One summer in Iran, I went excited but also unknowing what to expect. The hosts, the people from AIESEC, people in the streets, in the metro, in parks, everywhere, everyone was so incredibly welcoming, kind, curious and hospitable. I did not expect this and soon I made a lot of new friends while we discussed our dreams, passions, hobbies and society. I learned so much from just speaking with people and asking them everything that came up to me. I have written it all down in a journal I kept every day. Now I have 1000 anecdotes to tell and 3000 photos of the different cities and landscapes I miss.
Iran is so diverse: deserts, glaciers, rice fields, seaside, mountains, rivers, forests, old dusty cities like Yazd, modern metropoles like Tehran. Young people who quote poets of centuries old. Young people that want to travel and see the world, but almost never get a visa. Young people that have artistic talents, but have to do a technical study. Young people just like me and you. As one friend said: Iran is a beautiful country to live in, but we are not free. Despite all limitations everything that is forbidden is still taking place behind closed doors.
Society makes it hard for Iranians to have an intercultural experience. Even with the ones that are lucky and rich enough to travel, the bureaucratic and corrupt government apparatus can still make you wait for months with a dead end resulting. AIESEC therefore is an amazing organisation giving the opportunity to do a project abroad. But also receiving people from other parts of the globe, learning about each others lives and cultures and showing new sides of Iran that are not depicted in the news where the government is only criticized and accused of making nuclear weapons. (Unfortunately it is not possible to do a project in Iran at the moment)
The sanctions of the US make international banking with Iran impossible, which resulted for me in taking half of all my savings in cash to Iran. Other sanctions also hurt the economy and conforming to the agreements doesn’t seem to be enough for Trump to lessen any of these sanctions. Iran, a country with few friends, but with people that want to become friends with every foreigner they encounter and prove the negative image of their country wrong. People in the streets shouting ‘Welcome to Iran, welcome to my country!’
I cried at the airport saying goodbye to my AIESEC buddy, not knowing when we would see each other again. In the meantime, I luckily have planned my next visit. The people of AIESEC Iran inspired me in really wanting to make a change in the world. I left a piece of my heart in Iran when I left and I invite you to go and do the same. Your stories will slowly change the way others think about Iran and fulfil one of its peoples wishes: to be liked.
This post was written by AIESEC in the Netherlands. We offer international voluntary projects and professional internships with the aim of developing leadership in youth.