More than just a house, I-House is a home where we learn and share values. It serves as a place where Residents build meaningful connections, and achieve personal and professional growth that can positively affect their communities and, perhaps one day, the world.
Now beginning his third year as an I-House Resident, Mehemed Bougsea was born in Germany and is a citizen of Libya. He studies International Development at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and has already built an impressive resume in launching and supporting innovative social enterprises.
What brought you to I-House?
I was already in New York when I met people that lived at I-House; it was through a soccer game at Riverside Park. When I visited, I was just astounded by the number of people that lived here, and the different backgrounds they had, so I decided to apply.
What encouraged you to renew each year?
I always had trouble finding a place where I could speak four languages that I love: Arabic, German, English and French. I came to this place and on my very first day I met probably four people from every one of these regions that spoke the language. I just felt at home.
How has living at I-House influenced your work?
In summer 2016, I worked with the first online university for refugees, Kiron Open High Education, which now offers access to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Kiron was not present in Turkey when I started. I was asked to help the organization scale into that region by building and managing a team of different cultures: Turkish natives familiar with the country’s logistics and legal framework, Syrian entrepreneurs and students, and Kiron staff in Germany. Managing teams while being aware of multiple cultures was something I had been exposed to at I-House, so I had the confidence to do it after moving to Turkey from my International House south room.
Also, I was able to focus my time in Turkey on building this organization – as opposed to taking a side job – because of the financial aid I received through I-House as a Dodge Scholar. Without it, I may not have been able to take on this experience.
So what’s next?
I was awarded a 2017 Employment Innovation Fellowship through I-House. I spent this summer in Tunisia developing Think.iT, a startup I co-founded, which trains young people for jobs in the tech sector. Returning to Columbia, I’ll focus on courses in technologies for economic empowerment in the Middle East and North
Africa. I’ll also be working to raise social impact investments for Think.iT to scale our activities in Tunisia. We believe it’s possible to train 50,000 young people in remotely based tech-sector jobs and connect them with top firms globally by 2025.