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Fulfilling a Dream: Student Spotlight with James Ratcliff

James Ratcliff grew up a military brat. Completing high school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his “homes” have included various Texas towns over seven non-consecutive years, as well as Belgium for two years. Inspired by his father, who was a JAG Officer, James wants to pursue a career in the government, particularly as a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State.

James is a senior International Security Studies and Arabic double major. He is also involved in the Arabic Flagship Program – one of the primary reasons he chose to attend OU. However, he recalls, “as a Freshman I didn’t know any Arabic. I had no language experience.” Only a couple of years later and now James is looking forward to when he will practice his Arabic studies in Morocco for his capstone year, immersing himself fully in the language and culture. “I have been able to do things I never thought I could do,” he said. “It’s rewarding to grow and accomplish a skill. I am proud of that.”

Choosing to double major is no easy feat, as it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. James knows the direction he wants to go after graduating from college, so he pursued a double major to make himself more marketable for future job opportunities in a niche market. This journey in particular has involved years of summer language study, not a lot of sleep and a drive to never become complacent. James says, “the difficult part is maintaining intensity, because if you don’t practice the language you will lose it. You have to keep doing it, have persistence and keep working to get yourself in a better position as well as consistently learning and refreshing.”

His OU experience has been great for him he says – full of internships, guidance from the College of International Studies and OU’s former Diplomat-in-Residence, Rob Andrews, advice from OU’s career services, and learning from esteemed professors in the field of international studies. “A few semesters ago, I took the class International Relations in the Middle East, taught by Dr. Joshua Landis, and my entire perspective about the Middle East changed,” he recalls. “I understood the area better and that was empowering since there is a disparity between talking about the area and knowing about it.”

Through the Flagship Program, James and the many other students involved have developed a sense of community. They help each other, better one another and cheer each person on to success. “This gives us a strong purpose and you always know someone.”

Congrats James on all your academic success!

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