Cognitive Science from an International Perspective

3 min readMar 1, 2022

Coming into university, it’s almost too easy to encounter option paralysis in the face of the question: What should I major in? After all, how could a high schooler know precisely what to do with life? Like many others, I faced this confusion upon graduating high school. However, this quarter-life identity crisis was not the only challenge I faced. I am an international student, which means that not only do I have to know why I’m pursuing a particular field of study, I also have to understand why I would have to go abroad to do so.

Let me paint a picture of how I first told my family that I wanted to study Cognitive Science at UCSD. I was born and raised in Indonesia, where Cognitive Science has not yet been established as a field, let alone have any undergraduate programs offered at its institutions. “What is that?” became the common (and expected) response to my choice of major–a question to be followed by more questions. What is Cognitive Science? Why Cognitive Science? And finally, why Cognitive Science at UCSD?

I did not know that majoring in an area of study as interdisciplinary as Cognitive Science was possible before starting my college application process. What I did learn after researching the Cognitive Science field, however, was that it has the potential to answer many of my existential questions. The prospect of exploring the intersections of not-so-disparate disciplines and discovering solutions for previously unresolved issues excites me. I especially appreciate how I still get to study other aspects and concentrations of Cognitive Science as a Design and Interaction specialization major. And all the COGS classes I’ve taken so far have reminded me how fun learning can be.

“The prospect of exploring the intersections of not-so-disparate disciplines and discovering solutions for previously unresolved issues excites me.”

Moreover, UCSD is a great place for Cognitive Science majors to be as the home of the first Cognitive Science department in the world. Taking COGS 1 with Professor Barrera helped me put into perspective how fortunate I really am to be pursuing my major where I am–a thriving, leading world center of a continuously growing field. Not only do I find the concepts we learn about intellectually stimulating, but I also get to contribute to this welcoming, engaging community I now call home.

Another reason why many international students find themselves committed to UCSD for Cognitive Science would be the interesting specializations offered. Personally, I was looking for an undergraduate program that would cater to my interests in language, sociology, and technology and help me develop skills that are in demand in the tech industry. CSSA’s Satomi Ito, an international student from Japan, chose to major in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Machine Learning because it covers a variety of topics, and she is interested in pursuing Machine Learning for graduate school.

That being said, there are many concerns international students may have regarding pursuing Cognitive Science at UCSD. These include career prospects, issues with visas, and the probability of getting accepted to graduate school. I had some doubts about my major because I was unsure of how much it would help me pursue a promising career in the future. On top of that, there are little to no representations of Cognitive Science in my community back home, making it difficult to envision how my future could look. However, I have made peace with all of these uncertainties because I know that, with my interdisciplinary education, I will bring a fresh perspective to the table regardless of the job or location.

All in all, Cognitive Science is a flourishing field with a growing community making a momentous impact on the world–a community I am proud to be a part of. Though there may be some reservations about pursuing Cognitive Science at UCSD as an international student, it ended up being a decision I do not regret. Whether it be from an American perspective or an international perspective, Cognitive Science is a great choice to major in, and an even better choice to play a part in.