Going back to college with Hengame Abassi: Interior designer Fariba Novin

Tiago Barreiro

Hengame Abassi and Tiago Barreiro

Hengame Abassi is going back to college. She is non-traditional student: a student at the end of her 60s. Originally from Iran, Abassi was a nurse and reporter who had to flee political persecution while pregnant and lived in Germany for over 20 years before immigrating to the United States. She has hosted Iranian TV and radio shows in the U.S. and is currently a senior at CSUN, double majoring in linguistics and journalism. In “Going Back to College,” Hengame talks to other non-traditional students like herself.

In the third episode of “Going Back to College with Hengame Abassi,’’ Hengame talks to Fariba Novin, an extremely resourceful and resilient 56-year-old Iranian American in the interior design program at CSUN.

Novin immigrated to several countries before the U.S. and speaks multiple languages.

Her immigrant story begins at 14, when her father — afraid of the upcoming 1979 Iranian Revolution — sent her to live with her sister in England. Novin’s sister moved to the U.S. six months later and Novin had to be by herself. She finished her General Certificate of Education Ordinary Levels (comparable to high school diploma) and moved to Germany before she turned 18.

There, she enrolled in a vocational program where she immersed herself in the culture and could speak German after six months. Novin later returned home to Iran for 20 years before moving to the United States in 2007.

Novin says immigration has played an important role in her academic life. It has allowed her the opportunity to start fresh and go after career dreams she put aside earlier in life and that her culture would not allow a woman at her age to pursue.

At 46, she enrolled at a local community college. The initial reason she went to college was to learn about the community. According to Novin, going to college is the best way to learn the language and culture of the place you live in. At first she felt the younger students looked down on her but by the end of the semester they were best friends.

She enjoyed the college experience so much she decided to transfer to CSUN to pursue her dream of becoming an architect. After she completes her undergraduate program, Novin hopes to enroll in an architecture graduate program.