White Asian Studies Major Claims Chinese Girlfriend as Immersion Project
By Elliot Boualaphanh
In a shocking move, the Office of Experiential Learning and Immersion Vanderbilt has recently granted Asian Studies major Seth Niklover permission to use his Chinese girlfriend, Mei Ling, as the subject of his immersion project. This move has left many stunned, wondering if the Immersion Office is setting a new standard of higher education, or if they are taking diversity, equity and inclusion a little too far.
Niklover, who discovered his love of Chinese culture from watching Marvel’s Shang Chi and eating authentic Chinese takeout from Panda Express, claims that he is on a noble quest to understand Chinese culture in a daring way that no other white person has done before. His project will dive deep into the many ways his relationship with Ling has changed his outlook on life, from her ability to eat spicy foods without looking like a tomato to her skills at the Mahjong table.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Chinese culture,” Niklover declared. “How can I not? It’s so exotic. I mean I’ve seen all the Kung Fu Panda movies like three times and Mei’s aunt even gave me a red envelope when I visited, which I’m told is a sign of great respect. I’m basically a part of the family!”
The university’s decision has been controversial to say the least. Many claim that it is encouraging cultural appropriation by rewarding multicultural relationships with graduation credit. Others say that reducing a whole person into a school project is demeaning and objectifying. In contrast, proponents of this decision cite the immediate increase in the declaration of Latin, Spanish and African American Studies majors among other internationally focused programs. These programs have never before been so popular.
Critics are further concerned with the extent to which Niklover truly understands Ling’s culture. Rest assured, the two attend a yoga class every Wednesday and get bubble tea on the weekends. He’s even considering getting a tattoo in Mandarin as a sign of his enduring commitment to his relationship that he swears is a meaningful phrase and definitely not some string of gibberish he got from Google Translate. Hopefully, his increasing interest in Chinese urbanism can disguise his (alleged) yellow fever.
The Immersion Office further defends their decision by emphasizing the importance of “innovative research methodologies” and “cross-cultural immersion.” He’s finding the answers to questions that have stumped us for a long time like “Why do people take their shoes off at the front door?” and “How do you actually pronounce Nguyen?” The office holds that Niklover’s project is forging new ground in the field of understanding the complexities of cross-cultural pollination.
This decision opens the door to more radical decisions in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion in the future. Will Vandy dining finally serve good international food? Will Diermeier step down for a non-white chancellor? Will they start playing K-pop in Rand? Only time will tell. In the meantime, Niklover’s going to learn the secret of cooking perfect rice and how to properly use chopsticks without getting a splinter.