Countries are becoming increasingly interdependent on a global scale. Thus, having an understanding for one another on an international level is essential. A degree in international studies provides a window for achieving this.
The focus of international studies is “to provide students with detailed information concerning the institutional and governmental framework of the international system as well as the individual states within it,” as defined by the department of government and international affairs’ Web site
“This is a major that focuses on the world outside the United States,” said Joan Newcomb, administrative coordinator of international studies. “It allows students to focus on a region or set of issues in international affairs and includes what is traditionally called international relations as well as area studies.”
According to the department’s Web site, students majoring in international studies take courses such as World Perspective, World Ideologies, and International Wealth and Power. Other courses offered within the curriculum include International Terrorism and ones focused on the Middle East, Russia, China and Japan.
The classes offered in this major teach students about more than just culture, Newcomb said.
“Students will learn about theoretical bases and research methods, as well as area study and topical study,” she said. “We emphasize an ability to analyze country and global issues.”
One way the international studies major stands apart from other majors is the required courses outside of the department that are applicable to the study.
“International studies allows one to take a wide variety of courses from other departments relating to subjects like history, religion, culture, language, literature and economics,” said Darell Slider, a professor in the department.
Slider has a background in political science and area studies. He studied the Soviet Union with a focus on the Cold War and lived there while working on his dissertation. He now focuses on Russian politics and society.
According to Slider, international studies is important because of how the changes in the global climate affect nations and their citizens.
“The degree provides an international focus that has always been important to U.S. interests,” Slider said. “Pieces of history such as the Cold War, (the) post-9/11 world and current economic globalization make having an international perspective vital to citizens, policymakers and businesses.”
Jillian Papa, a sophomore, thought international studies would broaden her perspective on the world.
“I chose international studies because I love studying about various cultures, religions and customs,” Papa said. “In grade school, they don’t teach enough about other countries’ history or even current events. There is a bigger picture to life, and it’s not just about how people relate to their communities. It is about understanding and relating to the world.”
Understanding and relating to the world is especially significant in the 21st century.
“Living in the age of globalization and interdependece, with the United States being the main superpower of the world, it is important for us to learn about different cultures and countries in the world,” said Mohsen Milan, the chair of the department of government and international affairs and interim director of public administration.
International studies majors have the opportunity to find jobs in many different areas and can choose from three different categories depending on their interests.
“The jobs for recent majors can be classified in several categories: government positions (local, federal or international), non-governmental agencies such as humanitarian organizations working with refugees, or international business in banking, trade and investment,” Newcomb said.
This does not mean jobs in these fields are easy to come by.
“Students have to work hard to find jobs,” Newcomb said. “International studies is similar to majoring in history or English. The jobs for students are out there, but they require time to find.”
According to Newcomb, students can take part in a few activities that will help to increase their chances of finding employment sooner.
“Internships and Study Abroad are both helpful to students in finding jobs,” she said. “They can also count as elective credits for majors and are encouraged, but not required.”
Recent graduates have found success in working for the government.
“Two examples of successful recent graduates are Mayra Calo, who is now an immigration attorney in Tampa, and Evelyn Hale, (a) congressional assistant to Rep. Jim Davis,” Newcomb said. “Also, Eric Adrien, who graduates this spring, has been awarded a Fullbright Teaching Assistantship to teach English in Germany next year.”
Current students have their own aspirations after graduation. Sophomore Stacy Dyhouse wants to earn a master’s degree and then head to China.
“I want to go to China to help people in any way that I can, whether it be with building institutions, promoting rights and freedom, or education,” Dyhouse said. “I have also made a goal to join the Peace Corps for two years and travel to Africa.”
There are 400 students majoring in international studies. Students thinking about majoring in international studies can log on to the department of government and international affairs’ Web site at www.cas.usf.edu/GIA.