Is international relations something you’re passionate about? If you’ve enjoyed doing Model UN or learning about the dynamics between countries, consider doing an international relations (IR) program this summer.
What is international relations?
International Relations (IR) seeks to analyze and explain complex dynamics of global affairs with the objective of offering solutions for improving relationships and interactions between countries.
What makes it especially interesting is that it is a multidisciplinary field - which means that you can strengthen your understanding directly and indirectly, by sharpening your understanding in other areas. For instance, you’ll have important elements from history, economics, political science, law, sociology, psychology, and even STEM subjects (debate on the use of fossil fuels, for example). Even if you are not interested in becoming a diplomat, understanding the world around you will be helpful no matter what you land up doing.
How should I select an international relations summer program?
In this post, we will discuss some of the most well-regarded international relations programs for high school students – ranging from research opportunities to internships at government and policy institutes.
Great International Relations Programs
1. UC Santa Barbara's Research Mentorship Program, Global Studies Track
For highly motivated students in high school who wish to take part in university-level research, the Research Mentorship Program is a great option. This is a highly selective summer program that lets you choose a research project on a discipline of your choice.
You will learn how to conduct research, write papers in a professional manner, and present the findings at formal conferences. The program offers a Global Studies track if you’re interested in IR, and it matches you with a mentor to guide you as you conduct research. The Research Mentorship Program also lets you earn university credits for your permanent record at UCSB!
If you’re interested in this program, we’ve also written an in-depth piece detailing everything you need to know about RMP 2023!
Location: Residential, UC Santa Barbara
Commuter option: Around $5,000
Residential Option: Around $12,000
Application deadline: March 15, 2023
Program dates: June 20 – August 4, 2023
Eligibility: Students all over the world who are in 10th and 11th Grade with a minimum GPA of 3.8
2. Lumiere Research Scholar Program – International Relations Track
Lumiere was founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Hundreds of ambitious high school students do research on international relations through the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs. Each student is paired with a top PhD and works with their mentor 1-1 to produce a university-level research paper.
The programs are entirely virtual and vary in duration based on the student’s end goal with respect to how much of a deep dive they would prefer. Given the large scope of international relations as a subject, the research opportunities for you with the Lumiere Research Scholar Program can have a wide range and be combined with several other disciplines.
Past international relations research has explored a cross-country analysis of the US and Turkey and inflation, a comparative analysis of holding transnational corporations to account, and the public political attitudes that make countries prone to democratic backsliding.
You can find the application form here.
Also, check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.
Application deadline: There are four cohorts throughout the year. Applications are due in February, May, September, and December, respectively. Apply here!
Program dates: There are four cohorts throughout the year in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Eligibility: All high school students may apply.
The NSLC’s International Diplomacy Program enables students to understand in more depth theinner workings of life as a diplomat in the United Nations Security Council.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in international relations, this program’s interactive approach lets you play the role of a diplomat and tackle global issues like nuclear proliferation and conflict in the Middle East. You also get to visit important diplomatic institutes in Washington D.C. and New York City! To lay a solid foundation of IR theory first, the program also has a college-level lecture series on international relations for you to attend.
You can also participate in an online course to get an additional college credit option, thanks to a unique partnership between American University and NSLC!
Location: Residential, Georgetown University + a trip to Columbia University
Application deadline: Admissions are considered on a rolling basis (though with limited seats, most of their sessions are full by late March)
June 17 – June 25, 2023
June 29 – July 7, 2023
July 12 – July 20, 2023
July 24 – August 1, 2023
Eligibility: High school students enrolled in grades 9-12
If you are passionate about clean energy, then this is a great program where you will learn about global issues in climate and energy from faculty at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Becker Friedman Institute, and the Climate Impact Lab.
You get to participate in collaborative hands-on projects, and rigorous discussion-based classes and refine your critical thinking skills to explore environmental issues through international relations and policy.
Location: Residential, University of Chicago
Application deadline: March 1, 2023
Program dates: July 23 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Applicants should be at least 15 years of age and be current high school sophomores or juniors enrolled in a high school in the United States.
If you prefer learning through work, then this is a good choice for you because it is a competitive internship program for ambitious high school students interested in pursuing a career in international relations. This program is designed to develop industry-specific skills in foreign policy and relations, as well as sharpen critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. You get the chance to connect with members of the foreign relations community and attend weekly foreign policy seminars with guest speakers. You can apply to be a research intern, a special events intern, or an operations intern, and you also have the opportunity to work on a research paper for publication on FPRI’s Intern Corner.
Location: Remote and in-person (Philadelphia) options available
Stipend: Unpaid internship
Early Action: March 15, 2023
Final Deadline: April 15, 2023
Program dates: June – August 2023
Eligibility: High school students authorized for employment in the US
The Yale Young Global Scholars program is a summer program designed for ambitious students to refine their critical thinking skills and equip them with IR theory to examine global systems and issues.
If international relations is your area of interest, you can choose between two tracks depending on your goals: Solving Global Challenges (SGC) if you wish to actively work on global developmental problem-solving and Politics, Law, and Economics (PLE) if you want to learn the role played by politics and economics in international events.
Some of their sample lectures and seminars are on international trade and US manufacturing, post-conflict reconciliation committees, fast fashion and the global supply chain, and the structures of inequality in the 21st century.
Location: Residential, Yale University
Cost: $6,500 program fee and $75 application fee
Application deadline: Applications for the 2023 sessions are already closed. Based on this year’s deadlines, the applications are open from November to early January each year.
Session I: June 18 – June 30, 2023
Session II: July 2 – July 14, 2023
Session III: July 16 – July 28, 2023
Eligibility: Students have to be
At least 16 years old by the first day of Session III
A current sophomore or junior (or any international equivalent)
A first-time participant
If you are interested in learning about international relations through a political lens, the Senate Page Program should be on your list because it combines rigorous academic coursework with getting a direct look into political frameworks. While this is focused on local/national politics, it will serve as a good foundation for understanding the more complex nature of global politics.
This kind of foundational experience could be incredibly valuable if you were to pursue a career as a diplomat or in international policy. Pages are primarily responsible for delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol complex. Along with this, you get to build a fantastic network.
It may be easier for you to get opportunities locally. We’d highly recommend that you look up your local congresswomen/congressmen to check for internships on their pages.
This program encourages passionate high school students to come together and work on collaborative leadership models and hone their research and problem-solving skills in spheres of international relations and policy. At the end of the program, you will develop an Action Plan that you can use to solve a problem within your community. There are plenty of courses for those keen on pursuing international relations, like intercultural communication, global health, and social movements.
Location: Residential (Brown University Campus) OR Online (through Canvas, Brown’s Learning Management System)
Cost or stipend:
Residential program fee: $5,218
Online program fee: $5,313
Application deadline: May 12, 2023, at 11:59 PM EST
On-Campus I: June 25 – July 7, 2023
On-Campus II: July 16 – July 28, 2023
Online: July 10 – August 4, 2023
Eligibility: Students completing grades 10 to 12, ages 16 to 18 by June 18, 2023
9. U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Headquarters Student Internship Program
Internships at Treasury give students the opportunity to collect, analyze and present policy data, as well as conduct research and summarize academic literature and news important for priority missions. This is a great program to build a solid foundation for a future career in international policy.
Through these internships, you get the chance to gain research and analytical skills and management and organizational skills through interactions with Treasury colleagues and other U.S. government agencies. You can choose to work in any one of the several offices that make up the Treasury Departmental Offices (headquarters).
Location: Washington, D.C.
Cost or stipend: Unpaid opportunity
Application deadline: All internship opportunities will be announced on www.usajobs.gov
Program dates: Treasury typically offers internship opportunities in the spring, summer, and fall:
Spring Internship Period (January-May): Apply in October.
Summer Internship Period (May-August): Apply in December.
Fall Internship Period (September-December): Apply in June.
Eligibility: Students must be U.S. citizens and must be enrolled or accepted at an accredited institution
10. Princeton University’s Summer Journalism Program
If you are interested in international political journalism, this year-long course at Princeton is a great option. The Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP) offers high achievers from low-income families a free residential journalism and college preparation program where they will study global issues, current affairs, and politics, learn from Princeton professors and journalists, and collaborate with a college advisor.
The program includes a variety of online and in-person possibilities, such as weekly lectures and workshops led by program graduates and journalists from publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Politico, and CNN, among others.
Fair warning - this is a highly selective program, including a three-round application process and a final cohort of up to 40 students.
Location: Hybrid – Virtual and Residential (Princeton University campus)
Cost or stipend: Free
Application deadline: February 23, 2023
Program dates: July 28 – Aug 7, 2023
Eligibility: Applicants must be high-achieving juniors from high school and from low-income backgrounds
If you’re interested in exploring more opportunities in international relations or even in economics, law or politics then you should consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 2100 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.
Image source: Pexels