Students host gala to celebrate Vietnamese new year

Members of WKU’s VSA (Vietnamese Student Association) perform a dance routine as part of a game during the Vietnamese Gala on the 27th floor of PFT Saturday.

Christian Marnon

For many students at WKU, New Year’s Eve has come and passed, but on Saturday night the Vietnamese Student Association held a gala on the top floor of Pearce Ford Tower for Tet, the official Vietnamese New Year’s holiday.

Members of VSA and numerous guests enjoyed festivities, singing and traditional Vietnamese cuisine crafted to celebrate the first day of the first month on the Lunar Calendar.

Dao Nguyen, WKU alumnus and former vice president of VSA, said the moon is integral to the Vietnamese way of life.

“The entirety of Vietnam considers the moon to be more important than sun,” he said

Nguyen said the food served at the event had a special significance, especially banh chung, which translates to ‘square rice cake.’ It’s made of green banana leaf, green bean pods, meat and rice.

“Each of these elements combine to represent the Vietnam, and their vision of the Earth,” he said.

Current vice president of VSA and Hanoi native Tuan Nghiem said Tet is a popular holiday in Vietnam.

“The best holiday to compare it to would be Christmas,” he said. “It’s our biggest celebration and it’s the start of the new year, so of course everyone is waiting for that.”

Nghiem said VSA was very helpful to him when he first arrived in the United States and currently has more than 40 members, 14 of which joined this year.

“When I first got to Bowling Green, I didn’t know anyone, but fortunately a friend from the organization picked me out and asked me to join,” he said.

While VSA has been effective in attracting Vietnamese students to WKU, some members tend to feel disassociated in an unfamiliar environment, Nguyen said.

“The United States is a country of individualism, while Vietnam is much more community-based.” he said. “Because of this, the Vietnamese students tend to band together, fail to open up and consequently don’t learn anything new.”

Nguyen said other international groups on campus behave similarly, and this can partly be attributed to minimal outreach from the university.

“Most members of the VSA aren’t very good with English, so they lack confidence and rarely interact with their American peers,” he said. “This isn’t just us, it’s every minority group on campus and I think the university should pay more attention and practice better outreach.”

VSA needs to adapt as well, Nguyen said.

“In terms of membership, two years ago the club was reserved exclusively for Vietnamese students,” he said. “Although we are open to everyone now, the club has been reticent in the past to gain members from other countries due to insufficient communication skills.”

President of VSA and Buon Ma Thuot native Khoa Nguyen said this gala was a step toward bridging that barrier.

“We invited all Western students to join us for this event,” he said.

Nguyen said VSA also holds an international festival every September as an attempt to provoke interest in Vietnamese culture and the group.

“The international festival is a local event which occurs downtown where we provide information, food and authentic souvenirs from Vietnam,” he said. “Basically, we just want to promote our own culture.”