International Studies is not one of those majors that as kids we dream of studying. From a young age, I remember wanting to be a teacher, a chef, and eventually a doctor. Were international studies or foreign policy on that list? Unfortunately, no. While that may be shocking, I actually started college as a biology major. The healthcare field had always fascinated me and between wanting to be either a doctor or a physician's assistant, I started my academic career in the traditional way. However, after taking my first college-level chemistry course, it became clear to me that this was not my path. I wanted to study something that I was passionate about, something that I could turn into a career that I would love going to every day. In some ways, I was prepped from a young age to study international relations. Ever since I was placed into a German-English bilingual program at the age of four, learning about other countries, cultures, and languages has been a part of my life; a part I took for granted for a long time. As I came to college, I began to appreciate it more and more, even valuing it as a part of my identity, a part I did not want to lose. So, with all things considered, I changed my major to German and International Studies. And now the rest is history.
International Studies: A Major of Many Skills and Opportunities
Besides the skills that most liberal arts give students, like writing, research, and critical thinking, a degree in international studies gave me a myriad of other skills. Through the study of international politics, I have been able to conceptualize how the world really works and what drives the action between some of the world’s most consequential decision makers. The ability to read between the lines to uncover real truths and motivations spur deep analysis of important issues around the world. We also, as scholars of international studies, learn how to predict and measure the implications of decisions made on the world stage. International studies is, in the short, the study of relationships. In studying the how, why, when, and between whoms of relationships, I’ve developed abilities to critically analyze relationships, which are the networks that build society as we know. This level of deep analysis is exactly what makes students in this field so versatile and well-rounded. It was my Model UN experiences that allowed me to apply and build upon precisely those skills. Regarded as one of the best Model UN programs in the world, it was this team, that gave me the opportunity to truly come into myself. The New York City international competition is the chance for us to showcase our abilities in public speaking, research, negotiation, teamwork, writing, leadership and creative problem solving all in hopes of achieving the highest recognition at the conference for excellence. And we do and have been doing so for the past 35 years, one of the longest consecutive records in the world. This program also gave me the choice to specialize in certain topic areas as the UN talks about almost everything. During my tenure in the group, I worked on areas such as climate change and terrorism, which are some of the world’s most pressing issues. I also learned to view issues from different perspectives, learning more about them in the process. By doing so and interacting with students from over 40 different countries on issues that impact us all differently, I developed a clearer sense of cultural competence, open-mindedness, and an overall global perspective.
The Next Adventure
I am now at that point in my life where I have to take the lessons, skills, and networks I have built up over the past years and transition them into post-academic adulthood to reach my ambitions. My first step in realizing my future has been my acceptance into the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. As one of 75 young ambassadors picked from a large national pool of qualified candidates, I will spend a year in Germany in a three-phase program meant to support diplomacy and citizen-to-citizen connections between the two countries. The first phase will place me into a language program for two months to refine my German language skills for the other two phases. The next phase consists of a university stay, where I will take courses in my field in German to better grasp the technical language I’ll need for phase three. The last phase, which will take up the largest part of my year in Germany, will involve me getting an internship in my field. The year ahead of me will be filled with challenges, ones I am excited to meet. Anyone who knows me knows that an opportunity like this is a long time coming for me. The chance to represent the US in Germany is not a responsibility I will take lightly. Graduation is a surreal time in one’s life. It is at this point that the past, present, and future come colliding together in an almost overwhelming cocktail of emotions and memories. I had no idea that my choice to change my major freshman year would lead me on the path that it did, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to it all and a thank you to all who helped me in some way or another during my past four years!
International Studies is one of those rare majors that puts students in the driver seat, giving them a sense of agency in picking the classes they wanted to take. Here is my list of courses I took related to the major:
World Regional Geography - Geography 105
International Press - Journalism 380
Survey of Art History II - Art 210
Topics in Modern Civilization: History of the Third Reich - History 110
World Religions - Religious Studies 102
Literary Landscapes Quest III - English 294
Contemporary France - French 306
Landeskunde - German 306
German Mass Media - German 325
Terrorism & Counter-Terrorism - Political Science 328
International Politics - Political Science 115
International Political Economy - Political Science 322
International Law - Political Science 308
Global Environmental Politics - Political Science 388
Contemporary International Issues - International Studies 205
International Negotiation - International Studies 364
Senior Seminar in International Studies - International Studies 402
My first artifact dates back to my first semester at UW Oshkosh that I wrote for my Politics of Race and Sex course. I remember sitting in my dorm room that first semester trying desperately to keep up with the readings required for this course and thinking that college was going to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. From that perspective, graduation seemed so far away and I sit here now realizing that it had come faster than I ever could have imagined.
This was the class that taught me the rigor and quality of work that was expected of me. It was something I definitely needed my first semester. This paper was written on a fictitious case study in the town of Ohama, Nebraska. Our task was to apply what we had been learning about electoral systems and the exclusion of minorities and women from politics to fix the issue of unequal representation on this city council board. Considering this was my first real paper I had written on college, I am somewhat attached to it. It is not prefect, but it is not supposed to be. And I'm proud of it, especially knowing the personal struggles I had gone through that year.
Artifact number two was born under great stress. In International Negotiation, an interim class that allowed for intense research and academic simulations, I learned a great deal about what the knowledge and skills it takes to be a UW Oshkosh Model UN delegate. I won't lie, International Negotiation was hard and required us to be attentive and active for extended periods of time. I had to juggle the rigor of this class along with working two jobs, which made for a stressful month for me. But you know what they say, "what doesn't kill makes you stronger." The attached artifact is a resolution I wrote for my class, a resolution that was an accumulation of the research done during the class. This resolution presents the best case scenario for the country of Namibia.
In my first year on Model UN, I was placed in the United Nations Assembly on Environment, a room dedicated to the preservation of the environment. My topic was the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which at that time was a very new and historic agreement, with almost universal consensus. It was a surreal experience to work with students from countries like Venezuela, France, and Egypt and to see their same passion for the environment like I had. It brought me hope.
This third artifact is from a class that counted both towards my German and International Studies major. German 306: Landeskunde allowed me to pick a research topic about contemporary Germany. Something I had researched a lot during my undergraduate degree was the Syrian refugee crisis and its impact on Europe. This was one of my first papers on the subject. My fascination with this topic began with Angela Merkel's historic decision to accept around one million refugees into Germany. I argue that the refugee crisis has been a catalyst for a lot of political change in Europe and is one of the most defining crises for Europe thus far in the 21st century.
This paper is one of my best German-language papers that I wrote in my undergraduate career. Looking back at it now, there are things I would change and parts I would add, yet I stand behind this work. The paper is on the shorter side, which is common for students writing papers in foreign languages; however, the four pages that I did write were not enough to fully express the refugee situation in Germany. Going back I would add more detail and connect it to the knowledge I had gain throughout my education.
The last artifact is one of the most-involved projects that I completed at UW Oshkosh. Not at all really involved in law, I enrolled in International Law as it filled requirements and fit into my schedule. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As an integral part of the course, we engaged with the Jessup Problem, a fictitious international law scenario that was typically reserved for graduate law students. We were doing it with one semester's worth of international law under our belts as undergraduates. It was ambitious, to say the least.
After splitting up into groups, I was determined to film a documentary, in assuming the role of a videojournalist. In hindsight, the filming of a two-part documentary while balancing other courses and three jobs might have been a little crazy, but it is under these stressful situations where I achieve my best work. This documentary series is far more perfect, that is clear to me. Despite the production flaws and conditions under which it was made, pulling together something on this scale required a level of creativity, organization and problem-solving I did not know I had. I took this class not knowing what it would bring out it me, and I couldn't be happier.