International Studies: Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and Washington College
International Studies is an increasingly popular college major. On a recent visit to colleges in the Washington, D.C. area, we learned that each institution has a distinct approach to the discipline. Here is an overview:
At Johns Hopkins University, the department is intentionally called International Studies instead of International Affairs because the faculty is interested in all kinds of international matters, not just politics and foreign policy. The interdisciplinary program exposes students to economics, sociology, foreign language, culture and society, and anthropology among other disciplines. IS students may double major and/or minor in concentrations such as German, Global Social Change and Development, World Politics and Global Governance, and Global Modernity and the Jewish Experience. The School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) offers a combined BA/MA in five years (although of the 300 who applied out of high school last year, only six were admitted). Many students double major or minor outside IS in areas such as computer science or applied math.
Students may also opt for focus areas such as languages—and JHU offers a wide range, as well as themes such as environmental change, global security and international finance. Another option is for students to take a regional focus. See complete list here.
“When you come to Hopkins, you come here to be a student. Your work is the focus,” said one student panelist. “Although we do have fun, students here are serious and take initiative. This is not a place for those who want to be told what to do.”
Students intern all over the world and participate in research, including topics of their own choosing. Graduates of the program go into a wide range of fields from management consulting, law, and international finance, to international art, global retail, and work in government such as the state department.
The Georgetown Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) is an international affairs-focused education grounded in theory and practice, which encompasses service. It exposes students to a core curriculum that covers international affairs, government, economics, history, theology, philosophy, and geography. Students must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language in reading, speaking and writing through written and oral exams before faculty. Students choose from among eight majors in areas such as culture and politics, global business, international economics, international political economy, science technology and affairs, and international history, or from regionally-focused majors that look at Asia or the Middle East.
The SFS is the most competitive college for admission within Georgetown. Applicants should plan to take rigorous math through senior year of high school and demonstrate a commitment to social justice and service. Students in SFS take advantage of the many leaders in international politics and affairs who visit campus as part of a speaker series or who teach courses. There are also many internships available in the city and opportunities for research and study abroad at Georgetown’s research centers and campuses throughout the world.
Founded in 1782, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland enrolls 1,450 students and offers a robust interdisciplinary International Studies major. It also offers concentrations in regions of the world as well as global business, peace and conflict studies.. Students study abroad in a region related to their concentration. The major is rigorous. Each student must study abroad and complete a senior thesis. IS students are the only students at the college who may study abroad for three semesters, with non-IS majors limited to two semesters. Every student in the IS major is required to do an internship. Although Arabic and Russian are not offered at Washington College, students will be connected to summer intensives that teach these languages and then follow that with a study abroad experience to gain proficiency. Professors on campus also offer tutorials in Russian.
The college also offers summer study abroad programs that connect with courses. Students enrolled in a course on Human Trafficking might follow with a summer trip to Vietnam and Cambodia to meet with social justice and policy leaders on this issue.
The college has a successful Model UN program that recently earned two top awards at an international conference in Rome. Graduates go on to work in fields such as business, finance, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, intelligence, and security. Others go on to graduate and medical school.