Int'l Relations/Affairs and Foreign Service Schools

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Int'l Relations/Affairs and Foreign Service Schools
By Over30 (Over30) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 05:13 pm: Edit

A friend called today about her senior daughter who wants to study in the areas of international affairs/relations and public policy. She'll finish AP Latin this year, but has no other language. She has the stats and should be competitive at any school, but needs to find some match and safety schools. She's already looking into the FS program at Georgetown, and is also looking into Tufts and Clarement McKenna. I did a search and found a lot of threads with a school here and there listed, but it would be very helpful to have the schools in one place.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

By Cfunkexonian (Cfunkexonian) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 06:51 pm: Edit

Look into Johns Hopkins. Contrary to their reputation for being a pre-med institution, they have a very strong international studies department. They also offer a five year combined BA/MIA where the student studies for three years at the Homewood campus in Baltimore and then two years at the advanced school of international affairs in DC.

Columbia offers a similar program (masters in five years). I would choose columbia over johns hopkins mainly because new york city offers the more cosmopolitan and internationally-minded atmosphere. But you won't go wrong with Johns Hopkins either.

Princeton has the woodrow wilson school of public and international affairs, which does offer an undergraduate major. It's very prestigious, but the undergraduate program has been negatively reputed to be a breeding ground for future lawyers, not diplomats.

Look into any school with strong government/political science departments. All pol sci majors are divided into four branches, international relations, comparative government, american government, and political theory. Harvard and Yale both have very strong programs in these areas with a full range of study abroad opportunities.

Hope this helps.

By Kinshasa (Kinshasa) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 07:41 pm: Edit

She might want to check to see SFS at Georgetown accepts Latin as a "modern foreign language" per its requirements. My son is taking AP Latin this year and I remember reading this on the GU website.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 07:56 pm: Edit

BU and AU might be match and safeties. They both have good JYA and internship programs, AU especially.

Also, check out the archived CC posts for kids who were accepted to the SFS last year. The SFS stats and ECs are WAY above regular GU stats.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 07:56 pm: Edit

And GWU.

By Reidmc (Reidmc) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 12:40 am: Edit

Two notes: Specialized programs are nice but not necessary for these careers. I'm with cfunkexonian re: the good options that can be developed from top unis and LACs with strong political science departments, study abroad opportunities and internship leads.

On the other hand, don't overlook Occidental College, which has a unique diplomacy and world affairs major:

By Dostoyevsky (Dostoyevsky) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 03:25 am: Edit

hey guys...i am very interested in the same type of majors as the OP's daughter....since I will be applying to SFS at georgetown, i decided to check out what they specifically wanted requirement-wise:

Language requirements
Although it is encouraged, applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service are not required to take SAT II language exams. Language placements exams are offered at the beginning of every year to assist students in determining what language level to enroll in. Students are welcome to begin studying new languages when they arrive at Georgetown.
(from the gtown website)

so its nothing too restrictive (for admissions that is-- i have no idea what language they would want one to concentrate in if one was good at latin though)

just letting you know

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 04:28 am: Edit

Again, check out the language skills of the accepted SFS students from last year. Seems to me that many were fluent in multiple languages, many had lived abroad.

Also, Dean Galucci recommended Mandarin or Arabic as the two relevant languages for Froeign Service for your generation.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 04:30 am: Edit

REidmc; A friend explained that the foreign service postings are heavily regulated. Soemthing about the retired military getting first dibs. Do you know the details?

But I agree, there are many ways to build up an international career.

By Outwest5 (Outwest5) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:48 pm: Edit

A tiny bit off topic, but relevant:
My 41 y/old sister is in the foreign service and has enjoyed an exciting career since graduating with her Masters in FS from Georgetown. As the years go by her posts get better and better and her kids attend fabulous International schools and she makes a terrific living.

She went to Georgetown Univ. for grad. school in FS and had a Government undergrad major from a small second tier womens liberal arts college. In between undergrad and grad school she went to Univ. of Dijon, France for a semester to improve her French. You do not need to be fluent in a second language to attend FS grad school, but you do need to have some fluency in a second language to get a job in the FS. She says the most valuable training she had of all was the undergrad liberal arts degree as it taught her how to communicate and write, etc. so that passing the tough FS exam was not difficult for her where other applicants were dropping like flies.

I would recommend a small LAC for undergrad with a related major like public policy or government or politics OR even a foreign language major and then the best FS grad school they can get into.

Another college for her to seriously look at is:
Mills College in the San Francisco Bay area. It has very strong majors in Government and Public Policy although a weak foreign language department (although French is great there).

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit

I wouldn't recommend any college that does not highly encourage study abroad. That's the way I feel about it - but how are you going to even begin to get an inkling as to whether this is something one wants to pursue as one's life work without a strong experience of it? Which means to me that Yale (and maybe Harvard) are out. They do "allow" study abroad, but they don't strongly encourage it.

I'd go find LACs with strong study abroad programs. Macalester might be the top of the heap (you were looking for matches) All the elite women's colleges qualify -- if it is western Europe she is looking for, then Smith is probably the best, as they have the longest standing programs and require two-year language study before going (most of the others only require one.) Mount Holyoke is very well known for its political science/government programs, and 15% of the student body comes from abroad (the highest percentage of any of the top 50 colleges and universities). Earlham and Kalamazoo colleges are very fine (I think Kalamazoo actually requires foreign study to graduate; and Earlham's programs are unique in that the faculty travel, too). Occidental is said to be wonderful as well.

You might also consider ruling out schools that don't have a foreign language requirement. The school might be fine, and it is paradoxical - one might think that a school with such a requirement would have lots of folks taking courses they really don't want. But actually the effect is that the college has to beef up the departments in order to meet the demand, usually with a resulting increase in quality.

Since she already has Claremont on her list, she might consider Scripps, which is a magnate for romance language study from the other colleges, and which houses the Institute for the European Union. Might be a little easier to get into than Claremont, though I don't think anyone knows anymore as the landscape of all the California schools is changing as a result of what is happening at the state univs.

By Outwest5 (Outwest5) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit

I don't think it is absolutely necessary to do a study abroad program, but anyone interested in these majors would probably want to. Most small LAC's encourage study abroad so this shouldn't be a problem with any of them.

If money is a consideration I would make sure she applies to a couple women's colleges as well as some that offer merit scholarships.

Scripps was a great suggestion and I would actually put that above Claremont McKenna for her. Claremont McKenna is a fine college, but very, very competitive just because of the nature of their students. Scripps is much more supportive and for a young woman you could easily get bowled over by the political science majors that abound at McKenna.

I agree that Mt Holyoke, Smith, Mills and Scripps would all be good choices, but they are very different in personality and finding the right match would be important with them. Will she consider a women's college? How far from home does she want to go and does she want big city or rural, etc.?
For example:
Mills is decidedly urban and she would have a lot of hands on experience there, Scripps is decidedly quiet, safe and suburban. Mills gives more money than the other colleges, also.
How adventurous is she? Perhaps a truely competitve school is right for her? I would also take a look at Pitzer seriously. They are doing amazing things there with the social sciences and government in their own right. The current Speaker of the CA assembly is a Pitzer graduate.

By Over30 (Over30) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 03:01 pm: Edit

This is all great information which I will pass on. I don't think money is a problem and she's open to any area. Thanks!

By Clipper (Clipper) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 04:51 pm: Edit

"Language requirements
Although it is encouraged, applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service are not required to take SAT II language exams. Language placements exams are offered at the beginning of every year to assist students in determining what language level to enroll in. Students are welcome to begin studying new languages when they arrive at Georgetown."
(from the gtown website)

Dostoy - Georgetown does want you to already have a language when you apply to SFS - they do not mind you taking another language when you get there. There is a language proficiency exam that all students must pass in order to get their degree. Latin does not count as it is not a modern language. My daughter has both Spanish and Latin but will only be tested in Spanish. She does not receive any credit for her AP Latin Lit or AP Latin Vergil tests bc they do not count that as a language.

They offer 15 languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portugese, Russian, Spanish, Korean, Polish, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian are taught intensively - 6 to 10 hours a week for the first 3 years. This is normally required before you are able to pass the oral proficiency exam.

By Dostoyevsky (Dostoyevsky) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:34 pm: Edit

hmm i see....question: if i am basically fluent (see below) in russian, how should i prove this?....i can read/write/speak - however, i dont read many books in russian and i dont watch the russian channel (my parents order it) too much, so i need to probably expand my vocabulary for more difficult books and the current there anything i can do to show them that i can speak the language (no SAT II for russian)?

By Clipper (Clipper) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:00 pm: Edit

It says in my daughters SFS coursebook that for Russian you have the following choices:
0-2 years Russian RUSS 011 Intensive First Level Russian I
3 years RUSS 012 Intensive First Level Russian II
4+ years RUSS 111 Intensive Second Level Russian I

It sounds like you would be in RUSS 111 but they would give you a department test to place you. The proficiency test covers slang etc so you might need this last course before you take the proficiency test. Would be a good idea anyway, then you would be prepared.

From the SFS Booklet:
"Russian is taught intensively..leading to Advanced courses in Literature, Conversation, and Composition and Style. Informal opportunities to speak the language exist through participation in the Russian Club, the Russian Choir, and the Russian floor in the Copley Dorm. Study abroad at ST. Petersburg State U. during the summer and semester. "

By Dostoyevsky (Dostoyevsky) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:09 pm: Edit

wow awesome...thank you for the information!....since actually getting into the program is an issue for me, I was wondering how i can "exhibit" my russian-speaking skills?

By Tlaktan (Tlaktan) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:45 pm: Edit

I have a question. I speak Korean fluently (I'm second-generation Korean) and I speak Japanese semi-fluently (I've passed proficiency but I don't feel comfortable speaking it without further training). I also have a wee bit of fluency in Spanish but let's not discuss that.

But, as a 2nd Generation Korean, my Korean is not AS fluent (it's fine, I can speak to educators/diplomats and such as I have before), as a first generation Korean. I've annotated it in my application to Georgetown.

Also, I haven't taken an SAT II for a language, will this be a baddie? I really don't see the point in taking a language test for a language I already know, and has a disastrously forgiving curve.

Will my multi-lingual skills and ethnicity be a plus or a minus when applying to the SFS program? Please advise!

By Cheers (Cheers) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 09:28 pm: Edit

Try posting on the Georgetown Board under Individual schools. Look at the archived threads for accepted students.

By Kinshasa (Kinshasa) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:32 pm: Edit

If you show a special affinity for foreign languages, the government will send you to intensive language training in Arabic, Hebrew, or Chinese, for example. These courses are full-time, 5 days a week, for 44 weeks for the more difficult languages, less for French and Spanish.
One of my friends is fluent in Arabic, Chinese, and Urdu, and his career has taken him to Pakistan, India, China, Egypt, Syria and Israel.

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