Ready to “Fall”?
Fall semester has begun. As my dear German friend Lars says, “ISH forms a distinctly different soul each semester.” A soul made up of its diverse residents from around the world. How do I know? I have lived and enjoyed five semesters in International Student House, D.C.
As I see the new students check in, with their usual skepticism and cynicism about ISH, I wonder if they have any clue on the amazing time that awaits them in ISH, D.C. On that thought, I would like to cordially welcome all the awesome new members of the ISH family.
Any issue, idea or place usually warrants divided reviews. It is next to impossible to find a place/idea/concept that is unanimously liked by everyone. ISH, DC is that place for me!!
Several hundred students stayed and left during my stay in ISH. I am yet to hear a resident say, “I hate this place!!” (Except for that one guy who was unfortunate to land on the day his room-heater didn’t work and left the next morning – well, outliers exist everywhere plus he would have “ceased to exist” if he stayed one more night in a room without a heater in mid-January of 2014.) Of course I am kidding; our dear housekeeping people fixed it right away.
They all leave with amazing memories from ISH. The kind of memories that, when we look back years later, will surely fetch a positive thought, a “sappy” moment for some, irrespective of how messy your current situation would be. People here undergo transformations without even realizing it. You will know it if you closely observe them–something I love to do.
The best lesson amongst the many I learned from ISH is that if you are patient, there is something loveable in every person you meet in ISH. Many times, I felt/feel a sense of dislike for some people in the house about how thoughtlessly they express their extreme viewpoints in a group, ending up hurting some other person’s feelings or belief systems. But, as I stay longer, I see those two people bond over their very same differences. Should I say the ISH community teaches you to connect to the human soul in a fellow resident – irrespective of your exterior predispositions? I will nod (I am an Indian, I have to nod even when I am writing) – a “yes” nod.
As we progress in our stay in ISH, we experience a fade of every divide that separates us from each other – our country, race, color or religion. Soul to soul connections are made.It is impossible to segregate and stay within your own ethnic groups in ISH. The idea of fixed meal timings induces a forced intermingling, which breaks away the initial inhibitions. From this forced mingling springs the best kind of intercultural friendships, a sense of cross-border brotherhood/sisterhood and sometimes deep (or not so deep) romances.
It is obvious that every resident in ISH is in pursuit of a goal/dream – personal, professional or both. The problem with chasing your dream is that, sometimes, you tend to lose momentum or even worse hit stumbling blocks like cultural shocks, homesickness, heartbreaks, depression and what not. But there is always that one ISH member for you, who will always support you, remind you of your capabilities and even goes the extra mile to provide solutions.
We understand each other in a strangely amazing way. We weep together, laugh together, laugh at ourselves all the time and embrace all that we are. We bond in our pajamas over our breakfast table. How pretentious can you be in your pajama, half awake and barely making it to the closing mess door at 8.57 am, lest you should end up missing the breakfast?
The other day we watched the Dead Poets Society and I am very touched by the scene where Robin Williams (God rest his soul) stands up on the table and urges his students to “constantly look at things in a different way”. Each person in ISH comes with a unique view point about any issue. On a typical dinner or breakfast table, one of these issues is put to discussion and what emerges is a collage of diverse viewpoints. Each individual leaves the discussion having learned something new he/she had not observed about the issue. These discussions always show us a different way to look at things.
I can go on and on about my stay in ISH. But, this is only a prelude to the amazing experiences that awaits all of us in ISH. Let us together make the most of this rare gift of experience given to us.
I mean, for instance, what are the chances of a woman from a small town in Southern India connecting with people from Tongo, East Timor, or Ecuador while studying in U.S?
Very slim chances (The odds are only almost 1 in 1.3 Billion).
Well, not in ISH!! Chances are you and I will connect with people from places “I” have not even heard of – not because they are less significant, but simply because I am more ignorant.
ISHers are one big happy family of lawyers, doctors, scientists, engineers, policy writers, influencers, prospective national leaders…The list of achievers goes on and on. Each amazing ISH resident, with his/her unique story and vibe adds up to form the distinctly different spirit of ISH in this Fall semester.