How to Make the Most of Your SPIA Career

By Jesse Kerzner


The fragility and value of time is often overlooked. Specifically, when it comes to the always too short, four-year, college career. So with that in mind, there are several tips and tricks, as well as some words of wisdom that I believe hold unique value. These are things that I have learned over my college career, and I hope you consider the following:

First, I urge you to take classes that both excite and challenge you. Many students choose to take the easy route, but I believe it is important to also take the lesser known one. SPIA has a wide variety of classes delving into different aspects of both international affairs and political science. Personally, these were classes like strategic intelligence, with Dr. Johnson, and Terrorism with Dr. Dix that allowed me to expand my interests. These courses allowed me to dive into tough and unorthodox discussions about real challenges facing real people. I suggest looking into the incredibly realistic simulation classes that are offered.

Second, it is imperative to connect with faculty and staff. You might not know it now, but those resources are invaluable. For me, I make it a goal to establish a relationship with at least one professor a year, or even a semester if you are willing to put in the work. When it comes to these relationships, use them as think tanks, bounce ideas off them, ask for career advice, see if they know about any opportunities available, and sometimes just talk. There is not always a need to have a specific goal in mind. However, make sure to not waste their time. Do not worry about whether or not that professor does what you are interested in because they might just have a friend who could help. On a similar note, use your advisor whenever possible. I have consistently used Paul Welch, my advisor, as a resource for opportunities as well.

Third, study abroad is one of the best decisions you can make. I know that they are often expensive, but before you say that, take a look at the new experiential learning scholarships offered by UGA. Also, SPIA itself offers study abroad scholarships. This past summer, I went to Spain to study Spanish and it was the experience of a lifetime. Between learning about the culture, and exploring all Spain had to offer, I was mesmerized by the experience. My college career would not be the same without that unique opportunity.

Lastly and on a similar note, explore and utilize all the opportunities and experiences that both SPIA and UGA offer. This comes in many forms, it could be an internship, a student organization, or research. Specifically, look into the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO), and check out student organizations that are designed for SPIA students like Model United Nations, Mock Trial, SPIA Ambassadors, and SPIA Student Union. There are also many leadership development opportunities within UGA’s Center for Leadership and Service, such as The Arch Society, Dawg Camp, LeaderShape, and ServeUGA. While they may not be directly involved with SPIA, any leadership experience is beneficial to a resume and a great talking point in any interview.

In summary, create your own legacy and use your time wisely while on this campus. There are so many things that you may have never heard of, so do yourself a favor and give them a shot. I mean, after all, even in failure or uncertainty there is a lesson to be learned.