International Studies is an interdisciplinary major that seeks to help students attain a well-rounded understanding of global developments and trends and to prepare them to succeed in the globalized world of the twenty-first century. In addition to core courses in international politics, history and economics, students study a foreign language and choose an area of concentration in which they take a cluster of courses in one of three areas: a country or region of their choice; globalization and sustainability; or security studies. A distinguishing aspect of the major is the comprehensive written and oral examinations which students take in the last semester of the senior year. 

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

  1. INST/POSC 170, International Relations is the best point of entry into the major
  2. ECON 111, Introduction to Microeconomics and ECON 112, Introduction to Macroeconomics, should also be taken early
  3. Foreign language coursework should be continued or started.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: International Studies or the department web site.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Many of the courses in the major can serve as distribution requirements.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The INST major was designed with the hope and expectation that all of our students would spend a year abroad. As a result, we developed the curriculum so that a student who did spend a year abroad could complete all the requirements for the major, as long as she or he followed a few guidelines.

The guidelines are written for the entering student who knows he or she wants to major in INST. Rather than specify the courses that you “must” have in a given semester, the following are general guidelines regarding courses that we suggest you take during each year. You should think of these guidelines as giving you a fast track into the major – this provides maximum flexibility in your junior and senior year.

First Year
ECON 111
ECON 112
Foreign language

Sophomore Year
One of three required diplomatic history courses
INBM 200
INST general electives: see General Electives under MAJOR section in Academic Bulletin: International Studies 
Continue with foreign language

Junior Year
INST general electives: see General Electives under MAJOR section in Academic Bulletin: International Studies 
Finish INST foreign language requirement
Finish core INST course requirements (if available)

Senior Year
INST 401 (senior seminar; autumn semester only)
INST 404 (senior review for the written and oral examinations; spring semester only)
Finish all other INST requirements: (core courses, electives, language as needed)

For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact an IS faculty member. Students not following these guidelines may still be able to study for a year abroad and still complete the major, but will face a more demanding senior year. Many students who do study abroad for a year are able to complete both the INST major and a language major or a language minor, due to the overlap in these programs of study.

Senior comprehensive examination process
One especially challenging part of the major is the comprehensive written and oral examinations at the end of the senior year. The written exam takes three hours. It is designed to demonstrate substantive knowledge in all four core areas of the major; international relations theory, American foreign policy, international economics, and diplomatic history. The oral exam lasts for 40 minutes and involves questions about the student’s area of concentration and the core areas of the International Studies program.


A student will be awarded Honors if the student has a 3.50 average overall and in the major, an A or A- in International Studies 401 and International Studies 404.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Though not required, study abroad is very strongly encouraged, and most majors spend at least a semester abroad. Choice of study abroad program should be selected in consultation with your major advisor.

Additional Remarks

Careers: Many International Studies majors pursue careers in government service, international business, banking and law. Some go on to the Peace Corps. Others have found work with Non-governmental organizations. Recent graduates have landed posts in the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Defense. Others have continued and pursued advanced degrees in the leading graduate programs and professional schools in the United States, Europe, and Asia.