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International House Offers International Students a Home Away from Home

by Jessica Foshee

Located on Melrose Avenue across from the John C. Hodges Library, the International House welcomes students and visitors alike as they walk from Cumberland Avenue and make their way onto the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus.

The International House helps students from all cultural backgrounds enhance their global citizenship engagement by hosting programs and events that celebrate a variety of cultures.

“The I-House is a really special place. Most schools don’t have anything quite like it, so UT is really lucky to have the resources that are associated with I-House,” said Lauren Wood, director of the International House.

Wood continues, “The International House aims to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. Sometimes people think the International House is just for international students. It is absolutely for them, but it is also for every other student at UT as well.”

students sitting at a table during International trivia night

Group from international trivia night in August of 2022, the International House’s most popular orientation event | photo credit: Yana Mitsos

“It’s a great place [for international students] to meet other international students as well as make friends with the local students who want to make friends from other cultures,” said Zoya Kamil, a graduate assistant at the International House.

“I have absolutely loved being here not only because it gives me a sense of belonging, but also because I get to meet other students who are sharing the same journey as me,” said Klea Lamallari, a student assistant at the International House.

“One of our primary goals is to promote learning across cultures paired with meaningful engagement with individuals from different cultural backgrounds than our own,” said Wood. “We are all here to learn together so that we can engage in our world as global citizens who have the skills to successfully interact with people who have different perspectives than we do.”

“The I-House uses the mission of ‘educating, engaging, and supporting all students to help them participate as members of a global, culturally diverse society’ as the driving force behind our events and programs,” said Cymone Samuels, the new program coordinator of the International House. “The I-House was designed to provide support for international students during the transition to UT and Knoxville through programs to create ‘a home away from home.’”

Students pose with flags at homecoming parade in 2022

Student (left) and student assistant (right) at the homecoming parade in 2022 | photo credit: International House staff

Madison Watts, another student assistant at the International House, said that the events “enrich our campus and help us become a well-rounded and global-minded campus community, which I think is essential to understanding and appreciating the incredibly diverse world we live in.”

“As an international student, I went to a lot of International House events before I worked here; that’s how I came to know about it. I love going to every single event,” said Kamil.

The International Dance Competition is one of the biggest events the International House hosts, where any student, faculty or staff member can showcase their dancing skills. This semester the competition included seven performances with a total of 36 performers.

dancers at the international festival

Mayuri performers at the International Festival in 2022 | photo credit: Steven Bridges

This coming fall, the International Festival will celebrate its 40-year anniversary on October 20. The event provides a collaboration for UT cultural student groups and organizations to showcase their cultures by hosting booths with food, activities, art and more. Music and dance performances, a fashion show and cultural demonstrations provide the campus community an opportunity to explore global cultures without having to leave campus.

“I remember attending the I-Fest my freshman year and being amazed at all the different cultures I was able to experience from the comfort of my university’s campus, so much so I went up to the staff and immediately asked how to apply because I knew I wanted to be a part of this incredible community,” said Watts.

Other International House programs include American Cultural Experiences, World Showcases, International Coffeehouses and the Friendship Program.

students hiking in the mountains for American cultural experience

International House staff and students hiking the Alum Cave Trail in the Smoky Mountains for an American Cultural Experience | photo credit: International House staff

American Cultural Experiences “are designed with the idea that any student, especially an international student, can come and learn something about American culture,” said Wood. Some exciting events from this semester included the American cooking class, which explored the significance of cornbread in Appalachia, and a visit to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center to learn about local African American history. “It’s important to me that we don’t ever present American culture as homogenous.”

two students pose with food at culture night

Two students enjoying food at the Bangladesh World Showcase culture night | photo credit: Yana Mitsos

World Showcase is a week-long series of events that focuses on a specific culture to immerse students in different aspects of the culture including a lecture, a cooking demonstration, coffeehouse and culture night.

International Coffeehouses are held on the first Wednesday of each month and provide the opportunity for students, scholars and staff to make new friends and enjoy food, coffee and tea from different cultures.

The Friendship Program “is designed to pair international and domestic students with the goal of cultivating friendships and helping international students feel at home in a new place,” said Samuels.

“Every country is so unique and beautiful in its own way, and all the events we organize help spotlight these beautiful countries and what they have to offer,” said Lamallari, who instructs weekly Albanian language practice at the International House.

The International House also focuses on supporting the cultural adjustment of international students. They work closely with the International Student and Scholar services office to “welcome international students and help them integrate into the campus and local community,” said Wood. They provide support such as airport transportation when new students arrive in Knoxville.

“It is a goal of mine to see the I-House explore new areas of collaboration across the university. There is a huge potential for new programming and partnerships to work toward lasting global and individual significance that contributes to a more interconnected and peaceful world,” said Samuels.

“If you’re looking for a diverse community where you can be yourself and be welcomed with open arms, join us at the International House, whether at an event or just come hang out and grab some free tea and coffee!” said Watts.

To learn more about events and programs at the International House, visit or follow @utkinternational on Instagram.


Jason Moody (865-974-5752,