By: Anjali Patel
My name is Anjali Patel and I am a SPIA student. This is a highly bland statement I understand, but it is only the conversation starter to this blog post. That being said, I was not always a SPIA student. Coming into UGA, I was a Neuropsychology major and my dreams lied on the stepping- stones to medical school. Growing up, my parents had encased this idea in my head that I was of Indian ethnicity which meant I had to go to medical school, become a doctor, and make as much money as possible. This may sound terrible, but I do not blame them. They are immigrants, they risked their lives to come to this estranged country on their own and establish a living for their future children so they could succeed and make their parents’ journeys worthwhile. However, this was not the path that was paved for me. In November of my freshman year, I decided my own fate, and this did not include medical school but rather included my passion for Political Science and practicing Law. My parents were not happy at first about my wanting to pursue Political Science/International Affairs but soon caught onto the idea as I would practice Immigration Law. This leads to present time and the question that I am sure each SPIA student has received throughout their academic careers at UGA is “So you’re majoring in International Affairs/Political Science/etc.?” This question is answerable but is often taken as offensive because a SPIA student may feel that their degrees are not as valued as say a Biology or Engineering Degree due to the questioner’s doubtful tone when asking the initial question. The vision SPIA students have for their degrees extend beyond just working in a local office or residing in D.C. and working as an intern on the Hill. If one takes a look on the SPIA page and takes a glance at all of the ambassadors’ goals, they can see that they are everything but uniform. Some may want to work at an NGO across the world, some may want to run for public office, one individual may want to run a law firm, attend law school, practice public administration, etc. The possibilities are ultimately endless in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. Another point to make involves my experience taking courses such as Global Issues with Dr. Carmichael or Constitutional Law with Professor Denison. These courses have opened my eyes to the world outside of these stereotypical beliefs that many individuals on and off campus may hold regarding a SPIA degree. Taking these courses as merely a freshman and in the early stages of my Sophomore year has completely capsized what I believed I would be learning in a traditional classroom belonging to either Political Science or International Affairs. Within these classrooms, students not only learn legislative strategies and how to write a research paper the “correct” way, but rather we are exposed to real-life issues and are placed into thought experiments where we are constantly challenged to find real-time solutions to them.
Currently, I am considering adding a Legal Studies certificate to my degree to develop an extensive background in various types of law such as Business Law, Environmental Law, and possibly Corporate Law. Immigration Law is my passion and is the drive behind me pursuing my degrees, but it is not the end factor. Conclusively, a SPIA major/minor/certificate/program, etc. whatever it may be is not worthless or a waste of time. It provides a perspective and/or vision that allows one to come out of this American hole and into the perspective of other cultures, ideals, and ways of life. As for other degrees such as Mathematics where you are solving complex calculations, Biology where you are attempting to understand the biological component of society, Psychology where you may be perplexed in comprehending a human’s most complex organ, and more. These degrees provide extensive skills in a diverse number of areas but a SPIA degree does something that the rest of them might not. A degree in SPIA provides compassion for being responsive to other cultures, the strength to tackle any worldly issue at hand, and most importantly, the method to communicating with anyone at any time when necessary. This is the ultimate and most comprehensive answer to the question that your aunt/uncle/friend/cousin/etc. may ask you. This is the reason I pursue a SPIA degree.