There are few things more beneficial for the budding political scientist than to study abroad and experience everyday life under the mechanics of a different government. By stepping outside the box to study political systems from a different point of view, the political science students will not only gains invaluable new knowledge of foreign relations, but also a tangible reference point from which to better understand their own nation’s government.
Why Study Politics Abroad
Politics by definition involves broadened perspective, diplomatic ability, and a compromise-oriented approach to solving problems. What better way to enhance this skill set than by living and studying abroad? Especially in today’s rapidly globalizing world, the knowledge of other cultures is increasingly valuable to both domestic and international policies. Whatever your field of specialization, every student of political science stands to gain a world of new knowledge by studying abroad.
Every country has a government, hence almost any nation can be the best place to study political science abroad. However, there are a few different angles you can take for your international program.
First, you could study abroad in a Western Democratic nation. The knowledge to be gained here is primarily comparative, analyzing how different checks and balances of other institutionally stable governments tend to influence domestic outcomes. Most democracies are heavily tied up in international relations as well, so the globally oriented student will have no shortage of foreign policy material to draw comparisons from. Countries such as Switzerland, France, and the U.K. are all potentially enriching options for studying political science abroad.
You could also go to a developing nation, where political systems are not as deeply entrenched and governments tend to suffer from institutional instability. This sort of study abroad experience can enlighten students on the struggles of governments to land on firm footing where there is no historical precedent of one. Studying abroad in nations of South America, Africa, and South East Asia which have long histories of colonial exploitation will not only be politically eye-opening, but offer a life changing experience to those willing to embark on an adventure.
Then there are the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Studying politics abroad in a global powerhouse of any governmental system will broaden your perspective of international politics. You may also enjoy a more targeted approach with one of these countries, as all are centrally important to global affairs. Making an effort to learn the language and specialize in diplomatic relations with a specific country certainly will not hurt your international job prospects after graduation.
Nearly anywhere in the world will help you gain new, deeply valuable insight into political science.
What type of courses you will engage in is obviously left to individual discretion, depending on your destination and field of focus within the realm of political science. Due to the popularity of the subject, most study abroad programs will offer at least a few courses related to political science and politics. Programs designed explicitly for international students often feature the opportunity for field research and other guided outings as well. This can be a cool way to see an authentic side of the country not typically exposed to foreigners, and a good lynchpin for your own independent research.
If you are studying abroad in order to earn your political science degree abroad, then the world is your oyster (language barrier permitting). You will likely have the opportunity to choose from a whole catalogue of political science classes. Try taking at least one in national politics and one related to the field on an international level, to gain a broad perspective of your host country’s political situation. Taking courses from related fields in economics and cultural studies would also supplement an international political science education nicely.
There are also many programs which take advantage of semester breaks by offering travel-study trips for academic credit. These are often led by professors or highly credited individuals, and will take students through a few different countries within the same region while comparatively studying their histories and governments. These programs usually last from two weeks to two months, typically in the winter or summer, and can be a great way to enhance your knowledge of a variety of cultures and political systems.
Studying political science abroad will not only deepen your knowledge of an incredibly important academic discipline, but also prove to be the developmental experience of a lifetime. By living abroad in another country you will come to experience a whole new culture and governmental system which will challenge your notions about the world (it doesn’t look to bad on a resume either).
But beyond any mark or grade, studying political science abroad will prepare you for the challenges embedded in our increasingly interdependent system of global politics. You will come to find that underneath the political, economic, and cultural layers we are not so different after all. Political science students are the leaders of tomorrow, and studying abroad can be the best first step towards creating better political relations globally.