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Intercultural Communication

Service Learning Paper

Submitted by:

Gage Bradley

April 28, 2018

Submitted to:

Tamra K. Phillips, M.S.

COMM 2150-400

Department of Communication

Salt Lake Community College
Community Partner: For my service learning project, I volunteered at the Vietnamese

Community of Utah at their New Year festival and at the Miss Vietnam pageant. Their contact

information is below.

Tina Le
Vietnamese Community of Utah
Service Learning Proposal
Utah Cultural Celebration Center
1355 W 3100 S.
(801)979-2807
TinaLe006@gmail.com
Project:

In my project, I helped the Vietnamese Community of Utah by volunteering during their

Vietnamese New Year celebration; I also helped with the Miss Vietnam Utah pageant. These

events were held at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. This project helped me learn about the

Vietnamese culture a lot more into depth. The event was happening during the time when this

project was given, therefore I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take and to learn about

their culture

Salena Pham was the title holder for Miss Vietnam Utah at the moment, and she was the

one that was in charge of all of the volunteers. Although, I was assigned to follow Tina because

she was there during the hours that I was there. Tina has showed me the different traditions from

lighting up firecrackers to learning what the Vietnamese cultural dress looks like. There were a

lot of older people that are a part of the Vietnamese Community of Utah and a lot of younger

people as well. The older people were born in Vietnam and came over here and continued to

represent their country in the state of Utah.
Culture Group:

The main cultural group that I worked with was the Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese

culture is a culture that respects their elders and ancestors; more than any culture that I’ve seen

before. Their celebrations are one of the biggest things in their culture. I was luckily able to

experience what their new year’s looks like.

There are many components that go into their culture. For Vietnamese New Year, they

begin their celebration by having a huge altar on the stage at first. This altar has a lot of fresh

fruits and food as a sign of respect for their ancestors. The first people that they recognize during

this celebration are their ancestors. They pray to their ancestors in order to give them good luck

throughout the new year.

Afterwards, the fun begins. They begin to light up firecrackers and the dragon/lion

dancers come out. During all of this, there are drums playing; to be honest I was surprised with

how much was going on. They do this in order to scare the bad spirits away for the new year. As

the dragons dance; the audience put these lucky red envelopes filled with money into the

dragon’s mouth.

Speaking of lucky red envelopes, this is something that is one of the main traditions

during Vietnamese New Year. These lucky red envelopes are filled with money by the elders and

given to the young. This is called, “lucky money.” Tina told me that when she was little, she

would get so many red envelopes that she would get at least $200 every year. She also told me

that the two-dollar bills are the luckiest; they’re even luckier if they’re new and crisp.

The Vietnamese Community of Utah holds a “Miss Vietnam Utah” pageant every two

years. The title holder is one of the main people that represent the Vietnamese people in Utah.
They volunteer at different events in Utah and helps out the community in any way that they can.

This is where I was taught what their traditional dress looks like. Their traditional dress--called

an ao dai-- looks like a really long fitted shirt with slits on each side with nice designs on them.

They also wear silky pants underneath; some of them also wore a headpiece along with their ao

dai. They usually wear this dress on special occasions such as New Year’s, the Moon Festival,

and weddings. Guys also wear this, but it’s getting less common as time goes on. Overall, the

Vietnamese Community of Utah wants to be able to share their culture with others while keeping

their culture strong.

Challenges:

One of the biggest challenges for me was communication. There were a lot of older

people in the Vietnamese Community of Utah and they don’t really speak english. Some of them

were able to speak but it was still broken; this made it a lot harder understand what they needed

help with. Luckily, there were a lot of younger people there too so that they were able to translate

for me.

Another challenge for me was seeing how new all of this was to me. The Vietnamese

culture is extremely different from the American culture. This made it hard for me to know

where exactly to set things up and how to set things up. Something that I struggled with was

helping set up the altar. I’ve never set up an altar and so I didn’t exactly know what to put on it. I

also didn’t necessarily know what it was for; but asking questions was something that helped me

a lot.

Another challenge was all of the stares that I got which was a little uncomfortable. I am a

really tall white male; something that they are not used to seeing. They are used to seeing
someone that’s short. They typically are about 5’6-5’8. Me on the other hand, I am 6’4. I got a

lot of stares because I guess they weren’t used to seeing people like that. But they thought I was

really useful because I was able to hang up the firecrackers without using a ladder.

Theory:

The intercultural communication theory that I was able to apply to the Vietnamese

culture is Hofstede's--The Cultural Environment Theory, High-Long Term Orientation. Within

this theory, it indicates how a country prescribes to the values of commitment and respect for

tradition. According to Shawn Grimsley on Study.com, he states that long-term orientation is

when you are more focused on your future rather than short-term things. Therefore, you are more

willing to delay short-term things in order to prepare for you future.

Analyze:

I saw this a lot in the Vietnamese community. They respect their future and their elders a

lot. They are willing to sacrifice a lot for a better future. A lot of the older people in this

community came from Vietnam to the United States for a better life; and a better life for their

children. Tina told me that they respect their elders like no other. The reason being is that their

families came across the country with nothing on their backs, for them. They dropped everything

that they had and risked their lives in order to live a better life. In addition, they were raised to

respect anyone that is older than them. Tina said that she has never talked back to her parents,

teachers, and bosses because of the way she was raised. A downside to this is that she isn’t able

to stick up for herself because she was raised knowing that it was disrespectful.

Another thing that they are big on is education. Education and going to college isn’t even

an option; it’s considered an expectation. They expect this because their parents dropped
everything that they had in order to have a better life in the United States. They knew that the

key to success was education; the United States was able to provide this to them and their kids.

The elders always want better for the young, and they want them to have an easier life.

Therefore, education is highly important in their culture. Their elders and looking into the future

and willing to sacrifice all of the short-term things in order to achieve this.

Reflection:

When I was introduced to this project at the beginning of the semester, I was honestly

really worried if I was going to even find a different culture to do my project on. But luckily I

knew Tina and she’s a part of the Vietnamese Community of Utah. As I was doing my project, I

was able to learn a lot about their culture and how they interact.

My attitude towards learning about the Vietnamese culture was a little negative; I was

naive. But, this was because of the predisposition of what I thought about them. I was not

interested in their culture at all because I thought they were really judgemental; especially from

the stares that I’ve gotten if I see them at the store or something. But, as I got to learn their

culture a lot better, I now understand how they do things and why they think a certain way. I

mean, I wouldn’t be able to just leave everything and go to a different country with nothing on

my back; not to mention that they didn’t even know any english whatsoever. It was really brave

of them and I see where respect comes into play.

The application of the theory helped me understand how they are. They are really driven

people and really focus on the future. They are willing to delay a lot of short-term things in order

to prepare for the future.
My definition of civic engagement at the beginning of the semester was just basically

helping out another culture with something that they need. But, my definition of this has grown a

lot. I also want to add that civic engagement means a lot more than just helping another culture;

it’s about learning their culture and respecting their views. It’s about learning their different

views in order to widen your own.

The contribution that I made to the community through participation was really

humbling. I was able to help represent the Vietnamese Community of Utah, in Utah. I was able

to help others understand their culture and widen their views as well. They are also a relatively

large community and they are all really close together. The service that I contributed really

benefited me because it expanded my mind. It helped me become less closed-minded and more

humble. It was also really interesting to learn all of the different things they do and how they

celebrate.

The organization benefited from my service because I gave them a helping hand. I was

able to help hang up firecrackers because of how tall I was. They also learned a lot from the

American culture. As I learned about their culture, I educated them about my culture as well. We

both really respect each other's cultures and it gave each of us an open-eye.

I am able to incorporated what I have learned in my future because I am a lot more open-

minded. I am able to educate others about the Vietnamese culture. I have also created new

connections with some of the people there who might be able to benefit me in the future. This

project taught me to not judge a culture until you understand where they come from and why

they do things in a certain way. It was an extremely humbling experience overall.
References

Phillips, T.K. (2011). Intercultural Communication Course Packet.

(n.d.). Retrieved from

https://study.com/academy/lesson/long-term-orientation-vs-short-term-orientation-

hofstedes-definition-lesson-quiz.html
Tina Le

Vietnamese Community of Utah

Service Learning Proposal

Utah Cultural Celebration Center

1355 W 3100 S.

(801)979-2807

TinaLe006@gmail.com

Project plan

I will be helping the Vietnamese Community of Utah to get ready for Vietnamese New year and

the Miss Vietnam Pageant. I will be working specifically with one of the Vietnamese

Community of Utah members, Tina Le. Salena Pham is Miss Vietnam Utah, and she is the one in
charge of everything. But, for this project I have worked closely with Tina Le. I will be with

Tina on February 2nd, from 10am-3pm to set up for Vietnamese New Year. I will also be

volunteering on February 3rd, from 4pm-9pm for the actual Vietnamese New Year event.

Another day that I will be volunteering is on February 10th from 10am-3pm for the actual Miss

Vietnam Utah pageant. I have already started volunteering on February 2nd and 3rd and I have

already completed 10 hours.

Civic Engagement

The Vietnamese Community of Utah was in a need for volunteers this year since they were

expecting a large crowd. Therefore, I gave my helping-hand and I learned some of their culture

as well.

Personal Culture

I am a 20 year old white male that is a full-time student and a part-time worker. I’m a

communication student at SLCC that is planning on transferring to Utah Valley University. I was

born and raised in Salt Lake City my whole life. I consider myself to be open-minded and always

open to learning and exploring other cultures.

Cultural Groups

I anticipate to work with Tina Le, who is a contestant in the Miss Vietnam Utah pageant this

year. Tina has introduced me to the Vietnamese culture and the community that is in Utah. This

was also a perfect time for me to learn a lot about their culture since they are celebrating

Vietnamese New Year. Tina told me the times and dates that they needed people, therefore I

opened my schedule in order for me to help.

Challenges
The biggest challenge I have is trying to help the older members of the Vietnamese Community

of Utah. Most of these members were born and raised in Vietnam; making them have really

broken English and only speak Vietnamese. It might be a little hard for me to help them when I

can’t understand what they need help with.

Benefits

I think that this project will be really interesting as I am learning and engaging in a whole

different culture. I also get to benefit them by giving a helping hand when they need it. I am

looking forward to talking to Tina about her culture and how their culture celebrates things. The

biggest benefit is that I am doing this project right when Vietnamese New Year is going on;

which is one of their biggest celebrations.

Communication 2150
Service Learning Field Notes Log

Date Time Description

2/2/18 5 Hours

1st Hour ● When i first arrived at the utah cultural center Tina introduced
me to the people in charge.
● I was sent over to the other men who were planning out the
schedule for the day of New Years. They were planning out
what times that each event should happen. I put my input in
and they liked some of the ideas that I gave them.

2nd Hour ● They then sent me to the girls that were in charge of the
pageant that was happening on 2/10/18. They were also
planning out their schedule and where and what time each
event should happen at. At first, they wanted to do the talent
portion first and then the evening gown and traditional dress
portion. But then I made a comment about how the girls
probably wouldn’t look their best after talent because some of
them were going to do a dance. So then I put my input that it
should be done last so that they look their best during the
evening gown and traditional dress portion. They all agreed
and thought it was a good idea.

3rd Hour ● They then wanted me to help them pick out what kinds of
traditional dresses should be in the pageant. I was taught that
in Vietnam, the traditional dress is called an ao dai. The ao dai
looks like a really long fitted shirt with slits on the side. Then,
they wear silky pants underneath. They also sometimes wear a
headpiece with it. They usually wear ao dai’s for special
events like New Year’s, the moon festival, or weddings.

4th Hour ● After I was done helping plan out everything, they sent me
over to all of the guys that were helping out. All of these guys
were setting up the firecrackers so that it was ready to be lit
during the celebration. I was taught that the firecrackers is an
important part of the celebration because it scares away the
bad spirits for the new year. It took quite a few people to hang
them up because there were a lot.

5th Hour ● I then helped get all of the dragon costumes ready to go. I
helped clean the costumes up a little and making sure that all
of the pieces were there and intact. During Vietnamese New
Year, they also have a traditional dragon/lion dance to help
scare away the bad spirits as well. Something that I learned is
that people feed these dragon’s lucky money so that it brings
you back good luck. I also got to see some of the tricks that
they do while they were practicing.

2/3/18 5 Hours

1st Hour ● 4pm comes around and I have just arrived. I met up with Tina
and she suggested that I help put up some tables and such. So
I started to set up tables and chairs so that people can sell food
and such.

2nd Hour ● At around 5pm, they were in a hurry to get together the lucky
money for the event and so I decided to jump in and help.
They forgot to get it prepared beforehand. The Vietnamese
Community of Utah doesn’t have a lot of money to give out,
and so we put 1 quarter in each red envelope to get ready to
give them to the little kids.I learned that during Vietnamese
New Year, the adults are supposed to give the little kids
money in these red envelopes that represent good luck for the
new year.

3rd Hour ● They needed an altar put up for a beginning prayer before the
celebration starts. On the altar, you put fresh fruits and food.
This gives respect to those who have passed and it welcome’s
in the new year. During this hour, I was helping put up the
altar and putting a lot of food all over it.

4th Hour ● The celebration then begins and it starts off with the prayer.
There are 3 guys who are dressed in a special costume and
started to pray. I learned that they do this prayer in the
beginning to pay their respects to their ancestors. Vietnamese
prayer is different; it almost sounds like they are singing
something. After that, that’s when the firecrackers get to go
off. I helped light the firecrackers go off and then the dragon
dancers start to come out. There are loud drums and I also got
to help playing the symbols because they were missing a
person. It was honestly a really great experience to be there.

5th Hour ● Towards the end, there was a lot of firecracker parts all over
the floor and so I helped clean that up. I also helped put away
the tables and chairs. I also helped make sure that everything
was clean and ready to go for the pageant on 2/10/18.

2/10/18 5 Hours

1st Hour ● I came in at 10am and I met up with Tina and Salena Pham.
Salena Pham was Miss Vietnam at the moment and I asked
her what I could do. She asked me to put up tables and chairs
and so I helped set that up.

2nd Hour ● People started to walk in and I was asked to stand by the door
and pass out flyers and handouts of the pageant event. I also
helped with making sure that the music and microphone was
working properly.

3rd Hour ● I was one of the backstage guys throughout the pageant. I
made sure that each girl was ready when they cued me to play
their music. I did this for about one hour and then I was taken
somewhere else to help.

4th Hour ● I was then asked to help pass out food for the audience and the
girls backstage so that they weren’t starving. I also asked
Salena what the point of the pageant was. She told me that the
point was is to represent the Vietnamese Community of Utah.
They do a lot of volunteer work and they try to help out their
community as much as possible. They also hold that
responsibility for 2 years.

5th Hour ● The pageant was ending and the winner was announced. The
winner this year is Christine Hoang. There was confetti
everywhere and people taking pictures. A lot was going on.
After everyone started to wind down, I then helped put away
the tables and chairs, and all of the confetti on the ground. It
was a cool experience to be a part of.