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Interdisciplinary IR Questions

isla701isla701 113 replies12 threads Junior Member
Hello everyone! Thank you again for answering all of my questions as they get progressively more complicated!

I have been thinking a great deal about college majors over the past few months due to my schooling situation. I'm currently in high school and earning free CC credits, which will transfer and save me a lot of money at my state universities. I'm so glad to have this opportunity, but it obviously means that I won't have the freshman gen-ed year most people have if I transfer over my credits. This complicates things a bit for an undecided major who's not sure if taking on LAC loans and giving up free credits is worth it.

Luckily, I'm getting a bit of a better picture of what I could possibly major in. Right now, my top choice is international relations. I've developed a huge passion for politics, world issues, foreign languages, etc. Econ is the only unknown aspect of the major to me, and I plan to take that at the CC before I graduate high school. (If I dislike it, my plans may need to be reconsidered.)

But as someone who has been highly capable and interested in almost every school subject thus far, I feel a double major might not only give me an advantage in the job market, but allow me to take advantage of my passion/ability in different subjects.

With that context, I have two questions:
1) If there is no dedicated "international relations major at a school", does a global studies major generally serve people better, or just a straight-up poli sci major (and then grad school)?
2) In terms of double majors, can anyone describe the advantages, disadvantages or experiences they've had with double majoring in IR/poli sci and a STEM field OR double majoring in that and a foreign language?

On the surface, question 2 would seem odd to an observer- of course foreign languages are more relevant to IR/poli sci than STEM fields. However, I've read a few places that foreign language experts (some having learned multiple languages from birth) are much more common and less sought after than those who can bring STEM skills to the table with the necessary understanding of government/nonprofits/etc. Also, I've read that it may be more helpful and efficient to acquire foreign languages while studying abroad and taking the required language classes for an IR major at home, rather than majoring directly in a language.

Again, all just hearsay- I'm looking for more thoughts.

In terms of STEM majors I've considered, it's mostly been environmental sci, comp sci, and statistics, two of which I'd need more experience with between now/college before deciding to major in them. Env. sci due to the importance of climate change/environmental protection to me, comp sci because of my passion for privacy/surveillance debates all around the world, and statistics for its usefulness in global affairs and my longtime enjoyment of math.

As you can see, I'm a bit all over the place in terms of my interest, and I'm assuming I'll still have a freshman semester of gen eds to figure this out (if I transfer my credits), but not much more than that. Things are coming together though, and my parents have said it's okay if Plan A doesn't work out. Of course, I want to research Plan A quite a bit before jumping in, hence this thread!

Thank you all for your support and tolerance of my long posts. I hope they are more helpful than oversimplified questions.
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Replies to: Interdisciplinary IR Questions

  • merc81merc81 11268 replies187 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2
    The study of government (as a defined major or as a concept) is inherently broad, and will include the study of international relations, politics and political theory. You may need to make few decisions at this time regarding which track you will emphasize.

    Five terms of a language plus an immersion experience generally will prepare you well in that language.

    Regarding a second major or minor, you might benefit from a choice from a quantitative field such as math/statistics or computer science.
    edited March 2
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6474 replies10 threads Senior Member
    It will matter more if you are fully proficient in a language than if you have majored in it if you want to use it in a job. The immersive experience will help but doesn't guarantee a high level of competency. This seems to vary by person and to a certain extent with the language. It's pretty easy to get to a useful level in Spanish. Arabic, less so. Sometimes, a second major or minor will just happen as you work on that proficiency, but I don't think this needs to be the goal.

    You will certainly be well-served by having some quantitative skills, no matter what you do, and the question is whether you like those disciplines enough to major in them. I can imagine that it might be difficult to do this with another major plus lots of FL. And if that's what really interests you, study those and take some classes in policy and government.

    At some level, you need to figure out what you really enjoy and what direction you would like to take.. Most big issues are global, but that doesn't mean you need an IR degree to address them. But if you are interested in a foreign service job, the breadth of a typical IR degree may be the best preparation, especially if you can master one of the needed languages. I realize this is what you are struggling with but I think you need to set your study plans based on where you think your heart will take you. If you are truly fascinated by privacy concerns, CS and politics could be ideal. And the FL might not matter so much.
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  • isla701isla701 113 replies12 threads Junior Member
    I'm sorry, my notifications blew up on another thread @merc81 @gardenstategal so I didn't see this, but thank you both so much! I really appreciate your input.

    Passion in multiple subjects is hard. The more I try to eliminate possible paths, the more paths become possibilities for me. I go back to a quote from PrepScholar- "it's much harder to be a Renaissance man now than it was during the Renaissance." It's a great problem to have, and I know I'm not the only one dealing with it. It also makes me feel massively lazy not to know exactly what I'm doing, but I feel a need to reassure myself and keep powering through.

    Bottom line that I've gotten to is that I do want to spend my life helping those without my own privilege. Doesn't mean I have to be at the UN- STEM people do this just as much as IR people. There's also the matter of making a decent living, which nonprofit work is naturally less suited for.

    But whether I want to accomplish this goal by studying government or something else is still a mystery.
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  • merc81merc81 11268 replies187 threads Senior Member
    edited March 7
    Based on your aspirations, you will want to establish a sustainable ideology on which you can anchor your personal values. In your early academic pursuits, then, you would benefit from studying political theory — typically through philosophy, government, or sociology departments. You shouldn't feel conflict arising from your multiple interests — they'll serve to inspire your college course choices and guide your general intellectual progression.
    edited March 7
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