First-Year Focus

Good Classes for First-year Students

The Core Courses in International Studies are great gateway courses into the field of international studies. Rooted in the diverse methodologies of our interdisciplinary program, they will provide you with the basic theories which will underlie the rest of your curriculum.

  • Global History I: Hist 250-1 
  • Global History II: Hist 250-2
  • Intro to International Relations: Poli Sci 240
  • Intro to Macroeconomics: Econ 201
  • American Foreign Relations: either Hist 319 or Poli Sci 344

AP Exam Credit

AP credit for Econ 201 can substitute for the Intro to Macroeconomics requirements.


The language requirement for International Studies is the same as the Weinberg College requirement; you must demonstrate proficiency in a classical or modern foreign language equivalent to the work covered in a second-year college-level course. Language proficiency may be shown in any one of three ways:

  1. Achieving a score designated by the Weinberg College Council on Language Instruction on a College Entrance Examination Board Advanced Placement Examination
  2. Passing a proficiency examination given online during the summer or at Northwestern during New Student Week and periodically during the school year (language departments may limit the number of times a proficiency examination may be taken)
  3. Successfully completing designated course work (these courses may not be taken under the pass/no credit option, and a grade of C- or higher must be earned in the last course in a sequence fulfilling the foreign language requirement)

Students who believe they are proficient in a language not regularly taught at Northwestern may petition to the Council on Language Instruction for a proficiency examination in that language. Petitions are available in the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising and must be filed during a student’s first quarter.

Building a Community of International Scholars

Students in the International Studies undergraduate community have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of academic and career oriented events. Throughout each quarter our staff coordinates community building events for our diverse group of majors. Our Global Café provides an informal space to meet and speak with other IS majors while taking a quick break from classes to enjoy some coffee and treats. Our graduate student mentors also participate in the Global Café and are available to chat with students about potential research projects; help students develop fellowship and grant applications; and advise students about various research and conference opportunities. The Global Café is also the home to our quarterly events including World Roundup Dinners, Honors Readings, Professionals in the Field, Open Mic sessions and Students in the Field events. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet with some of our most recent alumni through our Alumni Dinner series and listen to first-hand accounts about what IS majors do after graduation.

Programs and Organizations of Interest to IS Majors

Beyond coursework you can do several things to explore the field of International Studies. There are a wide range of opportunities available for students to become engaged global citizens at Northwestern. Opportunities include student organizations, national conferences, unique study abroad experiences, international research opportunities and special certificate programs. With our focus on languages and study abroad, our students are poised to become successful candidates for a variety of competitive programs and awards.

International Departments to Know

  • Study Abroad Office - Every year, nearly 750 Northwestern students from all six undergraduate schools studied abroad. The current affiliated list includes 130 programs in over 40 countries around the world. You’ll find a wide range of programs available: some encourage participants to achieve proficiency in another language, and others offer opportunities to conduct independent research or get involved with the local community through an internship or field study. Students who have studied abroad report to us that they have gained new perspectives on global issues, experienced personal growth, and developed valuable career skills. For those who take on the challenge, there’s no doubt that studying abroad can be one of the most exciting and enriching opportunities a student can have at Northwestern.
  • GESI - The Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) prepares undergraduate students with the knowledge, tools, and experiences to confront shared global challenges. Through transformative opportunities in international service learning, students form partnerships with grassroots NGOs and communities in the developing world to advance sustainable, community-driven change.
  • IPD - The Office of International Program Development (IPD) provides coordination and support to international efforts on campus and works with all schools to promote internationalization and cross-school collaborations. IPD designs and administers international study and research opportunities for Northwestern students. The programs target underrepresented students and disciplines, such as premedical and engineering students, and others who might not engage in international study or research due to lack of either language skills or professionally-relevant programs abroad. IPD also administers "direct enrollment" study abroad opportunities at many partner institutions abroad, which means Northwestern students will be studying with students from the host institution as well as other international students.
  • Global Health Studies - IPD is home to Northwestern University's interdisciplinary Global Health Minor. The minor is designed to provide students with skills to understand and solve complex international health issues. Global Health Studies is an interdisciplinary minor spanning many subject areas within the diverse and exciting field. The aim is to provide students with a strong foundation from which to think critically about global health challenges and practices while exploring various core fields of global health such as epidemiology and nutrition. Students receive elective credit from health-related courses within the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Business, Engineering, Communications, Economics, Gender Studies, History, International Studies, Journalism, Linguistics, Philosophy, Political Science, Social Policy, and Sociology. The minor is not limited to pre-medicine students but rather can be used to complement many fields of study.

Student Organizations

  • AIESEC - Present in over 125 countries and territories and with over 60,000 members, AIESEC is the world's largest youth-run organization. Focused on providing a platform for youth leadership development, AIESEC offers young people the opportunity to participate in international internships, experience leadership and participate in a global learning environment. What makes AIESEC unique is the youth driven impactful experience that it offers to its members. AIESEC is run by young people for young people, enabling a strong experience to all its stakeholders.
  • GES - The Global Engagement Summit (GES) is a five-day training conference for students committed to global change. Delegates come together to understand the challenges of and opportunities for their engagement; to hone the skills and mindsets that will enable them to better plan, execute, and participate in change-based projects; and to connect with like-minded peers from around the world.
  • GlobeMed - GlobeMed at Northwestern is one of 56 GlobeMed chapters working to improve the health of people living in poverty around the world. GlobeMed partners with the HOPE Center to improve access to high quality health education and care for the communities in and around Ho, Ghana. The current focus is on child nutrition and adolescent sexual health.
  • NUCHR - The Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights (NUCHR) is dedicated to promoting the universality of human rights, which can only be achieved by recognizing the difficulty in consensus, issues of cultural relativism, and the potential paradoxes in implementation and practice. Through programming events, student-organized seminars and the culminating conference, NUCHR raises awareness of international human rights issues and fosters social activism at Northwestern and beyond. The three day undergraduate student-organized conference unites student delegates from across the country with distinguished academics, activists and policy-makers from around the globe to address a unique aspect of human rights each year. NUCHR provides a mechanism for critical discourse in order to challenge assumptions and broaden perceptions on the chosen topic.

Beyond the First Year

After you declare your major in International Studies, there are various opportunities at Northwestern to develop and refine your research skills, as well as develop your professional skills. Certificate programs provide the tools to prepare you for careers in high-demand industries. Academic research grants and fellowships offer financial support to students interested in working on a personal, educational or intellectual independent research project. Some provide funding to attend graduate school; others allow you to study or to conduct research overseas to gain practical experience in your field of study.

Professional Certificate Programs

  • Medill Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Certificate - A five-credit program designed to prepare students for entry level marketing communications positions including advertising, direct, database, e-commerce, interactive marketing, PR and corporate communications.
  • Kellogg Certificate Programs - The Kellogg Certificate Programs prepare students for careers in financial services, consulting, and any field that analyzes data to make decisions, teach business analytics, strategic models and tools, and business applications, Learn about different business scenarios including mergers and acquisitions, evaluation, asset management, new products, strategy formulation, supply chain design, and pricing, develop critical thinking and business application skills.

Funding Sources for International Research

  • Provost Sponsored Opportunities – The Office of the Provost houses many global and research opportunities open to all Northwestern undergraduates, including Undergraduate Research Grants (Academic Year URGs and Summer URGs), Undergraduate Language Grants, Conference Travel Grants, Undergraduate Engagement Grants, and the Circumnavigators Travel-Study Grant. In addition, the Undergraduate Research and Arts Exposition, the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, and the Humanities Research Workshops.
  • Office of Fellowships – The Office of Fellowships is designed to help you launch your search for national and international fellowship competitions that meet your educational, intellectual, and personal needs. Fellowships fall into many categories. Some provide funding to attend graduate school; others allow you to study or to conduct research overseas to gain practical experience in your field of study. Past IS majors have received Fulbright awards for study in Africa, Jordan and Australia, the Princeton in Latin America award, the Association for Women Journalists Scholarship, the Coro Fellows Program, the Merage Foundation for the American Dream Fellowship, and many more.


If you have any questions or concerns about the IS adjunct major, and how it fits in with your curriculum please feel free to e-mail us at