Long hallways lined with student lounges and study areas can be seen upon entering International House Philadelphia, located at 37th and Chestnut streets. Groups of people gather eating lunch while others are tucked away in corners reading silently.
Seated directly in the main lobby is the Ibrahim Theater where various shows are screened each month for residents and other community members to enjoy. It becomes clear this is more than just a temporary home for international students.
“The mission of the center as a people where a cultural exchange occurs,” said Sasha Dages, marketing and communications manager for the house.
This ideal is exemplified in the intercultural interactions among students.
Hikaru Kaneko, a 21-year-old from Japan, has been there for six months. He is a business major with a desire to be bilingual and study the English language.
“The real reason I chose to come here is for the experience,” Kaneko said. “I like to travel and visit countries unfamiliar to me.”
Others hanging around the area shared a similar feeling and expressed a sense of excitement at the opportunity they were given.
The building houses approximately 400 international students and contains large bedrooms with full kitchens attached. Although the halls are not as strict as dormitories, security and RA’s are present 24 hours to ensure safety for the residents.
Although the organization is most known for its accommodations, social events and pizza nights are planned as a source of entertainment. By providing tenants with these opportunities, IHP helps to open students to American life, the culture of Philadelphia and become more comfortable in a new environment. The young scholars are able to get a taste of city life with weekend field trips to local exhibits and historic sites.
Academically, IHP offers English classes for those who want to become proficient in the language. Although they do not earn any credits, many choose to enroll to better understand those around them and increase their chance of finding jobs in the country.
William Parker, director of arts, communications and events, said he works to ensure IHP members are never bored.
“Although not all IHP residents choose to stay in Philadelphia once they leave here, most form a lasting network of friends,” Parker said. “It’s incredible to watch them grow as individuals over their time in the city.”