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Four Program Assistants. Three Countries. One I-House. Countless Memories. Infinite Love.

I have just about two weeks left at I-House and am beginning to feel very emotional about it. Every time I step into the dining hall, I am beginning to count down the days before I will have to bid farewell. While I am sad to let it go, I am also so happy for everything I-House has meant over the course of the last nine months.

I am certainly not alone in this. My fellow Program Assistants are also starting to reflect on what it has meant to live in I-House. While some of us will continue to stay here, others are moving on to different things and places. I wanted to take this opportunity to give a glimpse into what I-House has meant and what our experiences have been. So, I asked our Program Assistants to answer some questions.

Q: What was your first impression of I-House and how has it changed over time

Anusha: When I was first coming to I-House, it seemed more like a place where I could live, eat, and meet new people from different backgrounds. It was also quite convenient that it is close to the law school. I was definitely very excited to meet people from different countries and to experience various cultures and traditions. However, I could not have possibly anticipated the way this experience would transform me as a person. Over the last few months, as I have experienced diversity and inter-cultural exchange, made friends from across the globe, attended cultural events and programs, and worked as a Program Assistant, I have seen myself change for the better. It is near impossible to even describe the magic that happens within these walls. I-House certainly cannot be reduced to just being a dorm by any means. It is probably closer to Hogwarts. (Harry Potter reference). It is certainly the most amazing experience, and I don’t think words can do justice in describing it. I feel that no one really leaves this place with the impression that they entered with.

Q: What is your best memory of living at I-House?

Daphne: Living at I-House at UC Berkeley has been an unforgettable experience for me, and it’s tough to pick just one memory as the best. However, if I had to choose, I would say that the late-night conversations with my friends have been the most memorable. I cherished the opportunity to share our thoughts and experiences with each other, and it felt like we were constantly learning from one another. I made many amazing friends here, some of whom became my closest confidants. It’s incredible to think that we came from vastly different backgrounds, yet we were able to form such deep connections. It felt like we were at summer camp most of the days, enjoying each other’s company and making the most of our time together. It wasn’t just about having fun, though – being at I-House taught me the value of cultural exchange and opened my eyes to different perspectives. I gained a new appreciation for diversity and how it enriches our lives. Even though my time at I-House is coming to an end, I know that the friendships I’ve made here will last a lifetime. I’m grateful for this experience and the memories I’ll cherish forever.

Q: What was one challenge that you faced living in the culturally diverse environment of I-House?

Ye: Individuals from non-English speaking countries may interpret English words differently than those who grew up speaking English. Even among native English speakers, there can be variations in understanding. Communication breakdowns are bound to happen. While it’s helpful to try to detect potential misunderstandings, it’s not always foolproof. Unfortunately, not everyone is open-minded and willing to see things from different perspectives, which can lead to extreme ideas and unnecessary conflict. Therefore, it’s important for all of us to be open to cultural and linguistic differences and anticipate possible conflicts. I believe that everyone here is friendly and doesn’t have any ill intentions towards others. My main idea is that language can cause misunderstandings, so we should be proactive in acknowledging this. Let’s avoid causing harm to others and refrain from assuming that others intend to harm us. In a diverse environment, it’s crucial to approach situations with an open mind and a sincere willingness to engage with others. This is key to fostering greater understanding.

Q: What is it about being a Program Assistant that you most cherished?

Emmanuelle: One of the most cherished aspects of my role as a Program Assistant has been the chance to work with individuals from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds. It has been a great opportunity for me to expand my understanding of diverse customs and perspectives while sharing my own experiences with others. Additionally, I feel grateful to have developed meaningful relationships with fellow CILP team members who have become true friends, and with whom I will continue to maintain close connections even after my return to France! As a Program Assistant, I also enjoyed developing new skills, such as event organization, communication and leadership, which may prove valuable for my future career. Last but not least, I felt a real sense of satisfaction when I saw the positive impact of my work on the I-House community. I was glad to contribute to a vibrant cultural program that fosters a sense of community, belonging and mutual understandings among the residents. I am grateful to the CILP team for providing me with an enriching and fulfilling experience during my time as a Program Assistant, and for fostering a supportive and welcoming community that has left a lasting impact on me.

The “Did You Know?” section is brought to you by the CILP Program Assistants team covering various topics on social justice issues and life at I-House. This week’s author is Anusha Thotakura.