Vietnamese Students define Home and Find Community

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The definition of home often waivers for college students as they are confronted with different routines, living spaces, friends and backgrounds. This year, the Seattle University Vietnamese Student Association (SUVSA) explored these changes during their annual cultural showcase, Xuân. The theme “Nhà ở đâu – Where is home?” encouraged students to share their unique experiences of how they’ve come to define home while attending Seattle U.

Third-year nursing student Claudia Lam was one of the Xuân co-directors, along with Alvin Chang.

“Both Alvin and I decided on this theme because we have all, at one point in our lives, have felt out-casted or felt like we did not belong,” Lam said. “In addition, we all come from different cultural backgrounds and environments, which all play a part in what we consider to be our ‘home.’”

Lam explained that the definition of home is flexible and emphasized that everyone is still trying to find their own individual meaning.

“We believe that ‘home’ does not have to be something physical; it can be cultural, or anything you feel most content in,” Lam said.

During the year-long planning process of Xuân, SUVSA engaged in many conversations about the theme and incorporated these dialogues into the event.

“We asked everyone in our club what ‘home’ means to them personally during our club meetings. We then placed their quotes onto the hallway for the day of the show, so everyone can see,” Lam said.

At Xuân, club members performed songs and dances and traditional Vietnamese dishes were served, such as spring rolls and dessert jelly.

This year, Environmental Studies and Political Science double major Emily Nguyen wrote and directed Xuân’s skit. Nguyen noted that, in the past, SUVSA focused solely on Vietnamese culture, but thought it would be a great idea to showcase social issues this year. Nguyen wrote about a Vietnamese-American named Riley struggling to come out and come to terms with her sexuality in the midst of tension between American culture and Vietnamese culture.

“I wanted to write this skit because I know a lot of Asian-Americans, or more specifically Vietnamese-Americans have a totally different experience with coming out in comparison to white people,” Nguyen said. “We have to deal with extreme cultural differences, especially because most Vietnamese-Americans are first generation.”

Nguyen said that the most difficult and vulnerable part about writing the skit was writing about Riley and her mother, as it is heavily based on her own coming out story. Nguyen said it was exhausting to be public about something so personal to her identity, but admitted that it was important and needed to be done.

The skit was meant to be honest and real, and was supposed to feel like something most first-generation students could relate to. Nguyen included a tender romantic relationship between Riley and another girl named Chi, portraying a healthy love between the two.

“There was no representation for me, so I decided to become the representation I needed,” Nguyen said. “I hoped that the skit would allow people to see how important intersectionality is and the differences in LGBTQ+ issues between Vietnam and the states.”

Second-year Peter Hoang was involved in planning Xuân this year as an emcee, the donations co-chair and SUVSA cultural coordinator. Hoang said the theme helped him relate to moving to a new state for college and being away from the home he made in San Jose, Calif. for 18 years.

“The theme helps me navigate my Asian American identity because I recognize that for many people coming to this country, they struggled with the idea of what is home,” Hoang said.

Hoang realizes how fortunate he has been in finding community and spaces he feels safe on campus, but also acknowledged that everyone has individual experiences, especially for folks in marginalized communities who need to take time in figuring out where they belong. Hoang was grateful that the skit was able to represent the queer community in this aspect.

Members of SUVSA said that planning a showcase as large as Xuân could not have been possible without the collective teamwork and collaboration of the entire organization.

“Even though I am one of the Xuân Directors, I want to give all the credit to everyone–the committee, the performers, choreographers, and volunteers–for putting on this extremely great show,” Lam said “Without them, Alvin and my vision wouldn’t have been executed.”

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