A letter to mother in Iran

May 12, 2005, vol. 33, no. 2

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SFU doctoral student Mahboubeh Asgari won honourable mention in Canada's first Elizabeth Paterson international student of the year competition with her letter home to Iran detailing her experiences as an international student at SFU. The competition was sponsored by the Canadian Bureau of International Education. This is her letter.

Dear Mom,
It is over three years that I have moved to Canada. I remember the day I decided to pursue my studies and apply for master of education. As a teacher in Iran for eight years, I had come to realize that I needed to upgrade my knowledge and expose myself to more, bigger, and better educational experiences. I got admission from Simon Fraser University, moved to Vancouver, this beautiful city, and started my new life over here.

Since then, I have gone through a long journey, Mom - a challenging but at the same time an enlightening journey. Being in a new environment culturally and academically, facing all the challenges in the first couple of months in the program, oh, I was about to give up.

I had to understand all the new things around me - the standards, the expectations, the different norms, the academic culture, the language - and all these were frightening. But I did not give up. I talked about my challenges and fears with my peers and my supervisor at school. They were extremely nice and welcoming.

And you know, because Canada is a multicultural country, some of them were also from other countries and had gone through the same challenges. They shared their experiences with me, and that helped me a lot.

Mom, remember I was worried about my financial status? I talked to my supervisor. He described his research project and told me I could be his research assistant if I was interested. I also applied for tutor marking and got that job too. I was so happy to see I was being treated equally as others. I was not like a foreigner to them and soon I felt I belong to this community.

I enjoy living in this peaceful place. I have a lot of friends from different cultures, we celebrate many New Year events together all in the same year. When it comes to food, you never run out of options. By the way, did I say I found some Iranian grocery shops here? Yes, I can make Iranian food over here.

Now some good news. I defended my masters thesis last June successfully. During the graduation ceremony, all the graduates walked around the campus - it was a beautiful day. Right above the academic quadrangle stairs, across from the Terry Fox statue, we all stopped. The pipers were playing. What a joyful moment - the moment that I thought of you, I could feel your presence there, and I could see how happy and proud you were. I dedicated my thesis to you, Mom. Now, I am doing my PhD.

May your soul rest in peace.
I miss you so much.

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