UCLA is home to a wide array of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Located in Los Angeles, which is quite appropriately known as a multi-cultural melting pot, UCLA boasts a special claim to fame as one of the most diverse schools in the nation. Diversity is one of UCLA’s core values because it allows the school “to provide a broad, enriching educational experience that stimulates intellectual curiosity, creativity, productivity, and success,” according to Carlos V. Grijalva, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience & Associate Dean of UCLA’s Graduate Division. The UCLA Community Programs Office (CPO) is one of the first university cross-cultural and multi-cultural centers of its kind and has acted as a model for multi-cultural centers in other schools, including UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The passing of UCLA’s Diversity Requirement in 2015, which Chancellor Gene D. Block actively endorsed, was a triumphant nod to UCLA’s commitment to its diverse student body. It’s no wonder then that the UCLA community strives year-round to embrace diversity and the celebrate cultures.
One especially fun way in which UCLA students celebrate culture is by putting on large, flamboyant “culture nights” and “culture shows” throughout the year. In general, culture nights consist of a play, some kind of musical showcase, several dances, and maybe some spoken word. These shows are run by student organizations and are free for UCLA students and fairly cheap or free for non-UCLA guests. Despite being low-budget, these student organizations pull off many lively and thoughtful productions that showcase both traditional and contemporary aspects of their respective cultures in imaginative ways. Oftentimes, these shows deliver a message on a central theme, such as mental health, family, home, cultural stereotypes, friendships, and love.
While there are shows basically year-round, Spring appears to be the quarter of choice for culture nights. United Khmer Students (UKS) had a show on Saturday, April 8. The Turkish Culture Night was on Sunday, April 9. The Korean Culture Night was on Thursday, April 13, and the Pakistani Student Association’s Culture Show was Sunday, April 16. In addition, ethnic cultures are not the only ones celebrated by UCLA student groups. Other diverse communities also put on shows, such as the Queer Culture Night, which was hosted by the Queer Alliance at UCLA on Thursday, April 13.
Some shows to look forward to in the upcoming days are the Taiwanese Culture Night on Saturday, April 29, the Lebanese Social Club’s Culture Show on Sunday, April 30, the Chinese American Culture Night on Saturday, May 13, and the Samahang Pilipino Culture Night on Saturday, May 27. Most of the shows are produced by UCLA students while some are made in collaboration with student groups at other schools.
The biggest and most popular culture nights are undoubtedly the Vietnamese Culture Night (VCN), the Chinese American Culture Night (CACN), the Korean Culture Night (KCN), the Samahang Pilipino Culture Night (SPCN), the Indian Student Association Culture Night (ISACN), and the Nikkei Student Union Culture Night (NSUCN). One reason for their popularity may be the relatively large population of Asian American and South Asian students in UCLA. On these nights, a huge crowd shows up to fill the theatre in UCLA’s iconic Royce Hall which can seat over 1800 people.
My first culture night experience was last year’s Vietnamese Culture Night. It was a heartbreaking play on the theme of mental health and depression. I cried twice. Since then, I have attended the Malaysian & Polynesian Culture Night, the Samahang Pilipino Culture Night, the United Khmer Students Culture Night, and most recently, the Korean Culture Night.
Culture nights at UCLA are an invaluable experience and a great opportunity to release stress while learning something new about another culture — all for free! Some are dramatic tearjerkers while others are absolutely laughter-inducing adventures. Keep a lookout and don’t miss out on these free fun* shows at UCLA!
*While tickets are free, students must still pick up tickets from the UCLA Central Ticket Office during specified times in order to attend, or wait in the standby line before the event starts. Non-UCLA guests may place a will-call reservation through the respective Facebook event page or ask their UCLA friend.