Choosing a Different Path for Fourth Year

February 8, 2022 (last updated on July 13, 2023)

BA/MA candidate Brinda Rao offers insights on graduate opportunities as a UChicago undergrad

By Audrey Weckwerth

By Winter Quarter of her third year in the University of Chicago College, Brinda Rao had completed the requirements of her degree in Classics and English Literature. She also had a job offer in-hand following a consulting internship. But Rao chose a different path by embarking on a combined BA/MA in International Relations.

“What attracted me to the program in International Relations is that it is incredibly interdisciplinary,” Rao remarked, noting the benefits of taking classes at the graduate level in various departments of the Social Sciences, the Booth School of Business, and the Harris School of Public Policy.

Brinda Rao
Brinda Rao

For Rao, the BA/MA program in International Relations has been a “transformative experience” that allowed her to meet and collaborate with people from around the world and all different walks of life. As one of the youngest students in her program, she finds it fascinating to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people with whom she shares a passion for global issues. In particular, the ability to, as a student in her early 20s, connect with classmates who come from a background in industry, are engaged or married to a partner, or even have children. Not only does this diversify Rao’s experience and network, but it allows her to consider new paths for her personal and professional life.

Though the path she chose was difficult, Rao is “unbelievably thrilled” to be in the program. She noted that within a week of starting coursework with the Committee for International Relations, her perception of education at UChicago completely shifted. Her studies illuminated UChicago CIR’s unique ability to change the way a student, faculty member, or observer considers the world.

“International relations can be humanizing and empathetic, but also difficult and painful. That’s why the program is so important,” she said. “The program offers a broad, world-centered view… it can transform the way you perceive the world.”

Rao’s undergraduate majors in the humanities offer a humanistic perspective to the IR program. Her College coursework included archaeology research with Professor Catherine Kearns in the Department of Classical Studies, as well as English classics and Renaissance poetry research with Professor Alexis Chema in the Department of English Language and Literature.

In addition to her studies in International Relations, Rao works as a Teaching Assistant for the Global Studies undergraduate program, possibly inspiring future MA candidates at UChicago by facilitating discussions that tackle global issues in undergraduate classrooms.

For Rao, the field of International Relations creates, “so many ways you can help people learn and grow in both local communities and global communities.” Rao’s personal impacts start on a local level, like discussing with undergraduate students. Rao’s position as a TA has been crucial to learning about international issues on a real-world level. Her co-TA is a student from Beijing, and digging into both the humanizing and empathetic side and the more tenuous side of international issues with someone who has a different set of life experiences is an encouraged and critical component of learning in the BA/MA program.

The BA/MA program, Rao explained, is interdisciplinary and utilizes candidates’ diverse skill sets to widen the breadth of discussions. As an undergraduate and graduate student, she has been able to work closely with her peers and faculty members. She has found that the BA/MA program has the traditional rigor of UChicago, plus added encouragement and collaboration to stay curious and engaged as students and community members.

Rao is an avid advocate for undergraduates in the College to consider a joint degree program. Interested students can contact to speak with students like Rao and the Committee on International Relations faculty.

Audrey Weckwerth, a journalism intern with SSD Communications, is a first year in the College.