By Luke Gair
This August, Sewanee welcomed a new themed residence meant to foster an appreciation and understanding of Asian language and culture. At a predominantly white institution, it feels imperative to bring new narratives into the public view of the campus community. Eddie Chan (C’20) said the house “provides a nice and comfortable environment for us to plan and organize events that promote Asian cultures and languages on campus.”
In its first semester of existence, the Asian Language and Culture House (ALC) has already seen its hard work reflected on campus. Chan highlighted an event that created an environment in which Asian freshmen could feel comfortable enough to “mingle and interact with other students on campus and get to know the Sewanee community better, one person at a time.”
In his own freshman year experience, Chan recalls how difficult it was to get acquainted with a community so new to him. “I noticed that the Asian community, and more specifically the freshmen, were quite disconnected from the social scene and found it slightly difficult to fit into the community,” he noted, chronicling how difficult it can be to adjust to a country and culture that is starkly different.
Julia Mackinnon (C’20) emphasized how the ALC hopes to “broaden one’s perspective of Asian culture as not just being from a foreign location with different practices,” but how it is something people can can take an interest in and learn “how beautifully different they are.”
The idea of having a literal space where students can go and use as one for both learning and relaxation is integral to the development of student inclusivity on campus both in and outside of the classroom.
Chan added how ALC additionally serves as a space for students to plan events that “promote Asian cultures and languages on campus. Although it can’t accommodate too many, it is a cosy space to go invite as many as we can to get a taste of our different cultures through food and conversation in different languages…we hope to be able to represent these different cultures and show the Sewanee community the good that we have to offer.”
Molly Montgomery (C’21) hopes that the growth of the theme house will correlate with the growth of the Asian studies program on campus. Montgomery stressed the importance of the Japanese and Chinese languages, mentioning how the CIA deems Chinese a critical language, and Japanese is an important language to know for business endeavors.
Mackinnon acknowledges that Asian students are certainly a minority on campus, which often makes it difficult to have their voices be heard. Because of this, she said, “it may be difficult for the community here to be able to know of people like us. We want people to join us in appreciating these underrepresented cultures and relating to our love for them.”