Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham: Global Climate Activist from Malaysia
Residents bring a wide variety of unique experiences and passions that make the International House NYC community exceptional. One such Resident is Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham, a fierce advocate for climate change awareness who traveled from Malaysia to pursue a master’s degree in Climate and Society at Columbia University. Before arriving at I-House, Jasmin completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science in Malaysia and was active with several advocacy groups. She participated in the International Islamic University Malaysia Public Debate Series, where she spoke on the topic of environmental taxation, and also volunteered for the Malaysian Youth Delegation, which focuses on climate policy, advocacy, and negotiations. As an MYD delegate, she attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference and was interviewed by Astro Awani, a Malaysian news channel, about youth leadership in climate change activism. During her time at I-House, Jasmin has pursued a second passion, writing, serving as a Resident Press Corps Fellow to cover events and life at I-House. Below is a glimpse into Jasmin’s journey.
Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from, and what inspired you to apply to live at I-House?
I was born and raised in Ampang, Selangor, located 15 minutes away from the heart of the city capital, Kuala Lumpur. I grew up in a very multicultural and diverse setting. Malaysia is made up of three main ethnicities, which are Malay, Chinese and Indian, and indigenous groups such as Kadazan-Dusun, Iban, Dayak, Murut, Bajau and others. I pursued my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, where I made friends from all over the world. Many of my friends are multiracial, and being in a diverse environment feels like home to me.
I actually stumbled upon I-House accidentally. I came to New York in August 2019, without an accommodation. I figured that I would settle it once I arrived here. I was looking at off-campus options, and passed by I-House one day when I was walking to the Columbia International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) [which is located in I-House’s North Building]. I immediately went on the I-House website to learn more about it, and I loved that I-House incorporates the concept of global community. I knew straight away that I wanted to apply to stay here. It was the best decision that I made.
Tell us about your work. What are you studying?
I am currently studying a Master’s in Climate and Society at Columbia University. My major is Climate Science with a concentration in Climate Change Law and Governance. Prior to pursuing my Master’s, I was a Research Associate at the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development (JSC). At JSC, I mainly worked on projects at the intersection of agriculture, land use, and climate change.
I was also actively involved with a civil society organization called the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD), a youth organization in Malaysia that focuses on climate policy, advocacy, and negotiations. I have been volunteering with MYD since 2016, and as a representative I have attended the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP22 and COP23). With MYD, I helped organize training series and knowledge capacity-building sessions for youths to learn more about climate policy and communication methods. I have also coordinated and mentored Malaysian youths who represented MYD at the UN. One of the objectives of MYD is to hold leaders accountable to commitments made at the international level, and MYD works closely with the Ministry of Environment, as well as local and international NGOs. My experience at JSC and MYD inspired me to pursue my studies in climate science and policy at Columbia University.
What are your favorite things about living here?
I love the community vibe at I-House. The people here are very friendly, and it is so easy to just start a conversation with everyone living here. The events and activities that are organized here also make the International House community bond stronger.
As part of the Resident Press Corps, I get to write about some of these events as well. I always look forward to the “In Conversation” events, where speakers come to give talks on specific topics to the I-House community. My favorite event by far has been the visit by the cast of “The Lion King” – that was magical and amazing. Discounted Broadway tickets are also a plus! I also play floor hockey every week here. I-House has an impressive list of sports activities that one could take part in. I used to play field hockey and floorball back in Malaysia, and I am happy that I get to continue playing a sport I love here. Since I’ve joined, I am the only girl who has been attending the floor hockey sessions. I hope to see more girls in the future, it’s really fun!
What’s next for you? What do you want to accomplish in your career?
I plan to pursue a career in Climate Policy and aspire to work at the United Nations, or international think tanks/research centers/non-profits. I believe that climate change is one of the most pressing crises of our time, and there is a lot of work needed to be done to solve it.
How has your experience being a part of this community helped you progress toward your goals?
Definitely! The community at I-House is very supportive, and it is important to be in a positive environment, especially as a graduate student who is constantly overloaded with university work. Personally, the positive environment at I-House has helped me get through the semesters. I-House also provides generous financial aid opportunities to those who are in need, which I think is very helpful in terms of lifting some financial burdens. Professionally, the amount of networking sessions and talks that are organized by I-House help increase meaningful connections between the invited speakers or guests, and the residents.
Finally, do you have any advice for people considering a residency at I-House?
I would highly encourage people who are interested in being immersed in a global community and growing in a positive environment, to apply to live at I-House. Living at I-House will broaden your horizon, diversify your perspective, and provide you with limitless opportunities. And I am certain that you will gain lifelong friends.