Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) is ready for you to capture this moment, and remember it

Q&A with VSA Cultural Director Anna Truong Cao on VSA’s annual culture show

By Kimberly Cortez | April 11, 2024 5:05pm
A sign placed in the Academic Quad advertises the Vietnamese Student Association's (VSA) annual cultural show. The show is Saturday, April 13 at Chiles Center, beginning at 4 p.m.
Media Credit: Natalie Gordon / The Beacon

As students are captured in a whirlwind of commitments as the year winds down, the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) wants you to do one thing: Remember our youthful days — maybe it’s the memories you’ve collected at UP or it’s the memories yet to be made. 

This theme — based on a Vietnamese phrase “Tuổi Thanh Xuân” — will be at the center of VSA’s annual culture show Saturday, April 13 at Chiles entitled “Hello Vietnam 24 - ‘Tuổi Thanh Xuân’ (Our Youthful Days).” Starting at 4 p.m., I sat down with VSA Cultural Director Anna Truong Cao ahead of the show to get an inside look into the planning, meaning and details you need to know before you attend.  

The Beacon: Tell us a bit about your position at VSA. How long have you been in VSA?

Anna Truong Cao: With the end of this semester, I'll be in VSA for two years. During my first year, so fall semester, I joined as like a very active junior exec [member]. In the spring semester, they changed the title to intern. So over the course of my freshman year, it was just me interning, shadowing the E-board. Now my second year, current year now, I am a Cultural Director for VSA. My roles are basically [to] help direct, maintain and take care of how Culture Show is going to be for the year.

The Beacon: Let's talk about the culture show. I know last year it was kind of based on a theme. Is there a theme this year?

Truong Cao: This year's theme follows a phrase in Vietnamese, called “Tuổi Thanh Xuân.” When it's translated out, it means “to bloom of youth.” So kind of what that phrase talks about is this period or era in our youth time where it's like, I want to say it's like the peak. We usually like to think back about [it] and be like, ‘Oh, those were the times where I struggled, made new connections,’ or times where that were really memorable for you [when you look] back let's say 20 or 30 years from now. You think about it and you're like, ‘Oh, wow, I miss those days, those are like the good days.’ But with our English translation of our title, which is “our youthful days,” we wanted to convey [that] you make memories not just by yourself, but with other people. Our youthful days encompasses that sort of message. 

The Beacon: What are all the different parts that make up a VSA Culture Show? Traditions? Food? Performances? 

Truong Cao: You first will be greeted by our staff members who are checking you in, so some familiar faces. Then you probably would most likely see our decorations that are inspired by what we're familiar with in Vietnamese culture. This is kind of a sneak peek but we are going to have paper boats and a runner that makes it look like a little river and those boats will have candy. A lot of the decorations are like by the culture. With food, you'll be seeing a lot of really delicious, carefully selected meals that like you normally see in Vietnamese restaurants. So you'll get that experience. With performances, you will be seeing a skit because with Vietnamese performance culture, we have kind of like comedy skits or dramatic skits [that have] a message. We have dances that were both traditional, half traditional fan. You'll be hearing V-pop in a lot of our music. We'll also be showcasing like our general members’ talents as well with either martial arts demo, their singing capabilities, and musical instruments as well. For lū’au, our line dancing was featured so you’ll be getting more of that for the show as well. 

The Beacon: What is one part of Vietnamese culture that will be featured at Culture Show that might not be as obvious for those attending, but is definitely present throughout the entire event?

Truong Cao: I think this could also apply to other cultures as well is kind of this like sense of wanting to be a family. In our club, we have kind of like a family program called ACE family. We do a lot of team-based activities together and then just to get to know each other, so kind of surrounding the idea of family. We really like to include people who are curious about our culture as well. 

The Beacon: What's one part of Culture Show you're looking forward to everyone seeing?

Truong Cao: Oh my goodness, I feel like it would have to be [the] show, the whole itinerary, because our students, we put in a lot of time and effort. A lot of people just see us as just students. ‘Oh, I just see them in class’ or ‘They're a classmate of mine.’ But Culture Show brings more depth to these individuals in our club. That, in a way, it kind of helps open your eye to them.

The Beacon: What is one part of planning a student-led event that people might not know about? Any difficulties?

Truong Cao: So with Culture Show, the process of planning it starts after we're done. So once we were done with Culture Show, we debrief about it, we talk about what worked, what didn't work and [what] we would want to see for the next Culture Show. Then planning is as early as the summer. For me as Cultural Director and a lot of my E-board members, we start talking about Culture Show and brainstorming ideas of what is like either the idea or message we want to bring. 

The Beacon: How can someone buy a ticket to this year’s Culture Show?

Truong Cao: We sell online tickets. So on our Instagram page, in our link in the bio, we have a link for that [to] direct you to online tickets. 

The Beacon: Is there a certain dress code? How should people dress?

Truong Cao: If you happen to have Vietnamese traditional clothing, or like dress, which is called an “áo dài,” then you're more than welcome to wear that to go. But if you don't, then that's completely fine. It's not like a uniform kind of policy. But I think dressing up semi-formal or if you want to go all out, you're gonna enjoy the night either way.

The Beacon: A lot of cultural clubs have cultural nights, it's one day where we can celebrate your culture. What do you think the importance is of having cultural nights like VSA’s Culture Show? What does it mean for VSA?

Truong Cao: As a club, it's a way for us to be able to showcase to the UP community and invite them to this event to experience our love, our passion and enthusiasm for Vietnamese culture. That's how we want to represent ourselves as UPVSA. We have a few students where the reason why [they] came to UP is because of VSA, the culture here is so strong. I was the same way as well.  

For more information about the VSA Culture Show, click here.

Kimberly Cortez is the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Editor for The Beacon. They can be reached at