Many Student Clubs Reflect the Big Apple’s Ethnic Diversity

By Chasity Fernandes

New York City is the world’s melting pot where all kinds of ethnic cultures can be found. And Hunter, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, reflects that reality because of the rich variety of student clubs.

Whether it is to celebrate,  gain recognition, inform or help students make friends, these clubs are open to any who take an interest. Information about the clubs describe in this article was obtained through interviews.

The Albanian Students’ Association is a great example of the array of cultural clubs at Hunter. It allows Albanians and non-Albanians to learn and spread the culture and keep its roots alive through language, tradition, and music. Although the main goal is to provide a place for Albanians to fit in and make friends, the club as a whole celebrates and respects every culture, which as a result draws the attention of many non-Albanians, explained Linda Nikaj, 20, a political science major from Staten Island and Secretary of the Albanian Students’ Association.

The club holds four official events each semester. Its last event included members performing at USG’s Multicultural Night this past Thursday, March 31st, allowing clubs to represent their cultures. An event before that was a celebration of Kosovo’s Independence Day, an important holiday that is part of Albanian culture. Kosovo is an Albanian nation that won its independence just eight years ago, after declaring its independence from Serbia. The event provides lots of great food, board games, socializing, and Albanian music.

“The club is a connection hub. At this diverse city college, making friends is hard,” said Nikaj, 20, during an email interview. “It was for me. For my first two years, I was in and out because of work and was not able to make friends. Once I heard about the club, I automatically joined and made many caring, intelligent, wonderful and fun Albanian and non-Albanian friends.”

The club has also begun to gain influence in other CUNY schools and NYU, where students from these schools come to the club events hosted by the Association, Nikaj also said.

Members hope to have the club expand to other locations in coming years. They also hosted an event Friday, April 8th from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the larger side of the cafeteria, which was their own multicultural night separate from USG.

Asia Students in Action also celebrates and generate attention about the different Asian cultures and shows Hunter students something a little different than what they usually see. The club showcases the many Asian cultures through games, activities and events for freshmen. Most members are actually non-Asian, so it is very open to those not interested in the culture but have an equal appreciation and interest in bringing attention to it.

The club holds events year around, one of the biggest is CCC, or Current Culture Celebration. It is organized to bring together talents “in and out of Hunter,” as Vice President Emily Wong, a senior from Queens expecting to graduate in the spring and majoring in dance says, so that students can have a stress free day just to relax to see what’s going on.

Wong, a member for five years, joined during her fist year. As her senior year approached, she stepped down from her position as president, she says during an interview at the Hunter lobby Starbucks. She wore a black wide brim hat and knitted cardigan on a rainy morning.

“Asia Students in Action is more than just a cultural club,” says, Wong. “We’re also connected with the Breakdance Club, Rhythm Hitters, and Ace. So its not just cultural events, there’s dance, there’s Japanese cinema, media, and collaborations with other clubs like VSA and the Korean Students’ Association.” The club works to generate awareness, not only about Asian cultures but also allow the club itself. “We want to show them something different from what they always see,” Wong says about the club’s goals.

However, it might be a little hard to learn about the club unless one knows members or follow Hunter events on Facebook closely. The club doesn’t do much self-promotion around campus or “tabling” as Wong refers to it. Instead, most promotion access is done via Facebook or by word of mouth. The fifth annual CCC event will be scheduled for this May.

The Vietnamese Students’ Association or VSA is relatively new and just became officially chartered in the beginning of the last semester, after getting rejected once. Founder and President, Karolyn Le, 21 a senior expecting to graduate this spring, said she did not lose hope and worked the whole summer with her team to figure out the paperwork and rules for a Hunter Club, and filed an appeal after they were rejected.

Now that the club is up and on its feet, members work to bring more awareness to Vietnamese culture through games and events. VSA, however, is not the only club of its kind. There are actually other branches throughout the CUNY system and even across the country, with Baruch VSA being the closet to Hunter.

Hunter VSA members recently attended the New England Intercollegiate Vietnamese Student Association conference in Boston, where they met the University of Connecticut VSA and other VSAs within the New England area. “VSA is an organization that allowed me to make many new friends who share an affinity for my culture,” says Le. “It allowed me to meet people from other schools in New York as well as outside of New York. It expanded my network and strengthened the relationships I already have here.”

The club has frequent meetings, which are open to anyone interested in participating and learning more about the Vietnamese culture. Look out for flyers or check out their Facebook page for more info.

Because it is a commuter school, Hunter, like most CUNY schools, can be a challenge making friends or developing long lasting relationships and bonds.  However, participating in one of the many cultural clubs is a great way to learn about a culture and make great relationships.

 

Chasity Fernandes can be reached chasityfernandes@yahoo.com