For American-​​born stu­dents, Northeastern’s Viet­namese Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tionpro­vides a link to gen­er­a­tions past. For North­eastern stu­dents from Vietnam who are rel­a­tively new to the United States, it’s an oppor­tu­nity to meet new friends and expe­ri­ence Amer­ican culture.

Searching for the VSA was the very first thing I did when I got to campus,” said Paula Vo, a third-​​year inter­na­tional affairsmajor who now serves as the club’s tra­di­tional per­for­mance coor­di­nator. “It was some­thing that con­nected me to home and gave me a great sup­port system to get involved at North­eastern. It’s been a long process to bridge the gap between Viet­namese and Vietnamese-​​American stu­dents, but the VSA has made great progress in bringing us all together.”

An event trans­formed the Curry Stu­dent Center.

The VSA not only unites Viet­namese natives with others who have family or cul­tural ties to the country, but it also com­bines tra­di­tional Viet­namese cul­ture with more modern ele­ments. The club’s activ­i­ties throughout the year range from cul­tural shows to dance com­pe­ti­tions to par­tic­i­pa­tion in Northeastern’s Ser­vice Day. At a recent event, for example, the group merged its tra­di­tional dance with hip-​​hop performances—a move that mir­rored the club’s own barrier-​​defying dynamic.

I love that this club gives me the oppor­tu­nity to share my pas­sion and expe­ri­ences with the campus, and it’s also a way to pre­serve my own cul­ture,” said club pres­i­dent Anh Le. A senior busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion major who grew up in Vietnam, Le moved to the United States a few years before grad­u­ating from high school. “We’re a group that’s open to anyone inter­ested in learning about Viet­namese cul­ture, whether they’re Viet­namese or not.”

The Office of Campus Activ­i­ties recently named the VSA “Orga­ni­za­tion of the Year” for 2012, and the group also was the uni­ver­sity leader in Paw Points—a rewards system that encour­ages stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions to engage with Campus Activ­i­ties and the uni­ver­sity community.

The group has strong ties to fellow stu­dent groups rep­re­senting inter­na­tional cul­tures, par­tic­u­larly other Asian orga­ni­za­tions. As part of this month’s Asian Her­itage Week, for example, the VSA spon­sored a talk by Vietnamese-​​American dating coach JT Tran, an event that cel­e­brated Asian and Asian-​​American com­mu­ni­ties on campus and dis­pelled stereo­types and misconceptions.

That’s what makes these events so impor­tant,” Le said. “They bring people together and show that our campus is much more of a com­mu­nity that someone might think at first.”

The club mem­ber­ship includes a large number of people who are not Viet­namese, like pro­gram coor­di­nator Yvette Kim. A third-​​year envi­ron­mental sci­ence and geology com­bined major who, Kim is orig­i­nally from Korea, but calls the VSA her “home away from home.” Regard­less of the membership’s back­ground, Le said the group aims to pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to reflect on ideas of his­tory and heritage.

You always think about where you came from and how it shapes who you are,” Le said. “And this club is a place for stu­dents to do just that.”