Ryan Yu – TAO

ryan

How did you get involved with TAO?

I was a spring admit, so when I first came to USC I only knew one person and she was involved in TAO, so I went to TAO with her and she introduced me to people there. And I felt like out of all the different organizations I tried, TAO was one of the most open and everyone was really nice and accomodating.

It was my first big friend group at USC and it helped me gain confidence to do more stuff, so I really wanted to get involved with tao and become be the president to give back. Because if I can even do that for one person, that will make a difference. USC can be a big scary place so if you have just a place to go, to make it less scary and more comfortable and more like home, thats what I want to do.

 

Before you came to USC were you involved with a lot of Taiwanese things?

No I wasn’t, and that’s what made the difference, because I’m from Fresno, it’s predominantly white and Hispanic. For me at home, my mom would teach me Chinese and celebrate different festivals but no one else did, so it’s different when I come to USC and come to TAO, everyone celebrates Lunar Chinese New Year so I thought that was really cool. That was definitely really eye opening.

 

Can you explain your role as president?

As president I’m mostly in charge of the bigger picture: what organizations does TAO collaborate with – like ITASA, outside of USC, making those connections, and how does TAO look like to outside of USC and within USC. I’m the speaker for TAO and I delegate duties for people. Because thats what presidents are supposed to do, just make sure the club runs, make sure events go on.

I get to control the aspect of: should we have more events? or do we want to expand in new ways? Like we have mentorship program now that’s like connections but for Taiwanese Americans called TAP LA, and we just started that last year.

 

Do you have a vision for TAO this year?

I guess my vision is to make TAO a place that all Taiwanese Americans can go to – kinda like APASS. So you know that it’s a safe place and that there are people who understand and will want to hang out with you, and not just a place for Taiwanese Americans but anyone who’s interested in Taiwanese culture at all.

In general I try to run TAO so that it’s a place to hang out and just have people to hang out with.

 

Did you start anything new with your presidency?

What I did a lot is reach out to APASA more than ever because TAO never even went to assembly meetings before. Before we used to be more involved off campus with ITASA and TAP LA but you can’t see that. I think more people see us now because I really push the APASA thing. I think APASA’s super cool, you guys are awesome. It’s cool that all the different APA orgs can work together to get funding and I like the assembly meetings.

I also put on a lot more events but I can’t take all the credit for that because that really depends on my the board since I can’t move forward on anything if my board doesn’t want to. Maybe it’s because I inspired my board, or maybe just because they’re really passionate about TAO, but they’ve wanted to put on tons of events so I help them with that.

 

How many members do you have that regularly come?

About 30-40 core members – not all at once, it depends on the time of the semester but we see about 30-40 faces.

There are definitely a lot of TAO meetings that are a lot smaller but I don’t mind that. Personally, thats my thing. I definitely feel like I’ve made a lot of really close friends with TAO. Even last Saturday when we went to the tailgate cleanup i was cleaning up with another TAO member and over the course of the day we actually got to know each other really well.

It’s cooler when there’s not so many people that you’re just overwhelmed and trying to say hi to everyone. Thats why I like TAO.

 

What’s your favorite event from TAO?

I like our free Din Tai Fung banquet.

 

What!

It’s APASA funded! We have it again this year, it’s the last day of classes – the 5th of December and so we basically get funding from APASA then send out a google form and the first 20 or 30 people who sign up get free Din Tai Fung and then after that its like a regular TAO event: TAO members get a 5 dollar discount, drivers get 10 dollar discount regular people who aren’t in TAO have to pay for their own. But yeah we offer it for free to the first 20 people!

 

Do you have to be in TAO to get the free spots?

No, not for the free ones because APASA funded events are for all students. And that helps us because we’ve actually met people through that event who are like “omg TAO, you guys are so cool!” and like “lets go enjoy TAO” – so it helps us too. But yeah, the first 20 people completely free as long as you get a spot – it usually fills up within 30 minutes!

 

What other aspect do you like about it? Other than that its free.

I like that you get to see people who don’t necessarily come out to TAO events because it’s open to all students and you get to meet new people who might be interested in joining TAO. I feel like a lot of people very much think that these organizations are like “oh I have to be Chinese to join this” or “oh I have to be Korean to join this” but then when its a free event everyone comes out and they go “I actually do like these people and it doesn’t matter that I’m not Taiwanese”  because it’s not what the whole club is about. It’s mostly about just hanging out with us.

 

What kind of talent would you like to have?

I have two things I want to do with my life: I want to swing dance like a pro – have you ever seen swing dancing pros? they’re insane!  And number 2, I want to be a voiceover artist… like Morgan Freeman. Can you put that instead? Thats my number 1. I want to be a voice over guy

 

If someone offered you a job today as a voiceover guy would you take it?

Yeah I’d take it! Oh yeah! And then you can just hear me everytime they start a movie and be like “Thats Ryan! I know that guy!”

 

What are some things on your bucket list?

I want to own a personal helicopter and then drive it places and travel the world like that or I just want to learn how to fly.

And I wanna learn how to use the things that I would develop and engineer. Like if you work at Boeing and you’ve never driven a plane but you work on the mechanics of it…

 

So you want to actually be able to use the things that you build?

Yeah, I want to personally experience the impact of the things i develop. But also.. big life goals? I think I just want to live a modest life honestly. I just want to get a good middle to upper class job and live in a nice neighborhood like San Marino or something with my wife and kids and then live in a.. quiet suburban neighborhood. I don’t wanna be too close to a city – I can be near a city, but maybe like 7 to 10 miles away..

Dont get me wrong I want to go out and see the world and everything but I don’t need to do any super crazy things. I do want to eat a lot of different foods though.

 

What’s one thing you want to eat?

I want the best quality steak in the world. Whatever that means. I want to experience it, even if I can only experience it once, that will make my life worth it. I dont think you understand how much I love steak.

Stay up to date with TAO events on their Facebook Page! 

 

- Lorna Xu

Publicity Director

Mental Health in the APA Community

I felt hopeless. To be honest with you, I didn’t think I’d ever have faith in the world again. But, times have changed, seasons have passed, and here I am today.

I don’t like to recall this memory but I feel it has to be shared for you, the reader, to understand where I am coming from.

I was 16 when someone notified me that someone I knew committed suicide. This was someone I knew to be a relatively happy human being and I didn’t understand it. All of the talks in health class about mental illnesses being so frighteningly real rushed through my head and I hated it because for the first time in my life, I was faced with it. I hated knowing that this could happen. I hated knowing that someone I knew had been a victim of mental illnesses. And more than that, I hated how I couldn’t do anything. That momentary feeling of hopelessness still haunts me today.

Now, why do I share this? 

The person I talked about was an APA and I share this because I have many APA friends who don’t find mental health to be important, to say the least. They feel those who are depressed can be changed, etc. and I do not mean to overgeneralize, but this is just firsthand what I have witnessed.

Numerous studies also indicate that Asian Americans are less likely to seek help for their emotional or mental health problems compared to other ethnic groups. APAs seek treatment less often and whether that is a byproduct of where APAs place mental illnesses in terms of importance, I just want to make it known that mental illnesses are real and there are many resources to find whatever you may need to know about mental illnesses.

Three years later, I reflect on this story and I realize the shifts in my own family dynamic. My mom focuses on my mental health more often than she focuses on my physical health because she has witnessed firsthand how easy it is for mental illnesses to go unnoticed. Personally, my life has changed from when I was 16.  I have become more aware of resources. I have been exposed to friends with more mental illnesses and I have become more inclined to spread awareness about this. But most importantly, I have become more aware about how to support people with mental illnesses. For example, saying “see the glass half full, not half empty” makes it seem as if someone who is depressed has a choice in how they feel and has chosen, by their own will, to be depressed. Don’t minimize their struggles, and don’t invalidate someone’s feelings because feelings are legitimate.

Mental illnesses are real. They are real on this campus and they are real in the APA community.

I don’t know if you gained anything from reading this article but here are some statistics about mental health issues in the APA Community:

mental illness fact sheet 1

mental illness fact sheet 2

Hahney Yo
Internal Community Chair

Graphics done by Lorna Xu, Publicity Chair.

Harvard female APA students receive death threats

On October 4th, 2014, hundreds of female students at Harvard University with AP surnames received a series of emails in the afternoon threatening their lives. The racially-charged, profanity-laced contents of the email threatened that the sender would come to campus and shoot each and every one of them. The FBI was reported to have investigated the situation, but no real resolution has been reached.

The entire affair has been extremely frustrating and frightening for all those involved. Absolutely nobody should have to be the recipient of an email threatening their life. Not only is it emotionally traumatizing, it proves again that society has not become as “post-racial” as we may imagine, or even hope.

For me, hearing about this event immediately made me think of the racist and misogynistic letter that was received by both UCLA and USC campuses earlier last semester. Not only did the event spark a firestorm of solidarity and the coming together of so many API/APA students, especially in the SoCal region, but it continues to remind us that discriminatory acts are not a thing of the past. In light of this event, we again see the effects and consequences of these hateful actions.

Many questions still remain but one thing is clear: we are still far from becoming “color-blind.” We must remain strong and stand in solidarity against these acts of terrorism. We must stand up and speak out about the hate crimes and everyday discrimination.

Sources:

http://reappropriate.co/?p=6882

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/03/death-threat-mailed-harvard-students/lLg04Ai3Vfy9u269H2a5SJ/story.html

Alice Mao
Finance Director

LA Fall 2014 GLO Leadership Conference

Let’s start by playing a little game. Imagine sitting in a big circle with a group of people––some you recognize as familiar faces, others you’ve never talked to before. Now, you are told to begin clapping your hands the moment the person before you claps twice. You raise your hands and get ready to clap as the person besides you begins clapping. As you feel the palm of your hands hitting together, you hear the sound echoing in yours ears and leaving your fingertips tingling. As the number of people clapping increases, you hear the claps bursting into a symphony of noise and adding on to the increasing momentum of the congregating sound. You feel yourself clapping faster. Getting louder. Beats getting stronger until–– you hear everyone in the room clapping together; not all simultaneously but in unison, each clap eloquently complementing one another.

During one of our APASA assembly meetings, the member organizations’ representative and members were engaged in an activity similar to the one described above. After playing the game, they were asked how they felt after the clapping activity. Did their heart rates go up and increase in intensity as they joined in with the clapping? How did they feel as their turn to clap came closer? Did they feel a change in the overall vibe as the number of people clapping increased? As they were left to ponder upon questions such as these, they were also told to view the activity in a different, more symbolic light––as different leadership styles in general. Their confused countenances slowly changed to one of gradual understanding as they were explained how the two seemingly different activities were related. During the activity, some people clapped on the side of their palms, while others clapped faster than others; few were even delayed in their clapping, a beat off from everyone else. Similar to the different clapping styles that everyone displayed, they were told that leadership styles also often came in varieties and differed by individuals. As the members’ faces begin to show signs of understanding, they were asked again how they felt in relation to effects of different leadership styles coming together. Did they feel the increasing momentum, the noises that were heard louder and made bigger as more people began to chime in? Was each individual in the room able to witness and feel the room transforming into a stage, where all gathered together to shine and clap in different styles for a louder voice?

Inline image 1

Now students from USC will get to share their loud voice with each other at the Global Leadership Organization (GLO) conference from November 14th to 16th. During the three day conference, all different types of people with different leadership styles and views will be coming together to share each other’s voices, learn about leadership skills and get to make that heart throbbing feeling that occurs when people who are passionate about making a difference come together. Not by themselves, but together. Not just with few claps but also with many clap aggregating into one harmony. Not just confined to a room, but in the world they’ll be venturing out afterwards. We want to thank all those who registered to come to the GLO conference and we look forward to the unforgettable, life-changing three days we’ll be spending together!

Inline image 2

For more information about the organization and upcoming conferences, please refer to our GLO website: http://www.wearegloballeaders.com

Kevin Nguyen – VSA

kevin nguyen VSA

How did you get involved with VSA?

I heard about VSA through my best friend’s older brother who came to USC before me, but I didn’t really pay attention to it until they started doing Vietnamese Culture Night during my freshman year. I actually ended up being the male lead that year. I was kind of thrown into it but it was really awesome because I got to meet some of the most amazing people ever. Especially since it was freshman year, it’s really hard to branch out. You don’t want to talk to people because you just want to stay in your dorm, but doing VCN really made me step out and talk to new people. After that, there were VSA e-board elections so I just applied for secretary and then it just snowballed from there.

Was there a reason you applied?

I really liked the community – the VSA family, so I just wanted to stay involved with that. Since after culture night high everyone is really close and it’s a lot of fun so I got pulled into that, applied for e-board and got it.

Did you do a lot of acting before?

Not really, the only acting I had done before was in elementary school in a small play.

And you’ve never danced before?

Yeah I’ve never danced and I still don’t dance… but for VSA I’ll do it!

Was there a certain person who drew you into VSA at first?

They all kind of pulled me in, the e-board and then all the other actors and dancers pulled me in. I actually didn’t know anyone in VSA going into it, I didn’t have any friends that said, “Oh let’s go to VSA” or anything; I just heard about it, and I’m really proud of my Vietnamese identity so I decided, “Oh let’s just do it. Why not?” I was super nervous at the culture night auditions at first – I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being super laid back

Were you a part of any other orgs?

Just Kazan Taiko – I’ve been involved in Taiko since freshman year. I was just lying in bed and one of my floormates said, “Let’s try out taiko.” So I went and stayed in ever since. And I used to be in music groups back in high school. I didn’t play drums though, I used to play keyboard for a fiddling group, like bluegrass and jazz and that kind of stuff. I’m also involved in the Catholic Center at USC now as well as a retreat coordinator.

What would you say is the difference between Taiko and VSA?

Taiko is very much performance based, and you’re bonding through practices, playing drums together and working on that art form. Since Kazan Taiko is very open and anyone can join, I knew nothing about drumming before. It was cool being able to learn from all the older people and then later on being able to teach the younger people.

It’s different from VSA since VSA is more social where you form a family but it’s not just because of performances, it’s because you guys just hang out and share a love for Vietnamese culture …especially Vietnamese food. It’s a really nice break from school and all the other stress. We do eat together, play together, and work together.

What do you usually do as President of VSA?

It’s usually a lot of overseeing. I know what all my e-boarders are doing, and I remind them of their tasks. If they need help, I step in and help out and I’m always checking in on them, especially during midterm season, final season and culture night season, making sure they’re all okay.

Also talking to all the general members is a one of the most important things. As president I’m someone who’s been in VSA the longest and so one of my jobs is just being open to opinions. Especially on e-board, my philosophy this year is focusing on the family aspect, focusing on being open and transparent, so that as e-board we’re just people helping facilitate the club instead of being seen as a leadership group that shouldn’t be approached. General members can come and talk to us about anything. I’m just another student who enjoys Vietnamese culture and enjoys hanging out with everyone. So it’s just being that connection to the general members and being willing to put myself out there, since I’m actually not a very extroverted person. But as president I step out of my comfort zone and really try to bring in people no matter how different their backgrounds are, and just find a common ground and make them feel at home.

Is there a specific vision you have for VSA this year?

So this year our goal was to focus more on our general members, really building them up, helping them find a home, and just helping them find whatever they need. Every year we’ve had a different theme. My sophomore year was more about sustainability, having all the records, making sure everything is very clear and organized. Then last year was about improving ourselves as an organization overall. And so this year, now that we’re stable and have grown a lot more, we’re focusing on that family aspect and keeping the focus on the members. I remember sophomore year we had an event where only 2 general members showed up. Then last year it grew a little more to about 15-25 people at meetings and now we have 30-50 members on average it’s really cool. It’s really different so now we don’t want to lose ourselves in that growth and just really keep in touch with everyone and keep our strong bonds.

How would you say USC VSA is different from other schools’?

There are 15 schools in the union, but we’re actually one of the few private schools so we’re a little bit different, especially with how we’re located in LA instead of the OC where a lot of Vietnamese cultural events happen. We also have a lot of international students within our members and people from out of state while other schools have more local students. It’s not just Vietnamese American or international Vietnamese students though. We have people from Korea, Hong Kong, China, and even beyond, we’re a very diverse group for a cultural organization at a school. And one of the benefits of our VSA is that we don’t have membership dues.

No membership dues?!

Yeah, no membership dues. so we literally open our arms to everyone that wants to come and hangout. It’s something we pride ourselves in: the fact that our members don’t have to worry about money and instead they can just hang out and spend time with us. It’s about being a part of the community and part of the family and I don’t want to make my family members pay for something especially because the only thing that money would be going towards would be VCN and I feel like if we are strong enough, we can work together to work to fundraise it. This way, we focus less on the money, and focus more on our community.

What’s your favorite event from VSA?

Definitely VCN just because of how much bonding we get to do, but there’s so much more. We’ve had so many collaborations especially this year. We had a Nikkei VSA bowling night and we had a tailgate with Troy Phi and then we’re actually trying to plan a winter retreat with Cal State Northridge VSA. There’s so much going on and VCN is just the big one because that’s our big goal. When you finish it you feel very accomplished, and everyone is really close-knit because you practice for weeks on end so that’s the best because of the feeling you get and the bonds you make. But it’s also the little things throughout the year, all the general meetings. That’s what starts it all off – that’s what gets people interested and breaks the awkward wall especially for freshmen who might not know many others or are a bit confused about being in college. General meetings are really a chance to get close one-on-one interactions because with VCN you’re almost in a one track mindset – it’s all about practicing. VCN is my favorite, but it’s also all the things that build up to it. Plus there’s all our food events, they’re always a highlight.

Do you have a family system?

We do have a family system; it’s based on 3 Vietnamese foods. And with our families, you don’t get to pick and choose; it’s just kind of a salad tossing. We don’t want people to just get with people they know, we want them to break out of their comfort zone and get to know new people and it’s really been working. We’ve had families go to hot pot together. One family went to Griffith Observatory and then went to Korean bbq, so it’s a good chance to get to know each other in small groups.

And also we’re trying to implement basically a big and little system. It’s present in other VSAs but this is the first year we’re big enough to actually be able to think about that. And so it’d be separate from the family system, as a chance for a group of 3-4 people to get to know each other, guide each other and be close to one another. The apps are already out so we’re just waiting for people to send them back and we’ll start doing matches. …It’s been a hectic year we’ve been trying to do a lot of new things!

If you could have any talent, what kind of talent would you like to have?

If I could have any talent it’d be really cool if I could speak any language in the world. First of all as a kid I was always very fascinated with languages. But also just because language barriers are such a big problem especially at USC where we’re filled with so many different cultures, so many different things I think it’d be really cool to be able to speak to everyone and speak to them comfortably in their own language. So I could go anywhere in the world and talk to people because it’d just be really nice to know more people, get new perspectives and make new friends who aren’t just Vietnamese.

What’s one thing you want to do before you graduate?  

Definitely see VSA grow even more than what it is now, be closer and be like a family more than before because it’s something I see happen every year. I want to see how it grows more and more before I leave. I think as a senior, this year it’s less about grades and more about having that last impact, making friends, making really close bonds with people before I leave, and really leaving a legacy whether with VSA or in people’s lives.

Do you have any last words?

It’s just amazing how much has happened in the past 3 years. Within the school, campus is always changing, seeing how APASA has grown, how VSA has grown, and how everything is just always changing and getting better every year. I’d just like to thank everyone who’s been a part of my life, and helped me get this far.

Is there anything that’s been unexpected of your experience looking back now as a senior?

I never expected to be this involved in stuff, and to be president of a club. That was like the last thing on my mind. I thought I’d get to be secretary and maybe IVP, but that’s about as far as I thought would happen. And here I am now as VSA president. And being practice leader of Taiko last year… I didn’t even know Taiko was a thing until freshman year and next thing you know I’m teaching people how to play Taiko! It’s so surprising how many turns life can take you in the span of 3 years.

Keep up with everything USC VSA is doing on Facebook!

Lorna Xu
Publicity Director