17 Realities of Being a Political Science Major

17 Realities of Being a Political Science Major

Different brains work different ways, and y'all better be glad you have people like us to run your government, some day.

1. Everyone automatically assumes you are pre-law.  "Political science, huh? Gonna go to law school?" I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this. I mean, maybe. But I could choose not to and be okay. 

And even though you tell everyone you are pre-law because it raises the fewest questions, you constantly question what kind of graduate program you want to pursue. Do I really want to practice law? Would I even be good at it? I really want to study social cleavages in France, so maybe I should get a Ph.D. instead. But do I want to risk being poor for the rest of my life, instead of just the foreseeable future? 

Your natural science-oriented friends are convinced your major is easy. Okay, so maybe we are not required to take organic chemistry, but I would love to see many of my biology major friends take an upper level political science course. Different brains work different ways, and y'all better be glad you have people like us to run your government someday. 

When you meet students in your major for the first time you immediately feel out what political party they belong to. Within five minutes, you can usually tell which side of the aisle your new classmate falls on and, thus, where in the room they will sit. Political parties form cliques that grow over time until the entire department sits firmly in one camp or the other. There is the occasional curveball who dresses like a Republican and thinks like a Democrat, which, depending on your party, can either be incredibly disappointing or incredibly exciting. 

Your life is a never ending series of political internships. Once you've done one political campaign, you are forever either thinking about doing another one, or actually running in one. The sense of community is addicting and is much like a romantic fling in that it is fun to be devoted for a few months and then it is over. Whether it ends well, or poorly, you have incredible memories. 

You never want to take anything outside your major. Why on earth would I want to take a music or astronomy class when I can be learning about governments in Eastern Asia?

Your TAs are so cool that you want to be friends with them. The Ph.D. candidates who teach a good 50 percent of your classes are somewhere between friends and instructors, especially if you are someone like me who likes to wiggle into classes with them. Sitting across from someone who is cursing like a sailor and was teaching you two semesters ago is beyond surreal. 

There is that one who is so attractive it makes you question your commitment to your academics. Let's be real, they are only a few years older than us. It is not weird on an age level, but it is on a power dynamics level. Even if he or she is not, and has never been, your instructor you can bet that he or she is friends with several people who are, or have been. 

There is always that one non-major in your class who loves to talk. Please, if you do not know anything at all about political science, do not take a 400-level class just because it sounds interesting. 

Natural science people constantly question the validity, necessity, and complexity of political science research. It is difficult enough to explain what type of research political scientists do to people who are not familiar with the discipline, but it becomes even more so when people fail to understand why that research is necessary. How do we expect to solve conflicts if we do not understand what causes them? We can use our knowledge about why bad things happen in the world to prevent them from happening. That is why I care whether it is more likely language protection, or protection of secularity, that fuels the rampant Islamophobia in France. That is why there are people who risk their lives going into post-conflict countries that have experienced backsliding from democracy into another totalitarian regime. We need to understand the why, to know how to fix it. 

You are torn between wanting to run for office some day and wanting to have a fun time in college. While we keep it PG on our social networking, every time we go out we run the risk of a friend or a stranger snapping an incriminating photo that could potentially ruin any chances of holding public office in twenty years. So do we stay in and read Locke and Goldman and Burke, like a good political science major or do we go live a little? If the disheveled state of my bedroom is any indication, there is a good chance we go with the former.  

You always vote in midterm elections. You, unlike almost all your friends, understand the importance of the federal and state legislatures and never miss a chance to proudly wear that "I Voted" sticker. 

You find yourself distracted from schoolwork by current events. How can I date craters on the surface of Europa when the Supreme Court is doing something that is probably terrifying? 

You had that one class that made you rethink your entire political ideology and it shakes you down to your core. I went through my whole life thinking that because I believe in the tenets of the Democratic Party, I was also surely a liberal, only to find out that I actually believe in more of the tenets of anarchism than liberalism, something I vaguely thought had something to do with molotov cocktails and V for Vendetta, until a month before. What do you do with this information? I am typing this on a MacBook and I do not think democracy is the worst and I love my family and it is just too much for me to handle. 

You have had your fair share of interesting instructors. Whether or not you disagree with them, that professor who teaches his or her beliefs as fact is the worst person in the world. They will try their hardest to be impartial, but political science instructors will always slip up and give you some clue as to how they feel about things. Sometimes, that will mean that you are learning American Government from a member of the Tea Party. 

You probably have a second major, or a minor or two. Almost every political science major has another field of study, usually in psychology, a foreign language, history, or something in the humanities. I even have a friend whose double major is in biology because he wants to go into public health. This is usually to boost competitiveness for graduate schools and it works quite nicely since virtually everything relates back to political science. 

At the end of the day, political science always has your heart. As much as I love my other major, the classes I look forward to attending when I wake up in the morning are my political science classes. And if that does not speak volumes for the discipline, I don't know what could. 

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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