For one Kwantlen student, welcoming the Year of the Rabbit was emotional in a different way than usual.
Elaine Wang, president of the Chinese Student Association, celebrated the most important Chinese festival away from her family for the first time in her life.
“It makes me want to cry,” she said. “I got up earlier and [Skyped] with my family and we count down together.”
Wang immigrated to Canada less than a year and a half ago to study at Kwantlen, while living with her uncle in Richmond.
For Wang, this Chinese New Year spent away from family in China marked an opportunity to work with the KSA and open up Chinese culture to the students of Kwantlen. Wang says that it is also a way to bring a sense of community to other Chinese students who might be missing family back in China.
“Kwantlen is just like a home for us… Kwantlen is big family for us. So, we want the students to feel less lonely,” she said. “They are not alone, they are with us… we are all family members in continent.”
The group set up tables and handed out pork buns and sweet treats, traditional Chinese delicacies which are often eaten in the celebration of the New Year, to students at the Richmond, Surrey and Langley campuses on Feb. 3.
“We tried to choose items that would respect the traditional Chinese New Year aspect of it and something that all students could eat and try,” said Reena Bali, director of events and student life for the KSA.
Although Wang is happy to spend the celebration of the Year of the Rabbit in Vancouver with her friends and her uncle, it is difficult for her to be without her parents at a time that is “just like Christmas in Canada.”
“Yesterday, I even worked last night. I work at a restaurant and I see a lot of families who are immigrants. They get together and they celebrated… and the parents gave children red envelopes. I felt so sad because I was all alone here.”
In China, red envelopes, which usually contain money, are given by elders to children and family members to represent good fortune to come in the New Year.
“My grandfather said ‘I will keep the red envelope for you. If you go back China, I will give you,’ so it make me very happy,” she said.
By Stuart Gallacher and Lucas Meneses-Skoda
Three-dollar beers and an empty dance floor? Preposterous.
On Oct. 9, the KSA hosted a Lady Gaga-themed “Monster Ball” dance in the Conference Centre on the Richmond campus, which sadly suffered from a lacklustre crowd.
With professional lighting and a live DJ, free cans of Coke and bottled water on top of $3 cans of Molson Canadian and Heineken, the KSA did well in providing what had the potential to be a wild Tuesday night.
Perhaps students don’t see Richmond as the campus for extra-curricular activities or social events. Perhaps Kwantlen students have a poor outlook of the KSA. Either way, the effort to bring the student body together outside of class was there.
Just before Halloween, the KSA organized a similar event on the Surrey campus and filled the venue.
“Well, in the end, the reason I feel a lot of people aren’t showing up is not because the promotions are wrong, it’s not because the setup is bad, it’s not because the alcohol is overly priced or anything along those lines,” said Luke Arathoon, Kwantlen’s Volunteer Co-ordinator.
“To me, personally, I think the Richmond Kwantlen campus has a different culture and a different feel to it, than say a campus like Surrey.”
Unfortunately, it seems like Kwantlen students think that “good” events can only happen at the “good” campus. For the KSA, this has become a frustrating issue. The KSA is eager to cultivate a social vibe, but it is difficult when the student body doesn’t show enthusiasm.
“I didn’t want to go, because I didn’t think anyone else was going. I didn’t want to be the only person there,” said Sarena Mann, 20, who studies general arts.
“I think [the KSA] has done a really bad job of making the Richmond campus a student community. People come here just to study and that’s it,” said Jonathan Hubele, who studies accounting.
Arathoon says that for years, students have nagged the KSA for a school dance.
“I think there is a big disconnect between complaining and giving valid criticism. You know, like constructive criticism, versus like ‘Oh well, the KSA doesn’t do anything for me.’”
Arathoon hopes that students will change the way they think about these events, and help to build more optimism around the campus.
If negativity leads to more negativity, then the opposite must be true as well. Essentially, the more students who approach these events with an open mind, the more likely they are to thrive.
The fact is, school is meant to be a social environment, and we’re all interested in hanging out and letting loose. So the next time there’s a dance, shindig or celebration, don’t ask questions — make a point of going with your party hat on and leaving your study cap at home.