Sometimes, it pays to try something different.
Since 2002, Arabic, Chinese and American Sign Language have become more popular than ever before as students have come to recognize their value in the job market.
Meanwhile, student enrollment in traditional language programs such as French and Spanish has remained steady.
In a recent report issued by the Modern Language Association, Spanish, French and German still top the list of most-popular foreign languages for university students, but Arabic enrollment has increased by 126.5 percent and Chinese has grown by 51 percent in the last five years.
French has only grown 2.2 percent and German 3.5 percent.
According to foreign language experts, these changes could be attributed to the increasing national attention to the politics and economics of the East.
In the past, eastern languages primarily attracted heritage students - those with cultural ties or interests to the region.
But according to Chinese professor Grace Wu, the increase in Chinese enrollments at Penn came from non-heritage student interest in China's growing economic and political power.
"Chinese is a critical language for national defense," said Chinese-program coordinator Mien-hwa Chiang, who added that China's political influences give the country more leverage in negotiations with Middle Eastern countries.
Penn's language program reflects this growing popularity of non-western languages. Since 2000, the Chinese department has witnessed a 66 percent increase from 300 to 500 students each semester.
"It can increase my job possibilities," said Wharton sophomore Aaron Wedlund, who is currently studying Chinese.
Arabic classes have also increased in popularity. In 2001, around 25 students were enrolled each semester in introductory Arabic classes, but the program now attracts around 100 students.
To avoid potential confrontations with the West and the Islamic world after Sept. 11, the Department of Education and the Department of Defense have awarded more fellowships in Arabic studies because it is the language of many Islamic countries.
"Sept. 11 has changed how cultures look at each other," said Roger Allen, Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature. "There's no way economically and politically that the Middle East is not relevant."
American Sign Language has also attracted students for career-related reasons.
In the MLA report, American Sign Language enrollment has increased by 29.7 percent since 2002.
Jami Fisher, Penn's ASL program coordinator, explained that students are becoming increasingly aware of the niche market for people who can sign.
Around 25 percent of ASL students are in Nursing, but Fisher added that for "businessmen and lawyers, having the ability to sign will attract deaf clients."