International House: DiversiTea and Coffee (USA)

Applied ICD

International House residences were founded in BerkeleyNew YorkChicago, and Philadelphia, as well as several dozen sister student residences around the world.

I-House (as it’s known) had the goal of bringing about intercultural dialogue from its founding. The initial idea of establishing international student dorms was the result of the discovery that some of these students were having difficulties in meeting locals. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. provided the funding for the US facilities in New York, Berkeley, and Chicago, as well as one in Paris (now a language school), through the 1920s and 1930s (the one in Philadelphia found separate funding).

International House…is a place where outstanding postgraduates from all over the world live together and learn about the similarities that bind them regardless of their race, religion, or country of origin.

I-House in Berkeley was particularly controversial, as not only a vehicle for international and interracial student housing but “the first co-educational residence west of the Mississippi” when it was built in 1930; all of these were uncommon at the time, and thus controversial. I-House Philadelphia was built later than the others in 1970, and the residence closed in 2019, although the organization still supports international students.

All of the I-Houses work not only to facilitate integration of international students with one another and local residents, but to bring international cultures to locals through cultural celebrations and educational programs. I-House Philadelphia was particularly active in this area, through the establishment of a Folklife Center hosting frequent events, as well as the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema in the 1970s (the latter became the Lightbox Film Center, and still exists). Today I-House Berkeley is particularly strong in creating activities to strengthen ties across residents, as through their  Center for Intercultural Leadership Programs.

Source articles:

International House at the University of California, Berkeley: An informal history.

Bareche, Dhoha. (1 December 2022). International House is more than just a dormitory. The Daily Californian.

Winkin, Y. (2002). L’architecture comme support de la mémoire sociale. Le cas d’une institution résidentielle à finalité communautaire. Recherches en Communication, 18, 55-70.


Author: Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, the Director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue, manages this website.

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