Alumni Spotlight - Evan Port

Alumni Evan Port pursues multiple career paths in China

by Mia Marchiori

As many as 80% of college students switch their majors at least once during their college years, including alumni Evan Port.

Port received his diploma for Linguistics and International Studies with a focus in East Asian studies on May 15, 2015, at the University of Missouri. Sophomore year, Port evaluated his strengths and interest in language acquisition and switched his major from Journalism to Linguistics and International Studies. 

“Chinese was a big part of allowing me to focus on learning with an in-depth appreciation,” Port said. 

After graduation, Port moved home to Omaha, Nebraska. Unsure of his next steps, Port worked as a nighttime security guard. Working nights, Port had plenty of free time during the day. 

Once again, Port evaluated his strengths and found a way to capitalize on his other talent: drawing. 

In 2018, a friend of Port who worked in Shanghai, China (and whom Port later married), passed along his artwork to a celebrity there who was impressed enough with Port’s work to fly him to China and employ him in helping to design a new app he was developing.

Port worked freelance for the next two years in China until the pandemic hit. 

It was the year of the rat. China’s Spring Festival was approaching, but no one was celebrating, Port said. There was news of a spreading novel virus. Afraid of the country locking down, Port travelled to Japan for two weeks. He wanted to continue to live in China, so he obtained a work visa and reentered the country. 

Port landed a stable job as an English teacher in China. He attributes his success in interviews to being adequate in speaking another language. 

“A language can open up opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available. If you want to go out into the rest of the world, a language can unlock new experiences.”

As an undergraduate, Port minored in Chinese and is appreciative of the Chinese courses he took with Michael Volz.  He is also thankful for the training in Linguistics from Professors Michael Marlow and Matthew Gordon.  He particularly remembers a Linguistics course on syntax, which vastly improved his ability to speak not just Chinese but pick up other languages as well. 

Currently, Port is working on applying to master’s programs to research improving methods of language acquisition. 

“Being able to improve on the method of language acquisition could allow for more cultural appreciation and ultimately lead to a more peaceful world.”