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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for International Relations

In an increasingly global environment, international relations is becoming more relevant and popular as a course of study at colleges throughout the U.S. If you dream of being a United Nations ambassador, a volunteer for the Peace Corps, or maybe even the President of the United States, the expert counselors at IvyWise have compiled a list of schools where you can get a global perspective on cross-cultural interactions.

University of California – San Diego, San Diego, CA
Each year, the Institute for International, Comparative, and Area Studies at the University of California San Diego hosts the Speaker Series, an event dedicated to discussion and information on globally relevant topics. Speakers and themes have included an Ambassador to the Royal Danish Embassy, a talk on the cultural aspects of European integration, and a lecture on the politics of chaos in the Middle East by Olivier Roy, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research. As part of the international studies program at this university, students can take classes such as “Culture and Society in International Perspective” and “Economics, Politics, and International Change.” UCSD also hosts an annual International Education Week, dedicated to enhancing international awareness and reinforcing the importance of scholarly exchange across borders.

Washington Monthly’s College Guide highlights UCSD for its positive impact on the U.S. based on social mobility, research, and service. In addition to hosting almost 50 culturally-specific student organizations, the school also hosts alternative break programs in locations such as China, Bali, and the Philippines. These service and learning programs give students the opportunity to promote initiatives such as sustainable farming and social justice in communities throughout the world.

Founded in 1960, UCSD is a public research university in La Jolla, California. More than 23,000 undergraduate students make up the UCSD Triton community. Students can take advantage of 125 majors spread across six undergraduate colleges. Off campus, students can revel in the beautiful beaches of La Jolla and numerous boutiques, restaurants, and the famed Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

American University, Washington, DC
American University’s School of International Service is the largest school of international affairs in the U.S. and offers students eight areas of study, including comparative and regional studies, global and environmental politics, and peace and conflict resolution. Popular courses include “Cross-Cultural Communication,” “Individual Freedom vs. Authority,” and “How the News Media Shapes History.”  Foreign Policy Magazine includes AU in its top ten schools in the country for preparing future foreign policy professionals. This distinction is evidenced by notable alumni including Juan Mari Bras, founder of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party; Robert Cerasoli, former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives; and Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Outside of the classroom 57 percent of the undergraduate population at this private university participates in ongoing community service through classroom or student organization initiatives, including the Movement for Global Justice, Creative Peace Initiatives, and STAND (Student Anti-Genocide Coalition). Students can translate their interest in international causes with 145 different study and/or internship abroad programs. One unique offering is the dual degree program with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, which allows students to earn two B.A. degrees from two universities in four years.

Located along Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., AU’s 84-acre campus lays claim to some of the most politically active students in the nation. In addition to 300 student clubs ranging from Mission: Improv-able to the Conclave Fantasy and Sci-Fi Club, and the thrilling political climate of D.C., students have access to all that the city has to offer, including the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Boston University, Boston, MA
Students pursuing a concentration in international relations at Boston University are required to complete 12 courses: four core requirements, four from a functional track (environmental and development, foreign policy and security studies, international business and economics, international political economy, international systems and world order, or regional politics and cultural anthropology) and four from a regional track (Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe, or Latin America), allowing students to tailor a curriculum to their unique interests. Courses include “Sociology of Developing Countries,” which examines income disparity despite economic modernization and democratization; “Diplomatic Practice,” which addresses the peacekeeping role of government organizations; and “Intelligence in a Democratic Society,” which assesses the techniques of intelligence collection, analysis, counterintelligence, and covert action.

Students can put their international studies into practice with more than 75 academic and internship programs in more than 30 cities on six continents. (BU was actually one of the first universities in the US to offer study abroad in countries such as Ecuador and Switzerland!) Closer to home, students can participate in one of the many related student organizations including the Anti-War Coalition, Global Citizens, or the International Business Club.

A private research institution in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, BU is home to more than 2,500 faculty members and more than 31,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. BU students can choose from more than 250 programs of study in nine colleges and the school also offers nearly 500 student organizations, from Alpine Racing to the Zen Society. In addition to the vast number of courses and activities offered on campus, students can explore the Boston community, which is home to more than 250,000 college students attending the 100 colleges and universities throughout the Boston metropolitan area.

Yale University, New Haven, CT
Students at Yale University can major in global affairs through the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and further specialize their course of study through tracks in international development or international security. The international development track focuses on economics and global health, offering courses such as “The Political Economy of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa” and “Evolution of Central Banking and Responses to Crises.” The international security track concentrates on defense and diplomacy with courses such as “Genocide and Ethnic Conflict” and “The United States and the World, 1917-1991.” Prior to graduation, students in either track must participate in a policy taskforce and must also demonstrate L5 (advanced) proficiency in a language other than English.

Students can exercise their advanced language skills through one of 300-plus study abroad offerings in more than 50 countries, emphasizing the university’s belief that being an educational leader in this century requires students to experience other countries as well as study them. This philosophy has proven successful as evidenced by alumni including five U.S. presidents, 19 U.S. Supreme Court justices, and several foreign heads of state. To further develop international interests outside the classroom, students can join the Model UN Team (MUNTY), write for the Yale Review of International Studies, or help educate 8th through 12th grade students in New Haven on current international affairs as part of the Hemisphere Club.

This private university’s location in New Haven, Connecticut gives its 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students plenty to do off-campus as well. The New Haven Green is often home to free concerts featuring artists from Yo-Yo-Ma to They Might be Giants. With more than 120 restaurants in a two-block radius, students can also explore the distinct culinary scene famous for pizza (including that from Pepe’s, Sally’s and Modern) and the world’s first hamburger (still available at Louis’ Lunch).

Pomona College, Claremont, CA
The interdisciplinary international relations major at Pomona College includes courses in anthropology, economics, history, politics, and sociology. Given the school’s proximity to the Pacific Rim and Mexico, there is an emphasis on courses in East Asian and Latin American Studies. Students in the program are required to study abroad for at least one semester and can do so at one of 50 programs in 31 countries from Cuba to Nepal. After returning from abroad, IR students complete a 70-120 page original thesis on a topic of relevant interest. Recent topics have addressed river basin engineering and great power politics in Afghanistan, and fair trade coffee markets in Central America.

Many students in the IR program are active members of the International Place, an organization which sponsors educational programs and events to increase understanding and friendship across cultures. More than 800 students and faculty from 96 countries and all seven of the Claremont Colleges (Pomona is part of the seven-college consortium, which includes two graduate and five undergraduate schools) come together at I-Place. International and multi-cultural-minded students also congregate at Pomona’s Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations. This special-interest housing is home to 145 students annually, who are placed in living environments dedicated to one of six cultures and languages. Students living here are mentored by a resident representative from each respective country, and provide language classes, meals, media, and other cultural-specific events to the entire college community.

Located in Claremont, California, 35 miles east of Los Angeles, Pomona College is a private liberal arts college with 1,500 students. Given the school’s unique access to both mountains and beaches, Pomona annually sponsors Ski-Beach Day, which includes skiing at the San Gabriel Mountains in the morning followed by a trip to a local beach in the afternoon.

As nations around the globe come together to celebrate peace this month, and students from around the country and the world return to school, now is a great time to reflect on international relations. If you’re considering schools with an international perspective, these five schools are a great place to start your search. The team at IvyWise wishes you peace of mind as you embark on a new school year and the college search and admissions process.

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