For those whose cravings were unsatisfied following the dining halls’ renditions of Thanksgiving dinner last week, the Korean Student Association provided its members yet another opportunity to enjoy their holiday favorites. Members gathered in the Multicultural Student Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to feast on all of the classics, including turkey and mashed potatoes as well as homemade pumpkin pie for dessert.
This is KSA’s first year holding a Thanksgiving potluck for their members. After a significant decrease in membership due to a conflict between international students and Korean Americans, KSA has finally regained participation to the point where they can confidently hold such a large, collaborative event.
“KSA was originally founded by a Korean international member and most of the members were people who knew most about Korean culture and who knew how to speak Korean,” said Ardean Kim, third-year College student and president of KSA. “In 2017 and 2018, there became a conflict between the international students and those who are just Korean by ethnicity. Most of the international students left, and we did not have many returning members. Right now we are on the steps of coming back from that issue.”
KSA has experienced a regrowth in membership for both Korean Americans and international students and currently supports approximately 240 members, approximately 70 of which were in attendance at the Thanksgiving potluck.
KSA’s 240 members are divided into three family groups of about 80 students each. While dividing the organization into smaller groups plays an important organizational role, it also helps facilitate a stronger sense of community among the students.
“KSA is not a super small group, so it can be really easy for people to get lost,” first-year Engineering student Sion Kim said. “By having a smaller group, you are better taken care of and nobody really slips through the cracks.”
Within each KSA family, two to three upperclassmen are designated as family heads. They are responsible for planning events such as study sessions and other bonding activities for the students within their respective families.
“As a family head, I enjoy the feeling of taking care of people,” said Chris Lee, fourth-year College student and KSA family head.“It is not really that much effort. In this case it is just cooking. It makes people feel good, so it is worth it.”
Prior to Sunday’s event, the family heads were tasked by the executive team to make and buy certain foods for potluck. Food was made at the houses and apartments of some of the family heads. All members of KSA were welcome to partake in the preparation and cooking of food for the potluck as well as serving on the night of the event.
At the start of the event, members were already lining up to have their plates piled high with all of the classic dishes featured in the long buffet of food. There was plenty to go around, but some of the most popular items such as ham ran out 30 minutes into the event.
While enjoying a home-cooked meal was central to this event, spending quality time with close friends was also a key aspect. Even after finishing their plates and going back for seconds, many members stayed through the end of the event, laughing and conversing with their friends as Youtube videos of performances from this year’s K-Expo cultural event were played on the TV.
“It's just eating and spending time with friends, but it means so much more,” Lee said. “I love seeing everyone able to bond over both the Korean and American cultures by celebrating such a traditional American holiday [while] watching parodies of Korean dramas made by KSA students for the K-Expo.”
It can be difficult for international Korean students to return home during the Thanksgiving break due to cost of travel and sheer distance, so KSA’s event allowed international students to feel a sense of comfort and support away from home.
“This event offers a great opportunity for people to enjoy giving thanks with close friends when family cannot always be present,” Kim said. “Also, I know some international students have never experienced a true American Thanksgiving meal, so I think this will be a great opportunity for them to try it out.”