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Farzaneh Family Iranian Student Scholars

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Farzaneh Family Iranian Student Scholarship Recipients

The Farzaneh family have been long-time supporters of the University of Oklahoma and the College of International Studies. The Farzaneh Family’s gift to support the Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at OU includes scholarships to OU students who meet the criteria and are citizens of Iran. This generous gift to OU Iranian students is provided to assist those who have a significant financial need. 

Spring 2021 scholarship recipients were asked to submit an essay answering the question, "What aspect of Iranian culture or education would you like to share with those at OU who've not had the same experience?" 

We're pleased to share their responses below. 

Emad Najmi Sarooghi, Nowruz

"In Iran, all people celebrate Nowruz every year no matter what ethnicity or religion they belong to. There are different ethnicities in Iran like Kurd, Lor, Turk, Baluch, and Fars. All of them come together and celebrate Nowruz no matter what costume they wear. It reminds us that diversity is a thing for unity, not hypocrisy. It helps us to learn more about different cultures and guides us to reduce racism and know each other better." 

Read the full essay (PDF)

Mohammad Naghashnejad, Taarof, Nowruz, and Iranian Literature

"A key aspect of the Iranian culture that differs significantly from Western culture is the emphasis on etiquette and the common practice of "Taarof." Taarof originates from Iranian hospitality and is the art of 'politeness' or considering and respecting others. Iranians prioritize their guests, and more specifically, their elders. For example, if several people want to enter a place simultaneously, they urge others to enter first."

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Morteza Heidari, Education, Innovation, Diversity

"One of the most notable characteristics of the Iranian people is their thirst for learning new subjects and knowledge. In your communications with people in Iran, you can gradually realize they know a lot about the other countries and their cultures, and they can explain the complicated history of countries they’ve never visited. Iran has had a profound and impressive national culture in mathematics and the sciences."

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Pooria Keyvanloo, Persian New Year

"New year! New life! New hopes! The streets at this time usually full of hustle and bustle. Everyone looking to promotes their furniture or buying some new clothes. People are trying to separate their useless stuff and replace it with brand new as much as it is in their budget. All the families provide “Sofreh Haft Seen” on their table. 'Sofreh Haft Seen' is a symbolical decorative on the table for the new year." 

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Reza Gheibi, Greetings in Iran

"Greeting is an important factor in daily communication for Iranians. Age plays a vital role in how you greet. Younger people are expected to greet older people first in all scenarios by saying “Salam” which means hello. It is important to greet someone based on their level of education. For example, you should greet someone who has a PhD using the title 'Doctor'."

Read the full essay (PDF)

Javad Dowran, Ceremonies in Iran

"The Iranian culture also is full of multi-cultural and inclusive events and ceremonies, including Nowruz, Mehregan, Yalda and many more. All of these events, which usually coincide with natural events, such as the beginning of seasons, refer to a historical happening, but entail more meaningful aspects: to celebrate diversity of our culture, and to remind that all human beings should be valued and support each other in hardship and ease."

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Ali Rassi, Connections

"Iranian culture is full of opportunities to make small (and who knows, maybe big) connections with your fellow citizens totally spontaneously and without pre-planning. Here in the US, there are environments that are designed to propel people to get to know each other; whether it’s a bar or a café or even Tinder. They are all engineered to make it easier for people to start a conversation because the culture does not spark that in people. Could you imagine how weird it would be if you were to sit in a taxi cab with 4 other Americans who wouldn’t say a single word until they reach their destination? Now compare that with all the times you were inclined to join an ongoing conversation in a taxi cab with 4 other Iranians. Regardless of the topic, you would always find something to say and that’s something I have only seen in Iran and I absolutely love and miss it."

Read the full essay (PDF)

Alireza Rangrazjeddi, Wedding Ceremony

"The wedding ceremony is one the most critical occasions of any Persian individual's life. In general, many people related to both families are involved. The wedding ceremony can be considered an event where everyone is invited, including both close and far family members, friends, and even some of the neighbors. As Iran and its cultural sphere of influence is a multicultural society incorporating several ethnicities bond together with shared traditions, the wedding ceremonies could be a little different depends on the region that the bride and groom coming from. Regardless, the common thought about wedding ceremony among different Persian ethnicity is that the marriage must be celebrated with glory and distinction at the presence of many people as witnesses of the ceremony."

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Nafiseh Ghorbani Renani, Food

"Undoubtedly, food is a one of the main characteristics of every culture and can represent the rich customs and traditions of a nation, and Iranian cuisine is not excluded from this. Iranian cuisine with its ancient roots is among the most delicious foods in the world. There are a variety of foods as large as the variety of cultures and ethnicities and as old as its history. Bread, which called Naan in Persian, is one of the essential parts of Iranian daily meals, particularly for the breakfast and dinner. There are about forty types of bread made in Iran using different types of wheat flours from white to whole wheat flour."

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Nikta Khalilkhani, Persian Literature

"Persian Literature mostly covers human virtues and vices. Poets use different narratives to promote ethics and principal. Humbleness, helping others, faith, respecting elders, standing up against evil, and honesty are some of the main themes of Persian Literature. A picture is worth a thousand words, but in Iran, we can say a couplet worth a thousand words! There’s either a Baba Taher’s Fahlaviyat or a Saadi Poem that could describe each situation."

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Saeed Jamalzadeh, Poetry, Food, Art

"There exist millions of couplet poems in Farsi. They convey meanings to embellish the ways of living in different situations. For example, I was frequently being asked about why I am continuing my education in Ph.D. program. I inspired by Saadi’s poem:

Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain ~ Saadi Shirazi

I found my life in communications and socialize with other people as well as helping them to improve their well-beings through the lens of science. That is not the favor I give, but my responsibility. The second couplet of aforementioned poem by Saadi inspired me in scientific research activities."

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Aman Golshan, Hospitality

"What I like most about the Iranian culture is its heartfelt hospitality reflected in embracing strangers, guests, tourists, and visitors of all stripes with unmatched tenderness. As an Iranian, no matter if you had quite a day or things were not going as well as you expected, as soon as you run into a tourist or a compatriot, of another town, visiting your city, you should, and definitely would, smile bright and embrace them warmheartedly."

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Younes Mahdavi, Calendar of Iran

"The Iranian solar calendar begins every year on March equinox (also called the “vernal equinox”), at the moment, which is called Nowruz (lit. the “new day”) in Persian. The Iranian calendar is so precise in degerming the starting moment of the solar year. Assuming the Sun in its apparent annual motion, when the Sun moves from the zodiac sign Pisces and enters Aries marks the beginning of the Iranian year. People in Iran and other Persianate countries, like Afghanistan and Tajikistan, celebrate Nowruz by visiting friends and relatives, wearing special costumes, and organizing festivals."

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Nazil Rasouli Sarabi, Ceremonies and Holidays

"In Iran, we have many ceremonies and we celebrate them with our families. One of them is shabe yalda. Shabe Yalda is the longest night of the year and we celebrate this by gathering in our parents or grandparents home. There are some snacks which are special for this night like watermelon, sweet nuts, cotton candy(pashmak) and pomegranate."

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Sana Yaru Hajatalou, Identity, Language, Dance

"My culture, the art, poetry, music, language, the food, the people — all these aspects of Iran come together and make my life in Iran, my home, the best I could hope for. A country shouldn’t only be subjected to and viewed as what some people in power have made it. The heart and soul of my country are what have shaped my personality, my identity, my morals, and values. For example, the Persian language and its emotion and sweetness are the core of my culture. Sometimes I miss hearing 'Joonam' when I call someone. 'Joonam' is a response to someone dear calling out to you. It roughly translates as 'my life,' or more accurately, 'I'd give my life (for you).'"

Read the full essay (PDF)

Ali Honarjoo, Hospitality and History

"Despite the unfair and negative media attention and political difficulties they face, Iranian people are among the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world. The old Iranian saying that “guest is a gift from God” shows how Iranains really feel about their guests and how they cherish them like a precious jewel. This is a lovely fact that anyone who has traveled to Iran can remember vividly."

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Mehrnoush Nourbakhsh, Hospitality and Food

"If you travel to Iran, with the purpose of testing foods, you will be amazed by the incredible variety of dishes the regions of Iran can offer. The country has four seasons but the climate can vary widely from one region to another, from Mediterranean climate in the North to the hot and humid gulf area, or dry and drought desserts in the center to cold and dry mountains in the west. This exceptional geographical composition has helped Iranians to get access to different variety of herbs, fruits, spices, and food resources in their cuisine throughout the centuries."

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Peyman Hekmatpour, Ethnic Diversity

"The media usually portrays a homogenous picture of Iranian people, which is not accurate. Iran is an ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse country. Diverse groups of people have resided in the Iranian plateau and lived together for thousands of years. These ethnic groups include, to name a few, Persians, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Gilakis, Mazandaranis, Lurs, Turkmens, Arabs, Balochis, and others. These different groups of people have their own languages and dialects, as well as costumes, and cultural practices."

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Tahere Hemati, Literature

"Iranians are seen as a poetic people. Given their centuries, or even millennia of fascination with oral and written literature, this is assessment is not far from reality. The history of literature in Iran goes back to the pre-Islamic era and continues to this day. The Shahnameh — a long epic poem written by Ferdowsi, which was finished in 1010 AD is one of the oldest pieces of Persian literature. The poem consists of more than 50,000 verses, which makes it one of the world's longest poems."

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Samira Ghobadian, Charshanbe Suri

"The Charshanbe Suri, or the Scarlet Wednesday, is an Iranian festival celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz to welcome the new year and wish for enlightenment and happiness. In Farsi Charshanbe means Wednesday, and Suri has two meanings, festive or scarlet which refer to the red color of fire. The origins of Charshanbe Suri go back to 1700 BC, and the ancient Iranian festival of Hamaspathmaedaya, in celebration of the last five days of the year in honor of the spirits of the dead. They believed that the spirits of the dead would come for a reunion."

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Babak Mohammadizadeh Khoshroo, Music, Literature, Cinema

"The main body of Persian classical music is based on improvisation. What is highly specific about this music is its rhythmic structure, which has a different organization than other kinds of music around the world. To get a sense of it, one can listen to the music of Iranian musicians such as Hossein Alizadeh, Mohammadreza Shajarian, Sima Bina, and Keyhan Kalhor."

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Elaheh Jafarigol, Food

"I am fascinated by the ethnic food of different nations and I believe Iran has a long history of creating unique and delicious recipes that I’d love to share with my non-Iranian friends at OU. Cooking is a passion of mine and I think it is a wonderful way of sharing that aspect of my background with people of different cultures."

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Mehrnaz Afkhami, Learning Platforms

"Many people who already know the difference between Iran and Iraq already know a little bit about the beautiful nature, art and historical background of my country. So, I will talk about a topic that people don’t usually bring up: 'Iranian online learning platforms.' I think online resources help students that have less access to language education or are in smaller cities."

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Sara Ghaffari, Architecture, HIstory, Food

"As an Iranian graduate student who is studying architecture at OU I feel that students here miss so much about Iranian Architecture and history. This has come to my understanding that students here are having a little to no knowledge of Iranian Architecture, culture or history. All they can relate to Iran is the conflict between the two countries. I Generally do not judge them, because news is all they watch and obviously they do not project a clear picture of my country or culture."

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Hasti Khalilkhani, Food

"In Iran, we appreciate food as something that brings people together. Whether we're celebrating our success or just want to hang out with a friend we invite each other and serve food. One of the most popular foods in Iran is Kebab. Kebab has been an important part of Iranian culture. People serve kebabs at weddings, birthday parties, and even funerals. When it comes to serving kebab it's not about the food quality, it's a standard for people to judge your family and party. The better the kebab the more respect for the family."

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Milad Rastkar Mirzaei, History, Arts, Ceremonies

"Ancient Persians created lots of arts, ranging from rock cravings which can be found in Naghshe-Rostam or Taghe-Bostan to carpet weaving which has flourished in recent century. Persian carpets and rugs of various types were woven in parallel in village and town workshops, and by royal court manufactories. As such, they represent miscellaneous, simultaneous lines of tradition, and reflect the history of Iran and its various peoples."

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Kasra Khademorezaian, Taarof

"Taarof is a sign of respect. What makes it difficult to understand is that the true meaning is not in the words themself. Being respectful and humble is very important in Iranian culture, and Taarof makes it possible to express them. For example, it can show your respect towards people you interact with. You can show that you are humble although you possess social status or money."

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Amir Tayebi, Hijab, Language, Family

"Personally, I reckon that one of the most exciting differences between Iranian and American cultures is the family structure. Iran is still a traditional country with some specific rules, or maybe I can say dogmas. By tradition, I mean that this feature is shaped in the framework of people and children’s upbringing. The culture is also changing every day thanks to social media and the like, but I guess it can still be categorized as a traditional culture."

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Mohammad Abshirini, Nowruz

"As the spring equinox, Nowruz marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Persian people all around the world celebrate the first moment of spring. Not only Farsi-speaking people but also diverse communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia have been celebrating Nowruz. The word Nowruz is a combination of two Persian words meaning “new” and “day”, indicating that a new year is coming."

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Parisa Marashizadeh, Yalda

"Yalda is the longest night of the year in the Iranian solar calendar, which is celebrated by Persian people all around the world. Iranian people celebrate this night to help to pass the longest and darkest night of the year with joy, customs, and food. Based on the calendar, Yalda is Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice, and the estimated date of this night is December 20. On this long night, the Iranian families gather together, usually in the house of the senior members of the extended family, such as grandfather and grandmother, to eat, drink and read poetry (especially Hafez) and Shahnameh until well after midnight."

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Nafiseh Mirniai, Clothing and Dance

"For instance, I have found that at ISA, we do not have even the traditional clothes of our provinces. So, I have found different people from different parts of Iran through Instagram, and I have ordered different traditional clothes from each part of Iran. When we present some of our traditional clothes at the cultural week in the Norman library, many people were stunned by how our traditional clothes are beautiful and unique. I guess such works would better show our culture and who we really are."

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Babak Aslani, Persian Music

"Persian classical music has twelve major modes (Dastgah) and five minor modes (Avaz), comprising a sophisticated yet organized structured system. Each mode in this music contains a series of melodies that are close in form and movement. Persian musicians with profound knowledge of this system can use this material and improvise in their performances (like Jazz and Blues music). Indigenous Iranian musical instruments used in traditional music include string instruments such as santur, tar, setar, wind instruments such as Ney, and percussion instruments such as the tombak."

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Elnaz Mirdamadi, Architecture

"There are some wonder historical monuments in Iran and Iran is famous because of their architecture. Naqshe-Jahan-Square is a public urban square in the centre of Esfahan, a city located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing central Iran. It is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Built by the Safavid shah Abbas I in the early 17th century, the square is bordered by two-story arcades and anchored on each side by four magnificent buildings: to the east, the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque; to the west, the pavilion of Ali Qapu; to the north, the portico of Qeyssariyeh; and to the south, the celebrated Royal Mosque."

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Delaram Nematollahi, Norouz, Hospitatlity, Diversity

"Diversity is the other fact about Iran. We have people with different tribes and languages living together in Iran. Arab, Kurd, Lor, Turk and Fars people living together and holding Iran together as a big diverse country. We also have various religions like Bahai, Christianity and Jewish although the majority are Moslems. Although government is not supportive of other religions, but people always love each other and support each other."

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Milad Najafbeygi, Marriage, Family and Kinship

"Marriage within the family is a common strategy, and a young man of marriageable age has an absolute right of first refusal for his father's brother's daughter—his patrilateral parallel cousin. The advantages for the families in this kind of marriage are great. They already know each other and are tied into the same social networks. Moreover, such a marriage serves to consolidate wealth from the grandparents' generation for the family. Matrilateral cross-cousin marriages are also common and exceed parallel-cousin marriages in urban areas, due perhaps to the wife's stronger influence in family affairs in cities."

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Kwestan Salimi, Clothing

"Kurdish clothing differs from men to women and differ from country to country. Some say that you can tell which area a Kurd is from by looking at his or her clothes. Traditional dress for women consists of very colorful clothing, usually a long dress or gown is worn, over which a jacket or vest is worn. Colorful belts are included, as are colorful pants. Over the years this style has changed, possibly due to religion."

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Samin Shokoohi, Language, Architecture, Geography

"Our language is the first distinctive cultural aspect that I want to speak about it. I realized that many students specially the American one do not heard anything about Persian or Farsi, and they think we are speaking Arabic. I am so happy that University of Oklahoma provides Farsi classes for the Second Generation and American Students that this type of programs has an important role in taking attention towards foreign countries."

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