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International Studies FAQs

What can I do with a degree in international studies?

This question requires more than a simple sentence or two. The international studies faculty carefully crafted this web page to give students a complete answer.

How do I choose a concentration?

This takes a little thought and perusal of the courses that each concentration offers. There are, broadly speaking, two different categories of concentrations: geographic and thematic. Some students know that they are interested in a specific part of the world, and these tend to choose one of the area studies concentrations (such as Africa, Latin America, etc.). Choosing a geographic concentration may be particularly useful if you intend to work, volunteer, or do business in a specific region of the world after graduation. Other students are more interested in culture or politics. Some students are looking for a concentration that complements their second major. A student majoring in French or German studies, for example, might choose Europe. A student majoring in business might choose the concentration in global sustainability and development. 

Whichever concentration you choose, be sure to work with your advisor to pull together a series of classes that work well together and further your education in the best way possible.

How much foreign language do I need to study?

International studies students must reach the 300-level in a foreign language. For students who are starting a new language from scratch, this means five semesters of coursework.  You can place out of introductory classes for some languages by taking the foreign language exam. Although this is normally taken care of during your student orientation, students who are native speakers of a language that is not offered via exam should contact the foreign languages and literatures department to arrange for a one-on-one interview. Native speakers who have only attended school in English might still consider updating and formalizing their writing and speaking skills through coursework. 

If I want to study two or three different languages, how do I go about doing that?

It is not unusual for students to study more than one language. You might consider using a minor to add a second or third language. These classes will likely become part of your free electives or even a part of your college requirement, so students who want to take on additional language learning should plan their courses, and especially their free electives, carefully.

Can a course count both toward my international studies major and my minor? 

In general, one class or, depending on the minor, two classes from your minor can count toward your international studies major. You can check on the different minor requirements here. This class (or classes) should be on the list of approved classes for your concentration.  For example, the list of approved class for the global cultural studies concentration includes a number of anthropology classes. If you minor in anthropology, you can double count just one of those classes to both your major and minor.

Another possibility is to double count your foreign language class. For example, if you minor in French, one of your French classes will likely count as your 300-level foreign language requirement in international studies, and one other class for your minor in French may also count towards your international studies major.

Consult your international studies academic advisor on how to strategize taking classes for your minor and major. 

Can I do an internship with my international studies degree?

Yes. The NC State career center maintains a list of internships and jobs in e-pack. Also, international studies advisors maintain a list of research and enrichment experiences that build student resumes. The program does not currently offer credit for internship and work experience. We do, however, support student participation in ENG 350 Professional Internships, NPS 490 Internship in Non-Profit Studies, and other class-based internship programs. All these opportunities require some planning, so we encourage students to begin considering their options as early as possible in their college career.

When should I take the core international studies courses (IS 200, 393, and 491)?

IS 200 is a basic introductory course, ideally taken at some point during your first 3 semesters, or as soon possible. IS 393 is a course normally taken during your junior year, preferably before you study abroad. IS 491 is a true capstone senior seminar which is normally taken after fulfilling many, if not most, classes in your departmental requirements. We also recommend that you complete your study abroad experience before taking IS 491. 

How many 200-level courses can I take in my IS Major?

A maximum of four 200-level courses may count towards your departmental requirements (including IS 200), but you are encouraged to take as many 300 or 400 level courses in your major as you can.

What are international studies-advised electives?

International studies-advised electives are classes that you and your advisor agree make sense for you, given your interests. They must be at the 300 or 400 level and contain significant international content. Many students save these for their study abroad coursework (in which case, we are flexible about the level, as many study abroad programs do not offer 400 level courses). The advised elective slot in the degree audit must be filled in manually by the IS advisor, so students must receive their advisor’s approval on a particular course before it can count for the advised elective. This is done after the student has completed the course.

I want to change concentrations. How do I do that?

Bruce Cheek, the student services specialist for international studies, can take care of this.

I found a class I want to take, but it isn’t on the list of courses for my concentration. Can the class still count?

Maybe. If the class has more than 50% international content, your advisor can approve the class for your major. Please bring a copy of the course syllabus or, at the very least, a course description from the catalog to your advisor for consideration.

When should I start planning for study abroad? 

You should begin planning for study abroad as soon as possible, and probably no later than the summer before your junior year. Students need a minimum of six credit hours from study abroad to complete the international studies major, but as far as the international studies faculty are concerned, the more time a student can spend abroad, the better. In descending order of preference, international studies faculty strongly recommend study abroad programs that offer one year, or one semester, or four to six weeks of summer study. If you want a rule of thumb, plan one year in advance for your study abroad experience. Your junior year is a good time to go.

Students planning on studying abroad must also have contingency plans in case something happens and their trip is cancelled or they are unable to go abroad. So they need to go ahead and register at NC State as if they’ll be here so that they have a spot held for them in classes. Students can then cancel their NC State classes before departing on a study abroad program. 

I have already traveled abroad, can I count that? 

All international studies majors must earn a minimum of 6 credit hours of study abroad. If you traveled abroad and participated in a program that offers university credit, we can likely count that experience. Unfortunately, we cannot offer credit for other sorts of travel or international experience (mission work, military service, etc…)

How do I choose a study abroad program?

The most important thing about choosing a study abroad program is to think creatively about where you want to go and how you will use your study abroad to spring board to your next goal. In descending order of preference, our faculty strongly recommend study abroad programs that offer one year, or one semester, or at the very least, four to six weeks of summer study. We also strongly recommend programs that offer home stays. These points allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture as much as possible, which is the ultimate objective of international studies.

As for specific countries, the first place to start is your foreign language. Do you want to work on your Japanese, Chinese, French, or Spanish? Then consider programs in countries where these are native languages. If you want to study abroad in an English-speaking country, consider Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, as well as the more traditional destinations of Ireland and the U.K.

Other issues to consider include cost and your overall course plan. Summer programs are less expensive overall, but if you calculate the rate by day, a semester or year-long study abroad program is cheaper, in part because of the costs of international travel. However, summer programs can be more convenient for students trying to juggle multiple majors, jobs, internships and campus activities.

Study Abroad FAQs

All majors must earn six credits of study abroad. Many five-week summer programs offer the opportunity to earn six credits. Alternatively, and especially if you want to become fluent in a foreign language and culture, you could study abroad for a full fall or spring semester, or even a whole year. If you study abroad for a semester or year, keep in mind that a maximum of 15 transfer credits may count for your “departmental requirements” in your degree audit, and that of the last 45 credits only 15 credits may be taken outside of NC State. Therefore, a semester or year-long study abroad experience should ideally be done during your junior year; by the very latest in the first semester of your senior year.

All majors must earn six credits of study abroad. If you traveled abroad and participated in a program that offers university credit, we can likely count that experience. Unfortunately, we cannot offer credit for other sorts of travel or international experience.

Our first recommendation would be to study in a country where the language you are learning is spoken. It will give you a chance to deepen and apply your linguistic and intercultural skills and likely increase your interest in the foreign culture and your motivation for studying it some more – and you may end up with international friends that you might visit many more times throughout your life.

If it is not possible to study in a country whose language you are learning or you simply wish to study elsewhere, that is fine, too (your study abroad location does not have to match your chosen foreign language). If you want to study in a country whose language you do not speak, we recommend these options:

1. Choose an NC State faculty led program that offers classes taught in English.

2. Choose a location where English is the native language.

3. Choose a location where the university offers a wide range of classes taught in English (there are many universities which now have broad offerings of classes taught in English – but there are many who don’t, so you need to check this out carefully; you can ask the study abroad advisor about this and possibly also your international studies advisor). A program that is especially interesting for international studies majors is the NC State European Center in Prague, in the Czech Republic. It offers classes that are relevant to IS Majors.

To see what other programs are available, visit the study abroad website and their office on campus.

We recommend you discuss your plans and different options with your international studies advisor, ask your foreign language teachers about their recommendations, and also gather information from the Study Abroad Office.

You will first go through a general advising session at the Study Abroad Office, then be assigned to a study abroad advisor who will work with you on the application process. Application deadlines and procedures vary depending on the program, whether it is an NC State Program, an exchange program, or organized by a national organization. NC State Programs and exchange programs may provide a bit more support for your experience, while national organizations, like ISEP and ISA, will charge a fee for their services, but in exchange provide the largest variety of study abroad opportunities. Ignore the deadlines on their website; our Study Abroad Office, through which you apply, needs your application earlier, so follow our deadlines!

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Plan ahead! By about a year for a semester or year-long study abroad, at least a semester ahead for a summer program. Application deadlines can be earlier than you suspect, check the Study Abroad website on deadlines for details.
  2. Many programs have pre-requisites or certain other requirements, such as foreign language proficiency at a certain level or a certain GPA. Check them, and also: keep up your grades! Some programs are competitive while others are not.
  3. Program application usually requires one or several letters of recommendation. Make sure you excel in some of your classes so your professors can give you good recommendations (which you should request at least two weeks before the deadline). Good recommendations are usually based on your academic performance over at least one semester, as observed and evaluated by a professor in one of your classes.

Regardless of which program you choose or even if you organize your study abroad experience yourself or through another university’s program, you should register with the NC State Study Abroad Office (so we have it on record that you did your study abroad!).

If you’ve gone on an NC State led program, you have already signed up for them. If you return with credits from a foreign university, Ms. Hope Ziglar in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, Caldwell 106, assists with these. Forward ‘official’ transcripts to or have ‘official’ paper copies sent to:

Hope Ziglar
NC State University
106 Caldwell Hall
Campus Box 8101
Raleigh, NC, USA 27695-8101

World Citizens Guide

And finally …

Enjoy your experience with an open mind — it will likely change your outlook on life and you may treasure it for life!