“The Little Black Fish” Or: How To See The Ocean Of Your Life! 1

“… Perhaps,” says the little black fish, “there is more to life, and perhaps the world is more than our stream!”

Let’s start the journey with “The Little Black Fish”, one of the most famous Iranian folklore stories written by the legendary Samad Behrangi. The inspiring story of a Little Black Fish who was seeking the truth of his own life through his search for the end of the mountain stream in which he was born but never believed was the end of his world.

I want to know if life is simply for circling around in a small place until you become old and nothing else, or is there another way to live in the world?”

While his fellow fish were too scared to do anything different from their set routine, the Little Black Fish made the decision and swam over the edge of the pool, into the stream and river which showed him much more of the world. He met wonders and adventures, dangers and beauty. And finally… The Little Black Fish made it all the way to the ocean, and found his answers.

I have read this small book more than 20 times in my life and actually lived with every moment of the Little Black Fish thorough his journey to see the ocean! Each time I was reading it, I was thinking about the very moment that he decided that he wants to see the ocean, realized that he doesn’t want to be just a fish like others before and after him, realized that he wants to pursue his goal. I am sure that there were other fish before him who also had some similar dreams in their life, but they never dared to do what the Little Black Fish did, and obviously, no one wanted to write their stories.

I was always waiting for my moment…

For me, as a young student in one of the best universities in my country, Iran, the concept of life looked completely good, happy, and promising (just like every other fish in the pond!), but I always knew that it is not the passion I always wanted to pursue and that is not the person whom I want to become. Days were passing and I was stuck with these thoughts without actually doing anything, but like every other great story in the world, I finally faced the “moment” that I was waiting for!

And that moment was simply watching Carl Sagan’s speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994, the “Pale Blue Dot”:

That was it. That was the moment. Ever since I watched this short video, I couldn’t resist for a moment thinking about becoming an environmentalist trying to make our “home” a better place to live. Then someday, I finally swam over the edge of the pool!

Considering all the hardships associated with Iranian students to get their Visa and not being able to see their families for a long time, the process of applying for universities in USA is hard enough to even stop an Iranian student to think about it, but I had made my decision, so I started applying for universities as I believed that studying in highly prestigious universities is necessary for the passion that was inflating my heart.

That was when I became familiar with Purdue University which was (is) not only one of the best-ranked universities in my field of study but also it had a slogan that was exactly describing my passion: “WE ARE PURDUE, WHAT WE MAKE MOVES THE WORLD FORWARD”. I can’t forget the very moment that I opened my email in which I had received the admission from Purdue, it was unbelievable as I knew that a new chapter of my life has been started.

I remember the moment when for the first time I saw the wind farm near Lafayette which reminded me of Manjil, one of the cities in my home country that does have similar farms. I can mention thousands of other memories that now became great experiences for a person who used to live in a crowded city with a population of over 14 million inhabitants and moved to a magical peaceful city, but among all the memories and experiences, I believe the most important thing to say is that ever since I came to Purdue, I realized that I have got accepted to a big and supportive academic family in which people help each other grow personally and academically without considering concepts such as nationality, language, religion, etc., which made me sure about my decision and my way to reasch my passions. 

Purdue ranks 4th for international student population at public universities, so you can easily see lots of students from all over the world gathering here trying to study hard and actually do what moves the world forward. Every time I see my international fellow Boilermakers, I imagine them as the little black fish of their life which is different than my life but share a universal goal and passion: to see the ocean!

Now as I am writing these words, I am sure that I am in the middle of my journey to see the ocean. Coming to Purdue and becoming a boilermaker was not supposed to be the ocean, but it definitely was the start of this journey. It actually doesn’t matter when this journey will end as I am enjoying every moment of it. I don’t even know what the ocean would look like, but I sincerely know how it will “feel”.

What about you? What was your moment to make the decision?…

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I am a Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering of the ESE Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University. I received my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Iran University of Science and Technology in 2013. I then continued my academic career by completing a Master’s degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering at the University of Tehran in 2016 working on the application of different supplementary materials in fate and transport of emerging contaminants in saturated media.
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