Moving to Lubbock from Dubai to attend the Texas Tech University School of Theatre and Dance isn't necessarily the most obvious path for a mechanical engineering graduate. Yet that is the path taken by MFA student Jehan Hormazdi, who began in the Arts Administration program this fall. But what spurred this major life move? In Hormazdi's words, "it was a lot of fate intervening" that brought him to this point.
In high school, Hormazdi had an interest in theatre and event planning and did some technical and organizational work for a number of performances, but he took a short theatrical hiatus before pursuing the subject in higher education. He initially set off to earn a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Waterloo in Canada; however, after deciding he needed a program that offered a better school-life balance, Hormazdi moved back to Dubai to finish his engineering degree at the American University of Sharjah, which has a small theatre program that offers a minor. There he was pulled back into the world of theatre when he took a stagecraft course to fulfill a general education requirement.
As a part of the stagecraft course, Hormazdi built sets and served on run crew, both activities that he discovered he enjoyed. He soon was invited to usher when the department needed last-minute help for a performance. He happened to be on campus and was asked if he could put on a black shirt and usher for the show. Hormazdi calls agreeing to usher that day "the greatest decision I made."
"I grabbed a black shirt from costume storage that day, and I just ushered," Hormazdi says. "And I ushered every other show that semester, so I got pulled into the theatre program."
From there, Hormazdi, who would go on to earn a theatre minor, served on the technical crew for two years and became the student technical director before discovering his interest in arts administration when he was part of the management for the university's Second International Theatre Festival in 2019. For Hormazdi, the arts administration world was a fit.
"I think this is a good blend of arts and non-arts for me," Hormazdi says. "It kind of fits my build right."
It was also at that festival that Hormazdi met School of Theatre and Dance director Mark Charney, who invited Hormazdi to apply for the MFA Arts Administration program at Texas Tech. Although he had planned on finding engineering work after graduation rather than entering graduate education, he looked into the program and decided to pursue it.
Public health lockdowns and travel restrictions caused delays in Hormazdi's arrival in the United States, but that didn't stop him from jumping into the program. He completed the first few weeks of the semester online with course meetings occurring in the middle of the night in Dubai. He finally arrived in Texas on September 2. Despite limited opportunities for in-person social activity since his arrival, Hormazdi has still been able to find community. Tools like Facebook and Zoom have been crucial in linking Hormazdi with other students eager to connect.
Hormazdi has settled into life in Lubbock and says he loves living here. He enjoys the friendly people, culture of giving, and the homely feel. "I love it a lot," he says of his new home, "except the cold weather bouts."
He has also found a lot of similarities between Lubbock and Dubai. He had come to the United States before and spent a month visiting tourist locations but has found that "in a lot of ways, the touristy US is nothing like the normal US."
"People's day-to-day lives are so similar to everywhere else around the world that it's just like we are all the same," he says. "We all take in the same content via social media. We all watch the same kind of movies, have the same kind of humor, eat the same kind of food."
While living in Texas for the next few years, Hormazdi is looking forward to getting firsthand experience in the workings of Texas Tech's theatre and dance school, as well as, exploring theatre throughout the United States.
"I think I really want to see how a proper theatre department works," Hormazdi says. "That is the biggest thing. And I just want to see the community of theatre in the country as a whole."
As of now, Hormazdi plans to take these experiences and the training he receives back home to implement them in creating homegrown theatre in Dubai.
"Life is full of opportunities, and all happens for the best," he says. "Fate brought me here and we will see where it takes me next."