Yasaman Esmaili, an architect from Iran, always knew she wanted to study abroad. After graduating from college in Teheran she moved to Tucson, Arizona for graduate studies. As her visa doesn’t permit her to re-enter the country after leaving, she has not been able to go home for seven years.
At the time of her move, Yasaman didn’t know anything about her soon-to-be hometown. Moving from a busy and urban Middle Eastern capital to village-like Tucson was a strange experience for her. However, she was so eager to explore the new surroundings that it took almost a year before homesickness really hit her.
Now, years later, Yasaman is about to get her green card. The thought of going back to Iran has started to feel very distant to her.
My name is Yasaman Esmaili and I’m 31 years old. I’m from Teheran, Iran. I moved to the US about seven years ago. I moved to Tucson, Arizona for grad school at University of Arizona.
So I had to fly from Teheran to London, and then I had to take another plane from London to Los Angeles, and then one from Los Angeles to Tucson.
Because I’m from Iran and it’s a nation that people on the borders are so sensitive about, I was checked very seriously in London by the British border control. Also when I arrived in the US, I had to go to a different room. And I had to sit there with an officer. And he had to talk to me and ask me questions for about an hour. And made me swear, keep my hands up and swear that I don’t do anything wrong. It was actually a very hard experience, because he was also not nice at all. And I was kind of shaking because I was twenty, you know, twenty-three, twenty-two. It wasn’t a very nice entry.
I grew up and I lived all my life before coming to the US in a city that’s so densely populated, it’s like 14 million people. And it’s so urban. And I came to US in a place that’s not urban, it’s like a little town. And like I always for example used public transportation; there was no public transportation that I could use in Arizona.
I miss home a lot in a way that I’m not sure about things anymore, because it has been so long that I don’t know if this life is real or if that life was real. I feel like if I go back after eight years, I might feel that this whole thing was a dream, you know.