PYRA – UI annual K-pop music fest to promote cultural diversity

K-pop is not just about “Gangnam Style.”

The University of Iowa Korean Undergraduates Student Association (KUSA) hosted the 2014 Korea Pop Music Festival, PYRA, at the IMU Main Lounge on March 30. Students, both Korean and non-Korean, showed an audience of 300 people Korean pop music and dances. They hoped the UI community to know more about Korean culture.

Review: 2014 UI K-pop music fest

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It is hard for me to appreciate “Gangnam Style“, and I have no clue why it has become such a global hit. But this didn’t prevent me from enjoying tonight’s Korean students’ K-pop music festival.

The University of Iowa Korean Undergraduates Student Association (KUSA) hosted the 2014 Korea Pop Music Festival, PYRA at the IMU Main Lounge. It was pretty well attended — there was about 300 people in the audience.

Without knowing any Korean, I still was moved by some unique music. I marveled at some great voices and enjoyed the visually stimulating dance — far better than Gangnam Style.

According to the organizer, PYRA means in Korean, “Blooming like a beautiful flower.” On the stage, I saw not only Korean students, but also Chinese American and African American dancers and singers. In the audience,  domestic and international students were well mixed.

The purpose of the event, as the president of KUSA said, was to promote campus diversity, and to introduce K-pop music to U.S. students and international students from other countries.

A video story on this event will come out soon. Stay tuned.

Chinese students party, too

When we’re talking about international student integration here at Iowa, we should see what our peers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have done.

Three Chinese students saw the same issue of separation between Chinese and U.S. students at Wisconsin Madison. They launched Channel C — a series of talk show trying to demystify Chinese students and stereotypes associated with them and promoting integration. The C can stand for China, communication, conversation or cross-culture, as the creators say.

So far they have created 24 episodes with a wide range of topics. “Why Chinese Students Don’t Party,” for example, touches on the party culture on U.S. campuses, which fits our context as well — Wisconsin is the No.2 party school, and we’re the even better No.1.

Like the girl in the video, I never get the point of college student parties, either. I get the social part of it, but don’t understand why people have to get drunk and do crazy things afterward.

However, I like going to American “grownup” parties, where I learn a great deal of American culture. The “grownup” parties is a lot more like the party in my culture — friends get together, eating, talking and sometimes playing, with or without alcohol.

I had a dumpling party last week and successfully taught my vegetarian American friend Jaki to make veggie dumplings. After dinner, we had great conversations about food, culture, literature, freedom, feminism, loneliness, race… That’s the very best kind of party I would enjoy — exchanging ideas, trading gossip, of course with great food.

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So, I would say, Chinese students also party and have fun, but in a much more different way.

My English no good

It drives me nuts when my interviewees end each sentence with “you know,” and fill their sentences with millions of “like” or “like, you know.” Because, like, taking the numerous fillers out when editing an audio clip takes, like, twice as much time, you know.

I was frustratedly editing an audio clip full of those fillers the other day when my roommate got home. I complained to her, “How come people are so obsessed with ‘like’ and ‘you know’?” She said, “Every time I hear people say ‘you know,’ I’d think to myself, ‘I wouldn’t have asked if I knew that.'”

I couldn’t help but laugh — some of us Chinglish speakers don’t get the art of fillers.

American hospitality — like the filler “like” — took me a long time to get used to. I was an exchange student down in Arkansas for four months in 2011. Every time I went to the school cafeteria, I was greeted by the old cashier ladies (Whoops, was I just being politically incorrect calling them old ladies?) with “sweetie,” “honey,” “baby,”  “sweetheart,” or “dear.” When I first heard the terms of endearment, my reaction was, “I’m not your sweetie.” But here in Iowa, I sometimes do miss the southern hospitality.

My upbringing in the implicit Chinese culture gave me yet another hard time using superlatives. “Very good” and “great” used to be the best comments I could make on people and things. Not that I didn’t know “excellent,” “extraordinary,” “amazing,” “super,”  “wonderful,” “awesome,”and whatever I call “big words,” they just felt exaggerating to me, and I thought it was uncool to express strong feelings. And when I got comments with those “big words,” I’d suspect, “Really? I’m not that good.” (I know i was cranky) I have always been amazed by the ability of Americans to use a wide variety of superlatives in daily conversations and email exchanges — they are just truly good at making people feel good — how marvelous!

See, now I’ve even learned to use the exclamation mark without hesitance. When in Rome…

Related article and video:
Like, Uh, You Know: Why Do Americans Say ‘You Know’ And Use Other Verbal Fillers So Often?
View How to Stop Saying “Like,” “Um” & “You Know” on Howcast

UI student organization promotes tolerance on campus

Derogatory and discriminating remarks on Asian students, particularly Asian international students, flared up on Twitter last fall. To raise awareness of the racism toward Asian students on campus, and to promote understanding between international and domestic students,  University of Iowa Asian American Coalition invited California-based blogger Phil Yu, aka Angry Asian Man, to give a speech on his experience of 13 years running the blog, writing offensive things he observes and encounters in life and media. Yu said it is important for Asians to stand up and speak out when being offended and unfairly treated.

How did UCLA and Kansas State deal with hate speech?

Former UCLA student Alexandra Wallace made a rant against Asian students on campus went viral two years ago. She was criticizing the school for accepting “hordes of Asian people” and making discriminating remarks on them.

Appalled by the video, UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block issued a public statement, in which he wrote, “I believe that speech that expresses intolerance toward any group of people on the basis of race or gender, or sexual, religious or cultural identity is indefensible and has no place at UCLA.”

Block also echoed  his statement in a video posted on the university’s website:

Wallace later quit school.

Last year, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a  journalism student wrote a column in Kansas State University’s student newspaper, criticizing the presence of international students at the institution has roiled the campus.

The student journalist at K-State said Chinese students were potential “enemies” and that public universities should not educate international students from countries with foreign policies unfriendly to the United States, according to the CHE.

Two days later, the author and the his editor issued public apologies. On the same day, K-State’s student-government passed a resolution, criticizing the article and affirming that the institution welcome foreign students.

Racism Hurts

This past week was particularly hard for me — the theme of the whole week was racism.

Last Saturday night, I went to cover an event trying to raise the awareness of racism toward Asian students on campus. It was the day when the Kunming knife attack happened in China.

Last Thursday, I interviewed Sam Horne Van who works at the UI Assessment. He shared findings of the 2013 Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey on the international student experiences. One of the key findings is that international students feel significantly less respected on campus and less belonging to campus than domestic students, which is similar at other universities. Discrimination against Asian students on campus is not just pieces of tweets against random people; it happens on a much larger scale.

Last night, a Chinese student told me that at a staff party, her drunk boss said, “I hate Asians” in front of her. He said he hated those Asians who drive luxury cars and those who laughed in the library. I asked her, “Did you feel angry?” She said she didn’t because he was drunk, and she knew that he was not talking about her. “He was talking about OTHER people,” she said. She left her work later because of all of the unhappy experiences  with people there and of the drunk statement that her boss made. I then asked, “Why didn’t you speak up?” She said that she didn’t think speaking up would make any difference because her boss wouldn’t change his mind anyway. Plus, she didn’t want to cause any trouble. I got really emotional, arguing with her that if none of us brought this issue up, nothing is going to be improved. It’s OTHERS today, but it could be YOU and ME tomorrow.

Chinese students didn’t growing up exposing to diverse races. Some wouldn’t realize when they are being discriminated against based on nationality or even look. Even if they do, they don’t know how to deal with it. The fact that we have been taught not to stand up and and speak out for whatever happens makes things worse — it seems no harm has been done on the surface. When hate speeches and racist tweets against Asian students are floating around and the university doesn’t take a firm stand, I as an international student feel unsupported.

By the way, scholars have defined discrimination based on culture and nationality as neo-racism:

“Neo-racism rationalises the subordination of people of colour on the basis of culture, which is of course acquired through acculturation within an ethnic group, while traditional racism rationalises it fundamentally in terms of biology. Neo-racism is still racism in that it functions to maintain racial hierarchies of oppression.” (JENNY J. LEE & CHARLES RICE, “Welcome to America? International student perceptions of discrimination,” Higher Education (2007) 53: 381–409)