This question was originally asked and answered on my studyblr, but is being reposted here for convenience.
Hi Logan! I saw on one of your posts that you’re double majoring in international relations & French!! I’m applying to universities in the fall, and actually want to major in IR and minor in French. if you wouldn’t mind, could you tell me your major pros & cons of both areas of study?! I’ve just never seen anyone on tumblr who’s concentrated in the same areas as I plan to be!
Hey! That’s awesome! So far I haven’t found anyone with these same majors even at my school, so I’m glad you found me! Language double majors are a rare breed.
I attend the University of Florida, so I can only really comment on the programs here, but I’ll do my best!
- Pros: The really awesome thing about International Studies (IR is a theory you study within IS, like comparative politics etc) at UF is how felxible and versatile it is. You pick an area of the world you want to focus in (for me it’s Europe) and you take 15 credits of classes within that area and 15 classes outside of that area. So I’ve taken a Social Movements and Contentious Politics of Europe course, European History from a Social Science Perspective, Political Instituions of the EU, and a class called Turkey and Europe. So that makes 12 credits already! The nice thing is that I can take the classes I want to take and find interesting. If I wanted to, I could take a French History course and have it apply, too! In fact, that’s what I’m doing currently, and the course double counts for both my IS Major and French Major. For your 15 credits outside of your focus, you can choose to take courses in another area of the world (Asia, Africa, South America, Middle East) or take courses on international theories, such as International Relations, Comparative Politics, or Comparative Political Institutions, all of which I’ve taken or am currently taking. The only other requirement is that you have to have up to Intermediate proficiency in a language from your area of study. I chose French because I took it for 4 years in high school, and it’s a European language, but my sister is focusing in Asia and taking Chinese! So that’s how that works.
- Cons: Because it is so flexible, you have to be careful and make sure that the classes you’re taking really do count for your major, and also make sure that you don’t take too many credits or double count too many with another major/minor. And, depending on your area of focus, it can be hard to find interesting classes! Europe is a popular track here so I’ve never had that issue, but my best friend is in the Middle East track and she has trouble finding interesting classes that aren’t all about Israel/Palestine or Turkey. It also isn’t a lot of credits, it’s just about 60 if you need to take all four language classes to hit intermediate proficiency, and considering you have to meet at least 120 hours to graduate, you’ll need to tack on a couple minors or another major in order to hit that mark. You also have to be careful not to finish your first major before declaring your second, or before you finish your minor, because if you’ve passed 90 hours and you’ve finished your only major you’ll be forced to graduate. Depending on your University minors can keep you there, but not always, so it takes a lot of planning!
- Cons: Going to start out with the cons on this one. The only major con I have with the French major is that you have to get passed the Intermediate level in order for your French classes to start counting towards your major/minor. For reference, that means you have to complete Beginning 1 (5 credits), Beginning 2 (5 credits), Intermediate 1 (4 credits), and Intermediate 2 (4 credits), or show the equivalent proficiency of Intermediate 2 through a placement exam, before starting the major/minor. I tested into Accelerated French, which is Beginning 1&2 combined into one 5 credit class, upon coming to college, so for me I only had to get through 13 credits before I could start the major, but that’s still a lot to get through! Luckily I had to take them for IS anyways. The other thing is that you could be put at a serious disadvantage depending on what teacher you have and how much they force you to speak during class. I spoke a lot during Accelerated, but hardly any during Intermediate 1&2 or my Grammar and Comp class, so I’ve lost a lot of my ability to speak it.
- Pros: YOU GET TO SPEAK A NEW LANGUAGE I don’t know that’s the best pro I can think of! A lot of the classes you’ll be taking will be culture/literature classes in addition to linguistics and grammar courses, so it’s not all going to be learning how to speak it. Most of it is really interesting, and there’s a reason you have to be into the intermediate level in order to take these courses! Almost all of them are taught completely in French and you respond to everything in French, which I’ll admit is still difficult for me. The other nice thing about learning French is that it’s spoken by about 20% of the world and is still highly used in commerce in addition to English. So yeah, interesting, useful, and fun! But it will take a lot of work. I was one of those students to whom French came super easy in high school, but as I’ve taken it through college it’s gotten progressively harder and unfortunately I haven’t been increasing my study time for it. That’s changing next semester though.
Anyways, some additional info that I got from my advisor today when I want to see him in regards to declaring my double major! Turns out, at least at UF, while International Studies is its own major, there’s only two or three courses that can solely count towards the International Studies major. All the other hundreds of classes are pulled from 17 other departments, such as Poli Sci, French, German, Russian, Arabic, European Studies, History, the list goes on. So, double majoring with IS in any of those 17 departments/majors can be really tricky, because of course they overlap. Your majors have to have at least 15 credits that count solely towards one major and not the other, and because French culture/literature courses can double count and are required for the French major, it’s very easy for the system to double count a lot of your courses. You can avoid this (like I have) by finishing almost all of one major first with classes that would not be able to double count (in my case, courses that focus solely on Europe as a whole) and then declaring your double major or minor, after which point you can take classes that COULD double count, but won’t because that requirement has already been filled. Just make sure not to completely finish one major before you declare anything else!
To conclude, this is my advice to you: Make sure that, wherever you’re going, you know the exact requirements that each major/minor entails and know which classes count towards those requirements before you start taking them. That way you can map out your semesters and ensure you’ll be able to graduate on time (and not early accidently!) with the majors/minors that you want! Also, meet with your advisor at least once a semester. Even if it’s just to say hi, tell them what classes you’re taking, and ask opinions about professors. Seriously. You may feel like it’s stupid to visit them if you feel like you don’t need to, but I promise it will help and it’s NEVER a bad thing for them to know your face. They’re the ones who will get you into that class you’ve been dying to take but is full, or will give you a heads up on new courses, or could help you apply for scholarships or let you know about new scholarships as they come out. Seriously. My biggest regret is that I never visited an advisor until today.
Anyways, sorry for the mayhem it took to get this reply finished, and I hope this helps!