Iranian Student Enjoys Auburn's People, Small-city Lifestyle

AUBURN – One aspect of Auburn was instantly apparent to Ruhollah Keshvardoost after moving here from the metropolis of Tehran, Iran.

"The first thing I remember that caught my eye when I came here is people's driving style. People here drive too safe," Keshvardoost playfully said. "But that's good. At least here there won't be a lot of accidents like we had in Iran."

Keshvardoost came to Auburn in August of 2012 after graduating from the University of Tehran earlier that year with a degree in mine exploration engineering.

"I applied to four schools here in the United States, and the only school that offered me financial support was Auburn, and that's why I came here. But I'm glad to be here, honestly," Keshvardoost said. "I like the weather. I like the lifestyle. People are nice. I like this little town.

"Tehran is a big city with eight or nine million people living in it. It was hectic, and I'd spend a lot of time in traffic. But here there's no pollution or anything. It's just beautiful."

Keshvardoost found out about Auburn through a friend of a friend who attended the university.

"I was like, 'What university is that?' and he said, "There's a university in Alabama called Auburn University.' We went to the website that day. I shot an email to my professor, and he replied to me to go ahead and apply, so I did. It was lucky for me, otherwise I couldn't go anywhere because no other schools offered me financial support," Keshvardoost said.

Besides the traffic, Keshvardoost soon noticed other cultural differences from Iran.

"People are really nice," Keshvardoost said. "When they are talking to each other and when they see each other, they smile. It's not as common in Iran to smile when you see another person, especially if it is just some person you don't know.

"But people here smile and say hello to each other sometimes even if they don't know each other. That was something very surprising to me."

He also noticed Americans tend to have a large circle of friends and acquaintances but usually less than five truly intimate friends. In Iran people do not have quite as many people they would consider friends but do have more people with whom they have a close relationship than Americans.

Though he only works as a graduate assistant in Auburn's geology department, Keshvardoost still feels like he is able to live a better lifestyle here.

He said, "Considering my salary here, I'm having a better life just economically and affording things I couldn't afford before in Iran. That's one reason I'm living better than before. But I'm missing some things, definitely. I'm missing my family and my home and my friends."

Keshvardoost is pursuing a master's degree in geology from Auburn with a specialization in geophysics. His thesis will involve earthquake studies which, much like the west coast of the United States, are always a major concern in Iran.

He is still undecided about plans after finishing at Auburn. It could involve staying in the U.S. to get at Ph.D. or returning to Iran to start a career. Right now he feels like he could be at peace with either decision. He still has plenty of time to make because he is not in a rush to leave Auburn and its small-town charm.

"People are happier here. This is the thing that caught my eye. People at least look happier. I don't know if they're happier deep inside, but they look to be happier," Keshvardoost said.

Last Updated: April 11, 2013

Ruhollah Keshvardoost