From Brazil to China, the University of Utah is attracting students from all over the world. What attracts some students to the U is the Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) program. The university is ranked No. 6 by The Princeton Review for the “Top 50 Undergraduate Schools for Game Design” and No. 5 for the “Top 25 Graduate Schools for Game Design.” The program was originally an interdisciplinary emphasis between the College of Engineering as a Computer Science major and the College of Fine Arts in Film and Media. As of 2018, it has officially been separated into its own academic discipline.
At the age of 14, Daniel Melchert, from Brazil, informed his parents of wanting to become a game developer. They began saving right away. Before Melchert made the leap into attending college, he spent a month in England and another in California under an exchange study program that his high school English teacher ran. While in California, he came to visit the U campus before applying to the University of Utah. Melchert was grandfathered into the Film and Media Arts with the EAE emphasis that has recently been phased out. He’s only taken a few of the game design classes outside of generals during his sophomore year, but he looks forward to what comes next.
Within the state of Utah, the University of Utah is ranked as No. 1 of 13 for Colleges with the Best Professors and No. 1 of 11 for Best College Locations. These rankings are additional reasons that the students discussed have chosen the University of Utah beyond the EAE program. Some of the U’s instructors are unforgettable — Melchert mentions that his Entrepreneur 1010 professor made him interested in business while being “the best teacher [he’ll] ever probably have.”
Zen Shane Chia, a.k.a “Shane,” from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is also a sophomore who has taken a few courses within the game design program as well, outside of generals and computer science courses. He is currently taking an “Intro to Game Design” course, instructed by Ashley Brown. Brown has taught him how to really view video games from more of a designer aspect rather than as a typical game player. He is looking forward to what the rest of the EAE’s programs can teach him. While he has not yet chosen a game design emphasis, Chia is fond of programming.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, about 20 percent of the program’s students are from out of state while 40 percent of them are international. While universities like the U offer ample opportunity for international students, there is a concern for the students who want to either obtain a job while attending school or receive one after graduation. These are both worries for foreign exchange students like Melchert and Chia as the United States is an ideal place to remain.
The U.S. is full of career options for game designers and its predominant language is English, which is more useful in the industry than Japanese (Japan is another hub for gaming). As Chia put it, “Businesses are likely not to hire immigrants as the businesses have to pay for a working visa for the graduate” along with additional fees and possible additional foreign business restrictions. Moreover, the gaming field is quite competitive and uncertain, which is one reason why Chia had chosen to double major in EAE and computer science — so he’d have something to fall back on.
Chia was raised speaking English as his main language, meaning he is limited to English-speaking countries to find employment. He was also “slightly confused by the curriculum at first” as the classes to be taken in one’s major are spelled out for students in Malaysia. This confusion caused Chia to take all of his easy classes first which left him with only harder courses. To top it off, there are only two midterms and a final that counted towards a student’s grade in Malaysia. Homework that actually affects grades makes studies here much harder.
While Melchert speaks Portuguese as his native language, he learned English but has found it slightly difficult. Compared to Brazil, school in the U.S. is also different. Back home, classes were scheduled for students based on their chosen major. There is more freedom of class choice and schedule creation to a point in the U.S. which is different and nice according to both the students.
As far as the future goes, Chia is concerned with what exactly he will be able to contribute. He is adamant, however, that diversity is a pertinent part to the future of the game design field. Even if people disagree on everything, it’s better for the overall outcome to have those of different backgrounds and perspectives.
Come the summer semester, Melchert is looking forward to what the rest of the EAE program will bring. He is interested in the technical design focus out of the four emphases offered within the EAE program. He isn’t quite artistic nor does he know if he’ll be fond of programming. These are skills he plans to improve on while the technical design path will make him stand out.
Technical designers are a mix of gaming arts and programming and learn each side of what Melchert wants to lead to his “big dream” — directing and making his own games. Therefore, adding a minor in business may help him “open [up his] own company in games and start to develop [his] own games.” It may not happen right away, however, “life is crazy” and Melchert is optimistic about where it’ll lead him.
International students at the U come from all over, with a good portion of those who are international. It’s scary, new and comes with even more challenges than the average student may face on a daily basis.