How I chose my major: International Studies

students looking at a large map

In the “How I chose my major” series, we showcase the academic paths CSU students have taken, and students tell their stories in their own words.

In my senior year of high school, the idea of choosing a major was foreign to me. After multiple conversations with counselors, I became even more overwhelmed to think that I had to dedicate four years to a specific area of study. My interests were changing yearly, from medicine to fine arts to criminology, and finally to law. My passion for legal studies began my as I watched a few people close to me deal with complex immigration issues. Law was a big interest area, but I ended up starting college without having a major. It allowed me to explore programs related to law, like political science, psychology, sociology, and beyond.

As an undeclared/exploratory studies student, I was scrambling to find introductory courses within programs related to law. But I did take a class called Issues in Hispanic Culture that introduced me to the different waves of migration among the Hispanic world. I fell in love with the topics and experiences that these studies offered. I was eager to learn more so I talked to my advisor and began looking into the International Studies major.

My first international studies course was called Interdisciplinary Approaches to Globalization, and I was fascinated as I learned about cultures and laws on a global scale. This led me to take part in an 11-day study abroad program through the First-Generation Global Experience in Costa Rica Program, and I fell in love with the experience of learning about another culture first hand. I declared International Studies as my major shortly after this trip.

International Studies is an innovative, strong-spirited department within the College of Liberal Arts. It carries four specific concentrations where you can focus your studies in either Asia, Europe, Middle Eastern-North Africa or Latin America. Throughout my studies in the program, I’ve taken workshops and heard guest speakers that have consistently challenged my understanding of world politics, culture dynamics, and the relationship between those two. I’ve been able to sit in rooms with authors and social justice advocates from different regions of the world.

The winter break of my junior year, I got the opportunity to take another trip abroad to Ghana, Africa. Throughout the four weeks of the program, I traveled to four different regions of Ghana, learning about spiritual sites, gender roles, social structure, and education systems. This experience gave me a greater and more well-rounded connection to my program, especially with peers and professors in other concentrations.

I would not change anything about the way I found my major; through it all – classes, guest speakers, workshops, and study abroad – I tapped an interest I didn’t know was there. Plus, I am still capable of working toward law, and I have a focus for my interest in law: I’m looking at internships with law firms, the Department of Foreign Services, and the United Nations’ Human Rights branch. But, I know that if I change my mind, I could explore other interests, too. The beauty of International Studies is that it’s an interdisciplinary program that pushes students to understand the nature of diverse cultures and peoples; students can pursue international business, journalism, publishing, education, sales and marketing, management and administration and so much more – all while developing a broad worldview and looking beyond their own perspectives. I plan to end my time at CSU doing just that: traveling one last time as I join the Semester at Sea program.

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Jennifer Gutierrez is a double major in International Studies and Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture, along with a minor in Political Science. She is a sister and current president of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority Incorporated, and in Key Communities, participating as a mentee and then as a leader coach for the program. Jennifer also works for the Office of Admissions as an Admissions Ambassador. In her free time, Jennifer loves spending time with her dog, Nova, paddleboarding, painting, and participating in all things fitness – especially yoga and HIIT classes.