The Vietnamese Student Association at MIT was founded in the late 1970s shortly after the first waves of Vietnamese immigrants arrived on US shores after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Now, more than forty years later, a new generation of students is proud to carry on the VSA tradition.
Academics always has been very important to us. In the early years of the VSA, Vietnamese students were faced with the additional challenge of learning an entirely new language and the pain of separation from their homeland and loved ones. In spite of, or rather because of those obstacles, our predecessors were motivated to excel in academics and to prove that their generation was worthy to carry on the Vietnamese heritage. Their efforts have born fruits, as evident in the numerous academic laurels they had garnered. Today, VSA alumni occupy important and prestigious positions in companies and institutions across the US and abroad.
While school is our top priority, it is not our only priority. For as long as the VSA has been in existence, we are well-represented within the MIT community and within the Vietnamese community in Massachusetts. At MIT, we have actively participated in intramural sports and the International Fair, which is designed to highlight cultural diversity at MIT. VSA members also take part in diverse groups on campus, from varsity teams to the orchestral choir. Within the Vietnamese community, we always have been a part of the annual Vietnamese New Year celebration and other events of significance to the Vietnamese people.
Within our own group, we strive to strengthen the bonds of friendship through numerous VSA dinners, trips, sports events, and informal get-togethers. The VSA dinner has been a staple of VSA activity for as long as anyone can remember. Throughout the year, one of us invariably volunteers to invite the rest of the club over for some delicious home-made Vietnamese food. After dinner, everyone usually sticks around for a movie or a few uproarious rounds of Taboo. The Tet potluck is the most popular. During New Year’s Eve 1998, twenty-five people showed up with all kinds of traditional yummies ; afterwards, everyone became embroiled in the “traditional” Tet festivities: bầu cua cá cọp and đánh bài.
Our grandest dinner, however, is the Senior Dinner. This is an occasion for us to say farewell in style to our friends who are graduating. The program includes a delectable dinner followed by a fun-filled entertainment program and a dance party. Our pride and joy is the entertainment program, which consists of Vietnamese dances, singing, and the often side-splitting skits. For many of us, writing and performing in skits have been the most entertaining part of the VSA. Past skits have parodied love (Romeo and Juliette), fashion show (the Kendall-T fashion show), beauty contest (the Supermodel contest), traditional dance (the Bowl and Chopstix Dance), and movies (Stars Wars, MITV Singled Out, Good Will Nguyen), to name a few.
The composition of the VSA has changed over the years. Now many of us were born and raised in the US. Nonetheless, we are no less interested in learning about and maintaining our Vietnamese heritage. Since March 1997, we have organized a weekly Vietnamese class, which has attracted many Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese students from MIT and from other schools as well.