We at the Clog had the pleasure of catching a glimpse into the seemingly insular community at the International House. They were having their weekly coffee hour and the featured country was Korea. With K-pop blasting in the background and eager revelers crowding around the calligraphy table, I-House proved anything but insular. The plethora of cultures interacting in one room rivaled that of a prolific UN meeting, but there was also an unmatched liveliness.
Since coffee hour means more than just free caffeine to the I-House community and we at the Clog were attempting to break out of our comfort zone as wallflowers, we sat down to chat with several residents. And incidentally no two happened to be from the same country. These un-cherry-picked residents, the majority of whom were either here for summer session or were stationed at UC Berkeley for their longer-term career interests, were only eager and enthusiastic to talk.
Ahmad Amr, a full-time construction engineering student at the American University in Cairo, Egypt revealed with English skills he didn’t give himself enough credit for that he was here to complete what is the equivalent of breadths for his university, and that summer school was his opportunity to finally find out what all the fuss is about with the States. Indeed he is enraptured by the small-town setting and the fact that it’s embedded in hills, providing ample opportunity to take scenic hikes, a perk he wished he had in the mostly metropolitan and desert Egypt.
As one shot of espresso became several cups, we were only eager to hear more from the residents.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of our chats was hearing about their expectations of the States and if they matched reality. Not unexpectedly, TV shows play a big part in imparting expectations. Daniel, a resident from Paris, sheepishly admitted that he did have in mind every cliché of the fat, grease-indulging American planted in front of their TV before coming, but was pleasantly surprised to come across a culture promoting fitness and an active lifestyle. However, he recounted to the Clog how back at home much more value is placed on meals in both the culinary and social sense. As expected, American culinary standards don’t quite match the French, although there is a wider array of cultural options.
International students realize soon after they get here that Berkeley students are hard-working and ambitious. Summer session is relatively more laid back than the semester, so that while visiting students can get a taste of academic life, they also get to experience all that the Bay Area has to offer. Such a vibrant campus life is a novelty for many foreign students. The opportunity for students to live together in one space is unique. It creates a social scene different from the one in European cities where students spend their social hours frequenting the city hot spots.
All in all, we at the Clog can conclude that the I-House folk are a bunch of happy campers. And we are envious of both the community and their lush housing, which we can confirm far surpasses the expectation of any Berkeley resident hall.