The week after move-in is a rush of new faces and names that may seem impossible to remember. If you’ve just arrived in California for the first time that, coupled with some recovery from jet lag and coping with the initial stages of culture shock can be overwhelming. Thankfully, I-House offers resident retreats at the beginning of every semester to help ease your transition. If you haven’t already signed up for one of the retreats, here are just a few reasons why you should do so as soon as possible.
Whether it’s on the 70-minute bus ride through Marin County, during any of the educational or recreational activities, while you’re sitting around the campfire late at night, or capturing your first (or millionth) glimpse of the Pacific Coast, at any given time during the retreat you will be bonding with the people who are going to be your friends for the next semester or year or lifetime. My roommate and I signed up for the retreat together and it was a great opportunity for us to spend time together outside of our room in I-House as well as to meet other residents. The people I met on the I-House retreat ended up being some of my best friends for the entire year that I lived in I-House and I am still friends with many of them today.
- See California
Welcome to the Golden State! Known for it’s pristine coast, mountains, cities, and agricultural land, there is a lot to see and do while you are here. I-House retreats are a great way to get a head start on all that California has to offer. This year, the retreats will be at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin County with a stop in Point Reyes on Day 2. Both locations are beautiful, have amazing weather and will introduce you to the real California. Plus, the retreat is only $33 including transportation, food, lodging, and activities—a mere fraction of what it would cost you to do a similar trip on your own.
- Intercultural Education
The retreats also serve to further I-House’s mission of fostering intercultural respect and understanding while promoting lifelong friendships and leadership skills. The educational sessions of the retreat will help you to better understand the how purpose of I-House will fit into your everyday life and how you can participate in the I-House community while you are living there and long after you’ve left. Not only will you learn to understand I-House, but you will also learn more about yourself and your peers as you begin to examine your own culture and the cultures of your new friends.
You may be wondering what on earth are s’mores. The answer is they are only the greatest American campfire tradition ever. Short for “some more”—because believe me, between the gobs of melted marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers stuck between your teeth, you will be begging for s’more. S’mores are a marshmallow roasted on a stick over a campfire to preference (I personally like them perfectly golden brown with a soft gooey center, but I’ve heard burnt to a crisp is also delightful), squished between a bar of chocolate and two graham crackers. The heat from the marshmallow melts the chocolate and creates a delectable, finger-licking good snack.
Now that you know what s’mores are, I’m positive you are dying to try some and are probably wondering when you are going to have time to try them during the retreat between all the bonding and seeing California and intercultural and recreational activities. The answer to that question is at the end of Day 1 from 9:30pm – 11:00pm because “Informal Activities” really means a campfire and s’mores with all of your new friends.
At the end of the day, I-House is all about the people you will meet. In just your first few days, you’ll have met people from all over the world! The social capital that buys is priceless, as are the free couches you’ll have to sleep on next time your wanderlust gets the best of you. The retreats will give you an amazing opportunity to strengthen those relationships and really get to know the people who will quickly become your lifelong friends.
However, the people you will meet on the retreat and at I-House are not limited to your fellow residents. The lovely I-House Program Office staff and Resident Assistants will also be at the retreat and they will play a huge role in your life during your time at Berkeley. Throughout the year, they will be coordinating other activities and trips to other parts of the Bay Area and California as well as serving as a great support system and helping to make your stay more enjoyable.
Again, if you haven’t signed up already, do it soon! Spots are limited and the retreats are great opportunities to meet people, see California, learn more about I-House, and eat s’mores before you are too weighed down by papers and readings and problem sets.