Why study International Relations?

international relations

More than a decade ago, Oscar Hidalgo was doing research on Czechoslovakia’s transition to democracy when he discovered the University of New York in Prague. The opportunity to study and teach in English proved to be invaluable for him, and he started teaching more and more university courses at UNYP. Now he’s the Department Chair for the International Relations program, although he still sees himself more as a teacher than as an administrator. Here are his reasons why students should consider studying this field.

Public Service

Hidalgo could be one of the most optimistic people interested in global politics, but he’s not alone. “I think it’s a pity that many people today don’t like politics very much,” he says. “They think politics are corrupted and that politicians are bad people.” The major tends attracts people who are genuinely interested in serving their communities and want to make our societies a better place to live. To Hidalgo, good citizens aren’t people who sit on the sidelines of the political arena. “To be a really good citizen means also getting involved,” he says.

Hidalgo’s optimism is reinforced by his students. He interviews each student before they enter the program to ask why they want to choose this major. “Most say it’s because they want to help make the world a better place,” he says. “It’s good because you can switch on the TV, and not be so optimistic.”

Career Opportunities

Nowadays, you can’t talk about politics without understanding economics, and vice versa. If you’re interested in participating in the international community in any way, a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations is key to making that a reality. Since the major includes both International Relations, which focuses on geopolitics, and Applied Economics, which focuses on how economics impact global societies, the degree is a great blend of both the business and political sides. According to Hidalgo, most of his graduates interested in International Relations go on to work in the government or NGOs while the ones with the economics background work in international corporations or get MBAs.

Think for yourself

If you watch the news today, the world can be a scary place. Terrorism. Refugees. Immigration. It can be difficult to understand how these problems developed and what to do about them, even if it means something as simple as for whom you should cast a vote.

International Relations students are more curious and don’t passively absorb the opinions of people in power or on the news. Instead, they ask about themselves in the context of the larger world, and try to place themselves in the shoes of others. When making decisions, they ask how they can get the best result for the greatest amount of people and limit the impact of any possible damage.

“What we want from our students is for them to think for themselves,” Hidalgo says. “It’s not what’s the course about, but what do you think about it or how you feel about it.” He has experience with this himself. He grew up and studied in Basque country, but all through his education he said no one ever asked him his opinion. “The key of a good education is the student taking responsibility, being critical, and using this knowledge,” he says.

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