A Tale of Two Houses – London

Wednesday 6thMarch 2019 – London 

I grew up in London and before this quest, I had heard of International Student House (ISH) London, but I had never heard of Goodenough College. 

Both these homes away from home are part of the International Houses Worldwide Group, so I was keen to visit them as part of my London stop.   Like I-House NYC they take people from across London’s universities, rather than being affiliated to just one. 

Entrance to ISH on Park Crescent

ISH was my morning stop and I was greeted very warmly by the Armenian gentleman on reception who obviously loved his job and was definitely someone you would want welcoming residents and guests.  

Me with Cynthia and Jilly Borowiecka

I was meeting Jilly Borowiecka who has worked at ISH for many years and is well known amongst the ISH alumni I have met.  We were also joined by a current resident, Cynthia, who works part time with the alumni team.  Cynthia is one of the nearly 90 scholars this year who are funded to live at the House to enable them to study at one of the universities or institutions in London.   This scholarship program is something ISH is hugely proud of and are planning to expand it further next year. 

The Nash crescent that ISH is in

ISH is housed in a beautiful Nash crescent right on the edge of Regents Park, however the interior communal spaces have been updated recently so there are plenty of areas for eating, meeting and studying. ISH accepts both undergraduate and graduate students.  

The other side of the building

ISH was started by Mary Trevelyan, and opened in 1965, but a bit like Harry before she went into building a House she started by forming a club, the GOATs club that offered 100 international students a place to socialise and get support whilst they studied.  Alumni of ISH are still called GOATs. https://ish.org.uk/goatsmembership/

Mary was a great friend of Sherry Warwick the former Director of I-House Berkeley and he often stayed at ISH when he was travelling and also spoke there many times.

My next stop was Goodenough College, which has an number of properties on Mecklenburgh Square, which is a lovely peaceful square despite it being right in the heart of London near Kings Cross.   Goodenough was founded in the 1931 by Frederick Crawford Goodenough who was Chairman of Barclays Bank, to house male graduate students from the commonwealth countries.  Women were added in a separate building after WWII and then in the 1970s the intake was opened up to the rest of the world.  

Goodenough college

The site has beautiful buildings that are set around courtyard gardens which are beautifully maintained as it the whole building.   It has a ‘Churchill room’ with lovely wooden panels, which was used by Churchill during the war. It also has a chapel. Because of its location it attracts a good number of music students, who enjoy playing the various grand pianos that are in some of the rooms. There are also usually enough Opera singers to put on a production at the College each summer, which is a very popular event.

The main gateway, with a glimpse of the courtyard beyond. Below the Library and the main hall just two of many beautiful rooms

I was made very welcome by Hannah Du Gray and Laura O’Sullivan from their Development and Alumni team and we had a wide ranging discussion about post graduate student accommodation both in London and abroad. They call their 700 residents ‘Members’ and usually have over 90 countries represented, with strong representation from Australia, the USA and Canada. It really is a beautiful set of buildings well worth a visit if you are in London.

One thing to note is that Goodenough does a subletting scheme when students are away, as well as to support occupancy in the summer and they have a very stylish hotel on the square too – so if you need somewhere to stay in London do have a look at their website (note the short stay ones tend to come up more last minute so keep checking back) http://www.goodenough.ac.uk/visitors/visitor-accommodation

Rome, Pancakes and Missing House

Sunday 17th February 2019 – Rome

Blue sky welcomed me as I stepped out of the Metro at Conca d’Oro and shortly after I was picked up by International House, super fan and very wonderful host, Adriano Romano. First stop, obviously, was coffee, which had to be accompanied by a not very slimming but utterly delicious, Cornetti Nutella.

I am not sure there are words to really describe the loveliness of Rome, it is the constant surprise around each corner, the food and the colours. Harry loved Rome too and enjoyed spending time with his very great friend James Yu, the ambassador from Free China to Italy. Luckily for Harry whenever he went to Rome, he stayed with Mr Yu and he put his limousine and chauffeur at Harry’s disposal.

Harry must have been here on March 11th (slightly after me due to his 2 weeks in Bangkok) as he celebrated his 83rd Birthday here with a big party thrown by the Ambassador. Harry and I share the 11th of March as our Birthdays. I will be having mine in New York at the end of my trip and I will be being 50!

My Rome event was an American Breakfast as a trip down memory lane of breakfast in the dining hall. I was joined by I-House alumni Adriano Romano, Claudia Pelican and Prof. Gemma Corradi Fiumara and by my first Goodenough College alum Pierluigi Barbarisi. We were also joined by Pierluigi’s friend Ana Maria Fageat a fellow London law student.

Pier Luigi Barbarisi, Ana Maria Fageat, Adriano Romano, Claudia Pellicano and Prof. Gemma Corradi Fiumara – photoshop courtesy of Adri!

Of course the conversation focused around coffee with the challenge of finding a decent expresso in London or New York back in the day!

Very smart silver candle from Claudia as my Roman candle to take to Paris friends

We also talked about how Rome has potential as a location for an International House and I shared the story of the Roman I-House that never was.

Just after the war an I-House alum, who was professor of economics at the University of Rome, along with a number of others decided that the Palazzo Salivate had potential as an International House Rome.

Palazzo Salviati – on the edge of the river Vatican side – today it is part of the Defence College


They were hoping for it to be funded by the American Economic Commission who were pouring money into post war reconstruction projects. They were planning 100 rooms and whilst Harry felt that the Palazzo was little ‘overdone’ for an I-House, he was excited by the plans. Everything was drawn up and seemed in place to do the necessary work to turn it into a House, when Harry had to leave to go back to the US. However it seems that there was then some serious procrastination amongst the group in Rome and they missed getting the funding they were looking for as Congress stopped contributing to such projects.

Not one to give up it seems that Harry continued to hold out hope that the building would still be secured and converted as per the original plans and so he persuaded the American Ambassador, Mrs. Claire Booth Luce to throw a tea party for him with prominent Italians, in the hopes that one of them might put up the funds. Sadly although he says they had a nice party, no funds were forthcoming. The Ambassador was much frustrated by the lack of willingness from the rich Italians, but Harry was more sanguine, saying that ‘if the interest is there, the need is there, it has to be fulfilled’ and that he was willing to ‘keep on’. He was ever the optimist. Perhaps the time is now right…

The view that the I-House would have had!

Story Snippets….

Roman Sisters – Prof. Gemma Corradi Fiumara – In the 1960s Gemma wanted to go and study in the US but her parents were reluctant to be persuaded. So they said that she could on the condition that both her and her sister went together and that they won scholarships to pay for their studies. So they did. Gemma went to study Philosophy as an Undergrad and Sofia to study her Masters in Comparative Law in New York and both lived at I-House. As a result of their experience they have both gone on to do amazing things with Gemma writing a number of notable academic books, the most recent being Psychic Suffering; from Pain to Growth. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1782202692/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0 Her very latest book is a historical novel The Pilgrim Kings: A Story of the Magi. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pilgrim-Kings-Story-Karnac-Library/dp/1782205586/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550426501&sr=8-1&keywords=the+pilgrim+kings+a+story+of+the+magi

Sofia went on to found the Erasmus project of student exchanges in Europe. https://www.sofiacorradi.eu Sadly Sofia was not well enough to join us for the brunch, but talking to Gemma it was clear that both her and her sister never took no for an answer and found a way through to achieve their aims whether getting agreement between two countries for their students to travel between them or getting a book published.

Prof. Gemma Corradi Fiumara (right) with Claudia Pelican

The Infamous Pesto Party – Adriano Romano – When Adri was in the House he was often to be found cooking in one of the flats with a kitchen. One day he decided to give a simple Italian cookery lesson and teach some 15 friends to make Pesto. He assembled the ingredients, basil, pine nuts, olive oil and Argentinian Parmesan (apparently Italian was hard to come by and too expensive for student budgets) and a blender and they produced the pesto and cooked pasta for it to go on. The resulting dinner was considered so delicious that it seems that the recipe spread quickly through the House that evening and soon pesto was being enjoyed on all floors. Adri enjoyed his party and the next day was returning to Italy. When he arrived he found that he had a telephone message from a key member of the I-House staff that he must call her immediately. When he did he was reprimanded for his culinary lessons, as it had resulted in no one eating in the dining hall that evening, which in turn resulted in a loss of wages for the catering staff. Adri was obviously apologetic but it did not stop him continuing to share his Italian cooking with I-House friends during his remaining time there.

2nd Generation at Goodenough – Pierluigi Barbarisi – Pierluigi was recommended to stay at Goodenough College in London, a member of the International Houses World Wide group http://ihouseworldwide.org, by his Uncle who had lived there in the 1970s. Pierluigi told us about the garden, swimming pool and tennis court that they enjoyed in its very central London location. Like the I-House NYC, Goodenough residents are drawn from over 70 countries are post graduate students and can be from any institution in London giving them a wonderful international grounding and life long friends.

Pierluigi Barbarisi (right)

Making Movies – As Claudia Pellicano studied Journalism and Acting when in NYC, the conversation moved to the fact that I-House and the surrounds were used for filming whilst Adri and Claudia were at the House. Claudia remembered that an episode of Gossip Girls was filmed in the House and Adri that Law and Order was filmed in the surrounding streets. Sadly neither of them got to star in either production.

Lunch with Mario De Rosa, who will be a wonderful ambassador one day

Where we ate:

American Breakfast at – http://www.meccanismoroma.it

Coffee with Claudio – “I dolci di nonna vincenza” a pastry shop located in Via dell’arco del monte 98

Lunch with Mario De Rosa – Antica Trattoria Pallotta http://ristorantepizzeriapallotta.com/en/home-english-2/