The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) allows people to experience Vietnamese culture through fun games, Vietnamese dress and traditional Vietnamese snacks, especially boba tea or “bubble tea,” a Taiwanese tea-based drink popular in Vietnam.
VSA President Tu Huynh said the club’s mission is to represent the Vietnamese students’ voices on campus and enhance TCU’s student unity.
“We want to improve the cultural awareness of TCU, so we are here to introduce our culture to other people,” Huynh said.
According to the 2014 TCU Fact Book, five percent of TCU students are international. The majority of international students at TCU come from Vietnam –more than 97 students this year alone.
VSA is also made up primarily of international Vietnamese students.
Phat Do, a first-year member of VSA, said events like Friday’s Vietnamese Game Day are important to raise cultural awareness, especially because of the number of Vietnamese students on campus.
“Personally, our organization believes that cultural competency is very important, especially when Vietnam is increasingly popular in Fort Worth and Texas,” said Do. “Because of the rise of population and influx of Vietnamese students here, we believe that spreading awareness will help TCU students a lot.”
Students walked around each booth in the commons and dressed up in traditional, silky Vietnamese garments, posing for pictures in front of Frog Fountain. They also played a game of hitting a row of balloons while wearing a blindfold.
Huynh said the balloon game was a modification of a game in Vietnam called “Dap Nieu” where people use bats to hit ceramic pots, somewhat like hitting a piñata.
“We have games that are kind of like versions of traditional games because we don’t have the tools here to make it super traditional, but they are similar,” Huynh said.
Faculty and staff members mingled with students in attendance at the event.
Kayli Burnett, the Robert Carr Chapel Events Coordinator, is a member of Beyond Borders, which helps international students acclimate to life in America. Burnett said she was attending the event to support her “mentee,” Phat Do, and immerse herself in Vietnamese culture.
Burnett also said it has been a nice exchange learning about Do’s culture.
“Phat has been introducing me to some new restaurants and culture and I’ve been helping them get adjusted to Fort Worth and Texas culture, it’s rewarding.” said Burnett.
Jeff Waite, the director of marketing and communications in the Neeley School of Business, also volunteers with Beyond Borders and said he believes in the importance of learning about new cultures.
“It’s learning and having an appreciation, we are all the same but we all have some unique differences so it’s fun to find out what those differences are,” said Waite.
Waite said he hoped students would take the event as an opportunity to break barriers with people unlike themselves.
“It would be nice to break any barriers,” Waite said. “I hope that the international students become more welcomed, and that there will be an openness between the international students and the American students to get to know each other — not just as fellow students but to get to know their other cultures.”
For many international students, TCU is their first experience of America. First-year student Xuan Quach is majoring in business and is originally from Vietnam.
“I’m missing the people around me and traditions like this, in America we usually don’t have this,” Quach said. “It reminds me of my hometown and makes me feel like homesick.”
“I hope that for Vietnamese students they will find themselves in the games and each of the activities, and for the Americans or other international students, they will learn more about Vietnamese traditions that we want everyone to know about.”
Junior Crichelle Brice said stumbling upon the VSA event turned out to be an eye-opening experience.
“It’s definitely a cultural experience,” Brice said. “I’m terrified of balloons and I hit the balloon. I also liked trying the drinks and the taste testing.”
VSA even reached members of the Fort Worth community who do not attend TCU.
Chris Kiris came with Charissa Macdonald, a TCU senior speech pathology major.
“It’s kind of cool to see how American culture and Vietnamese culture are not different at all, but at the same time they have just a little bit of differences to make it really cool,” said Kiris.
It is events like Vietnamese Game Day and the Amazing Vietnam program, which VSA holds in the spring, that earned VSA the “Most Innovative Program” title during the Annual Intercultural Banquet in April.
For former VSA president and current senior Huy Le, these events are meant to bring students out and re-define the way Vietnamese students are viewed on TCU’s campus.
“A lot of people think that we are really passive and think we don’t want to get involved on campus but we are totally different,” Le said. “We really want to make an impact, we want to tell people about our culture so people know and then welcome them to join us.”