Foreign student feels very welcome
By Katie Darr
Moving to college is a big step in life. Moving to a different country where you don't know anyone is an even bigger one.
Photo by Steve Kohlsdorf
Behnam "Ben" Arjomandi, an agricultural economics major from the United Arab Emirates, says playing soccer is his favorite way to unwind.
But that is exactly what Behnam "Ben" Arjomandi did three years ago when he came from the United Arab Emirates to study agricultural economics at Purdue. Although it was a big jump, Arjomandi said he is very happy about his decision. "The university is very diverse, I feel very welcome here," said Arjomandi.
Not knowing anyone in the country, let alone at Purdue, posed some challenges. "I couldn't do anything at first, I was restricted in many ways and was forced to mature very quickly," he said. During his first year at Purdue, Arjomandi was only 17, so he needed a parent's signature for many things, including a driver license, so he had to do without.
"I used my bike and the busing system until I got my license, and now it's much easier to manage my time with a car," said Arjomandi. Another challenge was knowing that he wouldn't be able to see any of his family for a whole year. He was only able to keep in contact with them through weekly telephone calls. "I just realized that I wouldn't see them from the start and accepted it," said Arjomandi.
"Ben has maturity far beyond his years," said Frank Dooley, an agricultural economics professor. Dooley said Arjomandi is aggressive in pursuing opportunities, and makes a real contribution to whatever he gets involved with.
Now a senior, Arjomandi was born in Shiraz, Iran, but grew up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. His family owns a fresh produce import and export business, so he wanted to learn more about agricultural economics. So why travel across the glove to study? Arjomandi said he grew up speaking English, and all the universities in Iran teach in Farsi. So he applied to universities in England, Canada and the United States. Choosing Purdue, he said, was based on a gut feeling.
"I had already been accepted to a university in Canada, but I chose Purdue and I don't regret it, it's been great." Arjomandi has taken advantage of many opportunities to get involved in campus life, including Mortar Board, Purdue Student Government, Agriculture Ambassadors and the Iranian Cultural Club.
"Your college education is what you make out of it, and Ben has definitely made the most out of it," Dooley said. Despite the differences in culture, Arjomandi has adjusted well to student life at Purdue. "It's a different way of life, not only being a college student, but also being in a different country."
Arjomandi also said that the whole experience has been very "eye-opening" because he has been able to see a different culture, as well as get a new take on other people's ideas, values, beliefs, and the way they view issues. He said the differences range from religious beliefs to a completely different lifestyle. For example, he pointed out the differences in eating habits. "Back home fast food consumption is much, much lower, so it took me a while to adjust my diet to eating burgers and fries several times a week, or several times a day, whereas back home it was once or twice a month," he said.
Arjomandi got involved in activities to ease into the new lifestyle, including soccer, a sport he was used to playing at home and that he is passionate about. "It's the only way I unwind."
Leeann Williams, an academic advisor, said Arjomandi has helped many students across the state as an agricultural ambassador. She also said he has taught her so much about a culture different than her own. She pointed to a presentation Arjomandi gave to his classmates after several had expressed curiosity about his culture. He gave information about his religion, his background, and the region he came from. "He's added a great deal to our program, and he's made me think outside of my comfort zone,"Williams said.
After graduating in May with a four-year degree that he finished in three, Arjomandi plans to attend graduate school at Purdue. He eventually hopes to return to the family business in the UAE after attending graduate school.