To celebrate the new semester, the Brandeis Asian American Student Association (BAASA) hosted their annual “Welcoming Night” to discuss upcoming events and introduce newly-elected e-board members. What followed was an experience that I felt was truly special and important for the community at Brandeis. 

In an environment dominated by academics, it’s almost impossible to not be constantly reminded of the deadline of your paper, the test coming up next week or just the general state of being a college student. In a sense, it’s easy to forget the part of your identity which is rooted in your cultural heritage. Cultural clubs offer the chance to connect with peers who share something beyond the confinements of a classroom. It’s not that I need to be reminded that I am an Asian- American in order to appreciate my cultural background. Rather I would like to feel as if I am a part of something greater than just how I identify myself. 

During the discussion portion of the event, the club leaders posed questions to the audience which allowed us to interact with one another in a way that united us as a whole. Questions such as, “How did you feel about representation of Asian culture in the film, literature, and music industries throughout our childhood?” and “Did this representation ever affect your daily lives growing up?” pushed us to think about how our views of ourselves were shaped on a global scale. Through these conversations, we were able to express personal life experiences and their relation to our shared culture. 

In an interview with the Justice, Alison Kan ’20, president of BAASA, explained that her goal for the club is to “build more of a structured community [at Brandeis] in order to help others find their place in college.” As the night went on, members of the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (BAATF) were called up to deliver their speech about what they are trying to accomplish for our school’s community. Olivia Nichols ’20 and Eliana Kleiman ’21 advocated for the needs of Brandeis’ Asian American Pacific Islander community, such as a more accessible community, with outreach to the larger student population. Their speech was met with cheers and clapping from the audience, which made all the more apparent and the importance for Brandeis to include more AAPI studies in our academic curriculum. 

While it may be the case that our view of these cultural club events on campus is generally geared towards the promotion of free food, which is completely valid because the food was really good, it is important to remind ourselves about the value of clubs like BAASA and BAATF, which help make students feel a sense of belonging and empowerment. There is never a requirement for any of these cultural club events that attendees come from a particular culture; the goal is rather to learn and understand from students with different backgrounds in order to ignite conversations which help strengthen our Brandeis community. 

BAASA will continue to host events throughout the school year. I highly recommend looking out for future meetings through their Facebook page, as well as their posters around campus.