The Brandeis Asian American Students Association held their annual Family Night in Levin Ballroom on Friday, Sept. 24. With an excited crowd and a long line out the door, the event was a smashing success, nearly running out of food within 30 minutes of its start.

After checking in by showing a green passport and swiping in via Brandeis student ID card, organizers welcomed guests with music and twinkling lanterns that perfectly set the mood. The clubs present — Brandeis African Students Organization, South Asian Student Association, Southeast Asia Club, Brandeis Latinx Student Organization, Taiwanese Student Association, Japanese Student Association, Vietnamese Students Association and Club Cantonese — served food from their respective cultures, immersing the students with a variety of dishes and a taste of something new. 

BAASA Co-President Richard Tian ’23 explained the importance of this event by highlighting the main component of the night: food. “I feel like Asian culture places a big emphasis on food as sort of a unifying force, [and it plays] a huge role in fostering relationships and familial dynamics — hence why we call it ‘Family Night.’ This event also functions to platform other clubs and their cultural expression through their food,” Tian explained during an in-person interview with the Justice on Friday, Sept.24.

The opportunity to try new foods was the selling point of Family Night, and attendees expressed enthusiasm over being able to step away from the usual dining hall menu: “We came because we wanted to try a variety of cultural dishes … The dining hall food isn’t always incredibly inclusive, so this was a good opportunity for my friends and me to try foods from so many different cultures,”  Kunga Chime ’25 said. 

Fatou Secka ’22, treasurer of BASO, also commented on the global aspect of Family Night, saying how “You can taste food from everywhere … you get to try food that’s important to so many people — everyone who came got to try our food, and we got to try food from all of the culture clubs here at Brandeis.” By walking around and exposing themselves to the different clubs present, both moderators and attendees were able to celebrate and learn about the significance of these cultural foods.

Although this event is an annual tradition, it was unfortunately canceled last year due to the pandemic. However, in accordance with the University’s COVID-19 guidelines, BAASA was able to safely navigate this year’s Family Night by keeping track of attendance: “Before the pandemic, it was a first-come, first-serve basis … [Keeping track of attendance and strictly adhering to room capacities] has been one small change we’ve made in regards to COVID guidelines,”  Tian said. BAASA used the number of Brandeis ID card swipes to keep track of how many people were in Levin Ballroom. For smaller events such as those that take place in the Intercultural Center, clubs use RSVP forms instead.

The student body has long awaited in-person events, and the ability to do so comes as an exciting opportunity for many. While Tian shared how the biggest challenge in transitioning clubs back to being in person was fostering the energy and dynamic that they had pre-pandemic, the vibes of Levin Ballroom were unmatched by most online events that have happened throughout last year. Just by being physically present, attendees were able to meet new people and be more engaged. Denise Zhong ’23 commented on her enthusiasm of returning back to an in-person Family Night: “This event’s a lot more chill, and I like how you can get to know a lot more people personally … I’m so glad for in-person events. You feel a lot less present [in online events], and everything feels so sudden. One second, you’re in a Zoom call, and the next you’re not.”

Tian expresses gratitude toward the many people that contributed and helped maintain the essence of Family Night, including his co-presidents (Liz Gong ’23 and Kelly Zhang ’22), the treasurer (Charles Culata ’24), the event planning committee (Hope Zhou ’24, George Zhu ’24 and Karina Lee ’24) and Terri Tozzi, student activities specialist.

Events like Family Night that offer a wide range of food and an accepting ambiance are meeting some of the greatest needs of all college students: free tasty food and a place for lively social connection. If you missed out on this event, you can look forward to many more to come in the following months, such as the upcoming Winter Coffeehouse. Just be sure to dash out of your dorm early enough, before the food and drinks run out!