International students expand horizons for college

Emma Peters

Yasbanoo Otorkhani traveled 7, 392 miles from Tehran, Iran to Marin County in 2011. Now a senior, she will travel just one mile to college next fall.
Otorkhani’s decision to stay close to home next year is just one of the options for students who have recently moved to the U.S., as others have chosen to move back overseas.
Born in Iran, Khani said that her family made the choice to emigrate from the country because of its growing economic and governmental issues.
“We decided to move out of Iran forever, and ultimately decided to go to America,” Otorkhani said. “It turns out it’s the best place to live in!”Otorkhani said her family’s move is permanent and so she has decided to stay in America. She will attend the College of Marin for two years until she earns enough credits to transfer to a university.

PREPARING FOR a mock surgery, senior Maria Yacobi (right), attended a medical program last summer at Imperial College, the school she will attend next fall.

“I am totally chill with living with my parents and staying in Marin,” Otorkhani said. “In Persian culture your family is your everything and I just moved here, so I don’t want to leave.”
Nevertheless, she said that Iran’s higher educational system is very good, although different than the American system.
“Iran has good colleges,” Otorkhani said. “There are no uniforms, they are co-ed, and very focused on math, sciences, and getting PhDs. However, girls have to wear hijabs, or head scarves.”
Unlike Otorkhani, senior Maria Yacobi, whose family moved to Marin last August, said her stay in America is only temporary. Hailing from Madrid, Yacobi said she plans on moving back to Europe next year and attending Imperial College in London, a public research university known for its classes in her major, aerospace engineering.
“Imperial College is very international,” Yacobi said. “I like traveling and it’s been a great experience living in another culture because I’ve learned to appreciate my friends and life in Spain.”
Yacobi applied to 13 schools in the United States, which she said was overwhelming because there were so many schools to choose from. While she ultimately chose to go to London, she said her application process was difficult because some schools classified her as an international student and some as a resident of the United States.
“When I was applying for schools in the UK, they didn’t want to classify me as a European Union student,” Yacobi said.
Yacobi says her family made the choice to move to the U.S. last August because of her dad’s work and the recession in Spain.
“In Spain, there will only be jobs in 10 years time,” Yacobi said. “I don’t want to graduate now and be unemployed.”
Spain’s higher educational system is also extremely competitive, according to Yacobi. She said high school students must take a difficult test and only the students with the top scores will get into a public college.
Yacobi said she also doesn’t want to go back to Spain because it is traditional there for students to live with their parents during college.
“My mom lives in Spain, and the colleges aren’t like here where you live in a dorm.” Yacobi said. “Most people live in their home until they get married. I want to live alone and be independent.”
Chinese-American Kris Peng said he plans on taking a gap year to move to Hong Kong and live with his father. Although an American citizen, Peng was born in Hong Kong and has lived in China for a total of 14 years.
“I’m really familiar with the city, more so than any other city in Asia,” Peng said. “I was born in Hong Kong and grew up there for a total of three or four years.  Even though I don’t consider myself Cantonese, it’s like my home because I’ve spent so much time there.”
Peng has lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Beijing. He lived in Marin for two years up until eighth grade, when he moved to Beijing. He came back to Marin in his junior year.
Peng said he hopes to get an internship in Hong Kong for one year and then attend University of Colorado Boulder in the Fall, majoring in Political Science.  Although he originally planned to go directly to Boulder, he said he is looking forward to his gap year.
“I came to a realization that there is no need to be rushed into college immediately after high school,” Peng said. “A gap year is a good opportunity to get some work experience as well as do things I like to do, whether it be hobbies, sports and so on.”