Howdy and welcome!
As Ms. Glaser may have already explained, my name is Pouneh Eftekhari. I’m a Packer-loving Wisconsin cheesehead who has had anything but your average Midwest life. I was born in Waukesha, but moved to Muskego at the age of 5. I attended Tess Corners Elementary School, Bay Lane Middle School (back when we only had 1 middle school in the city!) and of course, Muskego High School. And, you guessed it, I am one of Ms. Glaser’s former students and lucky to now call her a friend.
Growing up in Muskego was amazing in so many ways, but it also came with a few struggles.First, I should explain that my parents were born, raised, educated and married in Iran. They moved to the US in 1979 for, what they thought would be, a few years. Fast forward 36+ years later and they’re still in Muskego! I’m so grateful my parents raised me in the US as it has given me a life of possibilities I know I wouldn’t have had in Iran or elsewhere in the world. But it wasn’t easy raising two kids (my older brother and I) in a foreign country. And it wasn’t easy for us kids either.
For starters, we were always different. My friends are meatloaf for dinner while I ate things like chelo kabab and khorest-e-ghormeh sabzi…but I’m not complaining.I LOOOOOVE Persian food! While great for me, I think many of my friends were shocked the first time they ate dinner at our place. Hopefully shocked in a good way…but I still don’t really know!
Another difference was speaking both English and Persian, or what we call Farsi in our language. Being bilingual has many benefits, one of which is being able to talk about anything in public without much worry that someone at Mayfair mall will be able to understand us! But I still get strange looks when unsuspecting bystanders hear me speak ‘gibberish’ as it was once described to me by a stranger. It’s not the nicest way to describe my beloved langauge…but it’s a common way people describe it to me.
As a child, I felt so left out when my Christian friends returned from winter break with a lot of really cool new things. As a member of the Baha’i Faith, we didn’t celebrate Christmas and so all we did during that time was visit other non-Christians or, as I got older, we headed to Ridge Cinema to watch Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter on the big screen. It wasn’t until college that I celebrated my first Christmas…midnight mass and all.
Over the years, I had many arugments with my parents about why I should be able to attend the Homecoming dance after spending 6+ months planning, why I should be able to wear make-up in middle school like my friends, or why my parents didn’t have to chaperone (fill in any overnight activity here) because they found it strange for their child to sleep somewhere other than home.
While I’ve overcome those things, some things have stuck with me. Particularly, the way people have changed their outlook on Muslims and people from the Middle East. I was born and raised Baha’i, but my mother’s side of the family (including my mother until she converted) are Muslim. But they are not terrorists. Neither are our family friends and extended family who live in all parts of the world. We are also not Arab. We are Iranian. There’s a difference. Explaining these things to people who don’t seem interested in understanding the differences can be quite frustrating, but mostly just hurtful.
Like you, I’m proud to be American. I’m proud to be from Wisconsin and grateful to have been raised in Muskego. I’ve traveled in 30 countries to date (and have lived in 5 others outside of the USA) and I know that my experience growing up would have been much different had I been raised in Europe, Iran or anywhere else in the world.
In speaking to you and your peers each semester, I am living out my life’s motto:
Sparking curiosity about different countries, cultures and lifestyles one conversation at a time.
Below are a few links to help you get an ever better understanding of the complexity of my identity. Together with the stories I share about being a minority in Iran and in the USA, I hope you’ll be inspired to explore, inquire and embrace ‘difference’ in your lives.
– Pouneh Eftekhari, MHS Class of 2003
THE BAHÁ’Í FAITH
To date, Pouneh has traveled in 30 countries, lived in 5 countries outside of the USA and earned two master’s degrees from European universities. Pouneh got her first passport at age 5, but did most of her traveling after high school (during collage and after graduating college).
Here’s a list of all the places I’ve been.
I currently work as an international education professional, helping universities become more global. Specifically, I:
- create programs to help international students transition to their new host country where they will spent months and years studying:
- work with instructors to include more global elements into their course curriculum; and
- help students find opportunities to study, intern and volunteer abraod (via study abroad).
I am also working towards a PhD in Higher Education Internationalization. You can learn more about my professional background here.
KEEP IN TOUCH
Lastly, if you want to follow my travels, ask follow-up questions or need advice, you can contact me in the following ways:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/longingtotravel
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LongingToTravel/
- Instagram: http://instagram.com/longingtotravel