In the middle of last quarter, I got an e-mail congratulating me on getting into the International Studies major at UW, also known as JSIS (Jackson School of International Studies, for those who don’t know).
It was simultaneously great and a relief; for a few weeks after I sent in the application, I thought about what could’ve happened should I not get in—as in, how to pad up on introductory political science classes so I could get in the less competitive political science major. That was no longer a worry; though going forward is also worth the challenge, considering how it’s structured.
When I first got into the University of Washington, what confused me was about how the International Studies major would go. Applying for colleges, what I wanted to go for was International Relations, which I believed focused more on foreign policy and negotiations. I also came close to accepting an offer from one of the most well-known schools for such in Washington, D.C.
In the University of Washington, International Studies is not one concrete thing, but rather, a combination of various social sciences. In the introductory classes, history is a primary focus, though anthropology also plays through the “Cultural Interactions in the Modern World” class. Economics is also significant through the required micro- and macro- introductory classes, along with International Political Economy.
In my experience, all the classes had something to offer and interested me, though the readings were dense and I would sometimes falter through them. My International Political Economy class focused on Crime and Corruption, which is something I would think about in multiple contexts, but didn’t think about. Nevertheless, it was quite interesting.
Once into the major, multiple tracks open: some regional, some relational. Regions included Europe, the Middle East, East and South Asia, Canada, Latin America, and Africa. Relational, however, focuses more on issues, such as International Communications, Development, International Political Economy, and Foreign Policy.
I’ve focused on the latter, because it’s the career track in which I want to get into the future. While a lot of on-the-ground work exists in development, human rights, and other tracks so that individual lives can be better, I believe with diplomacy, nations could work together to forge sustainable peace treaties. It’s something which was incandescent in me since my sophomore year Model United Nations simulation in high school.
While some people believe the hardest thing after getting into a certain group is staying in there, I think a hard part is where I would take this degree into the future.
The JSIS Program is unique in UW in that it features a Task Force project, which will be held in the winter of one’s junior or senior year. Featuring an extensive research project on a global issue, it’s such a great opportunity. Simultaneously, it is also demanding.
Also, my parents are concerned at the job prospects. Compared to more technical majors such as computer science or engineering; or a pre-med potential such as biochemistry, International Studies is more amorphous. It provides a lot of information in knowledge and research and writing skills, though how do you apply it?
I see myself working in a think tank in the future; I can not only apply my knowledge, but also write out my ideas for problem solving in foreign policy. All while mostly avoiding the quagmire in elected politics. My fear, however, is that in a few years I won’t be doing such work, but will rather be a lawyer, a teacher, or an advisor for other students.
Ultimately, I want to develop myself into a more interested person in world politics, along with building a skill base to rise into relevance. Isn’t that what all JSIS majors want?