Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Wave of Iranians Seek U.S. Studies

New York Times
August 9, 2010

Even as a teenager in Iran, Atefeh Fathi knew she would eventually study abroad. Now 30 and studying engineering at the University of Oklahoma, Ms. Fathi said that although she had applied to universities in Sweden and Canada, her first choice was the United States.

“Everyone says the U.S. is easier for foreigners” to acclimate to, she said while on a break from working in her university’s laboratory. As children, Iranians are taught English in school, making it easier for them to blend in immediately in the United States.

Ms. Fathi is part of a wave of Iranians studying in the United States in numbers not seen in more than a decade. Since 1979, when tens of thousands of Iranians studied in the United States, the number of Iranian students in the United States has taken an almost uninterrupted nosedive, bottoming out at fewer than 1,700 students in 1999. Since then, the number of students has begun a slow but steady rise, with more Iranians in the country now than at any other point since 1994, says the Institute of International Education in New York.

Iranian students said they chose to come to the United States because of its superior schools and generous research financing. These students believe that despite rising political tensions between the United States and Iran, their American educations will put them in line for the best jobs when the return home.