The Value of Studying International Relations

From 2007 – 2011, I studied International Relations (IR) at SUNY Geneseo. When I first started my undergraduate work, I was an English/Communications double-major. I took an entry-level course in IR out of curiosity and because it satisfied a course requirement, and I got hooked. I changed my major during my second semester.

While I was taking courses with fancy-sounding names like International Law and Organization and Terrorism and National Security, I had a vision that I would continue on to graduate school at some prestigious D.C. institution, and then wind up working for an NGO like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or I’d do two years in the Peace Corps then find a job at the State Department.

None of that happened. My career track has taken a different route, and I’m not upset by that. By the end of senior year, I realized I hadn’t built an International Relations resume – I’d been secretly gathering a wealth of Communications experience. News Director and Station Manager of WGSU. Assistant Opinions Editor at The Lamron. Intern at the Communications Bureau of the City of Rochester, and so on.

I’m now working in Social Media for Mashable, a well-regarded technology and digital culture news website based in NYC. Do I regret studying IR during undergrad? Not even a little.

I’m not working at the U.S. Consolate in Moscow or serving in the Peace Corps as are some of my fellow Geneseo IR majors. But my background in IR serves as the lens through which I view nearly everything with which I interact.

The interdisciplinary nature of IR means I’ve got a little bit of nearly everything under my belt: Political Science, History, Geography, Economics, Sociology and Statistics were all courses that were included in the IR major. And, while Africa was my focus, I know a little bit about lots of different places around the world, meaning I can better understand global affairs and the “why” behind major stories developing worldwide. Not to mention the almost-requirement that all Geneseo IR majors study abroad, so I have cross-cultural experience which backs up my academic knowledge with actual substance.

My future may or may not include graduate school for Journalism. So far, it doesn’t seem like that’s an immediate necessity – but I know that if and when I start my graduate work, my background in IR will serve nicely there as well.

Even if one doesn’t end up with a prestigious career in the Foreign Service, the IR major proves consistently useful. At its core, it’s a major in Global Understanding, which is absolutely critical in nearly any field today. It’s not only that I “use my major” every day, it’s that my major has actually shaped who I am and how I think, and that’s a profound and not-too-common feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

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About Alex Fitzpatrick

Alex Fitzpatrick is Homepage Editor for Time.com, also covering technology, policy and cybersecurity. He previously covered politics and policy for Mashable. Fitzpatrick has a degree in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also served as News Director and Station Manager for the campus radio station, 89.3 WGSU. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter at @AlexJamesFitz or email him at alex.fitzpatrick@timeinc.com.
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