Ruiyan Wang

While kayaking and roasting marshmallows on a campfire are difficult experiences to transpose to Zoom, the Asian American Cultural Center will attempt to cultivate the same meaningful conversations and connections that usually occur at their annual Asian Retreat online.

This year, the retreat will be held virtually from Oct. 1 through Oct. 4. While the traditional three-day retreat has included many outdoor activities, the AACC has chosen to adapt the event to an online format due to the ongoing pandemic. Center Director Joliana Yee noted the current challenges that are reflected in this decision in a start-of-the-year welcome email.

“These last few months have been challenging in more ways than one and I think it’s safe to say that these challenges will not dissipate with the start of a new semester,” she wrote.

Yee also gave the assurance that the AACC will “continue to create space for community (un)learning, unpacking, healing, transforming and thinking in critical, expansive ways about race.”

The retreat works toward these goals by exploring shared histories, celebrating communities and collectively building knowledge around ways to challenge social inequities.

As is tradition, the AACC invites Yale undergraduates and graduate students who trace their heritage to Asia and the Asian diaspora to apply, especially encouraging those in underrepresented groups to take part in the retreat.

The AACC began running the retreat in 2018, and 2020 marks its third ever and first virtual retreat. Perry Wang ’22, a peer liaison for the AACC, reflected, “Surface level, this year’s retreat is going to be completely virtual. In past years, we’ve gone off campus to nearby areas. We’ve also stayed overnight in those locations which allowed us to participate in a full day’s worth of activities and programming.”

He noted that connecting virtually will be an interesting challenge, given that most of the retreat activities in the past are physical, such as relay races, group exercises, playing board games or eating meals together.

“My favorite moments of the AACC retreat were kayaking on the lake and sitting around the campfire at night” said Cam Do ’21, who attended the retreat last year.

Other activities included team-building balance beam walks and hikes through the woods. Still, she expressed hope that meaningful experiences will still be had virtually.

“Though we will not be able to recreate these activities online, I am confident the retreat this year will still be a success as it remains a space to share stories related to our Asian identity and foster a close-knit community among the students attending,” she said.

Wang has a similar vision for this year’s retreat. He cited his confidence in AACC leadership, which he said has “prepared and adapted” for the online experience.

The retreat is one of many events that will be and have been held virtually by the AACC, whose physical building is closed for the foreseeable future.

In her email, Yee called attention to the retreat and also highlighted a “Welcome Back” event series occurring throughout September.

“It is my hope you will see that the AACC community extends far beyond the geographical boundaries of our building and that students like yourself are truly the heart of it all,” she wrote.

The AACC will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2021.

Brooke Alviar |