NYU Admissions Ambassador posing outside a mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Between 230+ majors and minors, 10 undergraduate colleges, and 3 portal campuses …. deciding what to devote your academic studies to is as hard as naming a child. While I came into college knowing that I was interested in international human rights, there were a variety of degree routes in those fields to choose from. I could either complete a Bachelor’s in Social and Cultural Analysis, Global Liberal Studies, or study at Gallatin to craft my own major. When it came down to it, I decided to study international relations for a variety of reasons. 


Let’s break it down, shall we? (Grab your pen and pencils.)

What is the major like?

Here is a direct description of the undergraduate International Relations major from the NYU College of Arts & Sciences website

The International Relations (IR) major provides students with an understanding of the global system’s past, the tools to function effectively in the present, and the ability to foresee and respond to developments in the future.

There are four academic quadrants that make up your IR degree: politics, economics, area studies, and a foreign language. The best part? These are all interdisciplinary! Having the freedom to enroll in your own courses distinguishes the IR major from other universities. 

The first two components are self explanatory: there are over 25+ courses that could satisfy the politics and economics requirements. One could take a seminar on Authoritarian Regimes or a lecture on International Economics

Keeping this in mind, IR majors are also required to complete coursework that focuses on a particular part of the world. This can either be done at one of NYU’s portal campuses, or at any of their Global Academic Centers.

Finally, students are also required to develop an advanced language fluency of their choosing. In the Spring, I decided to study away at NYU Abu Dhabi to satisfy this requirement, taking a course on Arab Youth and Intermediate Arabic. It was one of the BEST times of my life. 

Three students together.
Some of my good friends and I -- all IR majors -- spent the semester together in the United Arab Emirates. This was taken moments before we tried camel burgers and camel milkshakes - tastier than anyone might imagine!

That said, I still have two semesters before I complete my language requirement, so now I’m taking Colloquial Arabic! It was amazing to be able to take it in the UAE; my Arabic professor was Jordanian and it also encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. 

You don’t even necessarily have to take Arabic; NYU offers over 27 different languages and you can arrange to take ones at a nearby campus if they are not offered here.

Here is a video about my experience with taking Arabic at NYU!

Language Learning at NYU

NYU has no boundaries, and neither does the International Relations department.

No two students will ever have the same sequence of classes! Some of my friends have taken Portuguese while studying Contemporary Spanish Politics in Madrid, or Twi in Accra while studying Cocoa development, for instance.

To clarify, your major does not have to be the only route of studying away. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel to NYU Sydney and NYU Berlin, where I was able to learn about the Aboriginal population in Sydney (known as the Gadigal clan) and also of German art history. Both locations serve as places where students can fulfill the area studies, regional specialization, and study away components of the IR major.

NYU Admissions Ambassador outside the Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia.
Over spring break I was able to study down under in Sydney.
NYU Admissions Ambassador posing outside a German cathedral.
And in January, I went to Berlin!

NYU students who have graduated in IR have gone on to work for NGOs, the United Nations, the Peace Corps, and Teach for America, for example. Like most of my friends, we’ve all been able to intern in these same fields, attending our Foreign Policy lecture in the morning and then going off to our internships in Midtown. Just a typical day! After college, most students go on to top law schools and graduate programs in International Relations, like Georgetown, Columbia, and even back at NYU.

Personally, the friends I’ve met along the way have been my favorite part about the major. Whether it’s climate change, promoting women’s rights worldwide, or fighting racial injustice, IR students are committed to making a better tomorrow for everyone.

Emily Mitchell-Marell, Undergraduate Academic Advisor for IR, agrees. “[IR students] aren’t the kind to shy away from things that are maybe a little more difficult because they see it’s worth it.”

What does the International Relations program look like in the era of COVID-19?

This is a question I’ve wondered myself! Thankfully, the International Relations department has a plan. Students are able to postpone their study-away semester, which only requires a simple conversation with their Academic Advisor. They have also been able to take advantage of their “go local” situation to take courses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

The department has continued to be very understanding of COVID-related circumstances; the study away requirement for seniors or students who planned to go abroad in Spring 2020 has been waived. Don’t let the study-away requirement scare you!

So… “Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to great places! Today is your day.”

Your university is waiting, so get on your way.

A Georgia peach at heart, Sean is a junior in the College of Arts and Science currently studying International Relations and Public Policy, with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. While his southern heritage will always shine within him, Sean loves being able to unapologetically live his truth in Manhattan. Some of his favorite NYU-related gems include living with his best friends in SoHo, doing homework on the 7th floor of Kimmel, and taking the NYU bus to … literally anywhere! When he is not listening to Beyoncé’s entire discography, Sean is either working at one of NYU’s residence halls as an Office Assistant or telling his friends about his recent study-away semester at NYUAD.