That’s a question I often ask myself when my mind wanders or when I think about home. Sometimes, I don’t find an answer other than “school” or “nursing”, especially when everyone else around me is either from Iowa or from one of the neighboring states. A lot of times, I wonder how different my life would be if I was still home or somewhere else.
But then I think about the present, how I am now, and what I can do to make the most of my time here. I think about the friends and memories I’ve made in just three months, the community I’ve found, as well as the fun I’ve had and will have in the future. Those thoughts alone are enough to make me realize that it’s not so bad being in Iowa. Although I still sometimes consider Iowa as a “foreign territory”, I’m warming up to it more as I spend more time here.
For the third post of this series, I’ve once again written down all the Asian-related activities I participated in November. Although a little lackluster compared to the previous posts, I hope this is still interesting enough for this month.
Organization for the Active Support of International Students
OASIS is a student organization that targets international students, and every year they host their Multicultural Showcase which includes performances by other clubs and organizations on campus. The showcase was very entertaining with performances of singing and dancing, as well as a short Kahoot game during the intermission. I had a few friends who were in one of the performing groups, so I got to watch them dance to K-pop songs with other H-Wave (@hallyuatiowa on Instagram) members.
On a Saturday afternoon, some VSA and FSA members drove to Wilson’s Orchard & Farm for their annual collab social. After waiting for everyone to show up, we took a group photo by the stairs for the Instagram post. This social was just a time to spend with friends and new people at the orchard, so we hung out by the playground, went back to the benches, and got food and drinks (thanks Jaden for the slushie!). The social was a great start to autumn for me (I’m slowly learning that autumn doesn’t really exist in Iowa, but let me have this), and it was also my first time to an apple orchard! We even got free pizza from the owners for being the last ones to leave!
Guest Speaker GBM
The next VSA event was the guest speaker GBM. The guest speaker An Phan came from Des Moines to share her experience with Vietnamese culture. We got to hear how she grew up, her time in college, serving in the military, and more of her journey. Surprisingly, I found myself relating to a lot more than I thought I would, despite major differences from my point of view. She ended her speech with questions and advice, and we all took a group picture to end the GBM.
On a Monday night, I walked into Molly’s Cupcakes for VSA’s social, and also to get a cupcake for the fundraiser. This social mostly involved playing games with other people, so I got to watch and play a few rounds of Tapple and Spot It. Although things got heated sometimes due to the competitiveness of people, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming and everyone had fun.
Minute to Win it GBM
The last VSA event was the Minute to Win it GBM, which also marks VSA’s last event of the semester. After the usual GBM presentation, we were divided into six teams, which got hectic because my team was initially missing 3 members compared to other teams. We played a series of rapid-fire challenges, like using chopsticks to put Skittles into cups (I got second place with 24, so that’s a win in my books), scooping cotton balls with no hands, math problems, and other fun games (we do not speak of my embarrassing attempt at the Oreo challenge). This GBM was fun not only because of the games and challenges but also because some of my friends who aren’t in VSA also came to play with us! My team won overall with 5 points, which was a great way to end the semester for me.
On Veterans Day weekend, two of my friends and I The Bep Teahouse’s soft opening. We were all really excited that another boba place had opened up downtown. Although they weren’t serving food then, we still got to try some drinks from their plentiful menu. The drinks were all very delicious, but the store’s interior was also very pretty and aesthetic. We stayed there for almost two hours before I had to go to work, but I ended up coming back the next day with a friend again just to take advantage of the soft opening (I’m aware of my money spending).
Almost there. The fall semester is at its homestretch, and the holiday season is upon us.
November is ending soon, which means we get a week off for fall break before tackling the last two weeks (and also finals) of the semester.
Unlike most students who either went home or traveled for a week, I was among the few who stayed on campus for Thanksgiving week, moping over the fact (or opinion really) that it wasn’t worth it to go all the way back to Seattle for a week just to come back for 3 more weeks before going back again. Instead, I spent the week trying to occupy myself to avoid boredom, which admittedly didn’t work out too great. Here’s an overview of what my fall break looked like:
I was tasked with an Instagram takeover for Monday to show off what I did for the day (over on @iowaadmissions on Instagram). Basically, I posted Instagram stories in a “day in my life” format, while also answering questions from incoming Hawkeyes. Aside from this, I went to the Fall Break Meal and had my first “Thanksgiving meal” ever (I didn’t even know what stuffing was before this). The food was decent for me, and it was nice not having to think about what to eat for lunch. After the meal, I tagged along with some of my friends to go to Coral Ridge Mall to hang out. We walked around, got boba (JaeTea’s strawberry matcha is really good) and some other food, and also tried on some clothes. When we came back to campus, we hung out at the dorms for a bit, where we played some Call of Duty (I mostly watched them play so I could catch up on Instagram questions). We ended the day by making a brief run to Target, and I signed off Instagram when I got back to my dorm.
A fire drill woke me up from my sleep at around 11:30 am, so I put on my puffy coat on top of my pajamas and walked out onto Dubuque Street while my eyes were still squinting my grogginess away. Apart from that, I have nothing else to write about Tuesday except for my 7-hour shift at the Power Cafe. The shift was mostly slow like my usual shift, except I closed for the first time that day, and with my amazing luck, there was a big crowd forming right as we were about to start closing. After that unexpected rush, my coworker (who doesn’t even work at the Power Cafe – Jackie, I appreciate you) and I powered through the closing process (pun intended) and made sure everything was as clean as possible with the minimal energy we had remaining.
I had a shift at the Coral Ridge Ice Rink on Wednesday, so I spent 3 hours handling rental skates (and answering the same two questions over and over again). After my shift, I went straight back to my dorm and just lounged around until I got hungry and made dinner, also catching up on some work and binging a drama series.
Honestly, there’s really nothing for me to write about for Thanksgiving Day. I’ve never been one to celebrate Thanksgiving, and neither does my family, so aside from calling home, all I did was enjoy being alone in my room (with a lack of good food, because what money do I have to spend on fancy food).
Friday started off with me sleeping in until noon for once. Sleeping in isn’t something I get to do very often anymore so I let myself stay in bed until I felt like getting up. Once I was awake, I realized that I needed to get some Christmas shopping done for a Secret Santa that I’m participating in, so I decided to make another trip to Coral Ridge Mall. And when I say the mall was packed with people, I am not joking. Every single chair in the food court was taken, and there were strollers wedged in every gap between tables. Unfortunately, my shopping wasn’t very successful, so I ended up just getting some pretty gift bags. I stayed a bit longer at the mall to eat some pizza, since I work at the rink and I was told there would be free pizza for anyone who came in (I wasn’t even scheduled to work that day; I just wanted free food).
So there you have it: my anticlimactic fall break broken down. Admittedly, it went both better and worse than I thought it would. I’m glad I had some friends who were also on campus during the break as well, but it sucked not being able to go home while everyone else was gone. It was nice having an empty dorm hallway though, so I am appreciative of that. Would I stay on campus for another break? Maybe. If I don’t have plans to travel during the week-long breaks, I most probably would be staying on campus (Seattle is just a bit too far away for a week to be worth it for me). But I am really looking forward to winter break when I can finally go back home.
As someone part of a minority, it’s pretty cool to be able to see all the resources in your community (albeit sometimes very limited) representing your minority. It’s even cooler to be a part of the resources and part of them representing your minority.
The Asian community at the University of Iowa, although small compared to what I’m used to, is a community I absolutely love being part of. Sometimes it feels like everyone knows each other to some degree, and it’s almost like I can walk up to any Asian student and ask if I saw them at a specific event (I can’t, but the feeling is there). And as I get more involved and learn more, it only gets better. I found myself committing a lot of my free time to VSA where I feel comfortable spending time in. I join events knowing I’ll have a great time there, and it’s becoming a routine that I gladly accept.
I will say this month I was only able to attend events held by two organizations since I’ve also started working on campus, which has taken up a bit of my time. However, that’s not to say this month was less fun than September was. In fact, it might have been slightly more entertaining than last month. Anyway, here is what I did in October:
Last month, I didn’t know that there were Korean organizations at Iowa, which was honestly a bit of a shame for me considering I grew up exposed to Korean media a lot and love Korean culture (and K-Pop too). So when I stumbled upon the Korean Conversation Group (KCG)’s Instagram page, I was honestly quite surprised I hadn’t seen it before.
When a few of my friends invited me to go to a dance workshop hosted by the KCG in collaboration with Hallyu at Iowa (@hallyuatiowa on Instagram), I gladly said yes. They posted that they were teaching ATEEZ’s “Bouncy” and NewJeans’ “Super Shy”, and although I personally had already learned these two songs’ dances on my own time (I’m quite the K-Pop fan if I do say so myself), I still wanted to go to the workshop just for the sake of experiencing a dance workshop. Regardless, it was still a fun experience. We spent the first 10 minutes warming up and stretching as well as learning the “logistics” of the workshop, then split the remaining 50 minutes into two sections so that we could learn both dances. Since I already knew the dances, I spent most of the time observing my friends, other people, and the environment. Since this wasn’t an actual formal dance class, the overall vibe was lighter and more easygoing. After learning the two dances, we spent the last 5 minutes recording a video of us dancing to “Super Shy” and also taking pictures for Instagram.
Outdoor Game Day
The next event I went to hosted by the KCG was their Outdoor Game Day, where we played two common Korean childhood games. We played “the hibiscus flowers bloomed” (written as “무궁화 꽃 이 피었 습니다” in Korean, which is basically “red light, green light”. This is what the doll) for the majority of the time, which featured quite a few rounds of alleged cheating according to the KCG members. I personally never got caught, but I also wasn’t ballsy enough to ever be the one to separate the chain. After playing “red light, green light”, we “played” another Korean game called “chicken fight” (“닭싸움” in Korean), and no, it does not feature actual chickens. The game basically features players hopping on one foot while they grab their other foot so their leg is bent, and they try to knock their opponents off balance in order to be the last one standing. No one really volunteered to play this game, so after a few rounds with people being nominated, a winner was declared, and we were dismissed for the day.
I’m not going to lie, VSA may be one of the best things that has happened to me at Iowa so far, which probably explains why I’ve been more involved in it than I anticipated (and also probably why I went to literally every single event this month).
On the Friday of Homecoming week, VSA had their Boba Social at Teamo Tea (@teamoteahouseic on Instagram). I went over to Teamo after finishing a 2.5-hour volunteer shift (which wasn’t the best, to say the least), excited to hang out with other people while drinking boba. There honestly isn’t much to write about for this event; it was really just meeting new people, and spending time with friends, all while enjoying drinks. Regardless, I had a great time.
After a week (maybe two) of getting hyped for the spicy ramen (and mad that I even got nominated), it was time to face the inevitable. The GBM started off like any other meeting: we went through the meeting’s presentation, learned more Viet words, and learned about other activities on campus. After all that, it was time to eat spicy noodles. We were given a “3 2 1”, and as soon as the countdown hit 1, everyone took a bite of their noodles. The first 5 seconds after was the only moment of peace that we got. Soon after, the spiciness got the best of many of us, myself included. A lot of us turned red on our faces, and there was a mix between wanting to finish the noodles as fast as possible and taking pauses to drink some milk. I personally have a close to nonexistent spice tolerance, so I knew I would not be finishing my plate of noodles (they were also cold and crunchy by the time we ate so it was a bit unappetizing). Half an hour of suffering and almost crying later, we cleaned up, wrapped up the event, and went home.
Two days after the Spicy Ramen GBM, VSA had their CPP volleyball tournament, which was held as a fundraising event for the Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund. I had a shift at work that day, so I did not participate in the tournament. After I got off from work, I walked to the UI Field House and found everyone at the volleyball courts. I put my bag down and greeted everyone, as well as caught up on how the tournament was going. Since I wasn’t playing in the tournament, I mainly just spent time with my friends who also weren’t playing. We took silly pictures, ran laps around the court, giggled really loudly, and watched the games without knowing what the scores were. Honestly, for me, the tournament was more social than anything. But in the end, team VB’s Main Characters won the tournament and got to sign the bracket board.
The Study Social was another chill event this month. I, along with the VSA president Michelle (she’s amazing), came from a meeting before the social with boxes of pizza left over from said meeting. We went to the designated room in the library where people were already studying. Like the Boba Social, there also isn’t a lot to write about this social. The few hours at the library were spent studying, talking with friends, eating snacks, and goofing around.
This was the big event of the month for me. After about a month of preparing, detail figuring, and anticipating later, it finally happened. We went to Leadership Summit.
To be honest, I was quite nervous going into this. It felt weird to be the only freshman from UIowa VSA going all the way to Louisville, Kentucky for the Leadership Summit (because everyone else bailed, but I don’t blame them entirely). The 7-hour drive to Kentucky was… interesting to say the least. We left campus at 5 p.m. since a lot of us had classes until late afternoon (I was not one of them). We made stops to use the bathroom, get food, as well as switch drivers (I took passenger duty for the second half of the drive), and we made it to the house we were staying in at 2 in the morning (thank you Andrew for housing us). When we got out of the car, we were drained. We quickly lugged our bags into the rooms, got ready for sleep, and knocked out. Well, that was what I was trying to do. For some reason, I couldn’t get myself to properly fall asleep, so I spent 45 minutes awake with my eyes closed before I gave up and went to the common area to do some work instead. I ended up eventually getting an hour of sleep before waking up again, to which I gave up and just decided to get ready for the big event.
Leadership Summit was a unique experience for me. It was the first conference-like event I had ever attended, but it wasn’t so formal that I got uncomfortable. We started off with listening to a talk with a keynote speaker, which was followed by getting into our POD groups for the day. In our POD groups, we introduced ourselves, learned some things about each other, and also got briefed on how the day would go. After meeting with our PODs, we had a little less than an hour to eat lunch, so UIowa VSA decided to grab some food at a nearby place that the Keynotes Speaker owns (the noodles I ordered were delicious). When we got back, we started going to our assigned workshops and panels; I went to the “Live, Laugh, Love… VSA?” and “Navigating Pre-Medicine in College: Setting Yourself Up for Medical School” workshops, as well as the “UVSA-Midwest CoSRs” panel. I’ll be real, my lack of sleep got the best of me since I was drifting in and out of the two workshops (I still got some value out of them, just not as much as I would’ve if I wasn’t so tired). I was fully awake for the panel, though, and we got to learn about what being CoSR is like, as well as ask our own questions. After the workshops and panels, we met up with our PODs again for a brief moment before we headed to dinner. As we ate, the Cultural Show ran, and we got to watch people sing, dance, and even participate in some fun games. The event was drawing to a close as the Cultural Show ended, and we wrapped up by taking group photos.
The drive back to Iowa was more peaceful for me. I got to get some sleep (that I so badly needed), we stopped for some food at Portillo’s, and we made it back in a timely manner. We ended the weekend with a group hotpot and reflected on our experiences at the Leadership Summit.
ACCE Reveal/Game Night
The last event I went to was the ACCE Reveal/Game Night GBM. I signed up for ACCE (Anh, Chi, Chanh, Em) a few weeks prior, and this event was when our pairings would be revealed. When I got to the CIAE, I was practically shuffled into a waiting room, where other students were already waiting. Eventually, we got called out in groups, and we would walk out of the room in a line with our eyes closed. I got paired with an Anh (older brother) as well as a twin sister (I love you guys). After our reveals, we went through the GBM presentation and then flowed into playing games with our ACCE lineage, where my lineage played Cards Against Humanity. After Game Night, we all went down to Freddy’s to grab some food and hang out. We hung out with our friends and got to know the members of our lineage before we went back home.
I’ve wanted to jump out of a plane for a few years now. Yes, I mean literally.
As a self-proclaimed adventurous person, I’ve always wanted to try different outdoor activities. From ziplining to bungee jumping, I want to experience everything at least once in my life (my bucket list is honestly a bit dangerous, but hey, it’s now or never). Hell, parasailing in Hawaii two summers ago was kind of a dream come true, as well as driving an ATV around a flower field in Japan this past July. Skydiving is just another thing on my bucket list, and it’s always fascinating to me how people actually make a living out of jumping out of planes. It also doesn’t really help that growing up with Wii Sports Resort (a goated game. I miss it so much) also kind of fueled my interest just a bit.
This is kind of why I didn’t expect to get to skydive once during my time in Iowa, let alone being my first semester in my first year.
This experience is definitely one I will absolutely never forget. I loved every single bit of it and have zero regrets (aside from being $400 poorer, but that doesn’t count). If you’re even the slightest bit interested in skydiving, here is a rundown of what happened.
First of all, I want to thank the Iowa Skydiving Club (Logan, our president, is the best) for making this entire experience possible. I honestly might have never gotten to do this if it wasn’t for this club.
I found this club by pure accident when I was just scrolling on Engage at the beginning of September to see what clubs and organizations I could join. I first saw there was a Ski & Snowboard Club (which I am really excited to participate in), but then I scrolled a bit further down, and the name “Iowa Skydiving Club” appeared on my screen. Out of curiosity, I went to Instagram to see if they had their own page, and to my surprise, an account with a matching name showed up. There was a post that mentioned their first informational meeting, so I attended said meeting to learn about the club and skydiving in general. In that meeting, it was mentioned that there would be two grill outs during this fall semester, one on September 17th, and the other on October 1st. At first, I was worried that we could only go to the grill outs if we were jumping, but Logan clarified that we could also just go to hang out.
First Grill Out
Come September 17th, by 9:30 am I was in a car on the interstate going to the drop zone (thank you Alyssa for driving us). As we drove further away from campus, the realization that there actually was a skydiving drop zone just a mere 45 minutes away from campus began to set in my mind. When we got to the drop zone, we were greeted by not only great people but also two dogs (another one was in the office). I watched as Alyssa greeted the staff and other skydivers (Alyssa was working to get her A-license) and my friends played with the dogs (I’m unfortunately allergic to pets, so I just stood to the side and made sure I didn’t touch the dogs with my hands). As the first group to get to the drop zone, we sat for about 45 minutes before more people showed up. Logan later moved a grill seemingly out of nowhere and started laying out the food (and also realized that we didn’t have enough plates and tissues).
At around 11:30 a.m., the first student went to get their harness on. After putting on the bulky gear (the harness looked quite hunky at first glance), she waited for around 10 minutes before getting on the plane. We watched as the plane zoomed up into the air, and soon it was out of sight. About 15 minutes later, I stepped out of the shed to see if our fellow skydiver was anywhere to be seen, and sure enough, a bright orange parachute was visible amidst a clear blue sky. The parachute dangled in the air for around 5 minutes until it reached the ground, and the skydiver ran back to the shed with a big grin on her face.
As more people showed up and the burger patties cooked, students were taking turns going up in the plane and jumping back down. Every single person came back with a dopey smile on their red-tinted face, and I started wondering if it really was that amazing. This went on for about 3 hours, with the people remaining under the shed chattering and laughing at each other’s jokes. At around 2 p.m., people started filtering out to get back home, and my carpool group remained to wait for Alyssa to finish all her stuff. We left the drop zone at around 4:30 pm, and I got back to my dorm 45 minutes later and immediately crashed onto my chair and dozed off for a good 20 minutes.
Second Grill Out + My Skydive
Two weeks later on October 1st, it was the second grill out of the semester, and also the day I would be the one jumping out of the plane. I had been counting down the days over the last two weeks, eager to experience what it was like to be falling from almost 3 miles above the ground.
The day started off like last time. I (along with two other girls who also live in Mayflower) got picked up by Alyssa at around 9:30 a.m. We got to the drop zone 45 minutes later, and this time we were greeted by not only the staff and the dogs but also Logan (he stayed the night because of an event the previous day). We put our stuff down on the chairs, and my fellow skydiving buddy Sophie and I went to pay for our jumps. Half an hour later, we hear our names and are called over to get ready for our jumps. We meet our instructors and go over safety protocol and the jumping procedure before we put on our harnesses. After our harnesses were on, we waited anxiously for the next move; both of us were visibly so excited and nervous at the same time that we were jittering and hopping around as the time ticked by.
At some point, we shot our initial interviews (we both bought the video package) and got our last pre-jump photos, before we were walked over to the plane. It was at this moment when I realized that I really was about to risk my life just to experience falling from 14,000 ft above the ground at 120 miles per hour. We crammed into the tiny plane and took off, and it was so amazing to see the drop zone shed get smaller and smaller as we flew higher into the sky. The view from the plane was absolutely stunning; the green terrain spanning as far as I could see, the moving vehicles seeming like ants, and the windmills as small as toothpicks. The cold wind blew against our faces and froze our hands, so we closed the door to get warmer.
Finally, the door was opened again. My videographer then somehow moved himself to cling onto the outside of the plane like he was Spiderman. Then, my instructor and I moved so that we were sitting (I was hanging on) the ledge, where I looked down at how high I was in the air before giving the camera a final “pre-takeoff” wave. My instructor gave a countdown, and as soon as he hit one, we jumped off.
The first 10 seconds were the scariest part of the entire experience. The sudden feeling of falling so fast and spinning in the air took me a bit to get used to, but we somehow got to the proper position, and I wasn’t scared anymore. It was exhilarating. Although the wind blowing against my face made it hard to breathe without covering my nose and mouth, it was so fun to feel like nothing (except for my instructor) was holding me back and I was freefalling in the air without care (hey that rhymed!). I tried to interact with the camera as much as I could, like waving or expressing my excitement. At some point, my instructor was giving a signal (that I could not see) that he would pull the parachute open, and the rebound surprised me when he did.
If I had to pick a favorite part of my skydive, it would honestly be coming back down with the parachute. The slow descent as I took in the scenery felt surreal. It was as if I was suspended in the air while everything else was still moving below me. The grass and corn still blew in the wind, the cars and trucks still drove, and the windmills still spun. My instructor made us do a few turns and spins in the air, and I, like the child I am, spread my arms out like a plane as I seemingly reached for nothing and everything at the same time. As we got closer to the ground, I watched Sophie land first and filmed her post-jump interview. We landed with a thud, and when I stood up to get my interview done, I briefly noticed myself smiling the entire time. I could not believe that just minutes ago, I was up in the sky falling without any thoughts other than amusement.
After Sophie and I took off our harnesses, we went back to the shed with smiles and giggles. More people showed up while we were in the sky, and we expressed our thoughts and excitement to everyone. The rest of the grill out went by as last time (with the exception of also playing Cards Against Humanity and Uno this time), except this time despite having my right ear feel weird from the jump, I was grinning like an idiot the entire time.
Would I do this again? Absolutely (if money wasn’t an issue). This was amazing and nothing could ever replace this entire experience. The last section isn’t even halfway to how I wanted to properly describe everything, but I’m not that great of a writer and don’t have the proper words to use. If you want to experience something new and absolutely insane (and you don’t fear heights), I’d say skydiving is worth a shot.
Finding Asian friends on the West Coast isn’t a difficult thing to do since we’re closer to Asia and have large Asian communities.
Finding Asian friends in the Midwest, however, is another story.
So, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that going from my high school (which has Asians making up 55% of the student population) to the University of Iowa (with a whopping 5.1%!) was a bit of a culture shock for me.
Spending the past 18 years of my life in cities surrounded by people like me, it was definitely weird to see not one, not two, but ZERO Asians in the span of 5 days. It kind of felt like I was detached from my own background, not having a community I truly felt like I belonged. Not that my friends aren’t great, but I needed some connection.
Which is why I was overjoyed when I met my Asian friends on my floor for the first time. And when I heard about all the other Asian-related student organizations, I was beyond excited to check them out as well. I threw myself into their events and general board meetings (GBM), determined to be involved in the university’s Asian community. As a result, I had quite an eventful September. Here is a brief but not-so-quick overview:
The first event I attended was the APACC’s Kick Off event. I got a little lost trying to find the venue, but I eventually found the alley to the house. Walking in, I was a little nervous to talk to people, knowing that most of the people there were either upperclassmen or students from either Iowa or Illinois (it still feels weird telling people that I come from a city two time zones away). But one thing was different here compared to the previous three weeks in Iowa: I didn’t feel like I was an outsider. I’m not kidding when I say I felt way more at ease just by seeing all the cup noodles and chopsticks at the dining table. Just these alone gave me enough courage to talk to other people. We ate cup noodles and bingsu (I still can’t believe they had a whole bingsu bar), were introduced to a few of the many Asian-related organizations on campus, and played some fun games while getting to know each other. I had a lot of fun and made a lot of new friends (who unfortunately mostly live on the west side of campus), and even got a Polaroid of some of us in a picture!
A few weeks later, APACC started their Film Fridays, and I went to the first one. I had stuff to do before Film Friday started, so I got there a bit later than I wanted to. It was basically a typical movie night; we watched Joy Luck Club (1993), ate snacks, and hung out together. There’s not much to write about it other than it was really chill, and the vibes were nice. Oh, I forgot to mention that we watched YouTube Rewinds after the movie ended, including the 2017 and 2018 ones.
The Vietnamese Student Association of the University of Iowa is the campus’ largest Asian student organization. Although I’m not Vietnamese myself, I still went to a lot of the events that the VSA hosted. The first one I went to was the VSA Jeopardy GBM. I was pretty excited to go since I missed the first GBM (because I didn’t know about VSA then), and Jeopardy also sounds pretty fun. After the APACC Kick-Off, I dragged my friend with me (neither of us is Vietnamese, but that’s what’s nice about these organizations. You don’t have to be Vietnamese or even Asian to be part of them). We got to the CIAE a bit early, so we waited around for a bit until more people showed up. I saw a lot of familiar faces since a lot of people also went to the kick-off the week before. We learned about what VSA is, its history, what they do, and also upcoming events that they are involved in. After their introduction presentation, we got to the actual highlight of the night, Jeopardy. The categories themselves were already funny: “Kevin Nguyen” which was about Vietnamese culture, “Make your Asian Parents Proud”, “If I could Rearrange the Alphabet, I would put U and I together” which was about UIowa, “Siht Em Elddir” which is “Riddle Me This” backward, and “The Dang Gang” which was about the VSA E-Board. I couldn’t answer most of the “Kevin Nguyen” questions, but I was quite confident in the rest of the categories (my biology exam earlier that day helped me answer how many valence electrons oxygen has). Final Jeopardy asked us to guess how many times the word “bee” was said in the Bee Movie (the answer is a surprising 172). My group ended with the most points, so we got a group picture as a reward.
Two days later, I volunteered for Oktoberfest. Now I know what you’re probably thinking, but Oktoberfest is a German thing, what does it have to do with being Asian? You’re right. It relates to this entire blog because VSA partners with Downtown Iowa City for Oktoberfest. I was assigned to the second shift that started at 3:15 p.m., so I went to grab a drink from Starbucks before checking in. I got a little lost trying to find where the check-in booth was located, but I eventually found it. We were in charge of running a beer stall, and we had to open boxes with mugs in them, fill the mugs with beer, handle with cash, and also fill up 15 glass steins for a beer-holding contest. The experience overall was pretty chill. Nothing too crazy happened in the 2.5 hours we were scheduled for, other than the kegerator breaking and causing beer to overflow and spill onto the table and pavement. When we were done, I was feeling exhausted and grimy even after I got back to my dorm. I did get to bring back 3 small pumpkins from the table decorations though.
A few days later, VSA had yet another event, and this time it was their Mid-Autumn Festival GBM. I was looking forward to this GBM since the last one was a lot of fun, and also a Mid-Autumn Festival-themed GBM seems quite interesting. I didn’t know what to expect considering I’ve only ever known Chinese traditions for Mid-Autumn festivals, so I hoped to be able to learn how Vietnamese culture celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival. It turns out (if I’m understanding this correctly) that Vietnamese culture celebrates this holiday in many similar ways as Chinese culture does, which makes sense considering the history and similarities between Vietnam and China. That aside, we spent this GBM painting lanterns in three different teams. My team decided to go with a Pokémon theme, and the trio I was in chose to paint a Poliwag (if you don’t know what that is, search it up it’s adorable), while the rest of our team painted Pokeballs and a Jigglypuff. After roughly 30 minutes of lantern painting (10 minutes spent on group introductions and deciding on lantern themes, 15 minutes on me overthinking the details of Poliwag, and the remaining 5 minutes smothering the rest of the lantern in blue paint), we presented our lanterns to the judge, who was the receptionist at the CIAE front desk. The judge, to our dismay, chose a different team’s dragon-themed lanterns, which I didn’t feel bad about since their idea of painting segments of a dragon and connecting them at the end was cool. We may not have won the judge’s vote, but we did get a lot of compliments from other people. Aside from the lantern painting, this GBM also had quite a few chaotic moments and many laughs shared.
The last VSA event that I went to in September was the Picnic Social. This originally was scheduled to be on September 22nd, but due to the rain that day it got postponed until the next week. I only got to go for about 40 minutes since I had a figure skating lesson before, and also the TSA Moon Festival BBQ after. Nevertheless, it was nice to hang out with the VSA members at the Pentacrest for a bit. We sat around talking to each other about all sorts of things (including calculus help), watched the guys play spike ball and volleyball, took some pictures and entertained and were entertained by a dog! I wish I could write more about this social, but I was only there long enough to write these down.
Another Asian organization on campus is the Filipino Student Association. This month, they kicked off with one event, which was their first GBM. I was particularly excited for this one because the post for it mentioned that there would be “potluck, karaoke, games and more!” I managed to get two of my friends from my floor (one of them is Filipina) to go as well, although it wasn’t that hard considering that going would mean getting free dinner. Before going, I studied at the Main Library with some friends that I made at APACC. We then went to the GBM where food was already being served (the food was so good I went for seconds). After eating and chatting with other people for a bit, the FSA did a brief introduction presentation and explained what the current event was. After the presentation, we started the chaos that was karaoke. It took a bit for people to get into it, but eventually, it was like we were in a concert waving with our phone lights. I even went up and sang part of a song, even after saying I wouldn’t destroy my throat half an hour ago. Eventually, it was time to leave, and my friends and I walked as a group until we had to separate to catch the bus.
The last Asian-related event I went to in September was the Taiwanese Student Association’s Annual Moon Fest BBQ. Like the VSA’s Mid-Autumn Festival GBM, this event is also the Mid-Autumn Festival theme (and it was also the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival that day). After leaving the VSA Picnic Social, I took the bus and walked to City Park, where I almost passed by the shed that was occupied by the TSA (I only really noticed because I saw someone carrying what looked like the cooler over to the shed). Under the shed was a big rice cooker and what looked like a big crockpot, along with coolers filled with drinks and trays filled with beef and chicken skewers. A lot of people actually came by, and the benches were slowly getting more crowded. TSA served braised pork belly over rice (滷肉飯 in Chinese. Also got a tip that it was from Hoja in the Capitol Center!) along with soy-marinated eggs, beef and chicken skewers, fruits, drinks (featuring Ramune), as well as mini mooncakes (I didn’t get to try any because they apparently were very popular). Food aside, the BBQ was a great place to meet new people. There were freshmen like me, and there were also some grad students. Like the other organizations above, a lot of the people at the BBQ aren’t even Taiwanese or even speak/understand the Chinese language, yet the shed was packed with people (yes, food is an excellent motivator, but that’s beside the point). When people started trickling out to leave, the TSA members started cleaning up and offered to take some leftover food with us. I took 3 skewers with me to give to my friend (who is actually Taiwanese but couldn’t make it due to having an exam) who said the skewers were tasty even when they were cold.
College football season has started, and I, a college freshman, despite not knowing a single thing about football other than quarterbacks exist, still wanted to experience a college football game (and also any football game in general). So when I was given free tickets to go to the season opener on September 2nd, I couldn’t refuse.
As a Hawkeye Influencer, I received a pair of free tickets to watch the season opener football game between our Hawkeyes and the Utah State Aggies. After much trouble finding who to go to the game with, I made plans to go with my friend Rose (who is also a blogger here, so make sure to check out her posts in the future). After briefly meeting up with her to know who we were going with, we soon realized that there would be no Cambuses running until 9 am, which is an hour later than the time we wanted to be at Kinnick. Luckily, one of Rose’s friends has a friend who would be driving, so I got to hitch a ride with them.
After getting dropped off near the west-side residence halls, we walked past many tailgaters and merchandise stalls before finally arriving at Kinnick Stadium. I thought we got to the stadium quite early, but I was clearly wrong; there was already a hoard of people standing outside the gates, waiting to be let in to get the front-row seats. We stood by the entrance for about 10 minutes until the gates creaked open, and the cluster of people shuffled forward into the stadium.
Once we entered the stadium, we quickly found seats in the first few rows of the bleachers. It felt weird to be sitting so close to the actual field, but we were so close we could actually see all the wires and cables used for broadcasting. As the minutes went by, we watched as the players ran in groups, warmed up with drills and exercises, and ran out and off the field again. The distinct difference between the cheering for the Hawkeyes and the booing for the Aggies was quite funny to hear (I personally didn’t boo, but I didn’t dislike the blatant bias).
At around 10:30 a.m., the performances started. The marching band came out to play some songs, the cheerleaders were throwing their flyers in the air, and the dance team lined up in front of the bleachers to dance a routine. Herky even zoomed by in an off-road vehicle, waving a flag proudly and hyping the crowd up. Safe to say, the audience was quite energetic, not stopping our cheers until it was time to sing the national anthem. Right after that, it was like there was no pause on the hype.
Come Saturday, I was ungodly exhausted at a football game. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready and decided to be fancy and put some gems on my face. I put on one of my yellow Iowa shirts and tied my hair up with a black and yellow Iowa scrunchie. By the time I was done, it was 7:50 a.m., and I had not eaten a single thing since waking up (and would not eat until noon), so I grabbed an energy bar and rushed downstairs to meet my friends. We waited a bit for everyone to show up, then headed out for Kinnick Stadium.
I’ll be honest, I have no clue how American football works, so most of the game went by in a blur for me. Every 10 seconds I would hear some screaming coming from all around me like I was in a surround-sound theatre, and the people around me seemed to all be very invested in the game. I did recognize the touchdowns that the Hawkeyes scored, but other than that, I was mostly confused the rest of the time. Not to mention it was blazing hot that day with the sun scorching my skin the whole time. Nevertheless, it was fun to watch the game and experience the feeling of being at a football game. Even in my confusion, I felt glad that I was there and I could feel a sense of pride in being a part of the crowd and Hawkeyes.
When we left, we stood in front of the “Big Ass Fans” for a few minutes to cool off (in our defense, it was 92 degrees that day) before inevitably being back out under the sun. In walking out of Kinnick, we shuffled along with the rest of the viewers and walked towards the residence halls, where one of our friends’ dads came to pick us up and drop us off back at Mayflower. Upon returning, I saw a few of my friends in the lobby hanging out, and they invited me to go grab lunch with them. As hungry as I was, I also had just spent six hours burning in the heat at a football game, so I declined and was knocked out in my room.
Overall, the game was more fun than I thought it would be. Would I do it again? Maybe; that depends if I know any more about football for this hypothetical “next time” (oh and also when it’s not as hot. Would not recommend going to a game when it’s also heat wave season). Would I recommend this experience? Definitely.
If you asked me a year ago how I think my first two weeks of college would be, it would be nothing like what it actually was. High school me would think that I would still be at home where I’m familiar with my surroundings.
I didn’t think I would be at the University of Iowa, is what I’m saying.
But here I am, 11 months later, in the main library at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning, typing this post.
As a city girl from Seattle, Washington, I didn’t really think I had it in me to go to a college that was 2 hours ahead of me. But I can’t say I hate it. In fact, I kind of really like it here.
My mom and I flew to Chicago on Sunday the 13th, and we drove 3 hours to get to the campus. We brought all our luggage into the hotel room and just knocked out after dinner because we were that tired. In our defense, our flight was at 6 a.m. and we stayed up the entire night before.
Move-in day goes by in a blur. It felt like I was doing everything and nothing at the same time for 8 hours. All the lifting, pushing, opening boxes, the increasingly large pile of trash in the corner of my room, the “oh shoot I didn’t bring that”, and the putting something over here then taking it away because it “doesn’t look good there”, had me sweating like I had been in the desert for two weeks even with the air conditioning (I love Mayflower). Not to mention the make-up shopping we had to do.
The first event I attended was the Silent Disco. I ran into some friends on my floor who invited me to go with them, and we walked all the way from Mayflower to Hubbard Park. I will admit, I initially had my doubts about this event, and l was wondering how on earth a disco could be silent, but it was kind of funny walking past Catlett and hearing loud chanting that was definitely not coming from Catlett. As we got closer, we saw a large cluster of red, green, and blue lights huddled together. We got our headsets and started jamming out to new hits and childhood throwbacks, but I liked hearing other people telling their friends to “go to blue go to blue” or that “red is good trust me”.
The next thing I went to was Kickoff at Kinnick. There were so many people going to Kinnick Stadium that a special service bus had to pick us up at Mayflower, and even that couldn’t fit everyone. We got to the stadium and immediately noticed that there were two beach balls that were being tossed in the air. The Kickoff was more fun than I thought; the traditions we were introduced to were really exciting (my favorite was definitely the Wave), the performances by the dance and cheer teams were cool, and the marching band had some sick tunes. Coach Gable’s speech was really funny too (don’t get me wrong, it was still inspirational, but I thought he was really funny).
After a hectic week, classes began with a heated start (both literally and figuratively). Filled with navigating through crowds and making sure I was in the right building, I slowly got used to my class schedule and routine. I was lucky to have two of my classes skip discussion sessions this week, so I got to end a few hours early on two days. Reading through the class syllabi, writing short paragraphs about myself, and taking course expectations quizzes, it seems like this won’t be too bad, although who knows how much I’ll regret saying that in a few weeks’ time.
Needless to say, my first two weeks on campus were hectic. But they were hectic in a fun way. I’ve met a lot of new people and gotten a feel of what my next 4 years would roughly be like. I’m excited to explore more and experience the Hawkeye life!