There are many traditions at Penn that you may have heard of: Throwing Toast at Franklin Field, marching down Locust Walk for Hey Day, and the Econ Scream in the quad. Alongside the popular and well-known Penn traditions, I’ve come to create a tradition of my own: participating in and going to cultural shows.
It was the fall of my freshman year and I was still getting adjusted to college and being on campus. I wanted to make friends and challenge myself to do things I normally wouldn’t do. I auditioned for the Chinese Students’ Association’s (CSA) cultural show. Although I did not get an acting role, I became a member of the stage crew. I later learned the day of the show that I would be the stage manager and in charge of commanding the others to move things on and off the stage. This was something I wasn't prepared for and it was a sudden push into leadership for me as a freshman. Nevertheless, the experience led me to befriend a lot of upperclassmen who would go on to become some of the mentor figures I still keep in contact with today.
During my sophomore year I was the Secretary for CSA. I requested a small acting role or cameo from the cultural chairs and was able to be on stage outside of my role in stage crew. The heckling and support I received from my friends in the audience in the brief 3 minutes I was on stage still remains a great memory. Although cultural shows serve the purpose of promoting culture (in this case, Chinese culture), it served a greater purpose in my college career in that it created a forum for community building and bonding.
During my junior year at Penn, I served as the Cultural Chair for CSA and was in charge of planning logistics. Struggling as stage manager and struggling on stage as an actor during my freshman and sophomore years was one thing, but struggling with logistics and making sure the show was successful was a whole new ordeal. Although it was a stressful role, I feel that I blossomed as a leader in this role and was able to learn a lot about myself. I also bonded with my co-cultural chairs and also other board members that I learned to rely on through the process.
During my senior year at Penn, I participated in my fourth and perhaps last cultural show with CSA during college. I was an audience member this time but still felt just as involved in the show. I was excited to see the stage crew running around, the directors yelling and encouraging cast members, and seeing CSA board members preparing gifts and cards for the directors and writers of the show. It was a very nostalgic experience and also a great way for me to see the hard work of cultural chairs that I’ve mentored come to fruition.
This is a tradition I wanted to share with you all because compared to some of the other big Penn traditions that occur but aren't constant, participating in CSA’s cultural shows was something that I was always doing every year and always found enjoyable. It was something that I looked forward to every fall and something that defines and characterizes my Penn experience. I am happy to say that I have been an audience member, stage crew member, actor, and organizer in various cultural shows and have enjoyed every single experience.