10543583_931481220202146_5714976087484135612_o (1)“This is why I can’t have nice things,” said a happy camper in a skit attempting to mimic UVSA SoCal’s president. We were challenged to put together a music video using a given person, song, show genre and a Vietnamese word – one of the many activities my camp family and I did together that weekend.

UVSA SoCal’s Leadership Camp was not only my first appearance as UNAVSA’s incoming president but an extremely humbling experience as well. So many memories and lessons were learned during that weekend that made me so glad I went – and came in as an attendee. When one has gone to so many camps and conferences, things start to blur in together and it takes a special event to stand out. I am thoroughly grateful 9na called me shy of 48 hours (maybe even 24 hours) since I landed back home from elections to remind me that she would like UNAVSA to have a presence at camp (amongst other things – like keeping my promises).

The theme for camp this year was “Make Your Mark,” and throughout camp the theme was repeated, discussed, and reminded that as emerging leaders of the community – it is important that they are armed with not only the tools they need to succeed but they also need to start thinking of what’s going to happen after their term is over. We did so many activities that forced us to bond with our family members to ensure lessons like communication, teamwork, and trust were taught. Here were my most vivid memories and what it taught me:

  • I vividly remember having to go into the pool for an activity and not being a swimmer – Anthony Vu (Co-President of UC Irvine) said something along the lines of “don’t worry, we’ll be here for you and the water is warm.” Firstly, he’s a liar because the water was cold, and secondly, it was reassuring to have someone tell me I wasn’t going to die by water.
  • Cory Wong (Co-media Chair of UCSD) is magical. He knows magic tricks plus he likes photography BUT he uses a Nikon. Friendship level x 99 minus 5 brownie points.
  • Thao Chau (Community Service Chair of UC Riverside) and I retired after dinner on Sunday to write our love letters. It was so nice to be able to have one on one time with one of the most angelic voices ever. Our conversation halted around 3AM when Evan Le (VCN co-director of USC) walked in like the limbo king he is, did his thing and plopped right into bed. That’s what he gets for having too much energy and dancing the night away – missing out on late night stories.
  • We shared late night horror stories about the supernatural (and what 3:33AM means). Our winners for that portion would have to go to Larry Le (Treasurer of UC Riverside) and Ryan Tran (Cal Poly Pomona) basically being partners in crime. That whole weekend between them involved a wrecking ball, a flashlight, and being quiet with their sense of humor. They also passed out on their beds when we thought they were just “lying there.”
  • I was reminded that it’s cool to be super chill and athletic while being fun and outgoing. Ashley Hansen (Secretary of UCLA), despite being rival schools with USC, had the good idea to bring more clothes than necessary so she could help clothe other members in our family (*cough* Evan).
  • Despite having such a physically intensive weekend, I was brought back to earth when Dang Dong (former Secretary of San Diego State University) asked me “how did I end up as president?” Our brief conversation last only until our next activity but was a gentle reminder that I am here because of the support I have continuously received from our community.
  • I was reminded throughout the weekend that people have different energies. For example, some people are really loud and they shine in activities. While others like Shannon Pham (ACE Chair of CSULB) possess a quieter glowing energy, reminding them that we are all fantastic and she is queen of all lovable cute fuzzies. Very suitable to her new role I think (which I found out two weeks after camp).
  • Hannah Nguyen (Co-President of Cal State San Bernardino) would call me out every time I messed up on keeping an eye out for our family flag. One time I forgot it at the picnic table and Hannah was no-nonsense and kept the flag for the rest of the weekend.

For those that went, you’re probably thinking ‘well that’s a bias recollection of memories. That’s all the people from Winter Phoenixes’ and you’d be right. Although I’ve learned so much about the region, I also learned about kindness, eagerness, and depth of character from the people I met at camp. However, my family had the most impact – they made their mark on me. Their passion for what they do, their courage for going beyond their comfort zones, and our bonding during the low points of camp were all inspirational for me. It reminds me that we have a unique community, one where we can bond in such short amounts of time and yet come from such different walks of life.

UVSA SoCal Leadership Camp – you’ve definitely accomplished what you set out to do. Thank you for showing me what camp is all about and gifting me with such a lovely family.

Much love,