BY CHELSEA LAUREN CATTANO
The Asian Student Association is a place for people of all cultural backgrounds to find friendship and support.
What originally started as a group to support international students who were new at the County College of Morris, has since turned into a method of educating the CCM community about the heritage and traditions of Asian cultures.
“We spread around Asian culture through things like food, music, and different visual events like going to movie nights or going to a supermarket or Chinatown,” said Omar Santos, the former president of the ASA.
The presumed start of the club was back in 2004 and the name has changed over the years. The ASA used to be referred to as the Chinese Student Association.
“The number one thing about ASA is that you don’t have to be Asian to join,” said Camille Ancheta, the Public Relations Officer for ASA. “Just come because you want to learn more about the Asian culture. Some people forget that Asian culture isn’t just from countries like China, Korea and Japan. It also involves countries like India and Russia.”
Even though the ASA promotes Asian culture, they do have people at their meetings who are of European descent and want to share their culture.
Javier La Rosa, the Vice President of the ASA, enjoys being a part of the club because it teaches him more about his own culture. To him, ASA is more of a community that welcomes everyone with open arms.
“Even though I am Asian, there’s so much more to learn,” La Rosa said. “It’s this culture that is constantly changing and growing.”
A common misconception, according to La Rosa, is that Asian culture is all about chopsticks and samurai movies but this isn’t the case. The ASA aims to introduce its members to a broad horizon of Asian culture.
The current president of the ASA, Zhangjiaqi Zheng, is an international student from China. He came to America because his parents wanted him to receive an American education. His parents live in New York but they wanted him to attend CCM because of the relatively few number of Chinese international students.
According to Zheng, due to the large number of people with a Chinese background living in New York, it is easy to never have to learn English. Being a CCM student has forced him to speak English and improve his grammar and pronunciation.
“I came here January of 2014,” Zheng said. “Before I came to the County College of Morris, I was looking for an Asian group within CCM and I found the Asian Student Association on the Facebook group and I wanted to join them. I came here and I met with Omar and I was able to find a group that was right for me. They teach me a lot about American culture and they are very interested in Asian culture. They want more information about it and because I’m an international student from China, I have a lot to contribute.”
Currently, the ASA is organizing an Asian Festival that will take place March 26, and will showcase different Asian cul- tures. There are plans to have food vendors come in and donate food. There will be a dragon and lion dance performance and celebrations for the Chinese New Year.
In the past, the ASA has hosted an Asian horror movie night, karaoke nights and cooking lessons so that students could learn how to make authentic Asian foods.
The ASA club meetings are every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in the Student Club Room, which is downstairs in the Student Center. The meetings typically start off with planning for the Asian Festival and the second part is spent sharing experiences and educating members of the club on Asian culture.
For any interested members who want to be a part of the ASA but can’t make it to the Thursday meetings, the officers hold a meeting on Tuesdays that serve as a recap of the Thursday meetings.
“At our meetings, we always try to bring a certain aspect of Asian culture into it,” Santos said. “Just last week we had a friend of ours who studied in Japan for a couple of years come in and tell us a little bit about Japanese culture. Some of our members are of different Asian cultures. We have people who are Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese. We have everyone at the meetings talk a little bit about their cultures.”