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Student Accommodation in New York City

International House: A Global Community

Students moving to New York City to pursue graduate studies face numerous challenges, not the least of which is housing. For those wanting much more than a place to sleep, a unique opportunity – especially for those who are seeking a diverse, multicultural milieu – may be found at International House.

Located high above the Hudson River, a few blocks from Columbia University and a 20-minute subway ride from Midtown Manhattan, International House is a residence and program center that attracts more than 800 students and trainees every year.

One-third of the population is from the U.S., while two-thirds are from nearly 100 other countries throughout the world. They study and train at scores of graduate schools and other institutions in the greater New York area.

In a given week, an I. House resident might attend a Mexican cultural night, take ballroom dancing lessons, enjoy a salon recital, hear a talk by a United Nations ambassador, participate in a boxing class, or obtain reduced-price tickets to a Broadway show.

Don Cuneo, who lived at International House in the late 1960s and is now its President, describes its mission: “I. House enables carefully selected international graduate students to live and learn together in a challenging and supportive community. The experience builds life-long qualities of leadership, respect and friendship among people of all nations and backgrounds.”

Among its better-known alumni are the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, opera star Leontyne Price, Polish-born writer Jerzy Kosinski, Belgian Prime Minister Mark Eyskens, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe and Japanese auto magnate Tatsuro Toyoda.

“I. House is a wonderful, self-governing microcosm, “ says Alessandra, who is pursuing a Master of Media Arts from New York University. “There’s a convenience store, a study center, a computer lab, a fitness center, a coffee house every night – even a pub!”

I. House is located in Morningside Heights, a safe, lively neighborhood known as New York’s “Academic Acropolis” for its collection of world-class educational, religious and cultural institutions. I. House comprises two buildings: the original 13-story structure, which opened in 1924, and the newer I. House North, which was built in the 1960s. In I. House South, single rooms in the traditional dormitory style are completely furnished, with shared bathroom facilities on the floor. I. House North studio and one-bedroom apartments are completely furnished with full bathrooms and kitchens. Suites with shared kitchens and bathrooms for three to five people are also available.

Through the generosity of friends and supporters, scholarships are available to qualified residents and new applicants to assist with housing and living expenses. These scholarships help ensure that I. House remains a financially viable option to as many students as possible.

As a community, International house provides countless opportunities for daily interaction among its residents: sharing a cup of coffee or a game of volleyball, or working out in the fitness center. In such circumstances, stereotypes melt away as residents get to know each other on a person-to-person basis. Beyond this informal contact lies the heart of the International House experience – the planned programs that take place throughout the year.

The hundreds of programs cover a broad range of outlooks and interests, giving participants maximum exposure to diverse points of view from which to draw their own conclusions. Many programs are planned by the residents themselves, offering further opportunities to learn the important skills of cross-cultural communication.

“Academically and professionally, living in I. House gives me opportunities I would have nowhere else in this city,” says Frank, an American studying social work at Columbia University. “It is quite a special feeling to meet new residents on my floor and days later realize they are giving guest lectures at Columbia on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka or women’s rights in East Africa. These kinds of opportunities help to make I. House more than just a place to live while I am in graduate school.”

A hallmark of the International House experience has always been the opportunity to hear directly from leading figures of the day and participate in free-wheeling discussions. In the last few years, residents have had the opportunity to hear directly from former South African President Nelson Mandela, Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams, and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a former I. House Board Chairman.

Participants in the International Leaders Program receive special training opportunities and a certificate at the end of the academic year. Two special programs – the Women's International Leadership Program and the McLaine Central/East European Leadership Program – offer unique learning opportunities to participants.

But the residents conduct some of the most exciting programs. “Not only do I find it valuable to learn about other cultures and different countries, but also I believe that I contribute to this exchange by sharing with other residents my national culture and personal values,” says Hanitra, who came to New York from Madagascar to study international affairs at Columbia. “It is a much easier way to travel the world, and a nicer way to study history and geography.”

Colorful and entertaining Cultural Nights offer music, lore and cuisines from some of the 100 countries represented at I. House. Musical talents are showcased in a series of recitals throughout the year. Roundtable discussions focus on current topics. An annual festival, which raises money for scholarship funds, is a lively expression of resident diversity.

The concept for International House was originated by the late YMCA official Harry Edmonds following a chance encounter with a lonely Chinese graduate student at Columbia University in 1909. The philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Cleveland H. Dodge family led to its construction at 500 Riverside Drive in 1924. Subsequent International Houses now exist throughout the world, including the International Students House in London, which opened in 1965.

The New York International House has enjoyed distinguished leadership since its inception. Past Chairmen of the Board, in addition to Mr. Kissinger, have included Nobel Prize-winning statesman George C. Marshall and U.S. President Gerald R. Ford. The current chairman is Paul A. Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve System of the United States.

“Those who live at International House tend to share qualities of curiosity and compassion,” says President Cuneo. “Our residents acquire life-long qualities of leadership, mutual respect and friendship that no classroom can offer.”

(Readers are invited to log on to International House’s website, www.ihouse-nyc.org or contact the Admissions office at admissions@ihouse-nyc.org.)




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