AUSA members share culture, ‘learn what community is all about’ | University Park Campus News

Since its creation in 2010, the Asian Undergraduate Student Association has promoted Asian culture through events, general body meetings and social engagements.

Having grown up in State College, AUSA’s President JaeMin Birdsall, said he didn’t have a lot of Asian children or families in the area.

For Birdsall, a second-year studying computer science, AUSA was the first place he felt “truly included and accepted.”

The association’s main goal is to help students with the “cultural disconnect” and engage with those from similar backgrounds.

According to Birdsall, the club was created for multicultural students who may feel like they “don’t fit in” in America or their home culture.

He said the association meets on Thursdays to discuss future events and hosts social events such as karaoke and bowling, which is when “the friendships are formed.”

The club’s largest event, held at the start of fall semester, is an annual BBQ to help students bond with members and learn more about the association and its upcoming events.

“Even if you don’t end up staying in the club, I know a lot of people who made friends from that event — it’s always an accomplishment to know we form new friendships,” Birdsall said.

As a general club that’s not focused on one specific geographical area of Asia, the executive board has faced some challenges with the events.

“We try to keep a diverse board,” Birdsall said. “That way, we could have different perspectives and organize events based on what everyone could identify with.”

Christina An Ho, AUSA’s vice president, said the club hosts several potluck dinners to make the events cultural, social and fun.

The potluck dinners are organized to celebrate special dates, like the Lunar New Year celebration.

“With these dinners, people can bring their favorite foods and share their cultural background while also interacting with each other,” An Ho, a fourth-year studying premedicine, said.

Aside from the general body meetings and social events, the club also holds study sessions during exam seasons, where the members sit together and help each other with homework.

“We try to figure out a way to navigate the concept of diversity, while always trying to be open and inclusive with all cultures — everyone is welcome,” An Ho said.

The Asian Undergraduate Student Association holds an annual BBQ in the beginning of the fall semester to get students involved.

An Ho said the club helped her gain leadership skills, showed her how to interact with different people and what to do in case of conflict.

After moving to University Park from a commonwealth campus, An Ho decided to join the association as a way to discover more about her identity and meet new people, which she considers to have accomplished successfully during her time as an AUSA member.

“Being a part of this organization kind of helped me break out of my shell a little more,” An Ho said. “I feel more comfortable meeting new people now.”

In the coming weeks, the club will be participating in the Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Festival and will hold its last meetings through April, while also getting ready for the new executive board elections.

Olivia Jablonski said she’s looking forward to next semester’s elections since she’s planning on running for AUSA’s vice president.

“I have invested a lot of time in the club, and they have helped me a lot. It’s time to return the favor,” Jablonski, a third-year studying political science, said.

When she first joined the club, Jablonski said she didn’t know who the executive board members were since they were engaging with new members.

“I loved that, because it felt like we were all the same independently of our position, everyone was a member of the association and that helped me feel more comfortable, too,” Jablonski said.

Jablonski said she feels the association is contributing to Asian culture at the university, since it helps promote small Asian businesses and talks about issues regarding race and ethnicity.

“For next semester, I think it will be great to organize deeper discussions about different Asian cultures,” Jablonski said. “We are definitely doing that, but there’s always room to improve and explore more in detail.”

As a member, Jablonski said the club always focuses on an interpersonal connection, so everyone is welcome regardless of race.

“I feel like I’ve learned and grown in this association — I learn about different perspectives, new historical facts, I taste new food and hear different stories, I have laughed a lot,” Jablonski said. “They help me learn what community is all about.”


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