I’m Leanne Tran, a small girl from San Jose who attends the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Or if you’re my friend on facebook, I’m the girl whose face plagued your wall with the hashtag #takemetounavsa12 back in April.
In April 2015, the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations’ (UANVSA) conference’s Marketing Committee held a contest titled #takemetounavsa12 for two lucky winners to receive paid registration for this year’s conference. The two winners were randomly chosen from a pool of nominations from friends, family, or the nominee themselves. Each person could only nominate one person but a nominee could be nominated multiple times. I’ve definitely thought about attending UNAVSA and wanted to nominate myself but I had no idea that my conference experience would begin at that moment. In that two week contest period, I got nominated so many times that my mom called asking if there was a manhunt for me with a bounty on my head.
Never would I have imagined that I would get nominated by anyone in my region who wasn’t in my school, let alone nominated so many times across the region. It was then I began to internalize the theme and title of this year’s conference, Momentum: Ripples of Progress. Momentum initially sounded like beginning to move forward and continuing that progression in my own life, but reading all of my nominations taught me otherwise. Momentum isn’t about making ripples in my own life, but making ripples that affected other people’s lives. The movement starts with me, is carried out by me, and continued by those I inspire.
On April 20th, 2015, I was contacted as one of the winners of #takemetounavsa12 during my VSA’s End of the Year Banquet meaning congratulations and wishes for safe travels from my fellow members.
Time jump to June 26th, 2015 to talk about some of my favorite moments of conference! Because we’d be here forever if I talked about each programming.
During my first day of conference, I got to meet my conference family, the Fabulous Flareon Family (fire emoji), for the first time and play games together. I’m actually very shy in new environments so I probably came off as quiet or a seldom speaker but the warmth from my family made me open up myself to not only them, but fully embracing conference. This year’s family theme was Pokémon, which was divided into clans (fire, water, electric, ground, psychic, and grass) where each clan had three species families. Because my family was so inviting and nice to everyone, new or old attendee, I began feeling more at ease around them even if I didn’t show it. Our family activities included making a poster, creating a chant, and just being super awesome as an individual and better as a whole, and we definitely succeeded in all of those.
On day two, I got to meet and hear from amazing people in my workshop and discussion sessions. People meaning speakers and the audience. My sessions encouraged attendees to answer, respond, and asks questions which lead to awesome conversations. Even though I made a point to take notes during my sessions, there were so many times when I stopped writing simply because I was so engaged in hearing people’s stories and learning from their experiences that those messages stayed with me in my head and heart.
Speaking of heart, UNAVSA knows how to hit you right in the feels. Later that evening, my family and I were emotionally preparing ourselves after hearing how touching the culture shows usually are. The show was casted and practiced online through google hangouts and Skype calls, and it wasn’t until conference weekend did the actors get to rehearse together in person for the first time. UNAVSA’s culture show was extremely moving as it showed the effect that one person has on so many people. Seeing this show and realizing that most of it was rehearsed online is completely shocking because everything was so organic and fluid.
The Media Committee are diligently working on editing photos and videos for conference recap so the culture show will be up later for viewing. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but all I’m going to say is Hospitality Committee started coming into the show with tissue boxes so I suggest you have one prepared as well when you watch the show. And don’t worry about wiping off your make up because that’ll gradually happen during the show.
On day three of conference, we participated in the big family games, a huge event where families would compete against each other in a series of Pokémon themed mini-games for points. Back to a bit of information from my introduction, I am fairly small so the thought of playing physical games in a team for points made me terrified. However, coming into the games, my family emphasized one thing: family spirit. Everyone was excited to play, not to win, when we met up. Some family members started talking about how we’re in this to play as a family, to be good sports and cheer on our opponents along with ourselves, and to have fun. The reassurance and positivity from my family made the dreaded games incredibly fun and memorable. Lots of laughs with a Slowpoke evolution where a pipe was held between one person’s legs, and they had to back up into a Shelder, which was held between another person’s legs, and lots of awareness in a game where we had to be like ditto and morph to how many ever body parts needed to be on the ground. My family cleared and got points in all the games which made us incredibly happy. #flameon!! We didn’t need to flat out win, but we definitely felt like winners already.
UNAVSA also had a store for schools and regions to sell their merchandise so attendees could get some new VSA gear. I bought more than what’s pictured, but I can easily say that I now have a new VSA shirt for each day of the week.
During the final day of conference, we dragged ourselves out of bed to the closing ceremony to end our experience and hear the results of the many raffles and contests during the weekend. The winning family received plushes of all the eeveelutions because they’re one big family (ha). After the closing ceremony, we did one last activity called Positive Sparks. In Positive Sparks, all the attendees sat in two circles, one inner circle and one outer circle, where the inner circle had their backs face the walls and the outer circle had their backs face the center, so everyone’s back was to the other circle. We weren’t meant to hide our identities, only to not see each other, so we turned our badges around and had them face up on our back instead to show who each attendee was. Next, the facilitator of the activity asked for those who were born between a set of months to stand up, and stand in the aisle between the two circles. A prompt was announced, such as, “touch someone on the shoulder who made you smile,” and those who stood would begin walking and touching the shoulders of those sitting in the circles who suited the prompt. The activity continued going through all the months, which each set getting five to seven prompts. As the activity went on, the prompts became more touching, metaphorically and literally, as they became more personal with attendees getting more taps or hugs.
During the first few prompts, such as who made you smile or who made you happy, some faces immediately came to mind, and made me impatient for my turn. As the prompts continued, I was waiting for April to June to be announced so I could jump up and look for those who’ve impacted me but the eagerness suddenly ceased. “Touch someone who inspired you at conference,” was what I heard and a squeeze on my shoulder was what I felt. My still posture began to tremble and my silence became sniffles as I realized that I was a person who made an impact. In that moment, another person and I thought of someone who brought a sparkle to our eyes, and to my surprise, I was that someone who lit up those eyes.
Once my month was called, I shakily yet eagerly got up and sought after those who suited the prompts. Whether they were in my family, new or old attendees, or people in the aisle who could see me, I didn’t hesitate to show my appreciation for someone because someone else was brave enough to do it for me. After my set of months were seated, I continued to receive hugs and shoulder squeezes from my fellow attendees, and even some tissues handed to me because I was audibly crying.
The last activity perfectly embodied my interpretation of conference’s theme: to not make ripples in my own life, but make ripples that affect others’ lives. Wherever you go or whoever you are, you should do and be your best so you can show everyone the incredible person that you are. And when people are motivated by someone so awesome, they can’t help but want to be their own kind of awesome as well to inspire someone else.
After Positive Sparks, it was time for group photos before parting and I had given up on looking refine because all my makeup was washed away by salt water. Final biddings were said and left over conference snacks were passed out (I was the Twizzler girl at closing ceremony) as people gathered for their region photos. Like our five pound pack of Twizzlers, my heart was wrenched and twisted to leave my new family.
So much happened in those four days that I had no time to think about my experience. My reflections didn’t begin until I was on the plane ride back home. First thing that came to mind was that my notebook wasn’t necessary to remember the wisdom that was shared. Second, social media updates were almost nonexistent because I was enjoying my time too much. And third, a camera wasn’t needed to capture my memories because these will stay with me forever. The online descriptions for UNAVSA 12 do not give conference any justice. Even if it says you’ll meet awesome people, you wouldn’t expect them to be this awesome, or how spirited the attendees are, you didn’t know your family could be that loud, conference is something you have to attend to see for yourself.
As I ease back into my normal life of work, NorCal UVSA duties, and insane hours of playing Fire Emblem: Awakening, my UNAVSA attendee bag sits next to my desk, ready to be pulled out to share my gained knowledge in the perfect moment.
Oh look, a flareon plush. I wonder who could only get those. 😉
To close, I’d like to send my gratitude to those who contributed and made my conference experience.
Thank you to all of UNAVSA for making my first conference an eye opening and eventful weekend.
Thank you to the Marketing Committee for hosting the #takemetounavsa12 contest, selecting me as a winner, and paying for my registration fee.
Thank you to my #flameon Flareon family for being so welcoming and so loving throughout the conference.
Thank you to my fun roommates who cheered me on and encouraged me all weekend long to make the most out of my conference.
And lastly, but far far far from least, thank you to all of NorCal UVSA for believing in me as a leader in NorCal UVSA that you would send me to a different state. A continental scale conference seemed so far away but after receiving so much encouragement and kind words from everyone, I was no longer scared to go far from home. I made a promise that if the contest was in my favor, I would attend conference to bring home everything I’ve learned as a thank you to my region so be prepared to hear from me in meetings. Thank you for believing in me, being my incredible region, and reading through this wall of text.
Amitiés et à bientôt,
‘14-‘15 NorCal UVSA Intercollegiate Council Chair
’13-’15 University of the Pacific Intercollegiate Council Representative
Spring ’15-’16 University of the Pacific Vice President
’15 UNAVSA12 #takemetounavsa12 Contest Winner
Forver-forever NorCal UVSA fangirl