To the Class of 2021,
The Asian American Students Association (AASA) wishes you a warm welcome to the Princeton community! We hope you have a relaxing summer before starting anew at college.
Your first few months at Princeton may be very new, a little scary, and exciting as you carve out a place for yourself. You might not know us yet, but feel free to reach out to to anyone on the executive board of AASA! We’re just an e-mail away and want to help you as you find your bearings here. Our main piece of advice is that, in all the hustle and bustle, it’s important to shake away the tunnel vision and take your unprecedented freedom at school to contemplate bigger things and find a good support network to help you destress.
We can help you along this journey. AASA is an organization with a myriad of goals and functions, which means there’s something for everyone. Many Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) join organizations like AASA as a means of self-discovery and drawing new connections to our identity — something that’s bigger than us, yet essential to who we are. (That being said, we always encourage non-AAPI people to join AASA and participate in our discussions!) AASA exists to acknowledge that there is history and significance behind being Asian — whether you are East Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, and so on — in America. We not only focus inwardly on our own shared or unique experiences, but also direct our attention outwards to intersectionality and awareness. We think everyone should consider these topics — the historical and contemporary Asian American experience personally, at Princeton, and in this country — at least once. What better time than college to start?
AASA is a platform for you to talk about these big questions and a resource that will equip you with the vocabulary to engage with others. Political apathy is a serious issue plaguing the AAPI community, and it’s easy for some members of the AAPI community to fall into the idea that racism against Asians doesn’t exist. Yet, the tabloid mudslinging against Dr. David Dao after the brutal United Airlines incident, as well as the shooting of unarmed Tommy Le, suggest differently. Additionally, subscribing to the Model Minority Myth — the idea that Asians are the minority group that “made it” in America and thus no longer face racial barriers — can in turn engender racism against other AAPI subgroups and minorities. In the past, AASA has tried to encourage conversations on issues that Asian Americans on campus and across the country face through its photo campaigns and press statements, and we are constantly trying to discover new ways to broaden the discussion.
In addition to discovering and challenging aspects of our identity, we also devote time to celebrating our Asian and Asian-American heritage. AASA is first and foremost a community, and we thus regularly organize social gatherings, from informal movie nights to larger performance events like Cafe Night. We also strive to find ways to give AAPI identities a bigger presence on campus, such as by inviting guest speakers, publishing our Unfound journal, or collaborating with the Princeton Art Museum to speak about Asian American artists and innovators. In the fall, you will be welcomed to our Princeton community, and we want to further welcome you to our AASA community.
AASA is a place where anyone, regardless of ethnicity or political beliefs, is free to come and talk about the most pressing issues facing Asian Americans, proudly celebrate their identity(ies), or just hang out and chat. Feel free to talk to us at our Activity Fair booth, at our Welcome Dinner in late September (more information to come), or in our Facebook group!
The Asian American Students Association
Editor’s Note: This piece is part of our Opinion section’s ongoing welcome series. Groups and individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds and identities are encouraged to share advice and opinions on the Princeton experience. If you are interested in submitting a guest column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.