Friday, September 16, 2016

Summer School in Montenegro: A grounding and reassuring experience

The Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDDis a joint venture between the School of Law of the University of Bologna and Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe. It focuses on research in the field of comparative constitutional law. Students from both institutions interested in international law and democratic development are able to work an internship doing research and teaching projects.

As part of the activities, the CCSDD, headed by Prof. Justin Orlando Frosini, organizes trips to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and to Igalo, Montenegro.

Today, Chelsea Rodstrom of the U.S. and a current student in the Master of Arts (MA) program at SAIS, tells us about the trip to Igalo, Montenegro.

Early in the summer, I came across the opportunity to take part in the Summer School in Montenegro organized by the CCSDD. When I learned that some of the focus of the discussions would be on Brexit and the migration crisis, I became extremely interested in participating: as an American going to study international affairs in Europe, this was the perfect opportunity to delve into European issues.
Chelsea Rodstrom

Besides my interest in law --I had previously considered law school and worked at a law firm in New York and volunteered with an organization that handles asylum cases -- I was interested in the general issues of the migrant crisis and the fallout from Brexit.

For the majority of the week-long summer school, we examined how European constitutional systems and international law affect current economic, social and political crises. The British, Serbian and German professors led hearty discussions on the merits of each system, while we students engaged in relating these systems to the fallout from the economic crisis, Brexit and the migrant crisis.

Peppered into the practical round-tables and debates were contentious and abstract discussions on human rights, globalization, and the philosophy behind integration schemes and the EU Project.

We became especially impassioned while contextualizing the varied international legal systems within the debates on Brexit - inclusive of the merits of both the Leave and Remain platforms in the UK debate - the consequences of integration and disintegration of the EU, and the pending international migration crises.

After our daily lectures and round-table discussions, we spent time getting to know our colleagues - which included lawyers and students - from around the EU and potential EU member states like Turkey, Ukraine and Georgia. Learning about the Balkans from Serbian, Montenegrin and Albanian perspectives was especially invaluable and informative; likewise, the organized events, including a tour of Tito’s Villa and Bunker and a lovely boat trip, were enormously helpful in familiarizing a non-European to the history and current integration debate in the Western Balkans.

As someone who focused on Latin America studies in university, I was surprised to find many parallels, politically and from an integration standpoint, between Latin America and the Balkans.

Chelsea and her classmates in Igalo
The end of the week forced us out of the academic and somewhat removed realm of intellectual debate and threw us all into the harsh realities Europe is currently facing. On Thursday morning, one of our French-British colleagues was heartbroken in class, worrying about her family that was vacationing in Nice when the horrendous attack occurred late the night before. Just 36 hours later - at our goodbye dinner - we learned of an ongoing coup in Istanbul and Ankara. We all tried to comfort and offer solidarity to our colleague from Turkey, who was unsettled by what was going on in his home country.

The summer school in Montenegro was a grounding and reassuring experience; it brought us collectively to the conclusion that working together and in a critical manner is no longer an option - whether legally bound by a framework or not. Rather, it is imperative that Europe remain vigilantly cooperative and united on security, migration and economic issues.

Chelsea Rodstrom
SAIS Europe 2017

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cooperative degrees: The MAIA with Leiden University

SAIS offers several degree programs. One of them is the Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA). The MAIA is offered at the SAIS Europe campus and it's a two-year program with a research focus. Students can pursue this program by spending two years at SAIS Europe or by spending a year at a partner institution and a year at SAIS Europe. 

Over the years, SAIS Europe has established partnerships with four European institutions: The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Austria; the University of Bologna, Italy; Sciences Po Lille, France; and Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Students enrolled in the first year of the master's program at one of these institutions can apply to spend the second and final year at SAIS Europe and obtain (in most cases) a master's from the institution of origin and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from SAIS.

Today, Colm O'Flynn of Ireland, tells us about his experience with the MAIA program. Colm spent his first year at Leiden University and his second year at SAIS. Over the course of the two years, he earned a Master in International Studies from Leiden University and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from SAIS.

When I first started my Master of Arts in International Relations at Leiden University, the cooperative degree partnership between Leiden and Johns Hopkins University SAIS had just begun.

Although I was aware of the partnership, I hadn't really thought about applying to SAIS. I was already enrolled in a great graduate program at a top European university and pursuing a second master's degree seemed at the time redundant. My attitude quickly changed following a presentation at Leiden University by a representative from the SAIS Admissions team. I began to immediately realize the incredible opportunities the cooperative degree program offered and, although I was somewhat dissuaded by the tuition fees, the long-term career benefits won me over. I applied in January 2015, and was lucky enough to be accepted a couple of months later.

Colm receives the traditional Italian laurel crown
 by SAIS Europe Director Michael Plummer
Looking back on both degrees, I see how they complement each other. At Leiden University, the approach focused more on the theoretical aspects of International Relations. The class was smaller and the onus was very much on the student to keep up to date with the course material. This said, when I struggled with some course content, the professors always made themselves readily available to answer any of my questions. Indeed, much of what I learned at Leiden helped shape not only what I would study at SAIS, but also my broader outlook on global political developments, particularly with regards to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Coming from a European program, it took me a little time to adjust to the American system. The SAIS program adopted a more hands-on approach with language classes, weekly problem sets and economics sessions with the teaching assistants, all supplementing an already busy class schedule.

Initially, I was concerned about the strong economics focus of the SAIS curriculum – as a student in the MAIA program, four out of six of my courses were going to be on economics—but, I was able to adjust to the more quantitative elements of my studies during pre-term (a four-week period before the start of the academic year where students can take intensive intermediate-level economics and math classes) with the help of Dr. Erika Meucci, the “mathematics magician”. In the end, I grew to very much enjoy the economics-based focus SAIS is known for.

In addition to the academic experience, the value of my SAIS degree can be found in my classmates. I was fortunate to meet and befriend some extraordinary students while at SAIS. Whether I am looking for a job or a couch to crash on, this network will be invaluable for me going forward in life!

I now work for One Acre Fund, an East Africa-based NGO that specializes in agricultural development. It is very difficult for me to imagine working here in Kenya without the experience of having studied both at Leiden and at SAIS.

It was during my studies at Leiden that I first developed a real interest in Sub-Saharan Africa. While at SAIS, I began to take a deeper dive into some of the more pressing political and economic issues specific to the region.

Before I started at One Acre Fund, I had little work experience. I am convinced that my diverse educational background helped push through my candidacy to the latter stages of the interview selection process.

Colm O’Flynn
SAIS Europe 2016

Friday, September 2, 2016

A hitchhiker's guide to applying to graduate school

The world of graduate school is galactic.

As you've heard us say before, there are so many programs out there that choosing the right one(s) is not easy.

Today, we want to share some tips on applying to graduate school. Our online application for 2017-18 is not live yet -- but the online application is not the starting point.

As you consider your options, it is important that you take a moment to think and to ask yourself
some questions. The answers will point you in the right direction.

Graduate school is an investment and you want to make sure you invest in something you will enjoy and that will give you the returns you're looking for.

Take some time to research different programs. You might think you know what you'd like to study, but challenge yourself and think of programs you may not have thought about before. They might hold something for you.

Once you've understood what you'd like to focus on, inform yourself. As we said in a previous post, to make a good choice, you need to have as much information as possible.

We at SAIS understand applicants have lots of questions, which deserve thorough answers. Don't be afraid to get in touch with us, we will be happy to answer your questions.

Start putting together your application documents. To apply to SAIS, if English is not your native language, you will need to take the TOEFL, IELTS or the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). 

Consider taking the GRE. Non-U.S. student applying to spend their first year at our campus in Bologna are not required to take this test. However, we do encourage applicants to challenge themselves and to take the GRE.

Start jotting down ideas for your statement of purpose and begin to think what might be the focus of your analytical essay. The statement of purpose is the document where you will explain what motivates you to apply to SAIS and how SAIS can help you reach your goals. The analytical essay will serve to show your analytical and writing skills.

Think of who might be the best people to write your letters of recommendation. Choose your referees carefully and be sure to give them plenty of time to write their supporting letters.

Think of how you might finance your studies. While we do offer generous financial support, most students make ends meet through a combination of resources. Be sure to start your search well in advance.

The above seems to be a long list of things you need to do. But, "Don't Panic" says the catchphrase from Douglas Adams's science fiction. 

Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, August 26, 2016

How to learn more about SAIS

Selecting the graduate programs to apply to is not an easy task.

There are lots of programs out there and to make a good selection, one needs to have as much information as possible.

Here's where we step in. Each year, Admission Officers of SAIS travel around the world to meet prospective students and to provide them with as much information as possible about our unique programs.

We know how important graduate school is and we want you to make the best decision.

In coming months, members of the SAIS Europe Admissions team will travel to countries in Europe and the Middle East. What's more, we will hold online information sessions to ensure the many prospective students outside of our geographical reach, receive detailed information and, most importantly, have a chance to ask us any questions.

On this page, you can find a full list of events organized by all the Admissions Offices at SAIS.

Below are some of the events we want to highlight.

- September 14 at 4:30 PM Italian time (2:00 PM GMT or 10:00 AM EST)
- October 19 at 4:00 PM Italian time (2 PM GMT or 10 AM EST)
- November 25 at 4:00 PM Italian time (3 PM GMT or 10 AM EST) 
- December 7 at at 4:00 PM Italian time (3 PM GMT or 10 AM EST)

On September 24, we will attend a fair hosted at the New York University's campus in Abu Dhabi, UAE. For more information on the event and to register, please click here.

What's more, we will attend the APSIA fairs held in Europe. APSIA is the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, which groups the top schools in the field of IR and organizes fairs for prospective students interested in graduate studies. For more information on APSIA, click here.

Berlin: November 8 from 6-8 PM. You can register here.
Paris: November 9 from 6-8 PM. You can register here.
Stockholm: November 10 from 6-8 PM. You can register here.

Open Day will be on December 5, 2016. 

The event will be in Bologna and we know that many of our applicants live far from our beloved city. However, if you are not too far, consider coming because you will learn a lot more on our campus and programs. There are two budget airlines that fly into Bologna and some current students have offered to host visitors.

A registration form will be available soon.

In addition to the events above, you should know that we stand ready to answer questions over email (; via Skype (jhubc.admissions); and over the telephone +39 051 29 17 811.

Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Internship in Colombia: A rewarding experience in "The city of eternal spring"

Students who will be part of the Class of 2017 have started to arrive in Bologna. Meanwhile, last year's students are completing their summer internships and are preparing to move to Washington, DC, for their second and final year of study before they graduate from SAIS.

In previous posts, students have written about their experiences in Brazil, Peru and South Africa

Today, Ileana Valle, a student pursuing the MA program and  focusing on Latin America, tells us about her experience in Medellin, Colombia.

The city of eternal spring” has been my home for the past three months. 

Since arriving to Medellin, Colombia, I have been impressed and enamored with the hospitality, resilience, food, history, and infrastructure.

My internship began at the end of May with Comfama, a non-for-profit organization based out of Medellin, which provides social protection services to over its 2.5 million beneficiaries through 150 service centers. These services include: entrepreneurial financing, housing, education, health, and recreation.

Comfama, which is financially stable and self-sufficient, began as an initiative between unions and the private sector to improve the lives of the working population and aligns with goal #10 of the Global Goals: to reduce inequality within and among countries.

My experience has been gratifying and this is due to the interaction with my colleagues. The projects, which were planned specifically for me, have allowed me to sharpen key skills, to learn about this unique social enterprise model and to lead and take ownership of the work. This translated into a high level of inclusion and sense of belonging.

Outside of work, my summer has consisted of hikng the Piedra del Peñon—a monolithic formation in the town of  Guatapé; dancing champeta in Cartagena; walking the cobble streets of Sante Fe de Antioquia; and hiking mountains in the nearby town La Estrella, located in the Central Andes. One of the most incredible views of any city.

Medellin is a magical city. Without a doubt, a charming and bustling metropolis with a stable and growing economy and impressive infrastructure. In 2014, Medellin held the 43rd place among urban centers with the highest GDP per capita in the world, according to the Brookings Institute’s Global Metro Monitor. Additionally, the city was also named the most innovative in Latin America-- a recognition given by the Wall Street Journal. This meant that Medellin was up against cities like New York and Tel Aviv--all this with the stunning Aburrá Valley as a backdrop. What's more, the strength of its people and their willingness to move forward and progress, has produced many entrepreneurs, innovators, and just simply, hardworking people.

The people here don’t shy away from strangers, less from foreigners—they’re always willing to help and make new friends. I have met and developed such great friend relationships in a short amount of time.

Ileana Valle
SAIS Europe 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Join us for an Online Information Session on August 25

At SAIS Europe we're getting ready to welcome the Class of 2017. 

Next week, the building will be full of students eager to settle into Bologna and to start pre-term classes. It's an exciting time of year for all of us. For us in Admissions it is particularly exciting as we finally get to meet in person the people with whom we've been in touch for so long.

We enjoy interacting with students, but we must fulfill our main duty: to ensure SAIS continues to attract the best candidates. Our eyes now turn to recruitment. 

On August 25 at 3 PM Italian time (1 PM GMT and 9 AM EST), we will hold an online information session. 

The session will last around one hour and it will be an opportunity for us to tell prospective students more about our programs and for prospective students to ask any question.

We know what it takes to choose a graduate program and we want to ensure prospective applicants are as well informed as possible. After a brief presentation of our programs, participants will be able to ask questions through the chat function.

To join the session, you can click on this link. You will need a computer and an internet connection. 

In coming weeks, we will post more information on our online and in-person information sessions during the fall season.

Stay tuned.

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Internship in South Africa: Awe and inspiration in the "Rainbow Nation"

It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere and most people are thinking about their holidays. This is not the case for SAIS students who spend their summer working internships around the world.

As we mentioned in previous posts, these internships are a great way for students to learn more about their future careers.

In the last posts, students working internships in Brazil and Peru wrote about their experiences and here is a video of last year's students talking about their summer internship plans.

Today, Chris Jackson, a current student in the MA program focusing on Energy, Resources and Environment, tells us about his experience in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Like half of the students who graduate from SAIS each year, Chris spent his first year at SAIS Europe in Bologna and is going to Washington, DC for his second year.

Cape Town is perhaps the most awe inspiring place one can imagine.

Firstly it is a visual paradise and a feast for the senses. Whether its climbing the world famous table mountain, sipping Merlot in Constantia's vineyards, seeing Zebra, Ostriches, Baboons and Springbok on the side of the road to work or the fantastic food, the place never ceases to awe and inspire.

Writing on the sand in Cape Town
Cities, like all communities, are defined by their people as much as their place and South Africa is no exception. Nelson Mandela once said that South Africa is the "Rainbow Nation", reflecting people from all over the world. His words were not merely hyperbole. The country is a veritable smorgasbord of nationalities, ethnicity, ages and faiths.

This summer I have been working for Clifftop Colony Capital Partners, a South African Corporate Finance firm, which specializes in securing financing for African start-ups, entrepreneurs and African tech funds.

My role involved evaluating business plans and proposals for new prospective clients; constructing corporate marketing material to promote clients to international investors; researching African and global tech industry trends; building profiles on the requirements, preferences and financing available from international investors; and lastly, corporate due diligence on Clifftop’s current and potential clients.

Africa is considered to be the home of the world’s most frontier equity and debt investments and Clifftop position themselves as a bridge between international investors in the US, UK and Europe, and entrepreneurs across the African continent, by offering experience with local challenges and an extensive network of strategic relationships to both parties.

Stunning views

During my time here I had the pleasure of listening to Moeletsi Mbeki, Chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs and leading economist, who spoke eloquently on South Africa's challenges and I have had the pleasure of meeting over a dozen small businesses, who have helped me understand the opportunities of the South African economy.

South Africa is the finance capital of Africa. It is a bridge to the West, through London, a bridge to the East, through Malaysia and India, and a central force in driving innovation throughout Africa. For anyone trying to understand how business on the African continent works, the importance of good governance on economic growth and poverty alleviation or even for those who simply have a hunger to see untouched beauty in the world, it is hard to beat South Africa.

Chris Jackson
SAIS Europe 2016