Life Lessons Learned Through a Language Minor Help Carve New Pathways for Chemistry Alumnus

May 8, 2023
Brandon Bouchett in Japan

Future dentist reflects on what adding a Chinese minor taught him — beyond the language.

He initially took Chinese 101 with the simple goal of communicating better with his girlfriend and her family.

Alumnus Brandon Bouchett, who graduated in 2022 with a B.A. in chemistry and a minor in Chinese, demonstrates how something as simple as taking a language course can have remarkable and lasting results.

As he went through the introduction class, he “became mesmerized by the culture and history behind the language.” He credits his professor, Ruey-Jiuan Regina Wu, with facilitating a classroom environment that was entertaining and enjoyable yet still pushed students to become more confident speakers. His positive experience and piqued interest led him to pursue more Chinese classes, inevitably allowing him to establish a minor in Chinese.

“While not a degree requirement for him at the time, Brandon approached this subject with the very same level of conscientiousness and enthusiasm that he applied with his major courses.” Wu said. She believes his participation in Chinese 353: Language and Social Interaction in China, which aims to introduce students to communication norms and styles of the Chinese-speaking people through critical analysis of the Chinese modes of social interaction via readings, survey studies, and natural conversational data, is a cornerstone to his future success. 

“He quickly established himself as an intelligent young man,” Wu said. “Not only did Brandon’s work demonstrate his keen analytic skills and critical thinking ability, but the knowledge and sensitivity he acquired about communication styles in general, and among Chinese people particularly, I believe, will also serve him well as he pursues a career in dentistry." 

Bouchett was accepted to Columbia, Harvard, UCLA, and Penn, and chose to continue his education at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. In a thank-you letter to Professor Wu, he credits his unexpected path through the Chinese minor with teaching him invaluable lessons outside of just learning a language – lessons he will carry throughout the rest of his life. 

“Since I planned to pursue dentistry after my undergraduate degree, I figured that Chinese would just be something I was passionate about. I have since realized that I have learned so many lessons that have become imperative throughout my pursuit of becoming a dentist.” 

He believes his choice to pursue a minor in a different language allows him to succeed in a challenging academic environment, as it pushed him to develop proficient study habits and a strong memory.

“Learning Chinese made me a more well-rounded and culturally aware individual which has opened my eyes to so many opportunities in life. Pursuing Chinese at SDSU has easily become one of the best experiences I had while completing my undergraduate studies. I would recommend to any student who is considering learning Chinese, to pursue it with an open mind and enjoy the journey. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I have.” Bouchett said.

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