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Meet Ngan Tran (CAS ‘21) — Working on a Show Filled with Nostalgia  

Boston University seems to never run out of energy, with so many students hustling and bustling all day. Every day, there always seems to be an event to go to, whether it be a concert or a lecture. Among this seemingly endless list of events is the Boston University Vietnamese Student Association’s Culture Show. From fan dances to vocal performances, the show will leave you dazed with amazement. It’s hard to believe that such a stunning show is entirely student-run. You might be wondering to yourself, But what exactly is Culture Show? What was it like behind the scenes? Ask Ngan Tran  a sophomore studying psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences — the Culture Chair for the Boston University Vietnamese Student Association, otherwise known as VSA. Tran calls the show an opportunity for VSA to “spread awareness about Vietnamese culture." The show features various performances by members of VSA, including a fashion show, modern dance, traditional dance, and singing. The performances are all tied together by a skit featuring members of VSA that has a certain theme, which for this year was “Mom’s Diary."  

Photo Caption: The poster for the show

To Tran, the theme of the Culture Show held a lot of meaning. She states that from the start, “bringing my Vietnamese side to the table was my goal to this show.” The theme of the show comes from one of her favorite Vietnamese song, “Mom’s Diary” or “Nhật Ký Của Mẹ," and is deeply rooted in her experience as an international student from Vietnam. Her first few years in America were difficult for her as she was away from her family and friends in Vietnam. Every time she heard the song, she would cry because of the emotional lyrics in the song that centered around a mother recording stages of her son’s life in a diary. She notes that “motherly love is very highly rated in every Asian culture.” Because of her memories attached to the song, she brought the song up as an idea for the culture show.

Photo caption: VSA members of the traditional dance team practicing a fan dance

Multiple aspects of the show have strong ties with her memories. For instance, writing the script for the skit with the show’s scriptwriting committee was very nostalgic for her as she was able to incorporate her memories into the show. Another source of nostalgia in the show was the fashion show. In Culture Shows in the past, the fashion show would feature áo dàis, traditional Vietnamese clothing. While they are an essential part of the Vietnamese culture, Tran notes that they didn’t play a large role in her Vietnamese experience. Being able to wear her school uniform during the fashion show was very significant for her because it brought a part of her Vietnamese experience to the stage.

Photo caption: VSA members wearing the Vietnamese uniform white shirt and navy pants or Vietnamese student white ao dai (traditional clothes)

Running the show was not easy to begin with. As the Culture Chair, Tran was responsible for coordinating everyone to make the show a reality. She notes that it was hard at times to get everyone together for rehearsals as it was hard to match everyone’s schedules together. While she had experience with theater in high school, the productions back then were supervised by a teacher in comparison to the Culture Show which relies entirely on the students to run. Additionally, there were logistical challenges, such as booking a time and place for the show. Nevertheless, Tran found the show a rewarding experience since she not only learned how to organize an event but also got closer with other people working on the show. Whether it be working together during practice or bonding over post-practice dinners, being with, and getting to know other VSA members was one of her favorite parts of working on the show.

Bursting with color and life, the Culture Show not only showcased one of the many cultures here on campus, but it also displayed the significance of motherly love. The blood, sweat, and tears Tran and the other VSA members poured into the show created a one no one can ever forget.


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Emily is currently a junior at Boston University studying English and English Education. In addition to her love for reading and writing, she has an unhealthy obsession with cute desserts and graphic tee shirts. When she's not typing away on her laptop, you can find her cafe hunting, bopping to music, or doodling.
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