Blog & Updates

July 7, 2022

Coming from a Metropolis in South of Iran to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

“My journey started by living in two beautiful cities in Iran: Shiraz and Tehran”

I come from Shiraz, a beautiful cultural city famous for Persepolis and poets like Hafiz and Saadi. Shiraz is the most liveable city in Iran. It has fabulous weather, numerous historical places, hospitable and sweet people, and many fun places to visit. In contrast, Tehran, (i.e. Capital of Iran) is crowded, highly urbanised, and stuffy.

I lived in Tehran for 3 years for my master’s program. Completing my Master’s is one of my biggest accomplishments. Tehran is a city full of opportunities, beautiful sites and new technology. At the same time, you have to contend with heavy traffic and crowded places due to its 12 million inhabitants. In Tehran, I found a society that often neglects mental health even though inhabitants experience stress, social inequalities, and economic instability. Yet, despite these negative externalities, I still consider it to be my second favourite city!

“Completing my Master’s is one of my biggest accomplishments”

Keen to improve people’s quality of life through my work as an urban designer, I designed a pedestrian pathway in Shiraz, based on users’ preferences and desires. I tried to involve participants in the design process and use Virtual Reality as a way to garner behavioural feedback from users on potential designs. My master research focused on the use of colours and the impact it has on people’s willingness to walk or pause in one place. These subtle behaviours may have implications for one’s mental health. I believe there is a significant need to investigate how urban design can be used to improve the urban health of my country, especially in Tehran. Moreover, people in my country  are friendly, eager to participate and open to change.

                “We need to investigate how urban design can improve urban health”

My passion for creating healthier cities and my interest in technology is what attracted me to the SURREAL project. This project gives me the opportunity to contribute to urban health research while also allowing me to learn how to use new technologies in urban planning and design. As such, I will use Virtual Reality as a means to identify how certain environmental factors can motivate people to walk more often. I will get participants to walk in carefully artificially designed environments while measuring physical activity intensity, stress, emotions and attribute preferences. I will also examine if there are differences in these outcome measures based on socio-economic status, gender and age.

My experience of Luxembourg:

Luxembourg is a small, beautiful country with plenty of nature that makes you feel alive. It was a huge change for me coming from a country with 85 million people and a city of 1.5 million inhabitants to a country with less than half of my city’s population. I view it as a positive change since I am feeling calmer. The weather is much colder than I had anticipated but that doesn't bother me. I arrived at the beginning of Winter, on a rainy day. Most people don’t like rainy days, but as it doesn’t rain often in Iran, I was very happy to see that it rains quite often here. However, having not seen the sun for a long time now has made me miss my hometown!

                ‘I’m fond of rain, as it doesn’t rain often in Iran’

Fortunately, there are people from all over the world in Luxembourg and in our project; satisfying my curiosity for different cultures. People have been lovely and hospitable, and you can get by with English. Although, I advise you to learn a bit of French!

                “The first month was the most challenging part of moving here so far”

However, managing to get everything in order, especially during that first month, was one of the most challenging parts of my experience so far. The sheer amount of administrative paperwork and declarations, along with the adjustment to a different educational system, living environment, and having no friends was tough in the beginning. I am glad to have overcome this stage. I am now looking towards making the most of this unique experience and broadening my social network. Lastly, it is worth stating that I am delighted to be here and I am looking forward to the rest of my PhD journey.

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