International House Candlelight Dinner

Article by Charlotte Thomas, GPA Ambassador

Click here for pictures of the event

On Tuesday, September 19, new and native-born Philadelphians alike from many cultures and over 40 different countries gathered together at Philadelphia’s International House for a traditional candle lighting ceremony.
The aptly named “I-House” is the region’s international hub for arts, cultural, educational, and residential activities. The center not only houses students, scholars, and professional trainees from over 75 countries, but it also fosters a sense of belonging among its international residents. By connecting them to the Philadelphia community through over 200 interdisciplinary events each year, the I-House advances the greater community’s understanding and appreciation for all cultures.

The candlelight ceremony was a precursor to the year’s exciting approaching events at the I-House that encourage the intermingling of different perspectives. In fact, this event was particularly special because it celebrated the induction of new members into the I-House. The lighting of candles between attendees in this ceremony symbolized the passing of the light of friendship and understanding to new members, so that they too can pass this warmth on to their own communities and around the world.
This night, guests were able to converse freely and try various international foods before the official induction. Dishes included Asian noodles, Indian curry, and European cheeses.

Many supportive and heartening speeches from the I-House directors complemented the global cuisine, those of which included I-House Director of Finance Lina Yankelevich; Chief Operating Officer Glenn Martin; Chair of the Board of Trustees and Interim CEO Ludo C. P. Scheffer—a former resident of the I-House for six years and to whom the I-House owes much of its success. Another important welcoming speech came from a member of the Philadelphia banking community, Wells Fargo Vice President Patrick Daher, who reminded the foreign residents that they have many opportunities to become active participants in the larger community.

Later, Global Philadelphia Association’s Executive Director Zabeth Teelucksingh offered helpful advice on how to best approach an unfamiliar culture, and to make the most of one’s experience in the United States, especially in Philadelphia. As a non-native-born resident of Philadelphia herself, Ms. Teelucksingh has confronted cultural differences and persisted in her own success.  She advised to remain true to one’s self, but to be cognizant of the distinctions in daily American practices. She shared her realization that volunteering is more prevalent in the US than it is where she has previously lived, and that it is a positive opportunity to become involved in the community.

The final caring words of the I-House staff concluded the speeches before the traditional ceremony, and demonstrated the depth of family-like support that exists for I-House members. These reminders were taken from the words of Director of Programs and Events Sarah Christy; Associate Director of Resident Life Deborah Houda; and current resident from University of Pennsylvania Areta Jushaj.

The candle-lighting ceremony was an altogether heartwarming, and cheery opener, and it showcased that the bonds one forges within the association are as bright and strong as the candle flames that symbolically represent them.