Let Us Introduce You: Roya Massoudnia

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Born in St. Louis and of Iranian-American descent, freshman Roya Massoudnia understands the importance of cultural unity. Belonging to a family that highly values learning about new cultures and experiences, Massoudnia said, “Being culturally relative is the best blessing I’ve been given.” Massoudnia’s father is an international professor and her mother a sociologist. Both taught their children from an early age that recognizing any culture, religion, viewpoint, political ideology or anything else that differed from their own lives was important.

Massoudnia first experienced culture shock when she moved to Iran in 2004 with her parents and twin sister. For the next seven years, she and her family would call Tehran their home. Growing up in St. Louis and belonging to a proud Persian family definitely had its perks for Massoudnia.

“The Midwest is a lot like the Middle East. It’s family oriented, and it’s very relaxed —much like Persian culture,” Massoudina said. “My family always had CNN as the first thing to be turned on in the morning and the last thing to be turned off at night. And there was always delicious Persian food.”

Although her family liked the Midwest, they soon moved and enrolled Massoudnia in an international school in Iran that specifically catered to children of families of Persian descent who were international, but seeking integration into the Persian culture.

Massoudnia’s classes began in English, but over time Farsi was introduced and came to dominate the communication within the classroom.

Most of her classmates were European, and the atmosphere was accepting. Getting to know these fellow international students and learning from their different lifestyles and backgrounds, Massoudnia found her true passion in life.

“There would be students from North and South Korea, and they would sit on opposite sides of the room,” said Massoudnia. “It was amazing to see these young kids who didn’t truly understand the conflict between their countries but understood they weren’t to interact with one another.”

In 2009, during the Iranian presidential election, claims were made that the outcome of the election was rigged. President Ahmadinejad’s victory angered the Iranian people, giving fire to the Green Movement. Thousands of angry protestors flooded the streets of Tehran, and violence erupted from both security and Green Movement forces.

“The people were angry because they felt that their beautiful, ancient, 2000-year-old culture was at stake. It was a war against their culture,” Massoudina said. “The Iranian people are highly intelligent. Most go to college, and by rigging their votes, they were not going to let the offense against their intelligence change the way their country was. They had enough.”

For the first time in 30 years, the Iranian people had found a voice to start fighting for the end to the oppression, and Massoudnia was there to witness and participate in it all.

Now, back in her home city of St. Louis, Massoudnia is an active member in the international scene and a member of SGA. Because of the political upheaval she was exposed to and her passion for understanding why politics have such an important impact on people, Massoudnia declared a Political Science major.

“I want to understand why politics hold people back. It’s important to know the facts and make a step to change them,” she said.

Not only has Massoudnia figured out her road to success, but she is successful in teaching others the important things in life, like accepting other cultures and helping other people in need.

“Trade maternal love and send your children abroad. There is nothing like learning independence from the streets of a foreign country,” Massoudnia said. “Everyone needs to learn how be culturally relative, and we should all take each day step by step. And traveling is the best thing in the world.”

As for her favorite places, Massoudnia thinks back to Isfahan, an ancient Persian city that had a special effect on her.

“There was a sense of joy and pride in my cultural identity being there,” she said.