International House Berkeley

I-House Times Fall 2012

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Executive Director's Message Catching and Transmitting the "International Bug" Hans C. Giesecke, Ph.D. those who hang out on the terrace of our café, everyone appears to be impacted by being involved with this remarkable place. International House's impact can be even more powerful if those moved by their experience here can coalesce around our vision of being both a global residential center and an intentional learning community that corresponds with and enhances our mission: to foster intercultural respect and understanding, lifelong friendships and leadership skills for the promotion of a more tolerant and peaceful world. When one climbs the brick steps onto our front entry way, one often catches a "social virus." This, thankfully, is not a dreaded germ or lethal virus that may cause harm, sickness, or impairment, but rather it is a sensation that is something akin to the high one gets from good interactions with others in energizing social environments. This virus is indeed highly contagious and can easily spread from person to person. Let's call this social virus the "international bug." This is, broadly construed, the sense of belonging to something greater than one's own national or local community. Having this bug connotes an awareness of the larger world around us; it means we have a sense of what is happening outside of our own daily realities. It signifies that we are open to the strangers around us and we respect both their differences and their commonalities with us. For many of us, catching the international bug eventually means that we must regularly get on a plane to somewhere else where we can truly experience a different culture and live our lives differently than we do here in the Bay Area. Even so, it is important to recognize that catching the international bug does have a remarkable impact on one's life that shapes decisions, lifestyle choices, and future endeavors. Those who have the bug are more likely to engage in international service projects, dine with others of different backgrounds, learn different languages, invite others with different belief systems into their homes, and actually reside in other lands for extended periods. Having the international bug also means that people are less suspicious of the motives of others, willing to listen to others' ideas and approaches, and consider alternative ways of dealing with vexing problems. Perhaps more than anything it means that we practice a spirit of hospitality and inclusiveness in our undertakings and initiatives and that we have friends and associates from many different walks of life, belief systems, and national backgrounds. 2 International House Times One of my strongest initial impressions and observations about I-House is that it has an extraordinary impact on virtually all of those who enter its doors and participate in its programs. Whether they be I-House residents, alumni, intercultural program participants, speaker series attendees, Directors of the Board, I-House members or simply When it truly sinks in, the international bug often transmits the message that national identifiers and individual ethnicities can be less and less important in how we regard the others around us. It helps us understand that, despite cultural and physical differences, we are more alike than we may initially think. Indeed, there's something quite marvelous about viewing the world as a virtually endless stretch of places to couch surf. After residing in I-House for a semester or two, one can go virtually anywhere in the world and find a friend to visit. This ultimately means that our world becomes increasingly borderless. I believe that the main impact of catching the international bug is the acquisition of a lifetime multi-cultural orientation. For some like myself, it can become a "lifetime affliction," but the point is that this is a virus that has an overwhelmingly positive impact on one's mindset—opening one to new people and personal self- discovery. The great thing about I-House's existence here in Berkeley is that one doesn't have to leave the USA to have a profound and remarkable international experience. One can revel in the benefits of the international atmosphere found in this place and recognize that it is a true model of inter-cultural cooperation and engagement. The question remains: how can we most effectively sustain, promote, and encourage the broader dissemination of the international bug to our various groups of friends, colleagues, and associates? Here at I-House we believe that the best way to realize this goal is to work together in helping more students from around the world come here for an amazing, life-changing residential experience. This is made possible through the funding of room and board scholarships for students who couldn't otherwise afford to reside in this magnificent facility. I offer special thanks to those of you in our worldwide community who have already made generous contributions to our scholarship fund for needy students who want to reside here but couldn't otherwise. And, I want to encourage those of you who are still on the fence as to your own ability to contribute to our scholarship effort to think even harder about what you can give to extend this amazing opportunity to a residential student body that is ever more diverse and talented. n I-House residents who benefit from scholarships echo, in their own words, Hans' appreciation for our generous supporters.

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