Friday, August 13, 2010

Learning Farsi in Isfahan Part 2

Girl with blue ball, Isfahan
Girl with blue ball, Isfahan

After reading my previous blog entry, many people have contacted me requesting information about studying Persian at the University of Isfahan. A common problem is that when emailing the university, it can take a long time to get a response. It is hard to say if this is because of internal bureaucracy or technical difficulties with the university's email system (their IT systems are often unreliable). You can also try iinternationaloffice@yahoo.com (note the two i's at the beginning of the address).

I had intended to study again at the University of Isfahan this summer. Unfortunately I was not issued a student visa. The university claimed I had not sent them an application, which was bizarre, because I certainly did. I was later informed by my academic advisor that when an visa application is declined, instead of saying so, it is considered polite by Iranian officials to say it was not received. The university encouraged me to apply for a tourist visa, but this was neither declined or issued. Instead, the application simply languished.

I was surprised to have my visa application rejected. I had not had significant problems with being issued an Iranian visa in the past. Moreover, I have not engaged in any political activity related to the elections last year. An Englishman who also studied Persian last year was also not issued a visa.

Ahmadinejad looks on, Isfahan
Ahmadinejad looks on, Isfahan

In July I received an email from the university stating "I hereby inform you that the regulation of issuing visa is slightly changed from 4th of July 2010. According to the new rules those visitors who enter Iran with a tourist visa can not apply for short course Persian learning programs and their period of stay will not be extended. Therefore any applicant, who would like to learn Persian, should apply for a student visa (through the Office of International Scientific Cooperation).It is important to note that for this kind of visa, the applicant should apply at least three months prior to travel."

Unfortunately the university has not been forthcoming in providing information as to why a visa was not issued to me earlier this year. The Iranian Embassy in New Zealand was similarly unhelpful. This leaves my research plans in Iran in tatters. I am writing this blog entry in Khujand, Tajikistan. I will likely do my anthropological PhD research in Tajikistan, with a different project to that I had planned in Isfahan.

Many Americans study Persian and Tajik in Dushanbe, where they learn from Iranian teachers. Having not participated in their course, I cannot comment on the quality of the instruction as compared to Isfahan.

4 comments:

Virginia Pietromarchi said...

Dear Damon, thank you very much for your informations. I'm already in contact with the office of Isfahan and I'm just waiting for the visa to be issued.. but when i asked for a schedule or timetable about classes she told me that there is no starting time, and that i will start whenever i arrive.. was the same for you? there is no class? just a teacher for whoever is there?
an other info: a friend of mine from there told me not to accept their accommodation since you can find cheaper and nicer alternatives on your own.. what do you think about that? Thanks! Virginia

Damon Lynch said...

I wish you good luck receiving a visa Virginia. Yes the classes will start when you arrive. In your class will be other students who arrive at around the same time - classes are not big. Mine had a couple of other students - one Korean and one Sudanese.

I have no idea about accommodation outside of the campus, sorry!

Virginia Pietromarchi said...

Thanks! one last thing.. once I'm there will I have to attend all classes or they are quite flexible about partecipation?, I mean, will I be able also to travel around? I was thinking to prolongue my student visa once i was there in order to do one month of language course and one traveling (but always with the student visa)... what do you think?

thank so much!

Damon Lynch said...

I strongly recommend talking to the university about that question. If it is against the visa regulations it could cause problems. Who knows - maybe it's not an problem at all, and you'd be good to go for a trip for half the length of the visa. But maybe it is against the rules. I strongly suspect this question has come up before, so it's worth asking them about it.