From Iran to Minnesota: An International Student’s Story
By Lydia Olund
College can be a challenge all on its own, but imagine having to complete courses in a different country, taught in a different language other than your primary language, and with a different style of teaching and learning. For some, this would be a task all too intimidating, requiring too much work. This is not the case for international student, Behnaz Torabi.
When her husband was presented with a scholarship, Behnaz moved from Iran to the United States in 2010 to join him in Kansas while he completed his bachelor’s degree. Although she struggled to learn the English language, she persevered and continued to work at it in hopes of attending college and being successful. Four years later, they moved to Minnesota and she applied to be a student at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
When asked what it’s like to study education in a different country, Torabi responded saying, “It’s very different and a lot harder because not only do I have to keep up on my English, it also takes me a lot longer to read and grasp the concept of textbooks.”
This is because while reading, if she doesn’t understand a word, she has to translate it to Persian, her primary language, and then try to understand the meaning of it. She also talked about the independence and motivation that is required for attending school in Iran and how important staying focused is.
“In American, College professors are much more involved in the learning process and help the students whereas in Iran, instructors assign very little homework and then just administer final exams, so each student is responsible for their own failure or success,” Torabi explained. The expression, ‘the pressure is on’ applies all too well in this situation.
While some would think that the pressure to succeed in school would be too much to handle, mothers like Behnaz not only have to think about studying, they have to find time for parental duties, too. Having a daughter means trying to find a balance between the two. Because both Behnaz and her husband are college students, along with her husband working a full-time job, they set a routine that is both convenient and beneficial for them and their daughter.
Although it may be a struggle at times and things can get stressful, she stated, “I’m actually happy and comfortable with the way things are right now because it works for us.”
Hard work is not foreign to Behnaz. In Iran, she obtained her Ph.D. in business administration and has her sights set on a master’s degree in the future.
Although Behnaz says that the best way to learn a foreign language is to travel to the country of origin and live there, when asked what one piece of advice she would give to a fellow international student, she replied, “I would tell them to try to learn the English language in their country first before coming to the U.S. because no matter how much the environment or an instructor helps you, it all depends on the work that you do yourself and how much time is spent in studying.”
Inspiring, hard-working, and dedicated are all words that could be used to describe this determined student. While she may face troubles and have to spend twice as much time doing her homework than some other students, nothing seems to phase or discourage her. Behnaz is the kind of student to cares about her education just as much as she cares for her family and friends.