A few months ago, I was preparing to bid farewell to Bologna, Italy – the beautiful city where I had spent my first year of my graduate education at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Leaving Italy was a bittersweet experience, for it had become like home. However, I was ready to make the move to Washington, DC to complete my final year of studies. When I visited this city four years ago, I had a glimpse of the great opportunities that it offered for students, like myself, who are passionate about international affairs. I was determined to return, and call it home.
As anyone who has lived in DC will tell you, finding accommodation is not easy. So when my school’s international student advisor first spoke to me about International Student House, I was instantly intrigued. He told me about this historic building, founded by the Quakers in the 1930s to provide a warm and vibrant home for international students. It is not simply a place of residence, but rather one of dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and intercultural understanding. This is exactly the kind of environment in which I sought to immerse myself, and I was therefore thrilled when I received an offer over the summer to live at ISH in my final year of graduate studies.
It has been one month since I moved to the House. Each time I walk into the door, it feels like entering a secret society. As I climb up the wooden stairs and gaze at the beautiful paintings on the wall, each with its own story, I am serenaded by the sounds of the piano being played in the Great Hall. I have met students and scholars from all corners of the globe, and from all walks of life. Sharing meals with my fellow residents is by far my favorite experience at the house. Every day, over breakfast and dinner, I learn new stories about somewhere in the world – from Nigeria, to Turkey, to South Sudan, Japan and Germany. It is true that sharing food is one of the best ways to promote peaceful and fulfilling dialogue.
In my first month at ISH, I had a chance to participate in the annual Global Leadership Awards Dinner, where I met many ambassadors who had come to the House for a visit. It was amusing to observe how foreign dignitaries envied us for living in this beautiful, historic building while being students. And almost everyday, I receive a new email from our resident managers inviting us to cultural events and networking opportunities, to make the most of our experience in this city.
I feel grateful to be a part of this welcoming community. I look forward to seeing what this year has in store, and to share some of my experiences on this platform with you, our readers.