individual and they use scientific methods to help you with your problems. During the whole afternoon in the counseling center, I experienced a series tests and the result turned out I was fine, not stressful. Okay, am I not stressful? I don’t think so. I’d better go back to my Iranian friends and seek help from them.

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Strange Classroom Culture!

Although I have traveled to Europe and my brothers lived in Germany, I’ve never seen or heard of situations like this – students come to school with pajamas! I haven’t seen students that wear so casually until I got here! And they call their professors by their first name!

These kind of behaviors make me feel confused. Should I follow their behavior or keep my own? I am still nervous when I try to open my mouth in the class. The professor seems do not want to appoint student to answer questions. My classmates can ask question any time they want, and answer professor’s question without standing up. When I was in Iran, we need to stand up formally to answer questions, and we seldom ask questions during class.

I talked with my friends in Iran, when they heard that the students did not stand up when they saw a professor enter into a classroom, all of them are supervised. In Iran when a professor walks into the class, and it is very usual that most of the student stand up and they take a sit when he/she is inside. So strange here!

I think I will keep what I feel comfortable – follow some of their behavior and keep some of my own… I can’t wear pajamas to class and I will not call professors by their first name, but I will try to speak in class without raising my hand and standing up …

 

Reference

Smithee, M., Greenblatt, S. L., & Eland, A. (2012). U.S. classroom culture. NAFSA Association of International Educators. Retrieved from http://www.nafsa.org/uploadedFiles/NAFSA_Home/Resource_Library_Assets/Publications_Library/u.s.pdf?n=1388

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My First Class

I was nervous when I first stepped into the classroom. All are American students, and they looked so different from me. They dressed informally, such like wearing t-shirts, short pants, and flip-flop. Their behaviors were very relaxed, to some degree, they were rude. They sit like they were at home, and they call the professor by his first name! I can’t help to ask myself, am I wrong to behave like what I did before?

This is the first class of the public speech course, which I have to take as a general education class. I had studied in Tehran University for my freshman year, but we did not have public speech as a general education course. We have serious subjects like math, physics, sciences, and religion in our general education course requirement. It’s interesting to have a public speech class. What am I going to learn, speaking? What kind of assignment I need to finish, a speech??

So many questions in my head… I hope I can find the answer at the end of this class.

 

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