Knowing Our Neighbors: Tara

“I’m from Iran, and Iran and US don’t have diplomatic relations. My government never gives me support to come here.

“I had to travel to Armenia for an interview to get a visa. They ran a background check on me, and they approved my visa. I had to go back to pick up my passport. It’s a two-hour flight from my home to Armenia. It was expensive; it took a lot of time. Altogether it took about 5 months to get the approvals – it was surprisingly short. I was close to the deadline that I had to be here.

“I applied to my university here and I paid for half of it, I work in the campus to pay for the other half.

“The school admits you on an I-20 which should be posted – but because Iran is under sanctions, I had to see if the Armenian hotel would accept the I-20. I gave the school the hotel’s address and hoped for the best. They don’t issue the I-20 twice, so if someone lost it or whatever might happen, all my plans would be lost.

“Now I’m an F-1 student. I’m allowed to stay in the United States for the duration of the program. I’m not allowed to work outside the campus. So I can’t steal anyone’s job.

“I cannot apply for any sort of loan. My options are very much limited. International students come like this. They only let me work for 1 year after graduation. That means that after 1 year the company has to let you go, or has to sponsor your visa.

“I worked in Iran as a journalist for like 10 years. I was hoping to get into a news network here. I went as far as the fifth stage of interviews for one job – but I didn’t get chosen. I understand – it’s harder to invest in international students.

“When school is over in August, I have two months to get a job in my field – I’m studying media and diplomacy – and then that job has to get approved as relevant to my studies by the school or else I have to go home.

“For an international person to get a working visa, the company has to prove that there is no American who is as qualified and willing to take the job. We can only get jobs if there is no American. We’re not stealing the jobs.

“My expectation is that I will work hard, and that I will get the skills to get a job that will succeed in.


“The way this situation in the United States is now, I don’t want to be trapped here. Putting aside that I miss my family so much – what if there’s an emergency? I wanted to live and work here, but now I’m not sure. I’m looking into my options in New Zealand, and Canada. And for jobs, I’m looking to see if I can use that one-year opportunity that I have here in the US, but I’m more looking at my options outside of the United States.

“If I didn’t have to, I would never leave my country. But if I go back, these whole two years would be wasted because I go back to the same limitations that I have in Iran. I came here and I started learning skills and gaining knowledge in the field, which is media. If I want to continue, I want to be a professor or work in media. For both of them I’m so limited in Iran.

“I’m limited because I don’t agree with everything that the establishment in Iran is doing. I’m cautious to use the word government because in Iran the government is different than the establishment.

“I don’t agree, for example, with their involvement in Yemen and Syria. But if you look into anyone who has been an opposition activist in Iran, they have ended up in jail, or beaten, sometimes to death, or are blocked from doing anything, from working anywhere.

“This was not the case before. It just started after Ahmadinejad. The president doesn’t have full authority.

“My family tells me, ‘Don’t stress out. If you need money, we will send it to you.’

“With this whole Trump war of words against Iran – he says he wants to punish Iran. My mom is telling me don’t worry about Iran. It’s very sad.

Of course I miss my family. I have two other sisters. Right when I came here, my sister gave birth to her first son. And I missed it.”


Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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