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Geographically speaking, Southeast Asia encompasses the countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, and the immediate vicinity. It’s a lot of territory and home to diverse languages and cultures, but don’t be overwhelmed all at once because this major is more about depth than breadth. You will, of course, develop a knowledge of the whole region, including its geography, history, and relationship with the West, but you’ll also get the opportunity to focus your study on the single country (or religion or philosophy) that interests you most. That could mean anything from learning how to speak one of the indigenous languages of the Philippines to tracking the development of Vietnam through the 20th Century. Not all colleges and universities offer a major specifically in Southeast Asian Studies. Often you’ll find it as a concentration in a broader major program, like International Studies or Asian Studies.

With the opening of trade relations between Southeast Asian countries and the United States, a major in Southeast Asian Studies prepares you to enter the job market in a number of different fields. The interdisciplinary approach of the major provides you with solid skills in economics, history, and anthropology.


  • Art of the Silk Route

  • Asian Archaeology

  • Buddhism and Asian Culture

  • Cultures of Mainland and Island Southeast Asia

  • Eastern Philosophy

  • History of the Philippines

  • Issues in Southeast Asian History

  • Pacific Island Archaeology

  • Requirements in a Southeast Asian language.

  • Southeast Asia in Modern Times

  • Southeast Asian Political Novels and Films

  • Vietnam and the United States


Knowledge of a language spoken in Southeast Asia (besides English) is a great start, but most high schools don’t have courses in any of them. In lieu of speaking fluent Vietnamese, you can always do your own research about the region, as well as keep up on current events. The Economist is an excellent, albeit dense, resource for keeping up on world politics and business from week to week. Keep those critical reading and writing skills finely honed because you will definitely need them.