Why I love being part of a cultural community
The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) is one of several Asian organizations we have on campus at Augustana. Our organization allows for the celebration and awareness of Vietnamese culture through the leadership of current students, such as myself and others.
Our events aim to promote our culture by bringing the Augustana community a taste of Vietnam, whether it’s a snack, candy, jelly, cake, banh mi or a big bowl of “Bun Thit Nuong.” We also introduce our traditional games and toys through events and workshops, where participants can learn and play games or create their own toys.
Here are a few reasons I love being a part of VSA:
Sense of belonging
As an international student, being away from home around the holidays can be difficult. VSA often celebrates the Lunar New Year or Tet (short for Tết Nguyên Đán, the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture, which celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese calendar) together.
During this holiday, only Vietnamese people celebrate Lunar New Year here because this holiday often occurs during Augustana’s J-term (January term), when only some students are taking classes and everyone else tends to stay at home.
This holiday is always the time people come back home with their family and spend time asking about how the past year has been. VSA brings this vibe to members, who cannot be home by having Vietnamese meals together and playing traditional games. Homesickness is not a big problem when we can spend time together and do activities we usually do at home.
I can get help at any time because every VSA member understands the situation of a Vietnamese studying abroad in the United States. Members can share experiences, seek advice and provide emotional support for each other. When I was a freshman, I got advice about how to save money, how to be safe, what classes to take and more from all the Vietnamese sophomores and juniors.
The connections made within the VSA community can extend beyond college and become valuable professional networks in the future. For example, my friends got recommendations from an Augie grad, who's working in a finance firm, by joining their webinar or connecting with them. I also got some recommendations from my senior friends for a marketing internship I got in the summer.
As an international student, I have to speak English most of the time, such as in class, at work or in a club meeting. Hence, being part of a community like the VSA where my Vietnamese language is spoken provides a comfortable environment for language practice. I can listen to the jokes from my friends and laugh at dinner time, which is really helpful for relaxing after a long day at school.
This is also a way for me to release stress — when I have the opportunity to express everything in my native language, which is sometimes hard to do in English.This experience also can be particularly helpful for maintaining proficiency in our language as we use English more than Vietnamese in the United States.
Want to learn more about the VSA? See what we are up to by following our Instagram: @augievsa
Hana is a junior from Hai Phong, Vietnam, majoring in communication studies and international business-marketing.