After overcoming several obstacles and enduring a 20-hour plane ride, Mohammad Mahdi Rasoulipou finally arrived in Goshen last Thursday night. Rasoulipou is the first Iranian student to attend Goshen College.
Rasoulipou was born in Tehran, and he lived there for 14 years before living in India for four years. He then moved back to Tehran to attend Azad University where he studied industrial design.
Rasoulipou first heard of Goshen College when his father went to South Bend to research at Notre Dame University last year. Some people told his father about Goshen College and its religious affiliation. When he returned back to Tehran, he told Rasoulipou to attend Goshen because it would be a good opportunity for him to be on his own.
The process of traveling to Goshen proved to be quite difficult for Rasoulipou. First, he had issues exiting Iran because of a required military service that every Iranian male needs to complete. This took nearly a month to straighten out, after which he was able to apply for a visa.
After two days without sleep, Rasoulipou stopped in Dubai for his visa, which took an entire day to obtain. Then, after a long, sleepless plane ride, he arrived in the United States.
Upon arriving, he has noticed many cultural differences. For example, the informality that students use by calling their professors by their first names is something very different to him.
“The houses are made out of such lightweight materials!” he said, noting another difference. Rasoulipou is living off campus with Paul Keim, professor of Bible and religion.
Another major difference is clothing attire; in Iran, the females usually wear hijabs (a type of scarf wrapped around their heads).
Since Rasoulipou is from a predominately Islamic culture, it is new for him to be surrounded by so many Christians. Last Sunday, Rasoulipou joined Keim to speak during a Sunday School class. During this time, he discussed the differences and similarities between Christians and Muslims.
“I was only a little familiar with the Bible before this, but by the end of the time, I found that there were a lot of similarities between the Bible and the Koran,” said Rasoulipou.
Rasoulipou said that the government contributes a lot to how many people view Americans. Although he tries not to get too involved with politics he found himself at the heart of many political issues this summer.
A number of protests and riots over the recent presidential elections in Iran took place right in Rasoulipou’s hometown. During the first protest, Rasoulipou remembers seeing millions of people crowding the streets. It all began fairly calmly.
“I went outside, among all the people, and they were very friendly to me. It wasn’t until after sunset that the police came and the violence started,” said Rasoulipou.
The next day, millions of people came to protest again, but this time the police came right away. Rasoulipou’s family opened the front door to their house so people could come in and be protected from the violence outside. The memories of his experience are still very vivid, and bring back difficult emotions.
“It’s something I will never forget,” he said. From his experiences, he has learned that people really aren’t as different as they seem. “Once you go and experience different cultures and talk to the people, we see all our similarities,” he said.