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Despite UCLA’s Principles of Community proclaiming that diversity is essential for the university’s excellence, it is hard to ignore the informal separation experienced by international students. Not only are international students likely to have social circles that are predominantly foreign, but these circles also tend to be limited to one’s ethnic or national group. This phenomenon is especially prevalent among students from Asia who often feel self-conscious of assimilating due to language concerns and are stereotyped as sticking to their own.

As recent politics points towards a more nationalistic bent in foreign policy, international students may experience further alienation. This is more than a feeling; the numbers reflect these concerns. Despite the ever-rising number of applicants to U.S colleges, this last admissions cycle was marked by a significant shrinkage in one demographic pool: international students.

According to a survey of 250 American universities conducted by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and four other educational organizations, 39% of colleges experienced an overall decrease in the number of international applications at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

At UCLA, the outlook is more optimistic. International applications to UCLA have increased by 1.8%. Although the exact number of applicants is not publicly available, when compared to data from the 2015-2016 application cycle, this estimates to 17,697 applicants: an increase of approximately 300 students.

However, this growth pales in comparison to previous years. Within the last decade, the average rate of increase in international applications was 24.8% per year. Although application rates have slowed in recent years, decreasing to 6.5% in the 2015-2016 application cycle, a growth of 1.8% is unprecedentedly low.

Data was obtained through UCLA Admissions website and compiled by the author into this graph.

Correlating with this trend is increasing immigration restrictions issued by the U.S government, notably the two executive orders issued in January and March of this year. The executive orders issued by President Trump banned U.S entry of citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from the Middle East. In line with AACRAO’s survey data, 39% of participating schools reported a decrease in undergraduate applications.

Despite the Middle East being the only region affected by legalized travel restrictions, the survey also reports a decrease in applicants from Asia. Undergraduate applications from India and China have fallen at 26% and 25% of colleges, respectively. At the graduate level, 15% of universities report a decline in Indian applicants and 32% for Chinese applicants.

South and East Asia have been a long-acknowledged hotspot for recruiters. Indian and Chinese students constitute nearly half of students on F-1 visas in the U.S. The three most populous undergraduate foreign student groups at UCLA come from mainland China, Korea, and India, constituting around 77% of the international student population and 9.1% of the total undergraduate population.

Data was obtained through public data available at the University of California website and compiled by the author into this graph.

It is uncertain whether the political climate is responsible for less international interest. Rising cost of college tuition, as well as the expenses of living abroad, could be a potential factor. The 2015-2016 application cycle also showed significantly less growth compared to years prior. Foreign policy’s true impact on international student application rates can be properly assessed in the successive years of the Trump administration.

Whatever the numbers may be, the atmosphere of concern among international students is palpable. First-year cognitive science major Dorothy Duan remarks that “some people in China are afraid that there will be restrictions on entering into America” and that there is already a sense of greater rigidity upon airport entry. She notes that when the travel ban came out, there was heated talk on Chinese news and online media on how the new law could affect Chinese visitors to the United States.

Duan, who is originally from Tianjin, came to UCLA for a new life experience. Despite this, she finds that international students tend to cluster into their own ethnic communities. When asked about how UCLA has responded to the travel ban, she believes that “there is no effective or strong communication between students from different countries” and hopes that campus organizations catered towards international students, such as the Dashew Center, can bridge this gap.

Issues of xenophobia and immigration affect all international students, regardless of whether a specific region is targeted.The international student population is beginning to recognize their varied, but fundamentally similar concerns as potential common ground for collaborative resistance with the Muslim community. Whether this potential comes to fruition remains to be seen.

 

Hui O’Imiloa (Hawai’i Club) at UCLA has been hosting an annual lu’au for the past 31 years, and this year is no exception. By showcasing contemporary and traditional hula, the Hawai’i club brings the Hawaii experience to Ackerman Grand Ballroom. In addition to traditional Hawaiian dance, this year will also feature Tahitian, and Maori (New Zealand) dances.

In Polynesian culture, a lu’au is historically an important feast marking a special occasion. The word “luau,” in Hawaiian, is the name of the taro leaf, which is typically cooked like spinach. Now, people still have luaus to come together to eat, sing, and dance.

Hui O’Imiloa means a group of adventurers or explorers, something the club members have embodied as they explore Hawaiian culture. Many do not have direct ties to Hawai’i or the Polynesian culture but still are welcome in this space. Fourth year, Angela Nguyen has been in Hawai’i club since she was a freshman because she wanted to find a space on campus that would allow her to continue hula dancing. Nguyen is now Hawai’i club’s financial co-vice president and has been preparing for the annual lu’au for the past year in hopes that students will learn a lot about Hawaiian and other Polynesian cultures.

“Not only do we perform traditional chants and dances, but also we explain the stories and the meanings behind them” said Nguyen.

Second year external vice-president, Erin Murashige is from Hawai’i and knew that before starting school that she wanted to join the club. “The club also allows me to continue to dance hula with amazing people while I am in college,” said Murashige.

Hawai’i Club’s 32nd annual Lu`au – Nohea will be held in Ackerman Grand Ballroom on May 6th from 5-9pm.

“We want to showcase authentic culture, from the costumes and decorations to the music and performances. We also hope to dispel a lot of the stereotypes surrounding Hawaiian culture (e.g. coconut bras and grass skirts) by showing that there is so much more to it than is portrayed in the media,” explained Nguyen.

In addition to dancing and ukulele performances, a traditional Hawaiian dinner will also be served.

“We are trying to showcase what a luau in Hawai’i would be like with entertainment, food and a feeling of aloha. I hope that students who attend will enjoy the experience and learn more about the culture,” said Murashige.

You can stay updated with all of Hui O ‘Imiloa’s events through their Facebook page, Facebook group, and YouTube channel

Han Kim was in the fourth grade when his mother unexpectedly picked him up from Hancock Park Elementary School on April 30, 1992. The UCLA alumnus would soon realize the Los Angeles riots, or Sa-I-Gu, that consumed Koreatown was only the beginning.

Four LAPD officers were acquitted for the beating of a black man, Rodney King, on April 29. Riots quickly spread across what was South Central LA and into Koreatown, lasting for three days. The riots came with tremendous loss: 55 deaths, 12,000 arrested, and over $1 billion in property damage, $400 million of which was to Koreatown shops.

Once the riots subsided, the Korean American community quickly rallied and marched through Koreatown, calling for peace and condemning the injustices that occurred.

“This [was] something right to do. … We want people to be heard. [We want] justice, equality, reparations for this riot,” said UCLA alumnus Kevin La when he participated in the demonstration as a first-year student.

Simultaneously, the riots forced the community to self-reflect on its social and political positions in relation to American society. The riots made them realize their invisibility.

“At that time, in ordinary Angelenos’ mindsets, Koreatown didn’t exist as a public space, as if it didn’t belong to the U.S.,” said Kyeyoung Park, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at UCLA. “We had a Korean American community, but it was not read as really an American community.”

Being a part of American society required more than selling goods, as noted by Angela Oh, a prominent spokesperson for the Korean American community following the riots, in a 1993 New York Times article. Korean Americans needed to engage in American politics and with other communities.

“[Many Koreans] did not want to become American citizens. No one claimed Korean American-ness. They were very proud of being patriotic Koreans. [But] when Sa-I-Gu happened, it really became a turning a point, a wakeup call, a watershed event. … Economic success alone is not [good enough],” said Edward Chang, professor of ethnic studies at UC Riverside.

Korean American historian and activist Philip Ahn Cuddy expressed, “Let’s say with voting – ‘We’re Koreans. We’re voting as Koreans’ versus saying, ‘We’re Korean Americans. We’re part of the political system. We need representation. We need community leaders and government leaders.’ The younger [generations] are the ones that said we need [the latter] to become empowered. … To become recognized, we need to have a platform that’s American.”

Many 1.5- and 2nd-generation Korean Americans established new organizations immediately following the riots. Organizations such as the Koreatown Youth and Community Center and Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance attempted to address post-riot needs and build connections to acquire resources. Others began establishing partisan organizations such as the Korean American Democratic Committee.

Koreatown still has a ways to go in terms of politics, according to Chang. The neighborhood is part of multiple city council districts, which has very few Korean Americans in council seats.

“In terms of political profile, Koreatown is still divided into four city council districts. It hasn’t changed. … There’s a great need for the Korean American community to organize and make Koreatown run city council district. Therefore, we can elect Korean American representatives as city council members,” added Chang.

However, socially and ethnically, Koreatown changed. It has become a popular location for socializing and food, filled with English signs and people of different backgrounds. It is far from invisible for any visitor.

“Koreatown is really a place to go for a lot of young people, regardless of your ethnic and racial background – all you can eat barbecue, K-pop, Korean wave. It’s becoming a mecca for younger folks to spend the night life,” Chang said.

Park said, “Koreatown became a really multiethnic and multiracial neighborhood. I think [the riots] really changed everything, politically and then also socially.”

UCLA Pacific Islands’ Student Association (PISA) hosted its 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night at Ackerman Grand Ballroom on Saturday, March 11, 2017. The evening consisted of an authentic Samoan dinner catered by Kumar’s Island Market/Boutique Samoa Market in Anaheim, Calif. and traditional cultural dances and music of the islands of Polynesia.

Cultures featured during the night included those of Maori, Hawai’i, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, and Tonga.

Students of UCLA PISA and Hui O ‘Imiloa – Hawai’i Club at UCLA performed, along with members from other organizations outside UCLA. Some of these other organizations include Tupulaga (Carson, Calif.), CSUF South Pacific Islander Student Association, and UCR Pacific Islander Student Alliance.

Performance by Tupulaga.
Performance by Amelia Vernon.
UCLA PISA’s 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night.

Informational poster boards on the cultures of the islands represented during the show were also displayed.

Informational board of Aotearoa.
Informational board of Tahiti.

The 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night was hosted by Keali’i Troy Kukahiko, a graduate student in UCLA’s Department of Education. Kukahiko expressed his appreciation of Polynesian Arts & Culture Night as it reflected the growing and thriving community of Pacific Islander (PI) students at UCLA. In contrast, Kukahiko described his undergraduate experience at UCLA as isolating, being one of eight PI undergraduate students.

Although the number of PI undergraduate students at UCLA has grown, the community continues to be underrepresented and underreported. The program for the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night included a description of UCLA PISA stating that Pacific Islanders make up less than one percent of the student population at UCLA.

On UCLA’s online campus profile, Asian and Pacific Islander ethnicities are grouped together, claiming to make up 32.1 percent of undergraduate student enrollment as of Fall 2016. UCLA’s reported facts reflects the problematic data aggregation of Asians and Pacific Islanders that contributes to the masking and erasing of specific issues and challenges that Pacific Islander students face in higher education.

During the evening, Kukahiko remarked that the students in UCLA PISA performing during the night were “not just performers but activists.” In actively serving and building its communities, UCLA PISA outreaches to PI students in Los Angeles schools, helps PI students come to UCLA, provides a support system for the PI community at UCLA, and more.

While Kukahiko closed the show saying that the event “wouldn’t be a culture night without [the audience’s] love and presence,” the 3rd Annual Polynesian Arts & Culture Night would not have been possible without UCLA PISA’s dedication to raising awareness about Polynesian culture through sharing the beauty and resiliency of its communities. 

Faith and Chai was hosted Monday, Feb. 21, 2017 , by Jasmine Patel, and Vincent Loyal, both second-year biology students from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a space for South Asian students of different faiths to discuss what is similar and what is different about their faiths.

Patel said that “[Faith and Chai] was created by South Asian InterVarsity as a way to reach more South Asian students on campuses across the nation” while Loyal wanted to create a space for dialogue, discussion about faith, and a community for South Asians.

About twenty students, ranging from first to fourth-years, of different South Asian backgrounds came for the first meeting, greeted by the friendly faces of Vincent and Jasmine. They explained their aims for the space to be where one learnt from another no matter the faith background. In addition, they hoped to create a network of new friendships and for participants to consider how faith and spirituality play a role in their lives this quarter and beyond.

An important community agreement Vincent and Jasmine addressed before breaking into groups was to enforce, wherever possible, the use of ‘I’ statements. They added that people are individuals, not spokespeople for their own faiths. It adds a lot of pressure on individuals to speak for their communities, rather than for themselves and their experiences. Other community agreements included having respect for others even if there was disagreement about a certain perspective, and an equal level of participation among all people in the discussion.

Before having groups of students engage in dialogue, there was a team building exercise that involved participants assembling structures from old newspapers, paper clips and rubber bands in a friendly yet competitive manner. “While it seemed silly first,” said Lamia Abbas, a second-year psychobiology student, “it eased conversations about faith later on.” The winners of this short exercise were treated to the samosas (deep fried pastry snack prevalent in many South Asian countries) and chai first.

The dialogues began about an hour after the event began, allowing  an hour’s time for the significant conversations to ensue. The questions suggested ranged from “What is the central message or chief goal of your faith” to “In your opinion, what is humankind’s reason for being?” In response to the former question, Abbas said, “[my] relationship with organized religion is complicated.” Similar sentiments were echoed by students Vineet Mathew, a second-year computational and systems biology student and a Shrita Pendekanti, a second-year neuroscience student.

There were many great takeaways from the event. One of the last questions by Loyal, “what have you come to appreciate of different faiths in the South Asian community?” made it clear how positively the dialogue impacted the attendees. Matthew appreciated “realizing how similar we all are” while Pendekanti lauded how during the dialogue, others “articulated thoughts [she] had but wasn’t able to express.” Marsha Noeline, a second-year mechanical engineering student concluded that “in the coming years, these spaces are going to be really necessary.”

Although the event was supposed to end at 9 p.m.,  conversations lasted for far longer than that. Both student organizers received a lot of positive feedback, and Patel said they “want to continue to create spaces where South Asian students can come together to share about their own faiths and learn about others. We are also very open to collaborating with other South Asian groups on campus to make these events more widely known and more welcoming to the South Asian community.”

BY LUCY MA AND VIVIAN LEE

On Friday, March 3, Nikkei Student Union (NSU) hosted their 31st Annual Cultural Night: “Chirashi” in Royce Hall, a reminder of the persecution and discrimination Japanese Americans faced during World War II, with the implementation of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942.

This executive order forced more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent living in the United States, mostly American citizens, into incarceration among ten concentration camps, a process that not only violated personal liberties but also took away ownership of property and tore apart families.

To acknowledge the history of this experience, NSU uses cultural night as a night where, according to their program, “we commemorate the memory of those incarcerated, showcase our talents to the UCLA community, and celebrate the richness of our beloved Japanese American community.”

This year’s title, “Chirashi,” meaning “scattered,” is a Japanese dish usually served with a mix of different kinds of fish and vegetables that are laid together on top of rice.

Chirashi “was a metaphor for the multiple storylines within the drama that conveys the larger theme of acknowledging the variety of motivations that bring people into our community,” said Emiko Kranz, the current NSU president.

We are first introduced to Lynn (portrayed by Stacy Kadomasu), who is somewhat a hot-headed girl. She is followed by Samson (Justin Shinn), who invites her to his staggering family restaurant, Chirashi.

Lynn often worked begrudgingly in the restaurant because she owes Samson a debt, but, through Samson’s cousin June (Emiko Kranz), who is helping with the family restaurant, Lynn learns that Chirashi had been a safe haven for Japanese Americans during WWII — a place where they could be treated like equal human beings.

However, Samson, despite being the current restaurant owner, ran off with the restaurant’s funds, including June and Lynn’s payments. The story later reveals that Samson ran away because his fate was tied to the restaurant, which burdened him.

Samson explaining why he had left the restaurant. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

As soon as Samson ran off with the money, a contracting firm appears, announcing that the restaurant will be soon evicted.

Meanwhile, Tetsuya (played by Joey Yasuhiro) is introduced as one of the contracting firm representatives, who had a similar experience to June and Lynn. In order to protect his family’s flower shop and his sick mom, Tetsuya joined his uncle’s contracting firm, where he has to evict staggering yet historical and community-centered shops often.

In the end, Samson returned the money to June and Lynn, who then worked with Grace (Kendra Motoyasu), an architect and Tetsuya’s friend, and Noburu (Andre Leite) who quit working at the contracting firm, to restore Chirashi as a place for the community.

Throughout the show, NSU Modern, Odori, and Kyodo Taiko’s performances demonstrated the different aspects of Japanese and Japanese American cultures and reinforced the culture night’s themes by conveying the emotions of the characters.

Performance by Kyodo Taiko. Photo courtesy of Brian Kohaya.

For example, “Tanuki Senbonzakura” by NSU Odori, “Boot Camp” by NSU Modern, and all of Kyodo Taiko’s compositions were military themed.

According to Kranz, “While the drama wasn’t openly aggressive, there was a certain amount of frustration and anger represented by the struggles each character faced whether the battle was internal or external.”

Through “Chirashi,” NSU hoped to communicate the importance of perspective, historical consciousness, and resistance to injustice through their experiences as Japanese Americans.

Today, fear-mongering against the Muslim communities in the United States is perpetuated by the signing of Executive Order 13769 on Jan. 27, following the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

The executive order placed restrictions on refugees entering the United States, targeting  individuals coming from the countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  

It should be no surprise then that the issuance of Executive Order 13769 has spurred many Japanese American communities to stand with the Muslim communities due to similarities of propaganda used to target these groups.

It is through these conditions that the Nikkei Student Union’s Cultural Night serves as a powerful platform to share knowledge about their history to the surrounding UCLA community during these times.  

Regarding the story behind the culture night, Kranz stated that “following the recent events that have affected the political climate such as Trump’s inauguration and the executive orders limiting immigration, we decided to bring in the focus on historical consciousness through the drama.”  

Kranz, a graduating senior and a fundamental pillar in past NSU cultural nights, reflects on “Chirashi” with her hopes for future productions: “The Nikkei community has endured much struggle with the incarceration experience and has fought its way back up in society and I think [the cultural night] is the vehicle by which we can extend our voice to a wider audience and remind everyone how Japanese Americans have made their place here and feel responsible to empower other groups.”

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