Arts, Culture & Media

First Days: Pari Noorbakhsh on Leaving Tehran, Looking for Cowboys

This story is a part of a series

First Days

This story is a part of a series

First Days


Pari Noorbakhsh in Davis, California, within a month of arriving in the United States from Iran in 1978.


Courtesy of Pari Noorbakhsh

At age 14, Pari Noorbakhsh immigrated to the United States in December 1978, a few months after marrying her husband. She flew from Tehran to New York on a Pan Am flight in the early stages of the Iranian Revolution.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

She arrived in New York with her grandmother, mother-in-law and her new husband.

"I was really excited, and at the same time kind of anxious and scared," Noorbakhsh says. "I was leaving my family behind, coming to a new land. I didn't speak the language at all. I was wearing hijab," she says. "I looked different but at the same time I was so excited to be coming to the United States that I didn't even think of it."

While she had some family in the United States, everything felt new. She didn't speak English and New York City's skyscrapers, she says, were "kind of cold, dark."

Still, Noorbaksh was thrilled. "It had some aura to it. People just seemed happy. I was excited to see all sorts of different colors, people dressed in different attires I wasn't used to."

"I used to be really in love with all the John Wayne movies, so I thought I'm coming to see horses. That was a little bit of a surprise. There were no cowboys. Not in New York," she remembers.

Noorbakhsh is now 48, and she talked about her first days in the US with her 33-year-old daughter, Zahra Noorbakhsh, in San Francisco.

The World, inspired by the South Asia Asian American Digital Archive’s First Days Project, is looking for your stories about your first days in the United States—or those of your parents or grandparents. Share by commenting here, using the hashtag #firstdays on Twitter or Facebook, or by pressing the record button below and speaking into your computer's microphone.