I have a friend who loved, loved, LOVED the Hispanic Studies program. Rice's Spanish department is really solid and this let him work a summer in Mexico, a summer in Chile, and a semester in Argentina. After graduating, he's in Costa Rica on a Zeff Fellowship. Costa Rica would be a great place to go abroad to work both language skills and environmental work!
Rice's Japanese and Chinese programs are also good - I have four recent grad friends who are either on fellowships or teaching English in those locations right now. The Arabic program is small but intense, and it's been the gateway to some tremendous opportunities for students who dedicate themselves to it. My boyfriend (again, just graduated) was a physics/policy studies double major interested in environmental policy; with Arabic, he's on a year-long fellowship in Cairo working on energy use and crop strategy with AUC's Desert Development Program. I've also had friends who took up Russian and German and heavily praised both of those programs.
I imagine it would be very, very hard to take on more than one complex langauge (ex. Chinese and Arabic), but with an environmental studies major your friend's son could certainly do, say, Arabic and Spanish. Getting involved with the Baker Institute could provide him with a great background to work in diplomatic translating. Rice's programming in the languages is good, but what they allow you to *do* with those language skills is what makes the programs great.
Last edited by silentsailor; 09-25-2012 at 04:59 PM.