The 2017 East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) conference took place at NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. Being only 2 hours away from Davidson made it an easy choice for our group to attend. I especially wanted to try to network with people and organizations from different campuses to learn how various groups spread news and information among various social channels. It’s always a great chance to get to meet more people.
There were different panels at each slot of time, each of them offering their own experience. Some of them were led by student groups on campus, others were led by activists, professionals, and national organizations. It seems a little overwhelming at first because there are so many people in various groups but most organizers tried to facilitate social interaction, something I appreciated since I sometimes have trouble networking. I went to ones that specifically referred to the social dimension of Asian American life because as an anthropology major, I always find it fascinating to look groups through an ethnographic lens, especially reflectively. Some of the groups were more deftly led than others but I did appreciate all of the interactions I got to have. There are some incredible people doing some important work and I hope I can be one of them as well.
To me, I think the most striking thing was how uncommon my experience at a small, southern liberal arts college was at the conference. Many of the attendees came from large state schools that although might have a relatively low percentage of Asian students, have a larger population in total so there is a more tangible presence. Davidson’s 8.9% Asian at a school of 2000 puts the population at under 170 Asian students, but it feels even lower than that sometimes. For me, the social experience of being in a mostly Asian space is something radically different than at Davidson, where most large gatherings of Asians I am in are my friends. Even then, hearing the different experiences of Asian students on other campuses really helped me contextualize where I attended school and what sort of strategies I could adapt to further Asian American advocacy on my campus.
If by any chance someone is reading this and wondering if they should go to ECAASU: go, especially if you are able to afford it. I understand many people are not as fortunate as the members of Davidson College’s ACAA to attend with many costs of the trip subsidized and cannot make it financially. If it works out, I would definitely go again.