International House Residents bring to the community a plethora of culture and interests. During the course of a typical year, I-House Residents represent approximately 100 different countries and 70+ academic and professional institutions.
Below are Residents who have volunteered to share their background and honestly describe their IHouse experience.
Masters in Adult Learning and Leadership, Teacher’s College, Columbia University
I run an online coaching business that helps people break bad habits such as procrastination, social media addiction, sleep deprivation. A lot of things that many college students go through, I once went through too. I love education, but not necessarily the standard form of monotone lecturing, rather, I like to coach with enthusiasm on something that has truly changed my life. I came here to expand on that, to learn about how adults learn and how the brain develops so I can become a better coach for my students.
I was in Beijing at an international school my whole life and would spend time in the south of Germany, so I’ve had a pretty western upbringing. Growing up, at a certain point I thought I wanted to play professional soccer — I could play for the whole day and never get tired. But, at the same time, I had really bad habits. I had severe procrastination, which negatively impacted my life. I found myself always leaving work and assignments to the end, and when I was out having fun with friends and family, I couldn’t be present because I would be thinking about what I should have done earlier. When I was working, I wouldn’t be happy because I’d be thinking about how I should have gotten things done earlier. It was this constant feeling of being trapped — and that was just one of the habits I had to break.
I joined my first coaching program and found my first mentor who helped me change a lot of my bad habits. From there, I began my own coaching program which really took off, I think because of my innate desire to be better every day. When I started my business, I was in the Netherlands for undergrad studying International Business.
While in the Netherlands I lived in a “student hotel” that was very similar to IHouse, except with fewer people on each floor. I realized then that I love this kind of setting. When you move to a new city you likely aren’t coming with friends, and you want to meet people as soon as possible. Living here makes it super easy; everywhere you go there are only students or those dedicated to learning and improving upon themselves. Living with fellow students in a community setting was one of the biggest draws of International House — and the nice building was also a plus!
I learned about IHouse from a family friend who lived here 20-30 years ago. The architecture is gorgeous and overlooking Sakura Park with all its greenery is very nice. Being so close to campus yet having such a nice residential area with all these amenities that would not be available in any apartment is absolutely a huge draw. I also really love the dining hall! The food is good, better than most.
I am really excited for the cultural-focused events, like All Nations. Anything where you get to experience new foods, new cultures, dances, performances, I am very much looking forward to. I’m also a foodie, so I’m excited for the Thanksgiving event as I’ve never experienced an American Thanksgiving! I don’t think I’ve even had turkey before.
Once I graduate from Columbia, I’ll probably go full scale on my business so I can help as many people as possible. I believe in what I do, so that is my main goal. If my business does do very well, I would love to give back to charity. I have a particular soft spot for animals, so I want to contribute to ending animal cruelty.
Check out Lea’s business on Instagram and Facebook @leabochtler “The Time Mastery Coach”!
Masters in International Affairs at SIPA, Columbia University
I used to study at Koç university in Istanbul where I double majored in international affairs and economics with minors in business and psychology. During my four years of undergrad, I had different kinds of internships – I did finance and venture capital, and I worked for a foundation and a newspaper company. My idea was to look and see what’s out there and decide what I would like to become one day. I’ve always known that the thing that makes me happy is people, no matter what the job is, so I was able to shop around. I confounded a marketing startup and operated that for two years, and that journey showed me that, in Turkey, the policy environment is not supportive and enabling for entrepreneurs. As a kid having his undergrad dedicated mostly on entrepreneurial activities, I realized early on that the policy environment must change. That’s when I decided I wanted to do something with tech policy. I applied for Fulbright, which just happened to be during the year the pandemic started, my last year of college.
My family and I leveraged significantly from COVID because, at the time, my father was fighting cancer. Before COVID, it was mostly my mom on that battlefield, with my brother in his high school dorm and myself in my college dorm, so we could not be present all the time for all these family needs. So, when COVID happened, we were lucky enough to enjoy the lockdowns because it allowed us to spend the final six months of our family together. Sadly, my father passed away, and ironically, I received the Fulbright invitation email for the final round of interviews in the hospital morgue. A week later, after the interview, I learned that I failed. It was a weird moment in my life that felt like ground zero. Later, I started working full-time in a development consulting company and decided to apply to Fulbright again the following year, which thankfully yielded good results.
Back in the day, the US was the first place I had been outside of Turkey. I had a prep year in my first year of high school and learned English. There was an exchange program in New York, so I matched with an American family and lived in their place, and we had this lovely experience of New York all together with my classmates. The funny thing is that Columbia University was the first university campus I had ever stepped foot on in my life as I never visited a college before in Turkey, and now I’m a student there. Now anytime I walk to campus, I remind myself of this memory to never forget how life can be full of surprises and not to take any day for granted.
I learned about I-House through an alum, Marina Henry, who was a tremendous colleague of mine when I was working at my job. Marina graduated from Columbia University, and she kindly supported me throughout my application with her wisdom. When I learned that I got in to SIPA, she told me I had to apply to the International House. I’d never heard of this place before, so I looked at the YouTube videos and the website, and it was a done deal. It seemed like a great experience. Personally speaking — actually, I think this also speaks for all the residents here — I would prioritize the experiences that I have with people over anything else. If you said, “Orçun, you will be staying in this tent for three months, but you’ll have this lovely community surrounding you,” I would want to give it a shot. I-House provides the opportunity to have this wonderful community experience, in a building that is beautiful and historical; I feel very grateful for it.
I’ve been at I-House now for about a month. A few days ago, I had a super long day of classes, and I returned to I-House with my friends. We got dinner from the dining hall and made our way up to the 9th-floor terrace, and as we were dining on the rooftop, I was laughing so much, enjoying the food, and appreciating the view. I said to myself, “This feels like home already, and I’m only three weeks in,” That relief was super lovely.
For the last two years, I have been so dedicated to applying to graduate school and thinking about it in general, so I have not seriously thought about what I’d like to do next. However, at some point, I want to engage with technologies that deliver impact for the world, maybe as an entrepreneur or policy builder. I want to be part of stories that focus on transforming lives and enabling individuals to access better conditions by connecting them with technology and innovation opportunities. This is something I feel deeply passionate about. So, I believe that ten years from now, I will be working to create tech or build a policy environment to help tech prosper more effectively. But for now, I want to be collecting happy memories and focus on my journey step by step. More than anything, I want my graduate school experience to help me further understand who I am and who I would like to evolve into in this part of my life.
Masters in Social Organizational Psychology at Teacher’s College, Columbia University
Many of my family (father, grandfather, uncle) are architects. My great-grandfather was a carpenter. Unfortunately, I was not so interested in architecture, but I remember once my father told me that “a building makes people.” This piqued my interest in how the environment affects people and vice versa. Both community psychology and social-organizational psychology look at both sides. When you think about the situation of a sick fish in a dirty pond, if you put the fish back in the same place, it would get sick again. What I am pursuing is to understand how to clean the pond and treat the fish at the same time.
Prior to enrolling at Columbia, I went to university in Japan where I got a bachelor’s degree in cognitive psychology. At first, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but I changed my mind during my bachelor’s. After seeing people close to me struggle with mental health problems, I realized how easy it was for those suffering with mental health issues to suddenly lose important things like their jobs as a result of their struggles. It became clear that, to me, the best way to treat these problems is to prevent any mental health issues before their onset. This led me to change my career path from clinical psychology to social psychology.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree in cognitive psychology in Japan, I got a master’s degree in community psychology in Japan, where we learned a lot of theory. I found that after graduation psychology majors have no opportunity to use our knowledge as it was all very theoretical. I came to the US to study for my second master’s degree to learn how to apply that theory in practice.
I had only ever been to Chicago and LA before moving here, but I find that New York is very similar to Osaka, where I grew up. I am particularly focused on multicultural group dynamics, and I’m interested in how to manage people from all over the world, so, when I learned about IHouse and found that it is not just a dorm but a community, I wanted to become a part of it. My first impression of the House was how gorgeous it was — its architecture and the surrounding area, but also the people living here! Everyone is so friendly and nice; it is beginning to feel like home already.
I have been working at a Japanese company for about 5 years in the marketing department, but I want to do something more related to people as my career develops. What I really want to do is enrich people’s lives by supporting them from the outside and inside. I believe that would eventually lead to the prevention of mental health problems.
Masters in Economics and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia
During high school, I really loved math and physics, so it felt natural to enter engineering. In these subjects, there are sets of rules that you have to follow always; you cannot bend the rules of reality for physics, and you cannot disregard mathematical theorems, or axioms or assumptions, so you work on a very rigid framework. When you get used to that framework, the way that you think gets you to some places that are likely more true than any other way of thought; for example, if you go into literature, you have creativity, inspiration, and history of ideas that you can use in order to get from one point to another in a subjective way (which of course has its own beauty). Yet, when you are in physics and mathematics, you are obligated to follow how the world works, and that was really appealing to me.
Since 2017, everything I do is in the field of education. Education is the field I care most about and it’s where I want to keep developing myself professionally and personally. Before coming here, I worked for the Chilean government in the public sector and in academia, so my background contains a mixture of research, quantitative methods, and education policy.
I did Teach for All in Viña del Mar, Chile, where I was a mathematics teacher for two years in low-income schools for seventh graders to senior year students. I still today take a lot of insight of how schools work and how schools can improve from that experience.
I found out about IHouse in March or early April this year. I was already admitted to my program at Columbia, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to accept my admission decision. I attended a new student’s orientation session where current CU students in the program talked about housing. Someone who did not live at International House but had visited it before mentioned the House and sent everyone the link to the website, and that was when I realized that this amazing place exists. I found that the IHouse vision was very alike my own vision of the world and how I want to inhabit and live it with others.
I have been to many places around the world before moving here, and it is always in the places of social living and caring about the world where I have felt more at home. I lived in a university dorm in France for two years and I got some communal living experience. In France, I realized that living just by myself wasn’t enough for me. I found that caring about others and helping society to improve is where meaning is for me, and I carry that with me wherever I go. Coming to New York was also an opportunity to grow in this togetherness; I was very happy about finding International House.
The House is amazing in so many ways. I researched it a little bit before coming, but it is very different to be here and experience the environment for yourself. It calls your attention and puts you in a place where you can develop yourself together with others. The staff is so nice, very energetic and smiling all the time, so when you get here, you already feel at home because there is someone that shows they care about you. The infrastructure is amazing, the room is fantastic, the common areas are great. There’s a lot of beauty in this building, and to live in a beautiful place gives you a better everyday experience.
Last weekend my floor gathered with the third-floor people, we ate pizza, got to know each other, and some went to the Morningside Lights festival, an event by the Columbia campus where there is a parade of lanterns that was very nice.
Next week I am going to tour the UN with the International Affairs group which is exciting because I was not able to do last time I was in New York. I am also looking forward to the Halloween event, because Halloween has not been a part of my life before back in Chile; it’s very interesting that you see it everywhere here!
My program could take up to two years, but it depends on how I distribute my courseload. Once I’ve completed my program, I would love to dedicate my efforts to Latin America or Chilean educational contexts. Whether I will be working from the US, in Chile or in another country I’m not sure yet, I just know what I want to do in terms of the subject area. But here in New York or in DC there are a lot of NGOs and international institutions that interest me a lot, so I would love to take a look at those places to see if there are opportunities to contribute.
Bard Globalization and International Affairs Program
Anthropology and International Studies, Pre-Law, Emory University
I was fortunate enough to take a gap year between high school and college where I participated in a cultural exchange program with the American Field Service. I lived in Paraguay for eight months where I stayed with a host family, attended a local school, and participated in cultural events. Being from Phoenix, Arizona, I have always been interested in global affairs. There is so much natural cultural exchange with Mexico, and you are in a constantly politicized environment. Growing up hearing Spanish, I always wanted to learn to speak it. My time abroad was the perfect opportunity to explore my academic interests in international affairs, cultural interactions, and the Spanish language.
While in Paraguay, I started having these irrational feelings. I could not explain why I was very angry all the time. There was a snack bar at the school I was visiting, where students would buy food during their free time. Everyone would just crowd around it, and it made me so frustrated. All I could think was, “Please, why can’t we just line up?” I realized this was a form of culture shock. I had expectations of how the world should work; until I was in Paraguay, that is just how I thought the world worked. So many things in Paraguay were just different from my home. The added question of “Why am I reacting so emotionally to these superficial differences?” would not leave my mind. Eventually, I realized I had been organically drawn to the ideas of Anthropology, which, more or less, is the academic field of studying cultural differences. If anthropology is the narrow lens to analyze human behaviors and interactions, I view my other major, International Studies, as the wide lens of policy and bureaucracy. Ultimately, I want to be a lawyer and work with public policy, and I think both perspectives are essential to creating effective, justice-based policy.
Both of my parents are doctors. I knew that was never going to be me, but expectations were still high. I have been attracted to the idea of lobbying and being in policy since I was a teenager. Thirteen-year-old Emma was so upset by the NRA thinking “these lobbyists are corrupting everything.” Eventually, I had the epiphany that I could be a lobbyist, and fight for causes I believe in. I have never really turned back from that idea.
Political demonstrations amplify marginalized voices and bring necessary attention to social problems, but street activism must be coupled with concrete policy reform to create permanent change. I will never be satisfied until I can understand the law, get in the courtroom, and argue for what I believe in myself. Chanting in the streets is sexy, but someone also has to read the fine print and know how to maneuver through bureaucracy when enacting policy reform. That is where I see myself in the grand fight for social change.
My semester in New York was quite fortuitous! Being from the West and going to school in the South, we are definitely prejudiced against New York, very “You think you’re better than us?” stereotypes. But when I came to New York for one day this past March with my friend from Turkey, a couple of days later I applied to be a part of the program I am in now. I have been here for a few months, and it has been so great to be a student in the city. I am only here until December, so I am trying to live it up and experience everything.
I was excited when I found out I-House was our assigned housing; I am used to dorm living. This past year, I chose to become a part of residence life at my home university, which consisted of mentorship and community building. I thought I would be a good fit to live at International House because when I was in Paraguay, one of the great parts was meeting exchange students from countries. There were only three students from the US in my program, and they were not in my city. Our shared experience abroad bonded all of us even with our different backgrounds. And now I have lots of couches to sleep on all over the world! After living at I-House, I certainly have some more stops to add to my future world tour.
One of the most exciting ‘New York’ things I have done was see a live taping of SNL. In October, my friend and I camped out on the street overnight on Friday to get standby tickets, then we showed up the night of the performance and luckily our number was low enough to be let in! It was such a fun and quintessentially- I’m-21-and-going-to-sleep-on-the-street-for-a-night-because-I’m-living-in-New-York-for-four-months-and-I’m-going-to-make-the-most-of-it-and-see-my-all-time-fvorite-musical-artist-host-and-perform. Through my program and I-House, it has been easy to find people to go on adventures with me!
Looking forward, I plan to take my time with my studies and my career. In the US, there is an expectation that once you get out of high school, you go to college, go to grad school, and start your career, with no breaks. I already took a year off between high school and college, and I plan to take a leave of absence this Spring to take the LSAT before graduating in Spring 2024. My vision is to work on a political campaign after graduating, as it is an election year, and build on the work I did with local elections in Phoenix this summer. I want to work for a couple of years after I graduate from college and then go to law school.
As of right now, I plan to be in Phoenix long-term working on immigration policy and legal advocacy. I love meeting new people, but the funny thing is, the more I learn about other cultures, the more I realize how much of my identity has been shaped by growing up in Phoenix. Developing an international perspective has increased my pride in my city and instilled the feeling that if things in Phoenix go awry, it is my job to stay and help.
Among the things that unite our Residents are a shared commitment to creating a global community and the potential to make the world a better place. Below, meet some of our recent alumni and learn about the exciting things they have done.