by Emily Gayle

As a senior this year I have had a lot of time to reflect on my college experience. I have changed a lot for the better and I like to think that my SPIA classes have had a significant role in that change. Coming from a small town in South Carolina, I got used to thinking like those around me. However, that way of thinking would vary depending on my friend group, my family, my co-workers, etc. I have since realized that I was never able to properly think for myself – my words and actions were centered around the approval I sought from others. Thankfully, when I entered my first SPIA class my critical thinking skills were activated and better exercised.

One SPIA class that had the most impact on me from the start was Introduction to International Relations with Dr. Gallagher. In her class, students were grouped together and put into a global governance simulation. As anyone with no experience with games like World of Warcraft or Catan knows, simulations that require you to make executive decisions at any level in a short time span or in high risk situations will really change the way you think of the real world. I had never conceptualized the way in which other countries ran their governments or took issue with the United States because those ideas had never directly affected me.

However, time progressed and my knowledge of international affairs increased exponentially. Prior to university, I was curious about what was going on in the world, but I did not have or know about the proper resources to appease my interest. I held additional interests in history and law, I just did not acknowledge much of either at the time. Therefore, as I entered into my first semester of my senior year, I decided to take International Law with Dr. Carmichael. She expanded my knowledge in history and challenged my critical thinking skills in a way that they had never been challenged, yet also in a way that made sense to me and was incredibly gratifying.

That class then prompted me to continue exploring my interests in American history and constitutional law. I am currently enrolled in a class that focuses on the powers of the Constitution and enjoy learning and understanding the implications of law in the United States. The effect that its precedents have on external perspectives of the way in which the government operates and works with external actors has only supplemented my education in domestic and international affairs.
These classes have only begun to tell the story of the value I have found in my education through SPIA. They have transformed every part of me and I will always be grateful for the experience. Therefore, I would highly recommend any of the above mentioned courses to any incoming student that has the slightest bit of interest in foreign affairs, history, and law. I would also recommend that you not ignore those feelings of curiosity, excitement, and motivation when they present themselves because your educational experience will be completely different if you do.