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VSA introduces Vietnamese culture to Baruch

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The Vietnamese Student Association presented a series of workshops featuring elements of Vietnamese culture to attendees of “Passage to Vietnam” on Thursday, March 16, during club hours, in the Multipurpose Room.

With the event, VSA aimed to facilitate conversation and foster cultural exchange between students at Baruch College and Vietnam’s culture. VSA members created tri-fold boards showcasing Vietnamese cuisine, games, language and performances.

Members took a didactic and interactive approach in setting up the Multipurpose Room for interested students to easily learn and participate.

Upon entering, passersby noticed three standing tri-fold boards that illustrated studying abroad in Vietnam and two cuisines specific to the Southeast Asian country.

One board featured fun facts and recipes for Vietnamese iced coffee, known as ca phe da. One side of the board was dedicated to frequently asked questions, such as why the process of roasting the coffee beans is preferred in Vietnam.

"Roasting, introduced by the French, estimates the acidity found in coffee, thus creating a caramel/chocolaty [sic] flavor,” the board read.

Interested students also had the opportunity to conduct a mini-taste test, in which a representative offered cups of Vietnamese iced coffee and iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts to determine any differences.

“I like that VSA combined interactive components with visual and more informative pieces. I sort of detect the difference between the two coffees, but maybe I’m just tired and coffee tastes like coffee to me,” junior Jun Tun Li said.

Another tri-fold board explained how to make summer rolls and the traditional accompanying dipping sauce from scratch. Ingredients for do-it-yourself summer rolls were also provided on neighboring tables.

Blossoming linguists engirdled the tri-fold board dedicated to the language of Vietnam. Taped to the board was a print-out of common Vietnamese terms that curious students studied in the brief session that were there.

Some VSA members manned a station that encouraged students to create paper lanterns. Ordinarily, lanterns in Vietnam are made from silky material and come in a range of sizes and shapes, according to one of the instructors. True to their historical roots, the paper lanterns varied greatly in appearance. These lanterns are typically designed for special festivals and occasions.

Another station challenged participants to try their luck in a game referred to as “Squash-Crab-Fish-Tiger” in English. A special die with six images is tossed. These images correspond to one of six animals, which are blown up in size on an accompanying paper game board. The objective of the game is to correctly bet on which image the die will present. The more correct times the better accurately predicts the die’s image, the more money the better will win.

“The game was interesting, I think. My mom is Vietnamese but I haven’t played it at home or anything. I don’t think I’m that good and we didn’t play for money,” Carla Vanuez said. “If we had, I would have lost a lot of money.”

Other students took part in a Vietnamese fan dance, in which participants received a pair of colorful fans and mimicked the instructors’ moves. The fan dance does not have a specific style to it, rather, it varies depending on the region in which it is performed. Traditionally, it is performed in large settings like festivals and operas. Some more formal dances can be performed on royal grounds.

Though she did not participate in the dance activity, Vanuez said that her mother frequently tells her stories of how she used to be forced into learning the fan dance. Vanuez’s grandmother perceived the fan dance with high regard, having performed it herself when she was young. Aside from the activities, VSA members also handed out Vietnamese food to students as an additional cultural experience.

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