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1978 The Year My Life Changed
I was born in 1958 in a city called Sari, the capital of the state of Mazandaran in Iran, commonly known as Persia. I was the third child in a family of six girls. When I was born, Iran had a monarchy regime under the control of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Life was very similar to this country with the exception of no political freedom. I was raised in a middle class family with both my parents working for the Ministry of Education.
Both the Iranian culture and my parents placed a great deal of emphasis in children achieving high grades in school so they could be more competitive for getting into university. They believed knowledge and higher education would lead to a more secure and happier life. I remember a very large part of my growing up involved studying, studying and more studying.
However, the summertime was very different and we had much more fun. It involved going to our villa by the Caspian Sea. Summer consisted of lots of swimming, collecting shells, watching movies outdoor on a large screen, eating roasted corn while walking along the shore and playing cards and other activities with my sisters and cousins. One of my happiest memories growing up was going to movies with my grandma during summer time. She always enjoyed doing fun stuff with my sisters and I.
As a teenager, I loved to cook for fun. I had a nice small set of copper cooking dishes that my best friend and I used to make various Persian dishes. Then we would play a game of inviting other people like my sisters and whoever happened to come to our house on a given day, like my grandma or my uncle, and then we would serve them with whatever we cooked. They always praised us a lot for making “yummy” dishes even if they weren’t. That really boosted my confidence and now as an adult, I am very comfortable making old and new dishes whenever I want to.
When I was a freshman in high school, I knew that I wanted to pursue engineering in college. I majored in math and worked very hard and always achieved high grades. As I said before, my life was limited to studying all the time during the school year. So it wasn’t surprising to be able to perform well in school and get good grades.
After I graduated from high school, I needed to take a university entrance exam, somewhat similar to the SAT but probably much harder, at least that is how I remember it now. My score was very good but not good enough for the two or three public engineering universities that were available to me back in 1977.
At that time, there were handful of engineering universities in Iran. It was extremely competitive to get accepted to an engineering and/or a medical school. Unless you were in the top 1% of your class, the chance of you getting into these programs was slim to none. So, I thought my life was over. After working so hard in school for 12 years, I had no future. I became very depressed.
At no time, was there any discussion with my family of going abroad to pursue higher education. As a matter of fact, my dad frowned upon any parents who sent their kids to other countries for any kind of studying. I think he feared for the safety of the students going abroad, especially if you were a girl. When he was faced with the unexpected and my deep sadness and lack of a prosperous future, he decided to send me to the United States with the help of his cousin who at the time was living in the San Francisco area.
In just a few months, all my necessary paperwork was ready and I found myself sitting with my parents in an airplane for the first time in my life, headed for San Francisco. That was August 1978. I never planned or imagined such a trip in my future. I truly believe that it was God’s plan for me all along. My destiny!
My first night in the united states was scary, lonely and lost. Since I had a very sheltered childhood with minimal experience outside of my hometown, the adjustment to a new culture, people, school, food and new language was overwhelming at the age of 19. In order to help me learn the language faster, my dad’s cousin made an arrangement with one of his friends so I could live with them for a few months. They were very nice and kind people but I was homesick a lot. I used to go to my room every night and cry and question my decision about coming to the United States.
As time passed, it became somewhat easier. I met some Iranian students at the University of San Francisco where I was learning English as a second language. It helped me a lot to be comforted with these new friends and be assured that my feelings were normal and in due time, life would become much easier. After six months of living in San Francisco, I happily moved to Boston because my older sister and her husband moved to the United States to pursue their master’s degrees in Agricultural Engineering. We got an apartment together and I was much happier. In August of 1979, I got my acceptance to Northeastern University in Boston in the Civil Engineering program. It was a great feeling that my childhood dream of becoming an engineer was finally coming to a reality.
Absolutely, without any doubts I am happy about my decision. After working very hard, I graduated from Northeastern University with a Civil Engineering degree in May 1984. I was very proud of myself after achieving my childhood goal. I met my husband in the physics class during our first semester in college. We got married in August of 1981 in Marion, Massachusetts at his parents’ summer house where you had an opportunity to visit last summer. A couple of months before graduating from Northeastern University, my sister came to the United States to pursue her dream of going to college. I was very happy to once again have one of my sisters in this country since my older sister and her husband left this country after a year and moved back to Iran.
After graduating from Northeastern, my husband wanted to get his masters degree in Structural Engineering and he got accepted to UT Austin. In August 1984, we moved to Austin and have been living here since then. Shortly after moving to Austin, I found a job with an engineering firm and later worked for the City of Austin Transportation Department for 23 years until I retired. About six months after we moved to Austin, another one of my sisters came to Austin to pursue her dream of going to college. We were all very excited to have her coming here and expand our family. We all lived together for five years until both my sisters achieved their goals of graduating from college. While we were living together, my husband and I had our two sons. When I look back, I see God’s hand in shaping and blessing my life in ways that resulted in so many more blessings for my sisters including you coming into this world. I am very grateful for every opportunity that this country has given me and proud to call myself an American.