Experience Reports

On this site, you can read experience reports written by students and researchers, who received a scholarship in the framework of this program. 

Ebnomer Taha, Bachelor Student of Islamic Studies, Anthropology and Political Science at UZH

In the following writing I’d be gladly trying to portrait my recent semester exchange experience in Iran. Which couldn’t be possible without the partnership between the University of Zurich and University of Tehran. I participated in a language course (Dehkhoda Institute) to enhance my language skills because I study Islamic studies at the University of Zurich, in which Persian is part of the curriculum. Without hesitation I applied for the exchange program, because I think an opportunity to learn a language with the natives, is worth experiencing. 

Impressions upon arrival – the beginning of an Iranian routine

As someone that has a third world background I expected some difficulty starting a daily routine in a country I have no friends and relations in. Upon the first day I registered in the Dehkhoda Institute which went swiftly and smoothly, procedures were quite easy with an overwhelmingly friendly staff. Because in Iran there are some difficulties with foreign money they allowed me to pay my fees later, in the time it suited me. Which was a security granted to me but in the end, I was not in urgent need for it. I find this gesture very welcoming and friendly, from the first sight it made a good impression on me about the University of Tehran and the Dehkhoda Institute. My dormitory was also arranged swiftly at my best convenience. At the that stage my classes sessions would be officially starting a day later.

Building a routine – starting with Persian in class

After we got evaluated to estimate the achieved Persian knowledge we have received in University of Zurich. We then started directly with Persian in the class, and our teacher “Faranoush” was a PhD holder, she was from the first encounter quite welcoming and inviting to us. For me this made me feel comfortable to address any urgent concern that I might have. Her teaching style was both constructive and productive. But it was also full of humor, to break the ice and overcoming alienation and unfamiliarity which one might feel when living in a foreign country. She focused mostly on the flaws and weaknesses we have in our Persian level. For instance, the vocabulary and the part of communication skills she focused vehemently on. 

Living in Tehran – an effort in going native

The goal of exchange programs is not only to facilitate cultural encounter but also to promote accurate understanding that is a result of mutual effort for understanding. This was an idea I had in my mind and I carried it with me to Iran. Because in the class it’s difficult to find Iranians, no choice is ever left for us other than the open encounter with native Iranians. By many ways we met and conversed with some. Sometime in the public transport and sometime in the local Bazaar which is near the place we lived in. The institute which our classed take place on, was in the north of Tehran, we had to take a bus every week on the way to class. Our group used to get approached randomly by native Iranian while being on the bus. Often asked: “where are you from” or “what do you do in Iran” of course in a nice and friendly way, because they seemed curious. I also had an opportunity to visit the grand Bazar of “Tajrish” which was next to our institute. There, we learned how to bargain and negotiate prices with local goods sellers. I find this experience both enriching and entertaining.

Broadening the scope – from language to culture

After being settled with a routine and timetable in Tehran. The idea was to broaden up ourselves to see things we wouldn’t be able to see if we would stick to the schedule of the class. It was in the weekend that most of us had some time to visit some parts of Tehran that are quite distant from the northern part of it (Velenjak) like the grand Bazaar of Tehran which is located in central Tehran. Some museums, galleries and culture houses. But most importantly we travelled in groups to many other major cities. A city like Qom which is the center for traditional religious learning. For me this part was of great interest as expressed in my motivational letter about my Sunni background. Qom is the greatest center for Shi’aa Islam, this encounter was useful for me to see similarities and contrasts between Sunnism and Shi’ism. I have to ensure here that I never felt by anyway that I was treated differently or abused. I felt very conformable while visiting them as a non-Shi’aa and a western Muslim. The next destination was Kashan a historical city southward of Tehran and Qom. This city is much smaller than the previous ones. In this city we were enabled to see the inner worlds of the Iranians “Shahs” (meaning Kings) many palaces are located in this city and the Shahs used to reside in the Winter in this city for its moderate weather. To Isfahan, we were also lucky to go there, Isfahan is well known for handmade craftsmanship, like carpets and copper products. Old Mosques and Hamams were also available in this city. The importance of this city haunted me every time I saw Iranian carpets in Switzerland, to see a place where this industry is still alive was not resistible. Although this was a short excursion, but the goal of this small trips was to go nearer to the culture that we are studying its language, feel it, grasp it and enculturate a little bit.

Concluding the journey

My priority was to enhance my Persian skills, to be able not only to write and read but also to speak full sentences. After I visited this class in the end I’ve written an exam through which a certificate was granted to me. Through this exchange program I was enabled to enrich myself with an unfamiliar culture that I had no chances to encounter. I learned new things about myself. My personality has been given an opportunity to get out of its comfort zone. All this could not be possible without the valuable exchange program that was introduced to us through the university and for that I am utmost grateful. Therefore, I highly recommend any opportunity for students to enroll in an exchange program and for that, the International Relations Office is their best partner.

Milanka Peric, Bachelorstudentin Slavische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft & Arabisch & Persisch an der UZH

Sprachkursteilnehmerin vom 6. Januar bis 15. Februar 2018 am Dekhoda Institute for Persian Language, Teheran

Das Institut liegt gut erreichbar mit dem Bus oder zu Fuss direkt an der Hauptstrasse „Vali-ye Asr“gelegen. Es besteht aus fünf Etagen. Die Mensa bietet gutes, frisches und günstiges Essen an. Der Unterricht auf dem Niveau „Intermediate II“wurde von zwei Professorinnen abgehalten. Bei beiden war der Unterricht sehr lehrreich, denn es wurde viel diskutiert und jeden Tag eigene Sichtweisen über neue Themen ausgetauscht. Meistens bestanden die Hausaufgaben daraus, das Diskutierte zu verschriftlichen. Somit wurden das Sprechen und das Schreiben am meisten geübt und verbessert. Die Grammatik wurde vertieft und man durfte sich auch Themen wünschen, die behandelt oder wiederholt werden sollten. Die Diskussionen waren sehr spannend, da wir Themen aus dem Alltagsleben im Iran mit dem Alltagsleben in der Schweiz oder unseren Heimatländern vergleichen und Vieles dabei lernen durften. Nebst dem Unterricht hat man den restlichen Tag zur freien Verfügung, um die riesige Hauptstadt mit all ihren spannenden Sehenswürdigkeiten kennenzulernen. Iran ist ein grosses Land mit vielen interessanten Sehenswürdigkeiten. Unter der Woche hat man viel Zeit, die riesige Stadt Teheran nach dem Unterricht zu entdecken und an den Wochenenden kommt man gut mit dem Zug oder Bus in näherliegende Städte wie zum Beispiel Qom, Kashan oder Mashhad. Um mit dem Studierendenvisum in eine andere Stadt zu reisen, muss kurz vor Abreise eine Genehmigung beim Institut eingeholt werden. Es ist im Übrigen auch empfehlenswert, eine Passkopie mit der Vorderseite und der Seite des Visums mitzubringen, denn auch diese kann das Reisen an den Wochenenden in andere Städte erleichtern und erweist sich als praktisch, wenn man in einer Bank Geld wechseln möchte. Ich empfehle den Sprachaufenthalt am Dehkhoda Institut sehr, da sich die Persisch-Kenntnisse nicht nur dank des Unterrichts verbessern, sondern auch durch den täglichen Sprachkontakt mit der lokalen Bevölkerung, zum Beispiel auf dem Basar.

Foto Milanka Peric

Khezra Mohammadi, Bachelor Student of Political Science & Farsi at UZH

Language Student from January 6th to February 15th, 2018 at the Dekhoda Institute for Persian Language, Tehran

I attended the Farsi Course at the Dekhoda Institute for Persian Language for six weeks. After arriving to Tehran, I went directly to the Institute in order to complete some paperwork and to take an entrance examination. The examination consisted of one reading and one speaking part. I had five minutes to read the text and emphasize its main points. The classes were from 9am to midday, which was a perfect to prepare for the next day's class or discover Tehran in the afternoon. Because our group had very different language skills to other participants, we did not use the grammar and textbooks, but rather focused on speaking and writing. This was very advantageous for us since we did not really practice speaking Farsi in Switzerland. Our class counted six students and two teachers. Ms. Navvabi was one of the teachers. In her classes, we read a comic every day. She made us use specific key words whenever we had to describe the pictures. Ms. Negar was our second teacher. In her classes, we watched animations and analyzed the short films. Both teachers explained everything very nicely. We also read other stories or talked about topics that we were interested in. On our last day in school, we took the final exam and received the graduation certificate. Although we did not work with the textbooks that are usually read in the classes, all of use made a lot of progress in speaking and communicating. Also, the size of the class was one of the reasons for our progress. The small size of the class allowed conversations with one another and the teachers. I made a lot of progress in speaking Farsi, the class was very nice. I enjoyed it a lot! I most definitely would go back and take part in the regular public classes and spend two or three terms more in Tehran.

Foto Mohammadi