Janice Webster: University of Tehran is a unique and first-hand experience of Iran for international students

14 November 2020 | 15:55 Code : 30436 Lived Experience
One of the most effective solutions for scientific and cultural exchanges between countries is the presence of international students in universities; Students with customs, traditions, culture and social backgrounds different from other countries, who can be messengers of peace and friendship and communication between nations in addition to education, promotion and development of scientific fields.

The University of Tehran, emphasizing the development of international relations and scientific diplomacy, has always given a special place to the presence and activities of international students. For this reason, Hedieh Mirzaei, the university's public relations expert, in a series of conversations with top international students, investigated their concerns and the opportunities and challenges of international students' studies at Tehran University.

Janice Webster is from Canberra, Australia. This top international student has obtained her bachelor's degree in politics, culture and languages of the Middle East from the Australian National University in Canberra with a very good GPA. In 2015, she was admitted to the master's degree of the Faculty of World Studies and was able to finish this course in 2018 with a grade point average of 19.39. After applying for a scholarship and being accepted, she is currently studying for a Ph.D. degree in "Iranian Studies" at the Faculty of World Studies. According to her statement, in order to continue studying in her favorite field, she worked for about six years in the social and health research department, so that she could provide the cost of continuing her studies in Iran.

This top international student, at the beginning of the interview and in response to a question about the purpose and criteria she had for choosing University of Tehran as the university where she studied, said: "University of Tehran, as the highest university in Iran, is the best and most suitable option for studying in the field of Iranian Studies.. It should also be said that it has a better and more appropriate opportunity to gain experience and information about contemporary Iran than any university outside of Iran.

At the Faculty of World Studies, we learn various topics related to contemporary Iran from experienced domestic analysts and have the opportunity to participate in domestic and international conferences and seminars. For example, the speeches of intellectuals and ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the faculty seminars provide very useful opportunities to acquire first-hand knowledge in the field of contemporary Iran.
The student of the Faculty of World Studies explained his research activities as follows: "The topic of my master's thesis is related to the differences and similarities between the third and fourth teams of Iran's nuclear negotiators, and especially about the views of Iran's political elite on how to interact with the United States of America. It was based on the negotiations of the JCPOA Special Commission (2015) and that the nuclear deal is considered a continuation or change of Iran's foreign policy.

With the guidance of Dr. Mehdi Ahoei, she was able to examine the topic of her thesis and reach the conclusion that despite the obvious differences in style, method and perspective, the fundamental views, assumptions and expectations of the interaction between Iran and the United States are similar between all negotiators. Therefore, the nuclear agreement seems to be the continuation of Iran's foreign policy. She hopes that in her doctoral thesis she will be able to investigate more seriously the fields of post-colonialism and international relations and related matters.
Janice Webster mentioned that the field of "Iranian Studies" in the Faculty of World Studies is different from what is taught in the Faculty of Literature and Humanities.
From this student's point of view, in the Faculty of World Studies, more than historical contexts, contemporary political, economic, communication, cultural and religious issues are investigated. It is very attractive for her that any issue discussed in the classroom is also faced in the society and news. She also believes that for an international student who is interested in contemporary Iranian studies, no university outside of Iran can be compared to University of Tehran.
She further described her familiarity with Iran's history as a little weak, but said that she was able to solve this problem by attending the classes of Dr. Gudarz Rashtiani and Dr. Mansour Sefat Gol in the Faculty of Literature and Humanities as a guest student and benefited from the knowledge of these professors.

In the other part of this conversation, the student of the Faculty of World Studies considered her interest in Iranology to be a coincidence and explained how she got to know the Persian language as follows: "In my undergraduate course, I chose Arabic, which I think is a very difficult language and Unfortunately, I have forgotten the whole language and had to choose another language, and since I had friends and cooperation from Afghanistan, I chose Persian.

This top international student continued: "Thanks to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Australia, the university where I studied had very good and professional professors, and I was attracted to the cultural and artistic activities of Iranians in the university, including Nowruz celebration and poetry night. Another issue was that our class trip to an Arabic-speaking country was canceled, and I decided to enroll in the Farsi program for foreigners at Isfahan University for a semester instead (semester two of 2006). Although the first three months in Iran were very difficult, but after that it became a little easier for me to speak Persian, I found good Iranian friends, I became interested in the Iranian lifestyle, and since then I have been looking for the opportunity to return to Iran.

The student of the Faculty of World Studies, in response to what she expects or requests from the university authorities to improve the existing approaches and procedures, said: "It is still difficult for me to be person-oriented and person-centered in administrative work instead of process-oriented. If the staff and professors are personally hard-working, professional and supportive, things will go well, but if not, we will be very annoyed in the absence of clear and precise processes for administrative and academic work.

She described the professors of the Faculty of World Studies, many of whom are graduates of the best universities in Iran and abroad, as having a high academic level. She also considered Dr. Mohammad Samiei, the Dean of the faculty and Head of the Iran Studies Department, as a professional, hardworking, capable, orderly, strict and punctual professor who respects and values foreign students and expressed her hope that one day she could be as regular as this professor. In addition to the professors, she considered the faculty staff very helpful and kind.

Janice Webster, in response to a question about the position of Iranian studies in Australia, said: "The field of Iranian studies in Australia is going through the initial stages of development and growth. There are a number of good professors in this field, but they work in many faculties and in different fields such as religious studies, politics, anthropology and architecture. Therefore, there is no such degree as "Iranian Studies" at any academic level. In addition, some professors do not know much about issues related to contemporary Iran due to the fact that they have not been in Iran for many years.

The top international student of University of Tehran also said about working in a working group and communication and interaction with other students: "During my master's degree, when I lived in the dormitory, my best friend was from Afghanistan, and I am still in touch with my master's friends from countries such as Mexico and Lebanon. . Currently, I have a Palestinian classmate and we help each other. Of course, in every period I found very good Iranian friends who introduced me to their family and with them I have gone to museums, recreational places and visited cultural and historical heritage all over Iran, from picking saffron in Natanz to visiting Imam Reza (a.s.). ».
She continued: "Fortunately, I had the opportunity to participate in practical and research activities with my classmates and professors. Teamwork has been very beneficial to me. Usually, I give myself a break from trying to learn Persian by studying English sources, and my classmates have always helped me improve my writing.
The student of the Faculty of World Studies also explained about the cultural differences and her performance in facing the new culture as follows: "There are differences between the Iranian and Australian lifestyles.

Contrary to what is seen in Western movies, many Australians work hard during the day, come home, cook dinner, watch some TV and sleep. Meanwhile, Iranians are very social and like to go out and have fun and sleep late. In Australia, parents put their children to sleep at eight o'clock at night, that's why on my first trip to Iran, I was very surprised to see children playing next to Zayandeh River of Isfahan at twelve o'clock at night. It should be said that another difference is in the field of office work, office work in Australia is very structured and if you don't pay attention to all the details, there is no compliment at all.

The first time in Iran, the work of my visa administration was postponed, I was afraid that I would be expelled from the country, then I realized that the administrative process here is more flexible."
According to Janice Webster, the challenges caused by the cultural difference can also be seen in everyday affairs, and she states that in Australia, if a student is late, she should enter the class secretly and quietly and not interrupt the teacher in any way, but in Iran, students ,those who arrive late must say hello to the teacher. These cultural differences are very interesting for her and she says with regret that I will repeat these types of mistakes again until the last day of my stay in Iran.

This top international student also talks about her interest in the historical architectures of Iran, including Safavid architecture, which she visited in Ardabil and Isfahan, and she hopes to be able to visit cultural and historical places again after the corona crisis. Even though she has not memorized any verses of prominent poets of Iran, she is very interested in the everyday Persian language and likes the style in which Persian speakers use their language like poets with rhyming and beauty and indirect meanings.
At the end of this conversation, the student of the Faculty of World Studies described  University of Tehran  as a unique and first-hand experience of Iran for international students.

( 1 )

Your Comment :