First Generation: Junior Keana Khodadad

Junior Keana Khodadad was born in Los Altos, but her parents immigrated from Iran over 20 years ago. While she does not feel out of place in the Bay Area of California, Keana realizes that the opportunities and comfortable atmosphere she enjoys here are mainly due to the resulting diversity of the many already established immigrant families.

“In the Bay Area, I’ve never felt like my culture, or being from an immigrant family has set me back,” Keana said. “I’ve never felt like I [won’t] have these opportunities because of the fact that we’re immigrants. I just feel the same as everyone else… and I also think the reason for that is the area that we live in is very accepting because it’s so culturally diverse.”

In the Bay Area’s competitive school atmosphere, Keana feels that going to college has never been a choice, but a necessity. Keana knows firsthand that college is not an easy experience. Her mother left Iran in 1983 after the Iranian revolution and Iran-Iraq War in the 1960s and 70s, and she attended university in Sweden. When she decided to permanently stay in the United States, Keana’s mother found that her hard-earned credits from college were invalid.

“[My mom] had done a lot of schooling in both Iran and Sweden,” Keana said. “When she came [to the US], [the university] didn’t accept a lot of her credits so she had to take more classes.”

Although Keana believes that she is one of many students who often take the opportunity of college for granted, she understands that education and post secondary schooling are important. Her circumstances are different enough from those of her parents that college is a necessity.

“When my parents were my age, especially in Iran, you didn’t just go to college,” Keana said. “Only the higher class people, who could afford it, the intellectuals, would go to college. So I think the Silicon Valley, and [the fact] that my parents both completed graduate school, are factors which have influenced the idea that I’m going to college for sure.”

Keana’s Persian heritage has also brought up different mannerisms. For example, Persians greet one another very warmly and affectionately, usually with kisses on the cheeks, and always ask about well-being. Keana recalls that even now, she often worries about introducing her non-Persian friends to her family.

“When I introduce my friends to my parents – this is something a lot of people can’t relate to – I stress out, like ‘Oh my God, is my friend going to say hi to my parents?’” Keana said. “Because if she or he doesn’t, my parents are going to be like, ‘Oh, she/he is rude.’ They’re never going to be able to get away from the mindset that ‘this person is rude.”