Majors & Programs


International & Area Studies

​Majoring in International & Area Studies (IAS) allows you to develop a broad understanding of the world, while exploring the diversity and richness of other cultures. What makes an IAS major powerful is its interdisciplinary nature. Whether in the classroom or on a study abroad program, IAS at Washington University opens up the world to you.

Careers Related to International & Area Studies

This exciting and evolving field of study opens up many career paths for you in the public and private sector, including business, education, academia, diplomacy, nonprofits, and law. Many graduates discover that their familiarity with foreign cultures and languages gives them an added advantage in their search for employment.

Others have expanded their international experiences in the year or two following graduation by participating in the Fulbright Student Program, teaching English abroad, or serving in the Peace Corps. And some choose to continue their education through master’s degree programs in international studies or graduate programs in business, law, medicine, or other fields.

A Strong Program with Variety

IAS at Washington University is an established program consisting of a wide range of courses from a variety of departments. Our strengths include:

  • A strong faculty drawn from many different departments—with special expertise in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East—to offer you opportunities to explore particular areas of the world in depth.
  • A diversity of courses, including those which examine dynamic processes such as global financial markets or development experiences of different regions.
  • An emphasis on undergraduate research, including opportunities to publish and present completed projects.
  • Available instruction in 14 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Swahili, and most European languages.

A Vibrant Community

Many IAS students committed to furthering international awareness enjoy participating in Sigma Iota Rho, the International & Area Studies Honorary. The Washington University chapter of this national organization fosters an academic, activist, and social community for IAS majors and minors. Each year the honorary presents a number of public events and service projects on international issues for the campus and greater St. Louis community.

Opportunities to Study Abroad

Studying abroad for a summer, a semester, or a year opens up a world of possibilities and encourages you to embark on a lifelong journey of international education. You will have the opportunity to experience other cultures, improve your foreign-language skills, and study specialized subjects. Spending time in a different area of the world can be an especially valuable complement to your IAS major or minor. Most students find the experience career-enhancing and even life-transforming.

Through our office of Overseas Programs, you may choose from a wide array of programs in countries appropriate to your concentration; a complete list of programs is available at

  • Year or semester programs for IAS majors are available in American Samoa, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vietnam, and Washington, DC.
  • Summer program locations include Argentina, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Washington, DC.

International Leadership

One optional gateway to the IAS major is the International Leadership Program (ILP), a special year-long program for first-year students. ILP students work with IAS faculty in a small group setting, develop a network of passionate and similarly-minded peers, and receive targeted advising about such issues as study abroad and international careers. In addition, students develop their leadership potential through the creation and execution of their own internationally-focused events on Washington University’s campus.

General Information About the Major in International & Area Studies

There are six concentrations available to IAS majors. All are designed to provide you with a comparative, interdisciplinary perspective on the world.

As an IAS major or minor, you must successfully complete a four-semester sequence of language instruction in your chosen language program (other than English). You must complete one semester of language before declaring the major.

  • Development Studies focuses on the interaction of politics, history, culture, society, and economics as we try to understand what governments and societies do to promote or hinder growth and development, and how those actions influence social arenas.
  • Eurasian Studies focuses on the historic and contemporary social, cultural, and economic interconnections among the peoples of Eurasia, the vast landmass stretching east/west from China to Europe. Language requirement must be met with a Eurasian language.
  • European Studies focuses on the culture, history, politics, and economics of contemporary Europe, giving students a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the European contribution to world politics and cultural exchange. Language requirement must be met with a European language.
  • Global Cultural Studies focuses on the practical and theoretical issues arising from cross-cultural encounters around the world.  You will study these both by examining conventional cultural products (literature, film, visual art, and music) and investigating their broader political and social contexts.
  • Latin American Studies offers a wide range of courses, beginning with a thorough study of ancient civilizations up through modern times. Language requirement must be met with Portuguese or Spanish.

The Senior Capstone Experience

As a prime IAS major, you will complete a capstone experience sometime during your senior year. This experience allows you to draw from your interdisciplinary coursework and to synthesize, compare, and consolidate the various approaches and theories you have explored.

Your capstone experience may take the form of:

  • An IAS portfolio—a multi-media document which synthesizes and presents what you have learned in your IAS major.
  • An honors thesis in IAS—if you have a strong academic record, you are encouraged to work toward honors by writing an honors thesis under the supervision of a faculty member.
  • Research and editorial methods practicum in IAS—this is an opportunity to serve on the editorial board for the IAS Undergraduate Journal and run the IAS Undergraduate Research Conference.

The International & Area Studies Minor

You may decide to pursue a minor in European Studies, Latin American Studies, or Russian Studies. All minors must fulfill the IAS foreign language requirement and complete specific coursework.

  • European Studies focuses on the culture, history, politics, and economics of contemporary Europe. Language requirement must be met with a European language.
  • Latin American Studies offers a wide range of courses, beginning with a thorough study of ancient civilizations up through modern times. Language requirement must be met with Portuguese or Spanish.
  • Russian Studies focuses on achieving a high level of proficiency in the Russian language and the in depth study of Russian literature. Language requirement must be met with Russian.

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