Prefrosh Preview: A Guide to the School of Foreign Service

This week, Vox will be reviewing all of Georgetown’s undergraduate schools for the Class of 2016. Today, we start with the School of Foreign Service.

Core Crackulum

The core requirements for SFS bring you a step closer to the world of international relations, game theory, and how to memorize lists of dates for a history class. Somewhat reminiscent of high school (that is, if you went to public school), each major core class is usually large, lecture-style with an accompanying recitation to review the more difficult material. Most recitations have about 20 students and are usually taught by graduate or PhD students.

The proseminar, required for all incoming freshmen, gives new students a chance to be in a smaller, more intimate classroom setting with a top professor in the field. This class is waived for transfer students. The proseminar is meant to hone writing skills and get new students excited about studying diplomacy and globalization and international conflict and the AIDS epidemic and … stuff like that.

Students often moan about Political and Social Thought (PST), but this course generates some of the best in-class discussions of any other in the core. International Relations, with the right professor (cough Elizabeth Arsenault cough), reminds students that while we might think we’re informed about every major conflict in recent history we really aren’t. Generally, students like to get these core classes out of the way in their freshman and sophomore years to bring on the more interesting and focused courses.

International Trade-My-GPA

The constant earthquakes in Indonesia are nothing compared what will happen to your GPA after four (I repeat! Four!) economics courses. Of course, there are tons of students in the SFS who choose to study economics and excel brilliantly. But the rest of us meager folk are lost in a world of intersecting curves and the terribly sad thought that “free market” doesn’t mean you get a free lunch.

Name-Drop This Class

There are several notable professors in SFS who you may be lucky enough to take a class with. The SFS Dean, Carol Lancaster, served as deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Other  professors are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Council member Victor Cha, and former Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios.

So Many Majors So Little Time

SFS courses outside the core generally fall into the particular major you have chosen. International Politics, likely the most popular major, is unique for its quantitative methods requirement. International Political Economy (as well as International Economics) is for the committed–with an even heavier economics load as well as a Calculus course. Culture and Politics, as well as Regional and Comparative Studies, are the most flexible majors, without any math or science requirements. International History, a major often overlooked, usually has a small number of students every year with the flexibility to take any classes related to “social, cultural, intellectual, and political history” (read: everything). And perhaps one of the most interesting and constantly evolving majors: Science, Technology and International Affairs. This major couples math courses with a heavier science base as well.

Overall, the SFS seminars are the best part of your undergraduate career. There are a wide range of topics covered with a chance to finally delve into the field you came here to study. Learning from your peers can be incredibly rewarding, and some seminars have graduate students with a background of field work and experience to bring to the table.

Oh Vanuatu, how you haunt me

One of the most interesting and daunting parts of graduating from SFS is the unique requirement: Map of the Modern World. James Reardon-Anderson has taught this class for several years, and the man is brilliant. The class overviews major geographical and historical events in each region of the world, as well as overall trends affecting the globe as a whole.

So now, every time my iPhone autocorrects “Vanya” to “Vanuatu”, I can tell you that Vanuatu is in fact an island located in the South Pacific Ocean and the official languages spoken are French, Bislama, and English. Except I just looked that up on Wikipedia because also, you forget about 90 percent of the material learned in this class. Unless you’re brilliant. In which case, stop making the rest of us look bad for barely passing.

5 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: A Guide to the School of Foreign Service

  1. I’m glad to see you brought the trannies back. Don’t bow to the pressure of a bunch of armchair political correctors. Also you forgot the most important thing for SFS freshmen to know : you’re not special. Jesus doesn’t love you any more nor are your classes harder/more prestigious than many other departments here. And in the words of an inspiring and eminent professor here “the SFS is the result of a government professor getting too big of a head and deciding he wanted to be a dean, like the ILL was”

    otherwise awesome article great job

  2. Isn’t STIA worth a mention for those who aren’t afraid of math or science? And to avoid leaving any out, International Econ?

  3. The number after your name and school will forever betray the fact that you lot haven’t passed a proper map test.

  4. @STIA Major

    You’re right. Initial version of the post had a line about that but I accidentally posted incorrectly. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. @crotchety old ’12 alum

    Go back a few years and you’ll be lumped in the same group of kids these days. I love me some Hrebenak and had him for a real class, but neither he nor any other human could compare to the man, the myth, the original – Charles Pirtle.

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