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What advice would you give young people who want to study and work on foreign policy?

Question submitted by David Bentley, from Canada, May 21, 2013

Answered by: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow


When I entered the field of international affairs fifty years ago, it was very narrow—diplomacy and military affairs, principally. Today, it's everything, especially all forms of economics, development, trade, and investment. It also includes health, the environment, human rights, transportation—you name it. There are almost endless entry points into international affairs and almost endless subjects to study in school.

High school and college, as well as graduate school, are the place to start in any of these fields. But try for internships wherever you can. There are hundreds of such internships connected with the U.S. government and with international organizations such as the United Nations.

Lastly, find a mentor with practical experience. That's the person who can start helping you connect what you learn in school with how things are done. And that's also the person who can help you look for internships and jobs.

Whichever part of the international field you enter, learn how to get things done. That means learning about how things work, about different cultures, languages, histories, and political systems for making decisions in different countries.

Don't forget: you have a lot of choices for learning and doing in this twenty-first century world.