Morgan Randall (IH 2014 - 16)
This last semester, I had the pleasure of drawing every I-House resident’s whiteboard. I go up and down the hallways, markers and white-board spray in hand, knocking on the doors of friends and strangers alike. I draw a resident’s picture in about three minutes—but the conversation almost always lasts longer.
I’ve met so many people here. I’ve learned so much. We speak of math, philosophy, and natural talent vs. learned skills. I practice my German, Japanese, and Korean. Often residents give me food or trinkets from their home countries in exchange for their portraits. I’ve come to love Lithuanian chocolate and Colombian coffee-caramels. I’m a big fan now of Turkish delights, and Singaporean hot chocolate mix. But even nicer than the food, are the friendships that have come from this project—sometimes a total stranger becomes my close friend.
I set out to draw everyone’s picture in I House. I’ve nearly finished. And seeing all the wonderful cultures, personalities, and perspectives of the residents here reaffirms my belief that there is nowhere else in the world like I House. Of course I want to stay here for my last semester at Berkeley!
Neha M. Dave (IH 1990 and Spring 2016)
You can have only one mother
I said this to Joe Lurie who looked at me with a warm and piercing gaze. He knew I had just said everything about my relationship with International House, the amazing place at which he was then the executive director.
It was a beautiful autumn day in Berkeley in October of 1990 when I organized the first ever I-House celebration of Diwali, the Indian new year and festival of lights. The receptionist’s desk, Great Hall, stairway to the executive offices, entrances to each floor, and dining room had ornate bronze statues of graceful Hindu Gods & Goddesses. Every table in the dining room had white and gold flowers, incense, and traditional sweets, while melodious sitar music by Ravi Shankar permeated the air thru speakers installed for that day. Fellow residents, managers of each department, and dining-room servers were all dressed in Indian silk and welcomed residents and guests for a traditional Indian meal. Students from 22 different countries sang Bollywood songs and climbed tables in the dining-room patio to hang oil lamps and candles in the shape of a huge lotus on the 15-feet high rows of metal wiring across 2 strong trees that physical operations had carefully tied for the occasion. After weeks of meticulous planning and many surprising lessons in leadership and organization, I stood amidst what seemed like a surreal evening. It was certainly not a celebration like one would see in India; it was not even a typical Diwali celebration in America; this, every bit of it, was a uniquely I-house experience!
Joe, who had been a tremendous support throughout the process, looked at every detail, and said that henceforward, this festival should become an I-House tradition. A few years later, after I had graduated from Cal, I returned to say hello to friends and staff who were still working. I was told that the Diwali celebration had hit some rough spots due to lack of organizational initiative and knowledge about the festival details. On Joe’s request, I helped the program office and dining room with the arrangements and drew up a plan so that it could be followed each year. Joe and I were reminiscing about my resident days when I had been elected to the I-House Board of Directors, helped welcome Secretary Schultz and Michael Blumenthal to Gala dinners, persuaded my professor and former resident Marion Diamond to donate money in a phone-a-thon, hosted two classical music concerts, and participated in countless events, shows and efforts at an institution that none of us ever called “just a dorm." Joe pondered aloud as to what could describe my relationship with I-House. I replied, "You can have only one mother."
This statement was quoted several times since, and many wondered what I had meant by it. Was I a mother to I-House or was it the other way around? The answer really does not matter (I am not sure that even I know what it is.) What matters is that it is one of the most celebrated and natural relationships one could have. Perhaps I-House found and nurtured my skills and passions, and I gave my best to help achieve every goal I-House had at the time. Perhaps I played a part in showing what and how aspects of other parts of the world can be embraced, and I-House thrived in that metamorphic transformation. Either way, it is a relationship that does not end; it only becomes more important as time goes by. I have met many former residents who look back at their I-House days as the best time in their lives. But to me, I-house has lived within me through graduate school and the past 14 years of college-level teaching. I wanted to return as a resident 26 years later because I am convinced that my relationship with I-House is growing to another beautiful state where the sentiments to nurture, lessons to learn, and goals to accomplish for me and I-House are at a new threshold of possibilities. A one-of-a-kind relationship that is this genuine and enduring must be renewed, and hence, I-House is where I belong. I am humbled, excited, and honored to be part of its rich tapestry as a resident again this spring.
Jan-Georg Rosenboom (IH 2010 - 11)
My exchange year at Berkeley and in I-House basically change my life, my view on life and my future path. Before I wanted to go back to Hamburg and spend my life there. Now I'm in Zurich as PhD, which was recommended by a professor from Berkeley. Besides, my engagement in music, that was expressed as a band back in Hamburg, carried on at I-House in the form of 4 different projects showcased at the Sunday Suppers, and now continues with other bands in Zurich. Besides, I happily coached a few other students from Germany to spend time during their studies in Berkeley, and of course apply for a room at I-House. (attending the Germany reunion)
Joël Thai (IH 2010 - 11)
I am so glad I came to Berkeley and lived at International House! Living with 600 people from all around the world who are so nice, open-minded, and wonderful was amazing! Eating at the dining hall, mingling during coffee hours, visiting San Francisco, and travelling around the USA created very strong friendships. After we left I-House and moved to different countries we are still keeping in touch, I-House is like family. Below is a photo from a reunion in Vienna, Austria in 2014. Looking forward to the reunion in Köln on May 15th!