Asian Students Association Hosts Expo Showcase


Courtesy of @novaafig on Instagram

Villanova students enjoy the ASA Expo on Saturday night.

Brendan King, Staff Writer

When was the last time Mario, Luigi, Link and Kirby were seen in the Connelly Center?

Villanova’s Asian Students Association (ASA) held its annual Expo Showcase in the Villanova Room on Saturday, February 4th. This was ASA’s second Expo since the COVID-19 pandemic, with the last one taking place in February 2022. Featuring performances from various organizations across the University, it was a night full of singing, dancing, humor and education. 

Expo Showcase 2023 was organized by ASA’s executive board, consisting entirely of Villanova students. The board features President Megan Tsou, Vice President Alice Wu, Treasurer Kyle Lee, Secretary Matthew Park, Expo Chairs Gilbert Cai and Kaylee Pak, Public Relations Chair Adrianna Reilly, Events Coordinator Justin Wong and Freshman Representatives Vinnie Lin and Tyler Yang. 

With the Expo taking place at the beginning of the spring semester, Wu, a Villanova junior who is also a member of Villanova Club Taekwondo, described how ASA’s board members communicated often with one another since November to organize the event. The team held multiple meetings, both in person and over the phone. Some meetings even took place over winter break in order to put all of the logistics in place. 

“We’re in constant contact with each other, over text or over call, just to make sure that everyone’s in the loop for everything,” Wu said. 

According to Wu, JJ Brown from the Office of Student Involvement also played a large role in coordinating the event. 

“He’s the one who helps us talk to catering, talk to tech crew [and] talk to Connelly to have the whole event set up,” Wu said. 

The overall theme for this year’s Expo was Nintendo. Attendees saw the Villanova Room decorated with characters from some of their favorite video games and heard theme songs from Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and more. The centerpiece of the Villanova Room, however, was a large-scale recreation of a Nintendo Switch, complete with items and symbols from popular Nintendo games. Wu described how the idea to theme Expo around Nintendo came from wanting to pay tribute to Asian culture while being able to “bring everyone in Villanova together.” 

“We wanted to encompass a theme that our Asian culture is kind of big on and that we take pride in,” Wu said. “Honestly, our countries are really good with technology and games and Nintendo being one of the biggest game franchises out there, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”

The event began with an introduction by co-hosts Aaliyah Abdelhadi and Jasmine Thebaud, two Villanova sophomores who are also members of Villanova’s Japanese Language Program. To fit with the Nintendo theme, Abdelhadi and Thebaud were dressed as Luigi and Mario, respectively. They practiced for approximately three weeks in order to prepare for their hosting duties. 

“We tried to make sure to practice at least a scene each day just so that we could have it memorized,” Thebaud said. 

While Abdelhadi and Thebaud wrote all of their dialogue together, there were also moments in which they improvised onstage. 

“We improvised a lot of stuff while we were there, like, in the heat of the moment,” Abdelhadi said. 

The first half began with a performance of the National Anthem by Sadia Castro, a member of Villanova’s Filipino American Students Association. What followed were performances by the Vietnamese Student Association, the Japanese Language Program, the Filipino American Student Association, the Chinese Language Program, the Main Line Chinese Culture Center, Chinese Language Program member Yuanyuan Cheng, Ablaze and Superlative. 

Moroti Adewole, a Villanova senior and member of Ablaze, explained how the dance team performed many different types of music for the first time during its debut appearance at Expo. 

“We expanded the realm of music that we usually dance to,” Adewole said. “We danced to K-pop music, which we haven’t done before, so that was really fun. We try to mix up a lot of different types of music in this performance to keep the energy up. It was fun.”

During the intermission, performers and attendees were offered complementary dinner from both Jin Ding and Little Basil Asian Kitchen, as well as the chance to play rounds of Mario Kart on the Villanova Room’s projector screens. These rounds soon turned competitive, however, as the second half of Expo began with four Villanova students selected from the audience playing each other bracket-style for a chance to win a Nintendo gift card. 

Also in the second half were performances by Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority, Inc, Villanova Club Taekwondo and ASA. Audience members also had the opportunity to participate, as some volunteered to be interviewed by Abdelhadi and Thebaud. 

Isabella Riitano, a Villanova junior, serves as the president of Villanova Club Taekwondo. This is her second year being a member of this entirely student-run organization. 

“Our main mission is to teach members about Taekwondo and help them to understand the background behind it,” Riitano said. “We want to help students to learn Taekwondo and to advance while making friends and building confidence. Overall, we want to create an environment where students feel comfortable to learn and grow.” 

Audience members may have noticed members of Villanova Club Taekwondo wearing different colored belts. These indicate each member’s rank, which is tested for and earned at the end of each semester. 

“Testing involves sparring, forms, general fitness, knowledge of the sport, some Korean terms, and a general respectful and hard-working attitude,” Riitano said. “The final part of the test involves breaking a board with some sort of hard break as well as a kick depending on the level of the rank they are testing for.” 

Expo’s finale consisted of a fashion show in which students from the various organizations displayed traditional clothing from China, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan. Students modeling the outfits also displayed the flags of each country they were representing. Each model was met with applause and enthusiasm from the audience, bringing the 2023 Expo Showcase to a well-received close. 

Overall, Wu, Abdelhadi, Thebaud, Adewole and Riitano felt that Expo was a success. Wu hoped that this event made Villanova students more aware of the various Asian organizations on campus, and that students do not have to be of Asian heritage to get involved. 

“There’s just a lot of destigmatizing the Asian community,” Wu said. “Some of the performances don’t really gear towards Asian culture, but it’s a good way to get people interacting with Asian culture.”