By Narayan Kulkarni, Conference Chair 2013-2014

A ray of warm, lemon-yellow sunlight caressed my face, arousing me from a restful night at the Reitz Union Hotel. It was Friday, the first day of ECAASU. Excited for my day of relaxation until Opening Ceremony, I frolicked out of the hotel.

Within minutes, I arrived at the Institute of Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Affairs. Hours passed as I explored the two floors that comprised the institute, marveling at its many amenities including study space, dance rooms, and indoor gardens. Equally intriguing was the Archives room, containing memorabilia including articles about UF’s Asian American studies major, posters of numerous Asian American Student Government presidents, and dozens of on-campus Asian American resources.

But I most enjoyed conversing with the dozens of lively, passionate, and motivated Asian Americans who frequented the institute. I yearned to explore more, but my stomach urged me to eat.

Soon later, I arrived at Lollicup, now the cornerstone of one of Gainesville’s many nationally-renowned Asian American commercial complexes. Grabbing a taro milk tea and an appetizer, I enjoyed my food while perusing a local Asian American newspaper filled with all kinds of news, TV programs, internships, and community outreach opportunities specific to the Asian American community, as local Asian American music filled my ears.

Hours later, I sat in the Reitz Grand Ballroom in anticipation of Opening Ceremony. Celebrating UF’s second time co-hosting ECAASU, the program featured a captivating array of entertainers and speeches. The keynote speaker, Melody Lam, inspired attendees to develop professionally and build coalitions of Asian American students all across the East Coast.

Immediately after Opening Ceremony, I spoke and reconnected with Melody and hundreds of other familiar faces who I had met since my first ECAASU in 2013. Our conversations began and ended with a warm embrace, filled in the middle with ECAASU memories and catching up.

Eventually I returned in my hotel room and fell soundly asleep…

…only for my alarm clock to abruptly wake me up. It was now Monday February 24th, the day after ECAASU 2014.

Reality splashed like a wave of cold water across my face: I wasn’t a forty-year old professional living in 2035, but a sophomore pre-medical student living in 2014.

My emotions fluctuated as I mentally juxtaposed my surroundings with those in my dream. First was a scintilla of dismay, seeing the lack of Asian American resources in 2014. Next came a wave of nostalgia as I reflected upon experiences and friends made from my past two ECAASUs.

But finally I felt a surge of hope, recalling Melody’s words and recognizing that both the students of 2014 and 2035 had similarly optimistic, far-reaching visions of progress, similar amounts of caring and apathy, similar desires to coalition-build and develop.

Yet the students of 2035 acted more upon their similarities, confirmed more through the passage of time.

And for UF’s Asian American community, we’ve only had twenty-one years.

We’ve come a long way from 1993, when AASU was created. In twenty-one years, we’ve acted upon our similarities to build a wonderful organization. From the Asian American studies minor, to the APIA Director position, to AKM, to the sub-orgs and countless more accomplishments…

…we’ve come amazingly far in twenty-one years.

Who knows where we’ll be in another twenty-one.