Major: International Relations

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How has the war in Iraq affected relations between the U.S. and the world? Have our actions struck fear in the hearts of our enemies? Have they cost us valuable allies?

International relations majors explore issues like these. In their quest to understand the delicate and complex dance of diplomacy, they study the way nations interact on military, economic, and cultural levels.

Majors in international relations study international politics and institutions, learning the principles of diplomacy and foreign policy.

“Students should expect to write interpretive essays on examinations rather than face simple multiple-choice or true-false questions, as well as to write papers that combine solid research with independent thinking.”Robert Mandel, Professor and Chair, International Affairs Department, Lewis and Clark College

Are You Ready To...?

  • Learn how spies operate in today’s world
  • Gain a different perspective on life by, perhaps, studying abroad
  • Read books by noted world leaders and diplomats
  • Specialize in a particular region, such as the Middle East or the Philippines
  • Take part in heated discussions on, for example, the effects of the Kyoto Protocol on relations between nations

It Helps To Be...

At home in a field with few black-and-white answers. International relations is filled with gray areas; you’ll be learning to think critically with no fixed set of rules to follow. 

College Checklist

  • Is the major interdisciplinary, or is it part of the political science or economics department?
  • How many of the professors teach international relations exclusively?
  • How large are the classes? Will you get the individual attention you need?
  • What are the foreign language requirements?
  • What study-abroad opportunities does the program offer?
  • Will the program help you find an internship?

Did You Know?

International relations majors study not only recognized nations but also groups seeking their independence.

Course Spotlight

A large part of international relations is diplomacy, the art of conducting negotiations between countries. In your junior or senior year, expect to take an advanced course in diplomacy. You’ll learn what, exactly, it is and how it has changed over the years. You’ll also look into the diplomatic challenges of a post-9/11 world.

Usually, classes are a mix of lecture, debate and discussion, in-class exercises, and presentations by guest speakers. Class participation and papers are very important, although exams count toward your grade as well.