Fatemeh und Maryam forschen in ihrer Heimat Iran auf dem Gebiet der Robotik. Für ein Kooperationsprojekt ihrer Hochschule mit der ZHAW School of Engineering haben sie drei Monate in Winterthur verbracht. Wir haben sie zu ihren Erlebnissen und Erfahrungen interviewt.

First, tell me something about yourselves.
Maryam: I am Maryam and I am from Iran. I did a Master of Science in Mechatronic Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Robotic Engineering. Currently I am a researcher at the University of Isfahan and working on a joint project with the ZHAW School of Engineering for about three months.
Fatemeh: I am Fatemeh, 28 years old and from Iran as well. Like Maryam I hold a Masters degree in Mechatronic Engineering and a Bachelors degree in Robotic Engineering, but from the University of Tabriz.

How did you get to know about your research project abroad?
Maryam: During my studies, I have been member of the robotics team at my university. After graduating, my professor invited me to work on this project about human-robot interaction as I had experience with robots. For me it was the perfect opportunity, as it was a field I wanted to specialize in.
Fatemeh: I studied at another university, but Maryam has been a friend of mine for about ten years now. She told me about the project.
Maryam: Actually, we needed a researcher to work on the deep learning for the system. I admire her work in this field, so I suggested her to my professor. He considered her application and so she became member of the team. We have been working on the project for six months and now we came here to work on the practical part.

I heard it is the first time for you to go abroad.
Maryam: I did travel abroad, for example to China. But this is the first longer stay in another country.
Fatemeh: I have never been abroad before.

Before going to Switzerland, what were your feelings about staying in another country for three months?
Maryam: In Iran, we have a very positive perception of Switzerland. It felt like we were about going to heaven.
Fatemeh: Everyone told us that we were lucky to go to Switzerland, as it is so beautiful and safe to be.
Maryam: As kids we used to watch the cartoon series about Heidi on television.
Fatemeh: Exactly, and we were excited to go to “Heidi-country”. So, it is like living a dream.

What where your first impressions?
Fatemeh: Actually, we were very surprised. As all the world hear bad news about Iran and normally luggage from Iranian travellers is checked at any airport. When we came here, nobody cared that we are Muslims or that we wear hijabs. Nobody wanted to check our luggage. It was kind of surreal not to be met with prejudice. It was a very good impression.
Maryam: And the professor came to pick us up from the airport. I was not used to the idea that the professors really care for such things. It was a very respectful gesture of him.

Where do you stay?
Maryam: We share a studio apartment in the city of Winterthur.
Fatemeh: When I heard about the music festival in the city (Winterthurer Musikfestwochen, author’s note) I was so excited that I went there for a couple of times.

Did you have the chance to see different parts of the country?
Fatemeh: We mostly explore the area around Winterthur, like walking up all the hills around the city. We find a new place every weekend. There is a nice view from the Goldenberg.
Maryam: We also visited the Rhine falls and the Lake of Constance. We also had a trip to Germany.

How would you describe the differences between Iran and Switzerland?
Fatemeh: Here in Switzerland, pedestrians have the right instead of cars. It was almost exciting to see cars stopping at the street crossings. And though it is not as spicy as Iranian food, the food here is nice as well. But on the other hand, EVERYTHING is expensive.
Maryam: Another difference is, that the people in big Iranian cities have a lot of work and so they are always in a hurry. The Swiss people seem relaxed all the time. And the air is so fresh. There is no air pollution in Switzerland.

What about the similarities?
Fatemeh: Like at home, you can walk the streets freely here. I feel save. But there is no night life here. Everything closes at 8pm, while in Iran, people start to go out at that time.
Maryam: The people here are friendly like the people at home. It does not feel that different in general, but it is hard to name the similarities.

If you had only few words to describe each of the countries, which would it be?
Maryam: For Iran it would be weather and nature, as it is different with the jungles and deserts. Friends, as you get to know people easily. Switzerland I would describe with green with fresh air, relaxed. Another word would be ‘trust’.
Fatemeh: For Switzerland the following words come to my mind: facilities – we have access to everything, like software. In Iran the ban keeps me from getting the facilities I need for my work. Safety, I feel free to walk everywhere I want to and people do not react badly to our hijabs.