Many people wonder about what will happen once they arrive in Iran. As mentioned in one of the previous posts, it is crucial that you have a few individuals here who will be able to help you out once you get here, otherwise things can become very tough.
If you are married, it is generally better if the husband comes alone for about a month so that he has ample time to look around for a place to rent and get things sorted out before the wife comes. However, if you can sort something out before hand (even temporarily) where you and your wife can reside while you sort things out, then by all means do that.
Once you get to Tehran’s airport, you need to get to Qum which is around an hour and half’s drive away. If you have someone who can pick you up then that is one option, however you can ask one of your friends or colleagues in Qum to ask Jamiatul Mustafa (JM) to send a driver to pick you up from the airport in Tehran. The driver will take you straight to the mehmansara (guest house) in Qum where you will have to remain for a few days to perhaps a few weeks (really depends). They have beds there, your belongings will be safe there from what I have been told and you won’t have to worry about your food either. If you are single, you will eventually be shifted to the dorms at Al Mahdi, and if you are married, but travelled alone, you can make use of the dorms as well while your wife isn’t with you or just stay at the guest house while you find a place to rent.
During this time-period, your first step will be to make a trip to Jamiatul Mustafa and get started with the administrative work. Keep your passport handy and go to a photographer to get your passport photos taken – get at least 20 copies of them (you may even need more than 20 later on, so keep at least one saved that you can make photocopies of). Once you go there (most probably with someone), you will have essentially begun your process of getting enrolled into Madrassah Al-Mahdi. You will then need to go to a place called Jamaitul Uloom (JU), where you will once again hand in passport photos and a copy of your passport. You don’t need to make copies of your passport yourself, since each of these places have photocopiers. The distance between Jamaitul Mustafa and Jamaitul Uloom would not really be considered walking distance apart, so you will most probably have to catch a taxi.
JU will give you a few pieces of paper with which you can get your medical test done (for free). You will need to go to a clinic called Baqiyatullah and get various blood tests and x-ray. These tests results will be ready in 2 to 3 days and you can then go and pick them up. If everything is fine, you need to go back to JU with the results and they will give you a card that basically means you are good to go. At this point, you are “essentially” done, and just need to get your student code ready from JM. Go to JM with your health card and they will get your files ready. You will probably not get it the same day, and may have to come back a few days later. All you need to get is a code number (literally, a code number they will write on a piece of paper), and that is what you need to take to Madrassah Al-Mahdi.
Once you give Madrassah Al-Mahdi that code, they will start to prepare your student files and also inform you when Farsi classes for Book 1 are starting. If one has already started recently, they will let you go into it and you can catch up with them.
All this sounds like it is going to take only a few days, but don’t be fooled. It will probably take a few weeks till all the aforementioned tasks will be completed. Make sure you make the most of your time during this period, make frequent trips to the harram and explore the city, different locations, and if you are married, start looking for a place to rent. Get yourself as familiar as you can with the culture, language, customs and everything else around you. Learn how to use the taxis, shared-taxis, and busses because you probably not be accompanied by a friend or colleague all the time. Most of the administration offices in JM, JU and even in Madrassah Al-Mahdi do not run as efficiently as during the mornings after the Dhuhr prayers (in fact many of the offices shut down after Dhuhr). Your colleagues may not be able to miss too many of their classes (if you are coming during their school semester) to help you out and therefore you may have to go to these places alone a few times as well if you want to get things done faster rather than rely on someone to help aid you every time.
Get a good feel of the prices of various things such as food, groceries, appliances, taxi rides etc. This will help you budget your monthly expenses accordingly and you’ll be able to keep track of how much of your money is going where. It is very easy to lose track of how much you are actually spending when you are new to a place and the exchange rate also happens to be fluctuating up and down all the time. To get your money converted, make sure you go to an Exchange Rate office instead of a bank since you will get much better rates there. The two most well known Exchange Rate offices (they are called Sarrafi) are the ones right across the harram on the road:
1) Azimi Exchange: 774 3144
2) Amjadi & Partners Exchange (it is literally right beside the Azimi Exchange): 772-3920
Make sure you go in and ask the rates for your currency from both the offices and then get it converted from the one offering the better rate. Some of them will offer a better rate for British Pounds, while some will offer a better rate for the U.S dollar and some better for the Canadian Dollar.