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Reflections on I-House

Each year, residents reflect on their experiences at I-House in the Border Crossing Essay Contest. Following are excerpts from recent essays:

Danielle Pakdaman, at right, with her roommate, Negar Ghobadi.
"…My time here is more than a remarkable cultural experience; it is a time of significant personal growth. Not only did I learn about various cultures throughout the world, but I was also able to learn about my own. I was exposed to a vast array of Persian identities: Persian Americans, Persian Africans and Europeans, Persians who are Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i or Christian. I was better able to understand the ways in which being an Iranian American has affected my life. I finally felt safe in joining a Persian community - one that was not exclusively American or Jewish as I have experienced in the past, but diverse as well…

"I've also found a most remarkable support system. As a Peace and Conflict studies major, I am confronted with the reality of war, oppression, and hate almost every time I study. Exploring the bits and pieces of my major illustrated during these moments of tension in the Middle East, my American, Iranian, and Jewish identities clash with one another on a daily basis. Yet, I am hopeful when I find friends here who share my concerns. I am encouraged by people who wish for peace and tolerance for whatever race, religion, or ethnicity that is in need of it. I may struggle with various aspects of my selfhood, but at the I-House, I am reminded that regardless of where I am from, I am a member of humanity.

"… As I continue my personal struggles of religion and ethnicity, and pursue studying world conflicts, I hold the International House very close to my heart. It taught me peace on a human level, enriched with the cultural beauty that each individual brought from their home, redeeming the magnificence of humankind to me for life."

- Danielle Pakdaman, USA,Peace and Conflict Studies

Zahra Makoui

"I am a changed soul thanks to the I-House experience and the process still continues. Now, when I feel hate or racism, I am able to see that the appropriate response is not hating back, but being aware of that individual's ignorance or lack of knowledge, not his or her race's ignorance. My mission is to expand I-House to the world. If everyone would experience what we experience here at I-House, their fears of "others" will be shattered and hence their hate of "others" would turn into understanding…A quote from the I-House documentary motivates me to expand the idea of an International House to the world. That quote was from a Lebanese student who said, 'If the president of Israel and Palestine lived at I-House at some point, and many years later they were sitting around the negotiation table, things would be a lot different than what they are right now.'"

- Zahra Makoui, Iran/USA, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Khurram Khattack

"…Reflecting upon the lasting friendships that I have cultivated here at International House, I have discovered that a sense of cultural identity can be strengthened through sharing and camaraderie in a culturally diverse setting… I found more than just a sense of reconciliation with the tides of change in the conservative setting of my community in Pakistan. I found that identity is enhanced and preserved through the spirit of sharing in a diverse community.

"While dining with a friend from China, she told me of a customary way to ask for advice: 'Can I read by your light?' The firelight from the candle, as it was explained to me, illuminates so much, while costing nothing to those who share. Exhilaration still takes hold as I continue in my goals, ever impressed with a simple question: can I read by your light?

"…Here, I learned to act with compassion and teamwork in spite of difference; this furthered my development into personal and social maturity. As a liaison, bridging the distance between cultures as a leader in the community around me, I have seen what's possible here, and I believe I can achieve the means to help reconcile the generational gap when I decide to return home…I feel as though my education and life at International House have well prepared me to serve my community."

- Khurram Khattack, Pakistan/USA, Information Science

Elizabeth Zacharias

"Recognition of fundamental human characteristics played out in song and dance, in topics of conversation, in humor, and laughing. The common thread that weaves through everything and holds us together, that sometimes ties us up in knots so we struggle for individual identity yet commonality, and that makes the tapestry of life. So many acute observations about my country bombard me, enrich me, nurture me, change me. I am refreshed in my newly found opinions and world-views."

- Elizabeth Zacharias, USA, Integrative Biology


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