by Swathi Chandrasekaran (India), Resident Press Corps
Moving into the hustle and bustle of New York City is a daunting task. Put that together with moving to New York as a graduate student looking to start another formidable semester, and you have brewed yourself a good old recipe for stress and panic. However, if you’re coming to live at International House, rest assured that you will be welcomed.
As an international student moving to New York City for the first time, I was there too, once—so were most of us who reside now at International House. I remember well the deliberations: Should you pack those extra pair of shorts or leave them behind to fit your trusty kettle? Will you be hitting the gym often enough to stuff your luggage to its rafters with gym shoes and boxers, or will you need the space for that extra-special hardbound copy of your favorite novel?
I hope that through this article, a part of your intimidating move becomes easier, as we delve into what to expect when you’re coming to live at I-House in NYC.
If you’re going to live in I-House South, imagine the quintessential dorm room. It’s small and packed with basic furniture—or as we put it, it’s ‘cozy.’ You’ll have your regular desk, bookshelves and drawers for clothes; and unless you’re packing your entire house over, you should be able to fit all your regular need items here with ease. Creativity comes with your individual need, and you’ll find a number of rooms restructured through arrangements and additions of mini-refrigerators and air-conditioners that can be acquired here easily from older residents.
Packing Utensils, Books, Clothes and Shoes:
You need some of each, perhaps more of one than another. Which one would you prioritize though? Worry no more. Drop the utensils without hesitation: if you’re like me, you’ll seldom find the urge to cook a meal with the cafeteria doling out their fantastic menus just downstairs. Of course you should look at carrying your clothes, so do be wary of the storage space in your room. You get four drawers, each of 100*80 cm, and a regular wardrobe. Pack what you can, and you can always shop your way around NYC to fill in any blanks!
With rooms in I-House North (depending on the size!), you can afford to be less cautious and perhaps more reckless. So go ahead and pack your favorite Funkopop toys and range of cutlery. When you’re here you might even have space to get a small Bonsai indoors.
If you’re a sports lover, then I-House is your Wonderland! With a weekly schedule of sports played in the Frohlich Gymnasium that includes basketball and cricket, and a well-equipped Fitness Center to hit on your other days, you have a myriad of ways to stay healthy here. And if the countless vending machines around I-House are tempting you too much—fear not! The gym is right around the corner. There are also multiple Yoga and Aerobic sessions offered throughout the semester, and at least one regular runners group.
Pro Tip: Sign up for the various Facebook groups for sports to stay updated with schedule changes, players showing up, etc.
Location & Commute:
The closest subway station is a short, short walk away, and you won’t regret the geographic location of the House when you wake up with the easy ability to stroll aside the Hudson or take a jog along the riverside, or when you experience your first snowfall on the beautiful lawns of Sakura Park.
If you’ve been in NYC before, travel shouldn’t worry you. If you haven’t—fret not! NYC is a utopia for commuting—you’ll end up walking and taking public transportation everywhere. So pack your comfort sneakers and get used to the idea of taking to the road for everything every day!
Pro Tip: Get the “Unlimited” subway Metrocard for the first week you spend in NYC- you won’t regret it and you’ll learn the ropes of budgeting for future periods.
The facilities are perhaps the most important aspect of what a student looks for when finding housing. I-House offers amenities and services with stellar quality. Besides the cafeteria and gyms already mentioned, you’ll have 24-hour access to in-house laundry rooms and a mailroom that conveniently collects and stores your deliveries until you pick them up. There are multiple study rooms and comfortable common areas–as well as an on-site Pub with a game room—that will welcome you during the crunch times before exams when you need to escape the loneliness of your room.
Pro Tip: Always carry a jacket when you’re exploring the different nooks of I-House: as a prewar building with event spaces as well as cozy lounges, certain corners are colder than others due to inactivity, and you’ll be thankful to have a coat handy!
Pro Tip: The Main Lounge has an impressive collection of magazines and newspapers subscribed for residents and placed on a common table generously by I-House—do check them out before starting your own subscriptions.
Opportunities to further your participation:
As a graduate student, you might have your plate filled to the brim with assignments and events for school, but if you’re looking for additional experience and exposure, do check out the wonderful fellowships and scholarships offered by I-House and their sponsors only to Residents. Opportunities include the Women’s International Leadership Fellowship, fellowships that support and teach about the many programs and events I-House hosts, and Green Fellowships for the environmentalists among us. Fitness Coordinators, Resident Fellows, Round Table organizers, Resident writers–these are some of the many, many roles at I-House that are certain to give you an even more enriching experience and use for your talents if you’re willing to spend the additional time.
Socials, Events, Workshops:
Ultimately, these are what makes I-House what it is. There will be fiestas and other celebrations of different cultures, Page-Turner events that feature notable authors discussing their work, Salon nights that feature the talents of fellow Residents, ice-cream socials, trivia nights at the Pub, and innumerable other events conducted dozens of times in a semester. These events make life at I-House a potpourri of meeting new friends, staying connected to old ones, and experiencing the richness of the amalgamation of cultures within the House. New York City itself is a medley of cultures, and I-House stands testimony to that by maintaining an atmosphere of inclusivity in its diversity. Regular Board Game nights, “Wine Wednesdays” at the Pub, comedy shows and deeply discounted movies and Broadway tickets are other perks that come alongside the dynamic life at I-House.
To sum up, the experience you get at I-House is very dependent on what you make of it. It takes a while to adjust to the sudden increase in the number of new faces you see each day, but once you do, you’ll find you’ve opened up so many more avenues for making strong connections and forging lifelong friendships. So get excited, and pack your suitcases to the brim–we’re all awaiting your arrival!
Swathi Chandrasekaran is a graduate student in Management Science and Engineering at Columbia University aspiring to become a product manager in the media or tech industries. She was born and raised in Chennai, a metropolitan city in Southern India, where she had immense opportunities for learning a myriad of skills, including the classical south Indian form of dance, Bharatanatyam. She enjoys debating, writing, playing competitive Scrabble, and solving cryptic crosswords. She is also an Alumna of the Women’s International Leadership program (WIL) at International House.