In 1909, Harry and Florence Edmonds, promoters of the I-House movement, started a tradition of hosting dinners in their home to counter the loneliness and isolation of international students in New York. Today, we still honor this tradition, which became essential for the establishment of International House as a worldwide institution. At the beginning of every semester, International House Berkeley hosts a Sunday Supper, a special evening with dinner and performances, as a way of making residents feel welcome and to celebrate the multitude of different cultures that thrive here.
The Winter 2019 Sunday Supper, held on February 10th, had the theme Time to Thrive. As a Program Assistant, I participated in many aspects of the event, and even had the opportunity to perform on the big stage with an international band! Below are some of the highlights from this incredible evening.
At 5:00 p.m., the reception started and the Great Hall became full of people dressed in their most elegant outfits. There was a variety of snacks, including fruits, cheese, and egg rolls. The occasion was perfect for meeting new people and taking tons of pictures with friends.
Many residents also took the initiative to host a guest, which gave them the opportunity to network with interesting people from all fields. After a good time in the Great Hall, we moved to the Chevron Auditorium and lined up for buffet-style dinner with salmon, salad, pasta, and other entrées cooked by the I-House catering services. With our dinner in our hands, we sat in the round tables decorated with flowers and prepared for what was going to be a very good evening.
The Winter 2019 Sunday Supper was opened by this semester’s MCs: Maria Wong (US) and Adriana Huang (Taiwan), who introduced every performance and talked about some future events in International House and gave us some fun facts. They explained the meaning of the theme, Time to Thrive: “We only have three and a half months left in I-House, and we have to make the most out of it.”
Later, they introduced the first act of the night. February is celebrated as Black History Month, and the program started with a wonderful interpretation of the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sang by Marguerite Hinrichs and with William Mandell on the piano.
After this moving performance, we had the chance to see the Fei Tian Dancers, the only Chinese dance group at UC Berkeley. They danced to “Why are the flowers so red?”, a song that talks about youth friendship and passion. It was really beautiful!
Later, I-House executive Director Dr. Hans Giesecke made some openings remarks about his experience at International House and the meaning it has for him.
Hans announced that Maribel Guillermo, I-House Residents Support Services Manager, would retire by the end of the month. Maribel could not attend the event, but she prepared a farewell video in which she stated how great her experience working at International House has been.
When the video ended, the audience gave a sustained ovation in appreciation for her work at International House. Below you can watch the video and hear about Maribel’s experience working at I-House for 20 years. Everyone is going to miss her!
After this, Jason Patent, Director of Robertson Center for Intercultural Leadership (CIL) talked about how humans perceive time. He recommended to us residents that we get out of our comfort zone at International House and try, for instance, sitting with someone new at the dining hall, to make the most out of our experience.
Later, Hypathia Hou, Resident Council Chair, spoke to us about the possibilities available in the Council. For instance, residents can propose activities that can be funded by this organization.
The Sunday Supper continued with more musical performances: first, we had the chance to listen to the voice and guitar interpretation of “High and Dry” by Radiohead, performed by resident Sarang Zambare from India. It was really good!
Then, resident Belle Qi from China played Nocturne Op 9 No. 2 by Chopin on piano, creating a lovely atmosphere in the place.
Next was a performance by residents Takashi Yoshida from Japan and Choi Jeongmoon from South Korea. They played an original adaptation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on ukulele and saxophone: To our surprise, they had been playing these instruments for less than two months, but the quality was exceptional!
After these three musical performances, resident Camilla Hyshop from South Africa took the stage to talk about the impact of the CIL’s Global Leadership Course in her life. Every person or cultural background has different rules in the game of life and in the way they structure their relations, and it is very important to understand and adapt to these differences to be a successful leader in any situation.
Last, it was the moment for the I-House bands! The first group which came to the stage was composed by Huy from Denmark, Prithiv from India, Shyaer from the United States, Miguel from Chile and Yan from Sweden came to stage.
They performed a mashup of “Last Nite” by the Strokes and “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5 that made everyone stand up! They are one of those very talented bands that we have in International House and show us their love for music in every big event.
After their performance, Jason Patent and Grace Michel provided some insights about CIL’s functions and activities.
Program Coordinator Jenny Miner made a beautiful reflection about life at the residence, with an analogy about planting seeds and growth.
Finally, the Sunday Supper closed with the performance of the last I-House band, JamYam, comprised by Miguel from Chile; Yasmine, Alina, and Alex from the United States, and me and Adrià from Spain.
We played what we called an Ultimate Medley with the best songs of the 2000s. It was so much fun!
Fortunately, we residents can practice playing music because of the two music rooms, which I wrote about in my previous post. We also have rehearsals on the big stage before any performance in the Chevron Auditorium.
Last, the I-House Executive Director Hans Giesecke gave some final closing remarks.
It was a wonderful evening! Thank you very much to all of those who attended and to everybody who organized it and made it possible. Special thanks to I-House alumnus Ryan Christopher Gourley for taking great photos used in this blog post. For the residents who could not make it, there will be one more Sunday Supper this semester, just be sure to sign up before it fills up!
For those of you who are I-House alumni, I would love to know about your experiences at Sunday Suppers during your stay here! What is the best memory you have about them? Let us know in the comments below.