Thursday, April 20, 2017

Insight From the Frontlines: Understanding the Refugee Crisis in the European Context

The Global Security and Conflict Management Club this spring has organized two  migration Study Treks - one to Athens/Lesvos, Greece (March 19th to March 24th) and the second to Lampedusa, Italy (April 30th to May 3rd). These student led initiatives allow SAISERS to further compliment their studies by combining theory with practice. SAIS Europe First Year MA International Relations Concentrator Diane Bernabei, shared her experiences travelling to Greece below.

It is not uncommon to hear from fellow SAISers how they spent their spring breaks, jetting off to Africa to conduct some field research, to the Middle East to work on their thesis or any of a number of impressive multilateral organizations to interview for a summer job.  This past March, sixteen SAISers were able to say they traveled to what the real world considers a relatively typical spring break destination, Greece.  But we did not go for any typical vacation-related reason. The Global Security and Conflict Management Club (GSCM) traveled to Greece to conduct an in depth study on how local Greek authorities and multilateral and non-governmental organizations collaborate to manage the burgeoning refugee crisis.

The trip started in Athens where we met with directors of a large health and human services facility, Solidarity Now. This NGO has largely been accredited for leading the successful transition in Greece’s NGO community from providing aid to Greeks suffering from the economic crises to launching initiatives meant to aid a more diverse group of both Greeks and refugee asylum seekers.  Meeting with the organization exposed the difficulties in transitioning aid to new target demographics caused by the political situation in Greece, an important topic the group discussed in further detail in an afternoon roundtable discussion with the European Commission’s Representative to Greece and the Vice Mayor of Athens.  Our time in Athens also included several meetings with NGO leaders, such as the Greek  Director of Doctors Without Borders, and academics, including the Director of the Institute of International Relations.

Students tour Solidarity
resource center in Athens
Meeting with academics and policy makers provided one perspective on the current migration crisis facing Europe. Asking direct questions to the people managing the crisis on the ground provided another important viewpoint.   For this reason, our group decided to spend more than half of the trip dedicated to  fieldwork, visiting refugee camps and meeting with refugees to discuss their experiences in migrating to Europe.  

Students discuss migration issues
with local Athenian NGO
Visiting the Eleonas refugee camp, the largest refugee camp for families in Athens, housing over 2,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and various parts of North Africa and the Middle East, provided us with the opportunity to meet with field coordinators from the International Rescue Committee, the International Organization for Migration and METAdrasi. These organizations provided important insight on how different organizations coordinate their efforts and funding to manage a large number of refugees in small compact camps.

SAISERS meet former Greek Foreign Minister
After two full days in Athens, the group headed to the Greek island of Lesvos to conduct research on the frontlines of the refugee crisis. In 2015 alone, more than one million asylum seekers crossed the dangerous six-mile stretch of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between Greece and Turkey to make it to this Island. While on Lesvos, we met with the UNHCR and The Red Cross to discuss their strategies in organizing a response to the crises. We also met with Lighthouse Relief, an agency that coordinates on-the-shore first responder emergency aid and transportation logistics for the newly arrived migrants.

SAISers met with Hellenic Coast Guard
to discuss refugee rescue challenges
We also met with representatives from the Hellenic Coast Guard to better understand the challenges associated with responding efficiently to rapidly changing influxes of refugees demanding emergency assistance as they cross the rough waters.  Because of the recent economic crises, the Greek government cannot afford to provide extra assistance to the coast guard. As such,  the Hellenic Coast Guard finds itself in a strenuous situation  between not being able to expand its resources while facing increasingly demanding surges of refugee influxes.

Students meet with Karatapei Refugee Camp
representatives and refugees
Our time in Lesvos culminated in a final meeting with US based NGO Samaritan’s Purse, where we were able to learn more about the professional lives of volunteer workers and gain more insight into NGO strategies that assist refugees and asylum seekers adjust to a new life in Greece.

In just four days we toured three  refugee camps, two health and human service centers, one coast guard vessel, met with 17 different agencies, two municipalities, the European Parliament, and various segments of the Greek Government. 

We discussed pertinent issues and asked hard questions to leaders from the NGO communities, members the diplomatic circuit managing the crises from a political standpoint, and to first responders on the shores, who save lives every day.  We were exposed to several viewpoints of the refugee crises and learned something new from each component.

Our research culminated in a final report documenting our experience in Greece, detailing our perspective on the successes and failures entrenched in mitigating such a crises and diagnosing various areas were we see room for improvement.   Our itinerary definitely did not include any of the normal stops visitors make in Greece, but each day mirrors a typical  day in the life of an ordinary SAISer.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Learning Outside the Classroom: Visit to "The City of Peace and Justice"

Students in the International Law concentration–ILaw in SAIS jargon – quickly realized one does not visit The Hague because of its weather. But sideways rain and constant wind couldn’t dampen the spirits of the SAIS Europe students who went from international organization to tribunal to NGO, seeking to better understand the functions of those working in the “City of Peace and Justice”.

First stop was Eurojust, an EU organization overseeing the cooperation between Member State judicial systems. A perfect antidote to those who claim that the EU is too unwieldy, Eurojust representative explained the process for dividing of cases between multiple countries involved, cooperation with non-EU partners, and the top three priorities—people smuggling, cyber warfare and terrorism. Crime, the refrain was, doesn’t stop at national borders.

Visit to the ICC

As ever with SAIS student, there was play mixed with our work. Thanks to a group member born and raised in The Hague, we got the inside scoop on the city, taking plenty of time to wander by the beautiful Parliaments old city and sample the local fare, and took a brief trip to Delft to try a Pakistan-Dutch fusion dinner and admire the famous waterways.

Visits to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) were the most hands-on of the two days, the former proceeded by a briefing from Amady Ba, a prominent Senegalese judge and Chief of International Cooperation. Sitting just meters away from the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) warlord Dominic Ongwen and five perpetrators of atrocities during the Bosnian war was both a chilling reminder of the need for international arbitration in the world’s largest-scale conflicts, as well as the reassurance that perpetrators can successfully be held accountable, albeit decades after the crimes have been committed.

At the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Rounding out the trip were visits to the non-profit Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law (HiiL), International Development Law Organization, and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Talking with program coordinators from each gave us students a good idea of just how many professional intersections exist with international law, in the form of judicial capacity-building, development, and multilateral reform movements.

Although brief, the study trip to The Hague was an informative one, covering ideas and projects from land rights programs in Burundi all the way to judicial advising in Kenya. It now remains to be seen how those SAIS students who imagine a future in international law chose to carve out a niche within the professional world into we gained such rich insight.

Emily Ashby
SAIS Europe 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Open Houses and Alumni Receptions Across Three Continents: Admitted Students have a chance to get to know the SAIS Community

Each year, we welcome newly admitted students to the Johns Hopkins SAIS community by way of Admitted Student Open Houses. Offered at our three campus locations in Washington D.C., Bologna, and Nanjing, Open House features a diverse range of activities and sessions aimed to give admitted applicants insight into life as a SAIS student. Participants will have the opportunity to meet key members of the SAIS community such as deans, faculty, current students, alumni, and staff.

If you have not yet registered for an Admitted Student Open House, please find the dates and registration instructions for each event below. Further details can be found on the admitted student website, which you can access via your admissions letter.

The Johns Hopkins SAIS D.C. Admitted Student Open House

The Washington, D.C. Open House will be on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The programs include forums on student life, faculty panels, a department lunch, student activities forum, Question & Answer sessions on SAIS Europe and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and much more. Please RSVP via the admitted student website by Friday, March 31.

In addition to the Open House, students admitted to SAIS Europe are invited to attend a cocktail reception with Director Michael Plummer and SAIS Europe Alumni on April 6,2017. If you wish to attend this event, please contact us at

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe Open House

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe Open House will be on Monday, April 10. The day will provide admitted students to SAIS Europe the opportunity to meet with faculty, staff and students in addition to attending a class lecture. Admitted students can also be hosted by current students when visiting Bologna.  Please make sure to register via the admitted student homepage, or send us a message at

The Hopkins Nanjing Center Open House

Admitted students, HNC alumni, and friends are invited to meet and mingle over cocktails at a happy hour in downtown Washington, DC on Thursday, April 6 from 5:30-7:00 pm. For more information and to RSVP, please register online or email

Admitted students who are currently in Asia are invited to attend an open house at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center from April 9 to April 10. Meet the Hopkins-Nanjing Center Co-Directors, and get acquainted with current students and future classmates. See and experience the HNC firsthand with a tour of the HNC and surrounding area, sit in on classes, and hear a presentation on career services. For more information and to RSVP, email

Daniela Francesca Coleman

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SAIS Career Treks Provide Current Students an Inside View of Life in the Global Work Force

Students attending SAIS will be offered a multitude of services to enhance their professional development.  The Career Services Offices across all three campuses (DC, Bologna, and Nanjing) assist students with a number of activities, including cover letter and résumé reviews, interview preparation, and career advising, in addition to providing required professional development classes for students. Every year, the Career Offices also host a number of international career treks. Company visits and alumni networking receptions on these trips provide students an insider’s viewpoint on working in specific sectors.

This year, the Career Office at SAIS Europe hosted four Career Treks, which included two trips to London, Geneva and Brussels. About 20 SAIS students participated with  company visits across a variety of industries to better understand what it’s like to work in different sectors. 

The application process to participate in a Career Trek is quite simple. As highlighted by Ms. Amanda Dumsch, Director of Career Services at SAIS Europe, “Many students are interested in participating on these treks, so student apply by submitting a résumé, cover letter/ statement of interest explaining why this trek would be beneficial for their career goals. Applications are submitted through SAIS Works (an online portal) which students gain access to once admitted. Although SAIS Europe is responsible for organizing the European treks, all SAIS students (depending on their schedule) can attend any of the  Career Treks throughout the US, Europe and China as well.”

In order to better understand the formative professional development experience, we interviewed three SAIS Europe students who attended the European Career Treks. Below are reflections of their experiences.

Hina Samnani is a current M.A. student concentrating in Strategic Studies. “I was interested in the London Career Trek because London is a huge hub for the political risk industry in Europe. This is a career path I am interested in pursuing after graduation. As a Strategic Studies concentrator, I am currently learning about the intersections between global security and international economics. The political risk field tackles these issues firsthand through original research and forecasting. Many of the organizations we visited provided details about their internship programs and application processes. We were able to learn about which skills these organizations look for when hiring and how we can take advantage of our time in graduate school to develop those particular skill sets.” 

Furthermore, Hina spoke about an organization that stood out to her, called the Economist Intelligence Unit, a subsidiary business within The Economist. “The EIU provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis and is best known for their five-year country economic forecasts and country risk service reports.”  

EJ Richardson is a current M.A. student concentrating in Latin American Studies. Attending the London Career Trek was a really unique experience for him: “I was able to visit several different kinds of companies in the finance industry while also meeting with alumni who had some great advice.  Attending the Career Trek during my first semester at SAIS allowed me to start mapping out how to take advantage of SAIS courses in order to best focus on my future career goals. I was particularly interested in the rating agencies we visited, which is a career path I hadn’t previously considered.”  Over the course of two days, the group also visited major banks and investment firms like JP Morgan and HSBC as well as rating agencies like Fitch.

As EJ further clarifies, “the trek helped me explore paths I had not considered prior to SAIS. The trek provided me with the information necessary to make decisions on what skills I want to hone in on in order to be best prepared for the job market. I would absolutely recommend that students take advantage of the unique alumni and business network that SAIS offers through the Career Services Treks.”

Poorti Sathe, an M.A. student at SAIS Europe, concentrating in General International Relations, attended the SAIS Europe Career Trek to Geneva. She chose this Trek on the basis of her career interests in multilateral and non-profit organizations. As she states, “I was specifically interested in the fields of migration, environment, and humanitarian aid.  The greatest insight from this career trek was understanding the necessity of fieldwork and access to the SAIS alumni network. Alumni were incredibly helpful to engage and communicate with. Networking with them was definitely the best part of the trek.”

During the Geneva Trek, students visited organizations such as the International Trade Centre, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Geneva Environment Network (GEN), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Food Program (WFP), World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

From our testimonials, students affirm that the Career Treks offer many opportunities for current students to connect with employers and alumni. The Career Services Office works  with all currently enrolled students during their internship and job searches.  When you become a student at SAIS Europe, you are encouraged to take advantage of all of the career service resources!

Khrystian Pereira, MA Student (SAIS Europe 2016-2017)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Prepare for the SAIS Europe Interview

After  weeks and months of preparation, you have submitted your application to SAIS Europe. Now what?

In the coming weeks, SAIS Europe Admissions will be reaching out to you to schedule a Skype or an in person interview, depending on your location.

The interview process is an opportunity for prospective candidates to complement their written applications with additional information. Interviews at SAIS Europe are conducted by senior staff and faculty, and are an important element of your application.

For many, preparing for an interview may appear daunting.  Don’t fret!  We want to assure you not to worry.  The SAIS Europe interview provides an opportunity for applicants to not only expand on their submitted application, but also to provide the interviewer an opportunity to elaborate on the academic and student experience at SAIS Europe.

So this begs the question: how does one prepare?

Although interview styles can vary, SAIS Europe Admissions wanted to provide applicants with some guidance by asking our faculty and senior staff  interviewers directly what they look for.  Below is a transcript of their words of wisdom for applicants.

Prof. Mark Gilbert
Professor  Mark Gilbert teaches History and International Studies at SAIS Europe and is a resident faculty member at SAIS Europe. This Spring, he will teach two courses, Peace and War  and Intellectuals and Politics. “ I look for students who show curiosity about international affairs,  who have a clear idea about why they want to do a SAIS degree”, he  states.  “I look for students who know what their intellectual interests and professional goals are.”

Professor Erik Jones is Director of the European and Eurasian Studies Concentration at SAIS Europe and Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy. He underlines the following:

“A strong interview is where the candidate answers the questions and reveals something about themselves along the way.  That is not the same thing as providing every bit of information you can remember about the subject of the question.  It is about being selective.  It is about being analytical.  And it is about knowing what is important and why.  Answer the questions, tell me why that is your answer, tell me why I should agree with you, and then tell me why I should care.  If you do all those things in short order, I will be impressed.
Professor Erik Jones

The best way to prepare is be natural and be yourself.  You are not going to know everything and there are always some things you won’t know at all.  Don’t be afraid to admit that.  The purpose of the interview is not to find the next editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  That said, you should know something.  And you should know at least something about the most obvious things.  If you don’t know about the war that just broke out, the president that was just elected (or impeached), the economy that just collapsed, or the treaty negotiations that just concluded, then it will be fair for us to ask how much you are really interested in studying international relations."

David Unger  is Adjunct Professor of American Foreign Policy at SAIS Europe and a longtime member of the New York Times Editorial Board. True to his direct journalistic style, he tells candidates the following: “Be prepared but don't have a script; listen to the questions asked and tell the interviewer something about you he/she would not know just from reading your application.“

Assistant Professor of International Political Economy Matthias Matthijs teaches graduate courses in International Relations, International Economics and Comparative Politics. A SAIS graduate, he tells students to “structure your answers and try to be analytical in what you say. Have a story and try to be well versed in general IR issues. Make me understand your point of view with clear arguments.”

As Director of SAIS Europe Admissions I often travel around the globe to meet with prospective students. The advice I give applicants who are thinking of graduate school is simple: applicants should have a general idea of their professional goals and apply to graduate school only if this is a necessary step in their career development. I view graduate school as a long term investment that should be well thought out. If an applicant can't describe where he/she wants to be in five years, the applicant should continue working until he/she has clarity. You don't come to graduate school to figure out your future. You know where you want to go and graduate school is the tool to take you to the next level.

Lastly, as prospective students prepare their interview, Professor Jones has these  pointed comments:

“The interview and the application process are about fit and not about good and bad.  We want to find the right students for our program and we want to find the students for whom our program is right. You can be the most brilliant and capable student the world has ever seen and yet still not fit the SAIS experience.  If that is the case, we need to know and so do you.  There is no good reason for us to encourage you to invest as much time, energy, and financial resources as a SAIS education requires if it is not going to help you achieve your personal objectives.”

We hope the guidance above has given you the necessary insight to approach the interview process with focus. Best of luck with the process!

Daniela F.Coleman
Director of Admissions, SAIS Europe

Friday, December 16, 2016

Open Day at SAIS Europe: questions and answers

Last week, dozens of visitors attended the Open Day at SAIS Europe.

Participants had a full day's schedule and got the chance to learn more about SAIS.

Below are some of the questions that came up during the day. The questions touched on a number of topics: Academics, Student Life, and Career Services.

We know the Q&A below is not exhaustive. If you have more questions, please know we stand ready to answer your questions over the phone (+39 051 29 17 811), via Skype (jhubc.admissions) or over email (

Q: What's the class size and is there room for discussion in class?
A: Most classes are small and leave a lot of room for debate and exchange of ideas. Prof. Cohen, director of the Strategic Studies program, noted that at SAIS students come from different walks of life and that diversity adds to the discussion in class.

Prof. Erik Jones, director of the European and Eurasian Studies program, mentioned that he changed
the structure of one of his classes, by making the lectures available to students as a podcast, to use the time in class for discussion.

Q: How many courses in economics do students take?
A: It depends on the program they pursue. Those in the Master of Arts (MA) program, the most popular program at SAIS, are required to take four economics courses and a quantitative reasoning course. Students in the Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA) take four and Students in the Master of Arts in Global Risk take

Q: Can students take another concentration in addition to International Economics and the second concentration?
A: Yes, this is done in the form of a minor.

Q: Do the students in the Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA) travel to do their research for the thesis?
A: Students in the past have traveled. Whether or not one is able to do so depends on they plan their research.

Q: Is there diversity from a teaching standpoint?
A: Yes. Our professors bring to the classroom perspectives from Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East.

Q: How many language courses can students take?
A: Students can take one language course per semester.

Q: How does one set up a student club?
A: Anyone can start a students club. At the beginning of the academic year, we host a Club Fair which introduces students to all the clubs that will be set up for the year. Some clubs have been in place for a long time, but almost every year at least one new club is formed.

Q: What kinds of events does the Student Government Association (SAG) host?
A: Several events a year. The first one is the Halloween Party in late October. In addition, the SGA organizes a Thanksgiving dinner where students, faculty and staff get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. For many of the non-U.S. students it's their first Thanksgiving celebration while for many of the U.S. students it's the first time they do not celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. The event is very special.

Q: Do you recommend that one takes courses in pre-term?
A: Yes. It's a great way to start your studies at SAIS.

Q: What is the work-life balance?
A: The course load is quite heavy. However, with good organizational and time-management skills, students find sometime to travel and enjoy life in Italy.

Q: How does Career Services help students?
A: Students do a professional development course at the beginning of the academic year. The Office of Career Service provides career coaching and advising and organizes career treks.

Q: What kind of careers do SAIS graduates pursue?
A: SAIS graduates can work in virtually any sector. As you can see from the report here, SAIS students enter the public, private, multilateral, not-for-profit, and non-governmental sectors.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Applications Countdown Begins

In less than seven weeks, applications for the 2017/2018 are due.

Before submitting on January 7, 2017, be sure to reach out to us if you still need more guidance. We understand that you may have lingering questions.

To start an application, you need to create an account here and you can consult the application instructions here.

We encourage you to join one of our upcoming virtual sessions on either November 25th or December 7th

Another great way to learn about SAIS Europe’s academic programs is to attend our annual Open Day in Bologna, held this year on December 5th. 

Open Day is the best way to learn about SAIS Europe's Master's programs and get a first-hand look at the campus before applying.  On this day, SAIS Europe opens its doors to prospective students who are considering their post-graduate school options to offer them an opportunity to get to know the faculty, staff and students.

In addition to the resources mentioned above, we have listed some important tips regarding some elements of your application below.  Remember, if you still have questions about your application, you can always email us at: SAIS Europe Admissions Office

A resume should ideally be between one to two pages. Make sure to highlight all relevant internships, employment, volunteering and student organizations.

Statement of Purpose
This should be less than two pages.  We want to understand why you are applying to graduate school at SAIS. What are you professional goals? Why is our program right for you? How would you contribute and enrich the study body? This is a personal essay about what makes you unique and why our program would be the right fit for you. Tell us something we can’t gather from just looking at your transcripts or CV.

Analytical Essay
This should be on a topic of  national or international importance.  This gives us a sense of how you write. Are you ready to write at a graduate level in English? Can you write an essay presenting a clear argument and support with facts, citations, etc.? This can be on any topic of interest to you – but be sure to present a logical and clear written essay.

Two (2) letters of recommendation
A good rule of thumb is to ideally have one academic letter and one letter from a supervisor (This is strongly recommended for applicants to the Master of Arts in Global Risk (MAGR))  Give your recommenders enough time to write a letter and tell them in detail why you are applying to this program. (Remind them of that class you took, that paper you wrote with a top grade, those extra-curricular activities you were involved in, that important project you delivered on, etc.) The more you prepare them, the better letter they can write about you.  Note: it is better to choose a recommender who knows you well rather than someone who has an ‘impressive title’ but can’t comment on your work ethic, intellect nor character.

TOEFL or IELTS scores, or Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency (non-native English speakers)
All non-native speakers need to submit one of these. If you have taken one of these exams within the last two years, it is still valid. (Remember, you need at least 100 in the TOEFL or a 7 overall in the IELTS to apply.)  If you think you may be exempt from taking this exam, please do get in touch with us. Remember that at SAIS your native /dominant language is the one that meets two out of three criteria below:

(a) The main language of communication between you and one of your parents or caregivers.
(b) An official language in the community where you grew up.
(c) The language of instruction in the high school you attended.

Do consult the application instructions for more details. We wish you the best of luck!

Daniela F. Coleman
Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions, SAIS Europe