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Welcoming Alumni from the 1980s Back to I-House

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of giving a tour to a group of six I-House alumni who lived at I-House in the 1970s – 80s, as well as a few of their friends. I’ve given I-House tours before as a Resident Assistant, taking residents around the building and coming up with little facts and stories along the way to keep them entertained. However, during this tour, I found myself gladly taking a bit of a backseat as the alumni enthusiastically recounted their time at I-House.

Alumni on front steps waving and smiling, from left: Jimmy Lo (in grey pants), Daisy Loh (in green shirt), Howard Leung (with a Cal cap), Judy Chu (in a floral dress), Louisa Ho (with white hat), John Hwa (in khaki pants).

I-House alumni pictured from left: Jimmy Lo (IH 1980-81), Daisy Loh (IH 1979-81), Howard Leung (IH 1980-81), Judy Chu (IH 1978-81), Louisa Ho (IH 1978-81), John Hwa (IH 1980-81). 

I enjoyed learning about how they all met—Louisa and Judy were roommates and Daisy lived two doors down from them. The group joked about how they were the “pioneers of younger undergraduates living at I-House,” as I-House used to house mostly graduate students. I-House was also where Louisa and Daisy met their husbands, John and Jimmy respectively! John lived in the hallway by the elevators on the other side of the 3rd floor, while Jimmy and Howard lived on other floors.

Their non-alumni friends who came along on the tour were well-acquainted with I-House, having visited a few times in the past either as a student at UC Berkeley or UCSF, or together with our alumni whenever they’d visit.

The alumni asked me to take them to many of their favorite spots in I-House and so I took them through the usual route I take whenever I give tours. Every corner of the building had a fun memory tied to it, from eating lunch at the dining hall tables by the garden-view glass windows to studying in I-House’s packed library after classes, to dance parties in the rooms above the Great Hall. They were enthusiastic about I-House’s new front entrance, and the ADA-accessible automatic doors that opened for us throughout our common spaces. The group was glad to see that the Great Hall hadn’t changed much—they were amazed at how the floors were still firm and nicely polished and they also noticed that the rugs on the walls were still the same.

Walking through the dining hall was a familiar experience to them, with one of the only differences being that we now have more food stations available to us. They were quick to rush to a table to take a few photos, which turned out amazing.

Group of 8 alumni sitting at big table in dining hall
Friendships made at International House
Enjoying a break in the dining hall

I also really enjoyed learning about how much I-House had changed since the alumni were residents. They were surprised at the newly renovated edmonds Café as they remembered the indoor part of the cafe being half the size that it is today. They were amazed at our new kitchen space as they didn’t have one when they were residents at I-House. Apparently the rooms above the Great Hall—the Home Room, Gamble Lounge/Sproul Kitchen, and the Ida Sproul Rooms—used to be one big room where they would hold their social functions and dance parties. While exploring the Home Room, Howard pulled up a photo of him, John, and their friend Daniel stacked on each other’s backs in the very same space we were in, except it was decorated in tin foil which made us laugh.

They asked me if I could help them recreate a photo they took when they were residents on the staircase outside the Home Room, to which I happily assisted!


Photo of these residents on steps in 1980

And now!

Photo of the alumni on the same steps

On the final part of the tour, I took the alumni to where they used to live on the 3rd floor—Louisa and Judy lived in room 359, Daisy lived in room 361, and John, Jimmy and Howard lived in the hallway by the elevators on the other side of the 3rd floor. They noted that the hallway carpeting seemed different and wondered where the staircase was in the Nurse Wing, which is now replaced with a hallway intersection. I learned that when they stayed at I-House, they had spent little to no time in the upper floors as they were only housed by graduate students, and apparently there were no lounges as well. Because of this, I decided to take them to the 7th floor lounge, and they were surprised to see that we were able to see such an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay through the window, making it a fitting end to our tour.

Photo of the alumni with their spouses and friends

I absolutely loved giving this tour. The conversations I had with our alumni were truly heartwarming and meaningful to me, and it had me thinking about how amazing it would be to visit I-House again with friends and excited to see what changes and what stays the same in ten, twenty, or even thirty years from now. It was very heartwarming to see how close everyone was thanks to their time at I-House, and I’m thankful to have been part of such a special experience for these alumni and their friends.

If you would like to revisit I-House, be sure to contact the Alumni Relations team at in advance so that they can arrange to have a Global Community Ambassador meet and greet you, just like I did with this group! And if you met your partner at I-House and want to be added to the I-House Couples page, let them know!