No better time than now

Defined by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) as “the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information,” globalization has been heralded as one of the biggest buzzwords of the 21st century. It follows as the world has become increasingly globalized, interest in the study of international affairs has grown. Today, it encompasses a variety of issues, including everything from global economics and public health to space and maritime security.

One glance at nonprofit global policy think tank RAND Corporation’s international affairs web page demonstrates not only the breadth and depth of international affairs, but also its pertinence to our troubled times. Topics currently being tackled include the plight of refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic and tracking the spread of the virus via air travel data. East Asian security and the trade relationship between the U.S. and China; U.S.-Mexico border issues; and the benefits and drawbacks of remote voting are also taking center stage.

Not only is there always room for new perspectives in IA, but there’s a strong need for them. For example, a recent opinion piece in Foreign Policy calls on the field to accept the role race plays in shaping world politics.

In addition to helping to change the world, there are personal benefits to studying IA, too. For starters, you’ll have many career options thanks to the transferable skills gained during this course of study. While many IA graduates go on to work in government positions, multinational corporations and NGOs are always looking for people with international relations knowledge and skills including data analysis, economics, and language ability among others.

If a job with lots of travel is also on your bucket list, IA is a terrific field for this as well. Whether or not you land a sought-after foreign service job, international affairs careers typically come with plenty of opportunities for trips abroad.

California: the perfect place to study international affairs

For better and for worse, the United States has long been known for exerting considerable influence on the world.  With the current administration bucking this trend and separating itself from global institutions, a recent piece in the Christian Science Monitor asserts that “no other power is ready or willing to fill America’s outsize economic and military shoes.”

And while the country’s track record at handling the coronavirus has hurt the US’ reputation worldwide, its leadership is still needed, according to many experts. US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns asserts, “When the US opts out, it makes it very difficult for the rest of the world to be effective.”


There’s no better vantage point from which to watch all of this play out -- and to position yourself to have a hand in how it does -- than by studying in the US. California, in particular, is the country’s most diverse state, and by far the largest state economy in the country. The University of California system is among the US Public Ivy colleges, and includes UC San Diego which ranks #4 for global public universities in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), and ranks 10th Best Public University in the US by US News and World Report.

UC San Diego’s prestigious School of Global Policy & Strategy (GPS) is a robust community dedicated to addressing the crucial challenges facing society at this pivotal time. GPS is especially known for its expertise in the Americas and Asia, thanks to the ideal West Coast location and status as a science and technology hub.

Home to the 21st Century China Center; the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy; the Center on Global Transformation; the Center for US-Mexican Studies; the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China; the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation; the Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology; the Korea-Pacific Program; the Laboratory on International Law and regulation; and the Policy fellows Program, it also shines in research.

Programs like the two-year, full-time GPS Master of Public Policy (MPP) professional degree, which allows students to hone in on one or more policy areas of particular interest, and the full-time GPS Master of International Affairs (MIA), constitute phenomenal educational opportunities for aspiring IA leaders.

Indeed, GPS graduates go on to top jobs in business, governments and nonprofits in more than 80 countries around the world, with entities ranging from the United Nations and the U.S. Foreign Service to Google and Tesla.

According to Renee Bowen, a Professor at GPS who also heads up the Center for Commerce Diplomacy, the value of the school’s California location cannot be overstated. “The culture of freedom that permeates the state infects all who live here, in the best way possible. My experience in California has served to reinforce many of the basic principles governing markets that economics teaches,” she says.

Victor Shih, an Associate Professor at GPS, adds, “The density of exchanges between UC San Diego and academia in China is impressive. For that, we must thank our 21st Century China Program. Additionally, we have a close relationship with Fudan University through the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China, also based at the School of Global Policy and Strategy. We are now well known in China as a premier place to exchange ideas on economic policies and political economy.”

Craig McIntosh, a Professor of Economics at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, also speaks to how being in California -- and San Diego, in particular -- has shaped his outlook on international affairs. “Our region offers an innovative global technology culture where a serious focus on international problems can cohabit with a great quality of life. The University of California is a world-class strategically located institution where people are engaged in the main policy debates of the day, and yet is an unpretentious place where the focus is on the quality and policy impact of the work,” he explains.

While international affairs has always been relevant, now is an especially decisive moment in human history, so there’s no better time to study this vital field, nor a better place to do so than UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy in California.

Article written in association with UC San Diego.