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Through the Asian Pacific American Association, junior Gaoly Vang has found a family.
When Gaoly Vang was a freshman, she attended the Midwest Asian American Students Union annual conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "There were over 600 students from 30 schools," she says.
"We were eating dessert in a banquet hall when the speakers got to the part in the program where they gave awards." They announced the finalists for the Board of Advisors Award, which recognizes student organizations that have accomplished greatness on their campus and in the Midwest community.
"We all got quiet," Gaoly says. "Then we heard it. UMD won." There were ten people from the UMD Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). "We clapped and jumped up, and we all started singing, 'Who let the the dogs, out. Woof, woof,' and I was really happy. That's when I first felt like I had found a family.
Gaoly, a junior psychology major, joined Asian Pacific American Association (APAA) freshman year looking for a sense of community. “I really like the atmosphere here.”
Growing up in Brooklyn Park, Minn., Gaoly hadn’t been around many other people with an Asian background. When she met students from all over the country, and around the world, at APAA, she experienced a kind of culture shock. She learned a lot in those first months. “APAA made more proud of my Asian identity.”
She's been learning ever since. This past summer, Gaoly studied abroad in Korea with the U of M Taste of Korea Human Development program. She learned their education system and culture were unique. Her group traveled to Seoul, South Korea, during July and August, and they stayed in the Seoul National University dormitory.
“Going over there changed my perspective on education,” she says. “They work so hard; they go to school for 12 hours a day.” Gaoly wasn’t discouraged though. “It made me want to try harder in school,” she says.
Since joining APAA, Gaoly has taken on a leadership role as vice president. She helps coordinate events as a part of her duties. APAA puts on the annual culture show and events including the Asian Food Festival during Asian American month. “Everyone is invited to our events,” she says.
The APAA Culture Show will be held on Nov.17, 2018 and features entertainment and food. "It's fun. We welcome everyone to our family."