The whole phenomenon of studying abroad might as well have been designed specifically for students pursuing degrees in International Relations. Traveling abroad and spending an extended period living abroad will prepare students for the intercultural challenges inherent in the overarching field of international relations. Students who study international relations abroad will will return home well informed and better able to promote effective cross-cultural dialogue, which has the power to help change the world.
Why Choose Study Abroad
Studying abroad should be a requirement for all students of international relations. Students will not only will advance their knowledge of different cultures and societies, but studying abroad will force students to undergo a perception-altering experience that will ultimately change the way they view the field of international relations as a whole. International Relations is an extroverted discipline, which involves engaging, negotiating, and cooperating with foreign countries effectively, respectfully, and sustainably. What better way to gain valuable, practical experience needed for a successful career in international relations, than by forcing yourself into cross-cultural interactions on a daily basis through study abroad?
If you are a student of International Relations then chances are you have an impassioned interest in at least one region of the world beyond your home country. So the only real question is, which country of that region should you study international relations abroad in?
Most academic institutions across the world have some form of International Relations program offered, so students have quite a broad spectrum of nations, institutions, and programs to choose from. Key players in the global economy, such as China, Japan, Russia, India, and Brazil, are all particularly intriguing options for study abroad, each providing unique insight on important aspects of International Relations. Studying abroad in the European Union or the United States also can lead to in depth comparative knowledge of Western democracies, which is clearly valuable for international careers.
Another route is studying international relations in a developing country, such as Uganda or Cambodia. International Development is a huge immersing discipline within the field of International Relations, and traveling to a less developed region of the world, where economic and political systems are in their infancy can be an incredible educational experience, both academically and personally.
For those who want it all, there is also a large diversity of study abroad programs that take students to several different countries to expose them to multiple cultures, societies, and governmental structures. Whether in Europe, South America, Asia, or anywhere else in the world, multi-country programs are a great way of gaining comparative experience and knowledge of international systems, while also enjoying the exciting opportunity to visit many different countries.
Courses & Programs
The type of courses available will vary depending on where you study international relations abroad and the type of program in which you enroll. Most international relations programs that combine coursework in multiple countries do not offer much flexibility in the way of course selection, as you will likely be moving about with one or two professors and a small group according to a set itinerary. However, these same programs offer many exciting and informative field trips and cultural outings to supplement regular coursework. The interactive nature of multi-country study abroad programs makes them especially rewarding.
Those who decide to study international relations full time at a foreign university, should consider taking a combination of international and domestic policy courses to develop a well-rounded understanding of the political, social, and economic systems of the country. It will certainly be interesting to see how international relations is taught from the other side of the table, so to speak, but also make an effort to dissect courses about domestic systems and compare them to other countries. Engage in a dialogue with your home university early on to establish which class credits will count towards your major requirements back home too.
Most importantly, don’t lose touch with the fact that you are studying abroad, and not everything has to be about serious academics. Try cutting loose and taking the one class on the course catalogue which entices you most. The credits may not transfer or it may not be exactly related to your major, but you know what they say - experience is its own best teacher anyway.
Studying international relations abroad will bring you valuable insight into political, economic, and cultural differences which those who do not travel miss out on. Most international relations students naturally have a more global perspective than their peers, and the pure curiosity to learn about other countries will fuel study abroad.
There is no better way to refine your knowledge of the world then to travel, explore, and live amongst other cultures. And while academics is certainly important, the value of studying abroad goes far beyond the four walls of a classroom. Upon return you will have developed a more firm conviction of who you are, what you want, and how to go about getting it. International Relations students are the movers and shakers of the future global order. Now start moving.