Divya Sethi, a prospective member of the class of 2023, was worried about the potential lack of diversity at the University. After attending Asian Student Union’s EscAPAde, an event hosted for prospective Asian students on Grounds, her fears were alleviated.
ASU invited prospective Asian students on Grounds April 14 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for EscAPAde — a series of activities designed to show what life is like for Asian students at the University.
The event took place in the Newcomb Ballroom and Gallery and included activities such as guided tours of Grounds by the University Guide Service and performances by different Asian contracted independent organizations, including the Korean Student Association, APEX Dance Crew and LingXi Chinese Theater. The performances offered a blend of both contemporary and traditional performances and highlighted the extensive number of Asian organizations on Grounds.
EscAPAde also featured a panel for prospective students and parents to ask questions about different opportunities for the University’s Asian community. Students answered questions ranging from financial aid concerns to safety measures at the University.
Despite beginning in 1991, EscAPAde has struggled to gather a large number of attendees.
“EscAPAde is not well known throughout U.Va. or on Grounds,” said Youjin Yeo, second-year College student and co-chair of ASU’s Prospective & Alumni Relations Committee. “We don’t get enough funding nor help. We were blessed enough to get funding from Jannatul Pramanik, the Multicultural Student Service program director, and Allyson Umali, one of the Admissions [Counselors] at U.Va.”
Still, this year’s EscAPAde attendance exceeded expectations.
“What we traditionally do is send out a postcard to the Asian students who are accepted Early Action,” said Karl Keat, third-year College student and outgoing president of ASU. “For the last few years, we’ve gotten 30 to 40 students. This year, we ended up with 60 to 70 students.”
In addition to the tours, panel discussions and performances, prospective students who attended EscAPAde received the chance to stay overnight with a host.
“The way the event is designed is that if [the prospective students] are going to Days on the Lawn on Monday, they can stay overnight in a dorm with a host,” Keat said. “Ideally, we try to get as many first-year hosts as possible so prospective students can get the dorm experience.”
Hosts signed up to house students via a form released a month before the event. The form also aimed to have current first-years be a “lunch buddy” or volunteer to take students out to lunch somewhere on or off-Grounds on the day of EscAPAde. Students were paired up with upperclassmen who matched their interests and had lunch from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
At its core, EscAPAde serves to dispel any fears an incoming Asian student may feel by offering a more specific perspective, since the Asian experience on Grounds will not be the same as the experiences other minority groups may face.
“I think, in a sense, Asians are a minority at U.Va, so I think EscAPAde is a way for Asian students to come to U.Va. and have a feeling of what U.Va. would be like for them when they come here,” said Dahsom Choi, second-year College student and historian for ASU. “It is a really great opportunity for them to see how ASU works.”
Prospective students commented on the support and comfort the event provided them.
“I was able to ask a lot of questions about workload at U.Va. and social life and just Charlottesville in general,” Sethi said. “It was nice to have someone to talk to who was already a student at U.Va.”
Keat believes that more unity within the different minority groups is required for continued success.
“The biggest thing I want to see ASU improve on is our interactions with other minority groups on Grounds [and] Asian organizations,” Keat said. “Often times, they are at odds with each other, competing for membership and funding. Hopefully, ASU can mend the roles between the clubs.”