International Studies Major: Preparing Students for Global Careers

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Genevieve Chantal Ceant
For Genevieve Chantal Ceant, getting a degree meant dusting off her passport. As an international studies major, Ceant spent eight weeks last summer absorbing the culture, language, and day-to-day life in the Dominican Republic.

The international studies major at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences prepares students for careers in a variety of fields, including international relations, politics, law, business, journalism, education, and government. Courses highlight the culture, history, law, literature, and government of various regions worldwide.

Part of the major’s requirements is six credits of Travel Study coursework. During her two months in the Dominican Republic, Ceant, who graduated in 2009, took three courses for a total of nine credits at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, or Pontifical Catholic University Mother and Teacher, also called PUCMM. She took two classes in Spanish at an advanced level and a class in Dominican and Caribbean Culture. She also conducted research at the Dominican National Archives in Santo Domingo, preparing a paper on Haitian-Dominican relations.

“The program made a difference in my life, and I have a lot of traveling experience,” said Ceant. Living in the island nation was a totally different experience, however, and one that expanded her understanding of the region as she pursues an international-relations career with a specialty in the Caribbean.

Understanding people and their culture is important for students majoring in international studies who face the challenge of a global workforce that transcends geographic boundaries, requires multi-cultural communication, and prefers the ability to converse in more than one language. During her Travel Study, Ceant spoke, read, and wrote in Spanish.

In addition to the Travel Study requirement, students in the international studies major must immerse themselves in a foreign language. While Ceant is focused on the Caribbean, fellow international studies program alumna Naida Alcime spent five weeks in Paris studying French.

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Naida Alcime

Alcime attended classes at the University of Paris Sorbonne where she studied phonetics and French language. Beyond her class work, she practiced her language skills with native French speakers.

“My French is so much better now,” said Alcime, who graduated in the fall of 2009. “While I was there I got to practice. I got to hear the actual Parisian accent. That’s different from when you’re learning French in the States. I got the speed, and I got to hear their conjunctions. When I came back and I spoke French, it sounded much more Parisian.”

“Travel Study is one of the great assets of a university education. It is life changing,” said David Kilroy, Ph.D., associate professor, who serves as chair of the international studies major.

“Our intent is to make them prepared,” Kilroy said of the students. “We’ve set up our curriculum in a way that’s designed to give as broad as possible, but still fairly focused, introduction to international education. By the time students complete the program, they’ll be ready.”