Immigrant experience highlighted at Vietnamese Student Association virtual cultural night

Members showcased dancing, filmmaking and acting talents to tell important stories about the Vietnamese experience in America.

VSA%27s+dance+group%2C+VSA+Modern+shot+at+multiple+locations+in+San+Diego+to+create+the+ultimate+music+video+atmosphere+for+2021+VCN.

Screenshot Courtesy of VSA

VSA’s dance group, VSA Modern shot at multiple locations in San Diego to create the ultimate music video atmosphere for 2021 VCN.

by Catlan Nguyen, Social Media Editor

San Diego State’s Vietnamese Student Association hosted its annual cultural night online on April 16 featuring a short play, musical performances, parent interviews, dances and a lip-sync performance.

“I’m still really proud because I didn’t watch any of it beforehand but our board hella pulled through especially in a virtual year,” VSA Co-president Sarah Hoang said.

Vietnamese Cultural Night Director Annie Huynh wrote the script for the two-act play titled “Their Untold Past,” which followed a Vietnamese family and the struggles they face building a new life in America.

The short student-made film showcased the language barriers Vietnamese immigrants face and the conflicts first-generation Vietnamese Americans face.
The short student-made film showcased the language barriers Vietnamese immigrants face and the conflicts first-generation Vietnamese Americans face. (Screenshot courtesy of VSA.)

According to multiple VSA members, many of them related heavily to the experiences and themes in the play. 

“The story really aligned perfectly with me and my personal experience helping my parents with those language barriers,” business first-year and Cultural Night actor Donna Tran said. “The whole play was about the immigration experience and the language barrier between the kids that are born here and their immigrant parents.”

One of the opening scenes shows Tran’s character Huong helping her parents fill out school paperwork for transferring because Huong’s parents didn’t know how to read English. Huong slowly begins to lose patience with her mom during the process and her misplaced annoyance with her parents leads to an argument.

The play had two acts and ran for a total of 15 minutes. It took a total of about 20 hours to edit, VCN video editor and actor Raymond Nguyen-Phan said. He also said he rushed to edit the second act during VCN’s intermission on the Twitch live stream.

“During intermission, I quickly threw together the audio that was needed as well as the captions, and rendered that out in like 15 minutes,” Nguyen-Phan said. “That was kind of stressful, but we got it done and I think people really enjoyed it.”

Nguyen-Phan played the dad in the film and found he enjoyed acting and filmmaking. He also said working on this project helped him bond more with VSA members.
Nguyen-Phan played the dad in the film and found he enjoyed acting and filmmaking. He also said working on this project helped him bond more with VSA members.
Phan's character showing annoyance with her parents during one of the first scenes in the film.
Tran’s character showing annoyance with her parents during one of the first scenes in the film. (Screenshot courtesy of VSA)

Nguyen-Phan also played the dad in “Their Untold Past” and he said it was fun and insightful to switch roles from the first generation Vietnamese-American child to the Vietnamese immigrant parent.

“It’s interesting to play the parent because usually I’m on the other side and I’m the kid,” Nguyen-Phan said with a chuckle. “Being able to play the dad was pretty fun because I got to ‘scold’ my child. On a serious note though, it reminded me that my parents do care about me and say these things with good intentions.”

Other stand-out moments included a dance video from VSA Modern, the club’s dance group, which was filmed at multiple locations. A portion of the dance is even performed barefoot in the water at downtown San Diego’s Waterfront Park, VSA Modern director Evelyn Kang said.

VSA Modern giving BTS a run for their money in their VCN 2021 dance performance.
VSA Modern giving BTS a run for their money in their VCN 2021 dance performance.
The splashing of the water emphasized each dance move during this scene in VSA Modern's dance video performance.
The splashing of the water emphasized each dance move during this scene in VSA Modern’s dance video performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna Tran interviewing her mom about her immigration experience.
Donna Tran interviewing her mom about her immigration experience. (Screenshot courtesy of VSA)

In addition to highlighting the talents from their community, two VSA members interviewed their parents to learn more about their experiences immigrating to America to escape the Vietnam War. 

“It’s actually kind of nice to listen to my parent’s immigration story and to realize like ‘Whoa, that’s so different from our lives,’” Tran said. “You wouldn’t think what they went through is real sometimes. They came here with nothing in their pockets and look at everything they’ve given me, and I honestly feel very blessed and grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

Tran also said her parents and their siblings even encountered pirates in Indonesia while they were seeking refuge after the Vietnam War. 

Tran and the other members of VSA said the organization welcomes all students of all backgrounds.

“It brought me a sense of community, especially because I got to relate to others on a cultural level as well,” Nguyen-Phan said. “Even if you’re not Vietnamese, it’s always cool to learn about more cultures and we do a lot of stuff that’s inclusive of a lot of people.”

For Tran, VSA is also a place to make lifelong friends, especially those who take part in VCN.

“What you put into the club is what you get out of it,” Tran said. “That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far in the club and in the community.”

For more information on the organization, visit their Instagram @sdsuvsa. 

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