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Featured Residents

I-House residents bring a plethora of culture and interests to our community. During the course of a typical year, residents represent nearly 100 different countries and 70+ academic and professional institutions.

Below are residents who have volunteered to share their background and honestly describe their I-House experience.

  • Rohit, 26



    Masters in Electrical Engineering at SEAS, Columbia University

    I-House South

    Before I started calling I-House home, I lived in Chennai in the South of India, completely different from New York. When I was in high school, one of my friends took up a course called semiconductor physics, and I’ve always loved designing hardware, so I signed up, too. I ended up really liking it and wound up studying at Anna University close to my home. Before my masters, I worked in the chip industry for Samsung, working on their phone processors.
    I just finished my last semester at Columbia University, studying for my master’s in electrical engineering focusing on semiconductor physics. At Columbia, most of my classes weren’t too big; most had about 20 people, but I had one class that was 6 people in the entire class, and we all had a great bond with the professor, which was nice. We were working on a yearlong chip design project sponsored by Apple, and because we used to work late nights in the lab, some of my best memories in New York were from that class, going to Hooda Cart or Roti Roll at 2:00AM.
    When I moved in to I-House, I wouldn’t have described myself as too social. My first day there was a pizza social, and I was so skeptical, thinking “They’re just giving away free pizza?” But I went and ate it, and now I attend every ice cream and pizza social I-House has. I have improved so much socially, and I participate and contribute to the community more now. I would say that’s what I love for being part of this community: I have learned so much, but I’ve also been able to contribute. After having been at I-House for a year and a half, I know about what is happening in different countries, I’m more aware. I know what is happening in China. I know what is happening in Russia. I know what’s happening in in Israel and Palestine. I probably wouldn’t have known the same or have had the same sources without this international community.
    I’m a fellow on the 5th floor; last month I put together a crafting night, and the month before we did a Harry Potter movie night with butterbeer. I also organized three hikes in the last two months in Beacon, Cold Springs, and Harriman State Park. Actually, in Harriman our group got lost and we ended up hiking for 5-6 hours, but it was the best hike I’ve been on. We explored so much! Every time we meet now, it’s a running joke.
    One thing that I love about I-House is that you can always find people who want to hang out here. Some residents created a Whatsapp group just for board games which now has, like, 250 residents in it. At any time of the day, you can message to see if anyone’s up for playing, and people will just show up. I’m also learning to play the piano now from a friend of mine at I-House. He’s been playing his entire life and loves teaching, too, so he said, why not teach me? And I’m a great student so, win/win.
    I’m also a part of the Language Exchange Program. Last year I only had enough time to learn two languages, but this year I had the time and wanted to expand more, so I’m learning 5 languages now: Korean, German, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. It helps me open my mind – when I’m studying and need a break, I’ll go to learn a language or I’ll play the piano, and when I go back to study, I tend to do so for longer hours. Sometimes after language classes, which I have almost every day, I’ll just sit in a common area studying and other residents will come join me to chat. I love that about I-House, you can find people anytime at the Map Lounge or in the Main Lounge whenever you want to discuss politics or society or even any casual discussion – it’s a brilliant community. I love it so much; I’m going to miss it so much.

    Check out Rohit’s poetry here!

  • Lea, 24



    Masters in Adult Learning and Leadership, Teacher’s College, Columbia University

    I-House South

    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”!

  • Orçun, 27



    Masters in International Affairs at SIPA, Columbia University

    I-House South

    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.
  • Ryoko, 32



    Masters in Social Organizational Psychology at Teacher’s College, Columbia University

    I-House South

    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.

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 alumni and learn about the exciting things they have done.

Get to know our residents




educational institutions


fields of study


training organizations

Meet Our Alumni

Polina Belopashentseva

Merging Math with Marketing

Kenneth “Kenny” Cortez

Enhancing Academic and Professional Dreams through I-House

Weyni Berhe

“This is a platform to question who you are and how you fit within the global community.”

Rand Jarallah

Engaging Other I-House Residents in Her Work for the United Nations

Maham Sadiq

An Engineer Commitred to the Econoic Development of Her Native Pakistan

Luz Zamora

A Resident’s Life of Endurance

Michael Memari

United States
“I-House provides a unique opportunity for inter-cultural exchange.”

Daria Dudenkova

Shaping Education for Social Impact

Donna Sanders

United States
US Marine Corps Veteran and Entrepreneur

Franklyn Telles

United States
Native Advocate, Scientist, Educator

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