Folio News Story
January 6, 2006

There's no place like home

But International House is a pretty good substitute

by Tyson Kaban
Nikhail Raghuram, Sooae Yoon, Steffi Rosskopf and Darren Horney seem unlikely room mates, but International House has brought them together under one roof.
Nikhail Raghuram, Sooae Yoon, Steffi Rosskopf and
Darren Horney seem unlikely room mates, but
International House has brought them together
under one roof.

The first day of university life can be overwhelming. Most students consider simply attending the university an exercise in independence.

But for the 154 undergraduate and graduate students who live in International House, their first day on campus was likely one of their first days in Edmonton, Alberta or even Canada. In addition to the pressure of academia, many residents of International House also deal with learning a new language, becoming familiar with different social norms and adjusting to a new climate.

The residence, one of about 15 such student residences in North America, houses students from more than 30 countries. Opened just over a year ago, International House has established itself as one of the university's most visible efforts in its campaign to internationalize the campus.

Those who choose to live in the residence choose to have a truly international experience. Most residents agree that attending university and making the choice to live with their international peers required some social and cultural adjustments. Living in such a diverse residence means these students are going to be exposed to new faces and new cultures, experiencing a sort of culture shock within a culture shock.

"When I first came to live here, I was very impressed because, in my country, I've never even seen people from Egypt or the Middle East. They're not common in my country," said Sooae Yoon, a first-year Arts student from Seoul, South Korea. "At first I was really shy to talk with them and I didn't know how to talk with them because I thought they would be much different from me. But living in the same place and getting to know them, I quickly found out that we're all the same."

It's a sentiment Nikhail Raghuram agrees with. The third-year biochemistry major has been on campus for just over two years. He's also lived in the Lister Centre student residence and has noticed a difference living at International House.

"In Lister, there's obviously more Canadians, but the whole community there is less inclusive than living here at International House," he said. "I think that here, we get together more and get along so well because everyone's different. We're all in the same boat, so even though we might all come from different places, no one feels left out."

As one of the numerous Canadian students residing at International House, Darren Horney is a member of the International House committee that organizes pot-luck dinners, social gatherings, and brings in speakers from around the world. Even as a Canadian being exposed to so many different cultures on a daily basis, Horney believes the concept of International House has succeeded in creating a constant, open dialogue about international relations between his fellow housemates.

"Under these circumstances you don't have a large group identity to fall back on. Everyone's just an individual," said Horney, a fourth-year biochemistry major from Grande Prairie, AB. "Maybe immediately we don't relate in cultural norms, but you find a common humanity with each other that will transcend everything."

While it's too soon for most of the students to recognize exactly how much they've changed as a result of living at International House, they agree that living in such a diverse setting has both immediate and lasting benefits.

"I'm happy that I don't have share a room with my little sister anymore, and that I get my own fridge," said first-year Arts student Steffi Rosskopf, from Germany. "At the moment I can't say that living at International House has changed me, but I'm positive that I'll notice it once I go back home."