Why I Changed from a Civil Engineering Degree to a Chinese Language Business Degree

By Trevor Humble

A little background on the University of Idaho’s Modern Language Business degree…

You may or may not be aware that UIdaho offers a Modern Language Business degree, with this degree you can choose to study French, German, Japanese, Spanish or Chinese. The degree combines aspects of a business degree with your chosen language, including 16 to 19 lower division language courses, 21 upper division language courses, including 12 upper division courses done abroad.


How I got here…

While I was a Civil Engineering student, I decided to study abroad during my freshman year, and I was applying for a significant study abroad scholarship that favored students who wanted to study a critical need language. I had some experience with Spanish, but I ultimately decided to bolster my chances, and chose to study Chinese in Chengdu China.

I had spent three years between college and high school traveling and working abroad in Australia, South America, and Southeast Asia. So I considered myself a fairly experienced vagabond and thought studying in China would be a breeze. China quickly proved me wrong. There wasn’t a large foreign tourist infrastructure in Western China, meaning there wasn’t a lot of English in restaurants, at tourist attractions, and on public transportation, and my Chinese language skills were nonexistent. My Chinese classes were demanding and quickly became more than a full time job. In the end these two initially difficult experiences complimented each other, the hard classes made daily life in China easier, and Chengdu forced me to use my Chinese in real day to day situations.

All this became something I ended up really liking about China and Chinese, which is the challenge it presented. Western China in many ways is exactly where one would want to go on a vacation, there are countless incredible tourist destinations, the weather is mild and warm, and the food is out of this world. But without a large foreign tourist market, the cultural and language barrier was very apparent. With some degree of effort this trip, became the most rewarding travel experience I’ve had.

After returning to the US I continued studying civil engineering, I managed to maintain a 4.0 and mostly enjoyed my classes. But I was always trying to figure out ways to dedicate more time to Chinese. As I started moving deeper into my degree it got harder to fit Chinese classes into my schedule and I had less time to spend studying Chinese, it began to feel like my Chinese skills were stagnating.

One fateful afternoon I found an option on my online degree audit called “what if…” that allowed me to see my progress as a student, as if I was studying a different major. I checked out where I would be as a Modern Language and Business student, to my surprise I found I was closer to graduating with that degree than Civil Engineering. Within a few days I was meeting with an advisor, changing my degree and signing up for classes.

China as the longest continuous civilization, the largest country by population, and second largest economy, there is several life times of history, literature and culture to absorb. The language, like English has limitless vocabulary, with over 50,000 characters (don’t worry, you only need to learn 2500 characters to read a newspaper!). The cool thing about China and Chinese language is the more you learn about one, the more you understand the other. Chinese language and Chinese culture constantly reference each other through literature, idioms, and poetry.


Why I would recommend you study with us…

1.      You can study for free in China, we have tons of full ride scholarship programs to China for University of Idaho Confucius Institute students. When I say full ride I mean living stipend, tuition, free and arranged living situation in a dorm or a shared apartment, and health insurance!

2.      If you are willing to take a few language courses with us, you won’t be like me and can have a more fulfilling, and less stressful experience in China.

3.      For all the reasons I’ve listed above China is a very fascinating civilization, culture, and language.



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