Resident Orientation Retreats: a fun way to start the semester

At the beginning of every semester, the International House Program Office organizes two-day retreats at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin County, offering residents the opportunity to have fun and meet new friends.

I attended the Spring 2019 Resident Retreat as a Program Assistant and thought it was an excellent way to start this new semester. Not only for being in the scenic countryside (far from the city and full of happy cows), but also for meeting new people from all over the world and discovering new cultures.

We arrived at Walker Creek Ranch at noon, where we were greeted by three naturalists who worked there. We all wore name tags and started the weekend with games aimed at getting to know each other.

Nametags2 at International House Retrat

One of the best activities was a game led by the Robertson Center for Intercultural Leadership (CIL), in which we talked about the meaning of each other’s names and surnames. It was very interesting to learn about how much a name can mean and the ways by which different cultures form their identity around them. Other activities organized by CIL helped us develop teamwork strategies and experience the value of cooperation.

Robertson Center for Intercultural Leadership at International House retreat

After a tasty dinner, we were ready for the bonfire. The best moment was trying the S’mores. This is done putting a marshmallow in the fire until it is almost melted, and placing it with chocolate between two graham crackers.

S'mores at International House Retreat

This was the first time I have ever tried this very American camping and it was amazing! The unusual name is a contraction of the phrase “some more” because that’s what people say when they try one, “I want s’more please!”

Bonfire at International House Retreat

Residents at the Bonfire at International House Retreat

International House residents having fun at the bonfire

The next day we had to wake up early, and after a very good breakfast, we went on a guided hike around Walker Creek. The views were amazing, as you can see in the pictures. We saw a beautiful lake and peaceful cows around. We also had the good luck of seeing a salamander in the river!

Hike at International House Retreat

Hike 2 at International House Retreat

The beautiful lake we saw from the top of a hill

Hike 3 at International House Retreat

View of Walker Creek

We listened to the members of the I-House Program Office staff explain all the opportunities available for residents, including the Sunday Supper, Resident Concert, Coffee Hours, etc.

After having lunch and playing some basketball, we left Walker Creek Ranch to return to International House. But the trip wasn’t over! We visited the scenic Point Reyes beach on our way back to Berkeley. The weather was amazing for January, and although the water was very cold, we really enjoyed having a fun time at the coast.

Point Reyes at International House Retreat

Our visit to Point Reyes on the last day of the Retreat. Picture by Maria Wong

It was a wonderful weekend, but like all good things, it had to come to an end. It was a memorable retreat in which we met lots of residents and got to know different countries and cultures. I will never forget this experience at Walker Creek Ranch!

For those who lived at I-House, what is your favorite memory of the Orientation Retreats? Tell us in the comments below.

About Juan Antonio Pérez

Juan Antonio Pérez (Juanan) is a 3rd-year undergraduate exchange student majoring in Global Studies. He loves music, especially playing piano and guitar. His hobbies include hiking, traveling, and learning about different cultures. He is currently working in the International House Program Office as a Program Assistant, and he is very excited to start working this Spring semester as a Social Media Ambassador.
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