When asked about the experience of moving to the U.S. to attend MUM after growing up in Iran, Mehdi Pakfetrat responds like the software engineer that he is: with numbers and percentages.
“I’d say 70 percent of what I experienced at MUM is the general American experience,” says Mehdi, 32, who lives in the Virginia suburbs west of Washington, D.C. “It’s about the freedom in American society and the opportunities available to individuals in pursuit of their goals.”
The other 30 percent of his American experience — the time he spent at MUM — he came to understand was so unique only after he left campus to start working a paid internship. He worked in several U.S. states, including Florida (American Express), Texas (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs), Chicago (Zurich Insurance), Phoenix (Bank of America), Seattle (Expedia), and Boston (Pegasystems). In the process of seeing so much of the U.S., he came to realize how out of the ordinary life at MUM was in comparison.
“The MUM culture really stands out to me,” he says. “People are so relaxed and down to earth. Many are soft spoken and kind. It comes out of the practice there. Everybody is conscious of stress and what it does to you. They’re challenging it with the lifestyle and the meditation.”
In 2011, after three years of business traveling as a consultant, Mehdi decided to take a full-time position and stay in one place for a while. Now a resident of McLean, Virginia, he is lead application engineer at Asurion, a technology protection company, where he provides technical leadership insight and design solutions. Prior, he had been a senior systems architect.
Living amid the hustle and bustle of the Washington D.C. metro area, Mehdi has gotten well acquainted with the challenges of “70 percent” America. “In our daily life we get used to stress and we think it is normal,” says Mehdi. “At MUM everybody was aware of it, they understood the negative impact in their lives. They didn’t ignore it or look away. They did something about it.”
Born and educated in Iran, Mehdi earned a BS in software engineering there, but after graduating in 2003, he caught the travel bug. “I wanted to go see the world,” he says. “Not only for an education but for the living experience. I had dreams and I wanted to follow them.”
His first move took him to Armenia, geographically close to Iran. There he learned to speak conversational Russian within a year. He heard about MUM and became interested in it. At the time, he had been considering enrolling in European universities. But he was impressed by MUM’s fast application process, which contrasted sharply with European schools that took many months to qualify to attend.
“I came to Iowa,” he says. “I lived on campus. The surprises began as soon as I arrived. MUM was a very international environment. Everyone was so friendly and nice. When students needed something, the community was there to help. I’d go to the dining hall, it was easy to sit at a table with complete strangers and have a totally friendly conversation. Many things gave me a great surprise. I thought, ‘I like this place.’ I didn’t want to leave it.”