Students experience world from comfort of home

The International House (I-House) within the ThinkBig residential program brings both international and American students together to provide them with a diverse and multi-cultural experience on campus.

“We are hoping to create a vibrant group or community of internationally engaged students who want to think about the world at large who want to learn from one another and share parts of their culture and heritage,” said Professor Kelly Comfort and contributor to the I-House Program.

I-House is located at Hayes House and Fourth Street East and houses about 48 undergraduate US students and 24 international students. I-House residents strive to experience the cultures of one another’s native country through different activities held during the semester The include a Columbus Day Celebration, during which different Spanish cuisines are served, and I-Korea, which celebrates the holiday Chuseok.

“I-House has such a sense of community that I have never experienced anywhere else. Everyone is so willing to become friends and enjoy their time here; you can’t help but pick up on some of their enthusiasm and energy and join along,” said Sang Kang Greene, an I-House resident and a fourth-year EE major. “The fact that you can cook dinner, watch a show or movie or simply hang out with people at any given day of the week spontaneously is simply amazing. And the different cultures you experience on a day-to-day basis is indescribable, be it international food, accents, vocabulary or simple habits.”

Many I-House residents have been exposed to abroad programs, which gave them the desire to continue their cultural experiences.

“We are all different, but we had in common the fact that we were all foreign students in a new school, and that we wanted to have fun and make the most of our experience. I loved being part of that group and I wanted to remain a member of such a group even after my return to GT, thus I joined I-House, and I got exactly that—a group of people from all over the world sharing a similar experience and wanting to enjoy it to the max,” said Ameer Khalek, an I-House resident and a fifth-year AE major.

I-House also emphasizes a family oriented community.

“We have a strict open-door policy here, and every night we have family-style dinners going around with at least ten residents. It’s a great, close-knit group,” said Kait Cook, an I-House resident and a third-year ChBE major.

Within the program, students volunteer, network and develop cultural interests and leadership. Many participants minor in foreign languages or plan to study abroad and also encouraged to participate.

“I-House gave me the opportunity to impact the experience of the many exchange students that come to Tech. I help plan events, assist the exchange students in the adapting to life at GT, introduce them to Atlanta, [and more],” Khalek said.

I-House hosts cultural events throughout the semester that are also open to students outside the program for prices ranging from free to a small charge.

The International Coffee Hours hosted at the I-House is an event open to everyone, providing an opportunity to socialize with international students and to practice language skills.

The international career fair will be hosted in Spring 2011 to provide opportunities for students looking for work abroad.

“Crossing Borders,” a documentary showing four American students matched with four Moroccan students to dispel cultural stereotypes and to facilitate an open cultural discussion, is open to the whole campus.

“I was able to experience [many wonderful things in Atlanta] with a group of some of the most amiable, loving people I have ever met in my life. It didn’t matter that we’d all been friends for a few weeks; the International students intend to make the best out of their semester or year here,” Greene said.