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NEW & IMPROVED: International Studies Major

Liv Faulkner ’22
Associate Editor

When I first came to Merrimack, I was studying Biology on the Pre-Med track. I dreamed of becoming a doctor someday. College began with tough biology and chemistry classes. Me, not being the best at either subject in high school, found myself struggling and in turn, came to the conclusion that a change needed to be made. For my second semester of college, I was undeclared and took one Political Science course and one in Business to help decide between two things that interested me. My first poli-sci class was Comparative Politics with Dr. He Li, who soon became one of my favorite professors here at Merrimack. This class opened my eyes not only to what happens here in the United States, but around the world. It left me wanting to know more. At the end of my freshman year, I discovered a major I had not yet discovered at Merrimack: International Studies. I read the description on Merrimack’s website and had some conversations with the director of the program, Dr. Alison Russell. Having these conversations and learning more about the program gave me full confidence that this was the exact change I needed. 

During my time entering this major, the program was set up for IS majors to choose a region of the world to specialize in, as well as a language to study through the second intermediate level. I chose to specialize in Asia and took a full course of Spanish classes. When I entered this field as a freshman, I was terrified. At first, I was afraid to fail. What if the language classes were harder than I could handle? Or the required history classes wouldn’t interest me? 

As I near the end of my time here at Merrimack, I can safely say that those worries were just worries. For my final semester, I’m taking Beginner’s Italian just for fun. Did freshman Liv ever see that coming? Nope. I also use Duolingo in my downtime to learn different languages a bit and took the time to brush up on my French over the summer. The history classes I have taken are anything but dull and I recommend them to those who have the opportunity to take them in the future. I’ve taken World History since 1500, as well as Indian Ocean History. Currently, I am taking World History Post 1945, and would not want to wake up for any other class at 8 a.m. This class energizes me for the long day ahead. 

For those who are in their first two years of college, or are still looking at schools, the International Studies program has been remodeled and I personally love it and support it. There is now an Intro to International Studies course all IS majors will be required to take. In addition to new requirements such as World Religions and choosing a concentration. Those 4 new concentrations are as follows:

  1. Global and Regional Systems of Governance and Societies
  2. Global Economy, International Business and Development
  3. Global Peace, Justice and Ethics
  4. Global Health and Environment 

There is now also the option of an International Studies minor for those interested in the field, but not looking to take on a second major of coursework. The language requirement I outlined above still exists, but I promise you it is worth it in the end! I was nervous because this meant exposing myself to something outside of what I was used to; outside of my comfort zone. Now, learning new languages excites me. 

Another requirement of the major is Experiential Learning. This could be a semester abroad, a semester in Washington D.C., or an internship. Originally, I had planned to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland with Maynooth University. Unfortunately due to COVID-19, study abroad programs were cancelled during the time I had planned to go. So, in place of going abroad, I interned with the Massachusetts Trial Court’s Lowell Court Service Center. While this internship had a higher emphasis on U.S. and Massachusetts law, it was still something that interested me. I was looking to explore and there was no better way to do that than an internship. I was a remote student at the time of the internship, with the internship also being remote. I completed a legal internship from the comfort of my home. A reflection paper is required for the Public Service Internship course and I tied this with International Studies through a comparative lens. I talked about access to justice around the globe, taking what I had learned with the Lowell CSC and analyzing how that varies in different countries. 

It is such a normal feeling to go into college feeling unsure with any major. But, I can make one recommendation: If you’re interested in International Studies, go for it. Go all in. One of the best ways to make your college experience is to study what sets your soul on fire.