CSSA works to unify Chinese and American students

While students and Illini fans cheered on the women’s volleyball team at their match against Ohio State on Saturday, a different kind of crowd also filled the stands at Huff Hall.

Members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, or CSSA, and University administrators gathered to promote Chinese-American Unity Night and the CSSA’s upcoming Moon Gala mid-Autumn festival with special performances and music.

The Chinese national anthem was played and martial arts performances took place between the second and third matches.

“I thought it was great hearing the national anthem and hearing them sing, that was just kind of special,” said senior volleyball player Laura DeBruler. “It almost felt like the Olympics a little bit.”

Event promoters included interim Chancellor and Provost Robert Easter and former Illinois Head Volleyball Coach Don Hardin. The first 600 event attendees were given a voucher exchangeable for one ticket to the Moon Gala, which will be held at Foellinger Auditorium on Oct. 16.

The night was also promoted outside the parameters of the game itself, as CSSA members dressed the Alma Mater in Chinese and American flags and scrolls displaying the words “joy and respect” in both Chinese and English Thursday evening and during the day Saturday.

“I got out of class, saw the national flag, and thought, ‘It’s rare to see the flag on U.S. soil,’” said Xiniu Nie, sophomore in Engineering and CSSA member. “I felt a real sense of home.”

Wen Deng, vice president of CSSA, said the Chinese knot embodied the melting pot that the University represents.

Meanwhile, Xu Xiao, graduate student and CSSA representative, passed out flyers about the event to onlookers. She said the point was to unify Chinese and American students over a common bond, similar to the unifying message of the Olympic Games.

“The Chinese students can join the American collegiate sports and American students can get more understanding about Chinese culture,” Xiao said.

Xiao said Chinese students should proportionately be a bigger piece of the audience, since there are over 4,000 international students from China at the University. She called the students an “untapped resource.”

To promote the night, Xiao was wearing a student-designed orange shirt with blue lettering that read “love and joy” in Chinese.

“Love and Joy” phonetically sounds very similar to “UIUC.”

Ben Shi, sophomore in Engineering and the designer of the T-shirt, said there needs to be more interaction among international and domestic students.

“There is a large Chinese population here on campus, but it seems that we just stay with each other and hardly go into real American society,” Shi said.

“I’m thinking this activity can promote more Chinese-American student interactions, and make Chinese students more willing to join the real campus life in the future.”