Due to COVID-19, international student group programs at Portland State have been canceled for spring 2020, including the Korean Student Association’s Korea Night and the Pacific Islanders Club’s annual Lu’au.
Every year, international student groups are awarded funding by PSU’s Student Fee Committee. Each group is responsible for spending their total funds by the end of the academic year. Any leftover funding would be cut in the following year’s proposal.
Due to unforeseen closures by PSU, student group events were canceled. These events are major opportunities for international student groups to spend their residual budget, recruiting members and celebrating with the student community.
However, student group budgets will not be cut in the next academic year because of cancellations. One of these events was Korea Night for the Korean Student Association (KSA).
“Essentially a majority of the budget would be used for the culture show, and since it didn’t happen, a majority of the money would therefore not be used,” said Lance Lee, an active member of the KSA.
Korea Night is the main cultural event that features food, dance and live music. Last year’s Korea Night event attracted around 600 participants and cost approximately $13,000, according to an estimate from the group. Preparation for this spring’s event began in winter term and was predicted to be the biggest thus far.
2019 invited new students and activities for KSA members.
“I know this year there were a lot of new people, which is really good because that’s what we’ve been trying to do: get more diverse people actively participating,” Lee said. “This is the first year that PSU has created the k-pop dance club, so it’s not just people within the KSA that had an interest in the event. That would be like an outside group that we would bring in a lot of new members planning it. I think that a lot of people were anticipating how the show would go in comparison to the other ones.”
Lee also mentioned the cancellation left student leaders out of an opportunity to lead an event.
“I’m not sure how everyone’s position will be, because everyone is re-elected every year anyways, so some people might feel a little cheated [they were run] of their position without doing much.”
Alongside Korea Night, the Pacific Islanders Club (PIC) had to cancel its Lu’au, which is one of the largest international events on campus.
The event was scheduled for May 2020 at the Viking Pavilion, which would have marked the 18th annual Lu’au put on by the group.
Last year, the Lu’au attracted approximately 900 people and cost the group $20,000 to orchestrate. The event promotes Pacific Islander culture through dances, food, vendors and various audience interactions.
Macie Nakahashi, vice president of the PSU PIC, said the cancellation of the event impacted group members.
“We were all super excited and pumped to prep for Lu’au,” Nakahashi said. “We started early and had planned and figured out costumes, dances and a theme. Once we found out about the cancellation of our event, we were bummed and heartbroken that all of our hard work and late nights vanished. It was heartbreaking to inform our performers—especially the seniors—hula instructors and volunteers, but [we] understood the reasoning.”
Events like the Lu’au and Korea Night offer a chance for international students and the PSU community to connect.
“With Pacific Islanders being a small percentage, we are not well-known in the community and are not recognized enough, so having our annual event in spring allows students, faculty and community members to learn more about our culture,” Nakahashi said. “The PSU community learns about things they didn’t know prior to the event and becomes interested in attending our weekly meetings.”
A community member told Nakahashi the “PIC’s Lu’au has a special place in our heart and we will definitely be back next year to watch and hopefully participate!”
The PIC will have a mini Lu’au, called PacFest, in November 2020 and next year’s Lu’au is scheduled for May 2021.
International students are continuing their efforts to maintain community by staying connected with active groups and resources from PSU.
The International Student Center is a community designed to support international students with mentorship and resources. Recently, it also had its events and programming canceled due to COVID-19 and campus closure. Yet, it continues to provide a resource for international students who may be affected by campus closure and challenges overseas with virtual meetings over coffee.
“We encouraged other (international) students to do so as they might find comfort in sharing their experience as well as hearing how others are adapting to this situation”, stated international student and student mentor Nuno Clauzing.
International Student Center meetings are held every Thursday from 1–2 p.m. More information on how to stay updated and find resources can be found at the Office of International Affairs’ website: https://www.pdx.edu/international-students/.