History Major Chooses Graduate School Abroad

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Several weeks of a study abroad opportunity at Jerusalem University College fired BJU junior history major Michael Pettit’s interest in the Middle East. Now he’s looking forward to a graduate history program in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, this time at Hebrew University.

Michael Pettit headshot

Why History at BJU?

Describing himself as analytical, passionate and ambitious, Pettit says he chose the BJU history program because he “wanted to learn how to preserve the past in order to generate historical acts in the future.” And his diligent work in history classes eventually earned him the history department’s two top academic awards in May 2019.

BJU history majors approach the study of history from a biblical perspective. While you’ll choose among course electives in your areas of interest, such as American Civil War, the Middle East, the Renaissance and others, you’ll find that all courses emphasize God’s working in the world.

Communication Skills

You’ll also find most BJU history majors spend time writing and researching. A lot. Pettit credits the skills he developed at BJU in “writing, researching, (and) synthesizing” and the “ability to think historically and critically over many disciplines” as crucial for his plans to attend graduate school and for his career.

Career counselors are telling us that communication skills, both written and oral, are in high demand by many employers.

Christian Environment

The college experience, however, is more than just reading and writing. The people who surround you every day influence you in many ways. Pettit praises several strong influences from his four years at BJU. He, like many others, found that he changed, in large part because of those influences.

“The faculty gave me  knowledge  through lectures, testimonies and friendships one to one in goodness and life,” he says. “The students gave me friendships. The administration gave me hope.” After all, he says, “God gave me graciously all the tools and the opportunities” to succeed.

Graduate School Preparation

Although graduate school may seem a long way off when you begin your college journey, history majors who are considering graduate school need to start the process early, particularly if you want to attend a prestigious school or compete for graduate assistantships or financial aid.

Competition is stiff at many schools, and simply maintaining good grades is not enough. Letting your faculty advisor know you might want to go to grad school allows for the advance planning needed for study abroad opportunities and internships. For more information, the American Historical Association provides helpful guidance for history majors’ graduate school applications, employment opportunities and other topics of interest.

Opportunities to Excel

Pettit’s experiences outside the classroom also shaped his life. Those experiences helped him beef up his final college resume when he applied to graduate school. On campus, he found coaching and playing society sports a satisfying break from studies. A position in the residence halls provided leadership training. Off campus, he planned his summer breaks so he could participate in summer ministries in several different areas of the world, from Detroit all the way to the Pacific island country of Palau.

Interested in the political realm, Pettit took advantage of an opportunity to interact professionally with students from other universities. He joined BJU’s Student Legislature organization and won not only a best legislation award, but also the positions of attorney general and supreme court justice in the South Carolina student organization.

His faculty advisor also prompted him to seek an internship during his senior year. Internships are increasingly important for students in all academic fields because they help students gain experience. Pettit completed a political science internship with U.S. Senator Tim Scott.

Thinking about a history major and graduate school? As Pettit’s college career illustrates, BJU history majors don’t need to isolate themselves in the library every day. Pettit’s college experience poses a challenge for all of us: Make the most of the opportunities God provides and endeavor to change history.


Mrs. Mary Sidwell is the Writing Center Coordinator in the Academic Resource Center at BJU.