By Ema Weeks

I decided where I wanted to attend to college in April of 2020 when the world was on lockdown with ten options from which to choose, including UGA. It felt like sealing my fate for the next four years, defining the early beginnings of my career, and I thought myself extremely unqualified to make such a decision. Intending to study international affairs or political science, I convinced myself to choose a university in the Washington D.C. area because what could I do with a political science degree anywhere else but D.C.?

Quickly learning that proximity to D.C. and perceived suitability for my course of study did not encapsulate all of the ingredients that create a pleasant college experience, I applied to transfer to UGA before fall of my sophomore year. The culture of the campus, friendliness of the students, rigor of the academics, abundance of resources, helpfulness of the staff, school spirit, active clubs, an engaging freshman experience—all these criteria, so often left unexplored by prospective students, are undoubtedly equally as important as what majors the school offers, graduation rate, and other statistics flouted on pamphlets handed out on campus tours.

In January of 2022 I moved to Athens, settled into a new city far closer to my hometown of Savannah, and began anew at UGA studying international affairs with a minor in political science within SPIA. The correctness of my decision to transfer was abundantly clear within my first few days at UGA. My SPIA advisor and the wonderful people in the registrar’s office made my transition remarkably easy, providing me with excellent options to best align my prior courses to a major in SPIA that places me on my desired career path. On my first day of class, we won the National Championship, and as I sat in Stegeman Coliseum with my exuberant peers, I finally felt like a part of a community. I found an internship on a campaign during the Spring semester and had a wonderful intern experience in D.C. over the summer. I have made more connections, more friends that share my interests, and learned more about careers with a SPIA degree than I could have imagined. I was hesitant to transfer because I thought I would lose opportunities, but I have found more opportunities 600 miles away from the Nation’s Capital.

For those who are prospective students to UGA and would like to pursue a SPIA major in political science or international affairs and are wary of the number of opportunities that might present themselves, you could find yourself with even more opportunities at UGA. You don’t have to be a block away from the Capitol to find internships, wonderfully experienced professors in their fields, or practical experience in public service or international affairs. You’ll find endless options, make friends with similar goals, and receive fantastic advice from SPIA faculty and advisors. You can live at UGA’s Delta Hall in D.C. while interning on the Hill or at a think tank for a semester, participate in amazing study away adventures, attend regular lectures in your field, or intern at the State Capitol. So, this is the lesson from a transfer student: don’t sacrifice a more fulfilling and enriching college experience for proximity to D.C. as a public or international affairs major, you will find yourself where you are meant to be with more support and potential right here in Athens.