Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Internship at the United Nations: Putting To Use What I learned In The Classroom

Students who complete their year at Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe work an internship during the summer. These internships are a great way for students to gain work experience in a field they are interested in as well as an opportunity to work on different projects while learning about a new country and culture. Below, Michelle LeMeur, a first year MA student at Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe concentrating in International Development, tells us about her experience at the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand.

Sawasdee-ka from Bangkok!
Exhibit to end violence against women

After falling in love with Southeast Asia in 2015 while teaching English in Malaysia, I was committed to returning to the region this summer. I was thrilled to secure an internship at UN
Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, where I am working across several teams. During my first few weeks, I contributed to an analysis of UN Women partner governments and organizations being done by the Strategic Partnerships team. This week, I have been helping the Communications and Ending Violence Against Women teams prepare for an upcoming exhibit where the clothing of victims of sexual assault will be displayed to challenge the misconception that appearance and behavior are to blame for sexual violence. Moving forward, I will be supporting the Migration team as they work on a new regional strategy; primarily, I will be reviewing and synthesizing UN Women reports and other work products related to migration in the Asia Pacific region.

Pride Month at the U.S. Embassy
It has been exciting to use and reinforce much of what I learned in various courses this year, particularly Labor Market Policies in Developing Countries, Asian Economic Development, and Theories & Models of Economic
Development. In fact, I am in the midst of summarizing several reports I used in these classes for the migration project mentioned above. In addition, I have been able to attend several workshops and events, including an introduction to a new Inclusive Systemic Evaluation Guide and Pride Month events at the Australian and American Embassies.

Aside from familiarizing myself with UN Women’s work in the region and gaining an understanding of the UN system more broadly, I am enjoying exploring Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. I am learning to strategically time plans around Bangkok’s infamous traffic and am currently researching the best places to scuba dive in July, which is monsoon season throughout much of the region. And I can’t forget to mention the incredibly delicious food – while I am still ordering everything “medium-spicy,” I am (slowly) working up to “Thai-spicy”. Wish me luck!

Michelle LeMeur
SAIS Europe 2018
MA International Development

Monday, May 28, 2018

Reflections on my Year at SAIS Europe

As to be expected, the end of my year in Bologna was full of activity. After submitting my last paper at midnight on Friday, the celebrations quickly commenced and graduation -- an event we all theoretically knew was coming -- materialized all too soon. The next evening, with laurel wreaths dotting the crowd, our Bologna Class of 2018 watched our final sunset over the city from the campus’ Penthouse. A flurry of photos and final goodbye kisses (on both cheeks!) and hugs whirled around. A day later, my apartment keys were handed in, my luggage hauled across the city, and I boarded my plane home. It seemed that just as I had finally settled in, time was up.

Graduation Day at SAIS Europe
On my last evening in Bologna, I met my first SAIS Europe friend for our gelato together to reminisce. He asked me what I thought of the year, and how I had grown. It was my first moment of reflection since these last weeks of busy confusion to assess the year as a whole. What came to mind? I admitted that I had not achieved the GPA I had hoped for, and that there were many opportunities on campus of which I felt I had not successfully taken full advantage. For a moment, I thought of all the great guest speakers that I had missed, the clubs I hadn’t joined, and the class readings I hadn’t found time to complete.

Yet, when I considered his second question, how I had grown, I also felt an immense sense of progress both personally and academically. How could that be, given the shortcomings I couldn’t help but dwell upon? My friend then asked me to explain why I chose to attend SAIS, and specifically, SAIS Europe, for my first year. I spoke of my academic and career interests, my desire for challenge and pushing beyond my comfort zone and the growth that follows. I also spoke of my views of higher education as a privilege and gift to oneself -- to take time to simply learn, explore, and discern where you are and where you’d like to go. If my perspective on my year in Bologna was based solely on a GPA number, I would have missed the point of why I choose to study in Italy and the richness of the experience I gained from the overall year.

Saying Goodbye to Friends at SAIS Europe
Every student’s reason for attending SAIS Europe is different. During this past year, one could see this in action, across the diversity of students and the ways they chose to engage in their education. For me, the beauty of SAIS Europe lays in the fact that each student can tailor his/her experience: every class, club, speaker, advisor, internship and job listing, career trek, study trip, office hour, and espresso beverage imaginable is there for the taking. It’s up to you to engage as you please.

For me, my year in Bologna will be remembered for the ways academics and personal connections intertwined: as much growth came from traditional classroom instruction as from the small ways my peers shaped my world perspective daily. For years to come, I’ll hold dear the challenging economics courses with which I had a love/hate relationship, my winter break study trip to Sarajevo to engage with conflict resolution mechanisms in practice, waltzing the night away at the Vienna Ball, engaging in contentious political conversations with classmates both at School and in a café in Piazza Maggiore, late nights in the library, debating current events with professors over dinners, and discovering how to fit, writing 25-page papers in the blink of an eye over weekend travel abroad. 

The fact that I have been exposed to new career paths and acquired many of the skills necessary to succeed has been only half of my SAIS Europe story; the rest emerges from the manner in which it all occurred. I’m filled with gratitude for new perspectives granted by the professors, staff, and students who have enriched my journey in innumerable ways.

Bologna, Italy
In answer to my friend’s question, I think my year in Bologna has been difficult beyond belief, and rewarding in ways I would have never predicted. I encourage future students to think critically of their motivations, and ask themselves how their unique time at SAIS will reflect on their specific objectives. Remembering what drives you will make for one remarkable year here in Bologna.

Emilie Uhrhammer, USA
Bologna Class of 2018, MA (IR/Conflict Management)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Unique Summer Study Opportunity in Montenegro for SAIS Europe Students

Herceg Novi in Montenegro

Every summer, the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD),  a research center of SAIS Europe, organizes a unique summer opportunity to study "EU and Legal Reform," bringing together leading EU and Public Law scholars and students interested in the current issues of the European integration. The Summer School lasts for a week and consists of lectures and discussions. 

This year, the Summer School will take place in the seaside town of Herceg Novi in Montenegro from 8-14 July 2018. In particular, discussions in the summer program will focus on the institutional crisis of the European Union and Brexit, to name a few topics. 

More info is available here.  

Moreover, thanks to a generous grant received by the CCSDD benefactors, this year a,  number of full and partial scholarships are available for the incoming class of SAIS Europe to study.

Interested students should submit their applications by 20 May through the Summer School homepage page (this deadline applies to SAIS students only).  In your application, please be sure to note that you are an incoming SAIS student in your application and  inform the CCSDD that you are applying at Email:

The CCSDD  looks forward to seeing you this summer.

Monday, April 30, 2018

SAIS Europe Travel Memories around the Globe

As the academic year comes to a close here in Bologna, SAIS MA student Emilie Uhrhammer, USA, MA student in Conflict Management, took the opportunity to interview her SAIS Europe classmates to learn more about how they spent their free time. One particular time during the year when students traveled was during spring recess. Below are her reflections as well as her student peer interviews.

Each year, as the snow melts and blue sky reappears in Bologna, students anxiously look forward to our first vacation of the New Year: spring break. Each student looks forward to the pause for different reasons: some return to their native country to reconnect with family and friends, others engage in SAIS study trips to further enrich academics, and many others go globetrotting across Europe or nearby states to take in new sights. SAIS Europe’s location offers the perfect launching pad for adventures abroad, and many are inclined to take advantage of relatively inexpensive travel fare to visit as many new places as possible. Others, however, prefer to dig in their heels here in Italy. Many use the break to soak in precious quiet time in Bologna or to explore the many famous Italian destinations on their bucket list.

With these different ways to spend break come different social, intellectual, and emotional experiences. Many students travelled alone for the first time, others shared their hometowns and cultures with new SAIS friends, and some bonded with students they had never gotten the chance to interact with outside of the classroom. Some spent their week enjoying paella on the beach, while others engaged in difficult conversations in war-torn societies, or went on a quest to better understand the role of critical international institutions. Others used the time to explore family roots or visit religious sites meaningful to their culture. The variety of ways students chose to spend their holiday reflects the diversity of students present on campus. It was a pleasure to hear the many tales at the end of it all. Below, I’ve collected the stories of a handful of fellow students. How would you spend your break while at SAIS Europe?

SAIS students in The Hague

ILAW Study Trip to The Hague, The Netherlands
Sarahann Yeh, USA, MA in IR/International Law

This year I was lucky to be one of nine students to visit The Hague as part of the annual ILAW spring study trip. My favorite visit was to the International Criminal Court, during which we received a briefing on current legal proceedings and got a peek at one of the court rooms. It reinforced the knowledge I’ve gained from the International Human Rights course at SAIS Europe. I now have a better understanding of how and why the ICC functions as it does. Other organizations we visited include the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL). In our off hours, we were lucky to meet up with several SAIS alums and explore the city!

American Foreign Policy Study Trip: Ukraine
Kiev, Ukraine
Caitlin O’Grady, USA, MA in American Foreign Policy

The American Foreign Policy study trip to Ukraine was a great opportunity to experience the country's culture and hear directly from experts on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. It changed my perspective on current foreign policy towards Ukraine and revealed the potential for meaningful reform, especially as the country nears elections. Our exposure to a diverse group of high-level experts was invaluable, and I will remember it for years to come.

Rain, Snow, and Great Friends: Krakow, Poland and Naples, Italy
Emilie Uhrhammer, USA,  MA in Conflict Management
Naples, Italy 

My spring break was plagued by lots of snow and rain, several bouts of food poisoning, traffic tickets, and direction mishaps. However, it was also filled with laughter, great friends, delicious food, and the opportunity to see incredible new sites. I spent the first half of break in Krakow, Poland with four fellow SAISers. We ate more pierogis than one might have thought possible, descended into ancient salt mines, and had the sobering, centering experience of a day at Auschwitz. Returning to Bologna, we rented a car and set off on a road trip, stopping for pizza in Naples, to see the beach in Camerota and the Amalfi Coast, then to an ancient village on top of a mountain in Bagnoregio, exploration of the ancient cave dwellings of Matera, the turquoise blue (even in the rain) waters of Polignano, and finally, the golden sunset of San Marino. 

It was an absolute privilege to visit so many diverse places, each with their own history, culture, and traditions. But even better was the chance to be stuck on a plane and in a car for so many hours with such amazing friends, for whose acquaintance I’m forever indebted to SAIS. 

SAIS Study Trip: Berlin
Daniel Frey, Austria, MA in IR/International Political Economy
German Reichstag Building
with fellow SAIS students

Visiting Berlin had been high up on my bucket list for a while and so the annual Berlin trip organised by Prof. Kuehne seemed like a great chance to explore the city. But the excursion turned out to be much more than a conventional city trip. The Berlin study trip gave me the opportunity not just to see the sights but to enter into the cultural context in which German political decisions are made. The agenda was filled with a number of interesting appointments such as meeting with an MP of the Green Party and having a luncheon at the Körber Foundation, a leading German think tank. Yet, these experiences were a lot more meaningful after delving into the history of the place through an in-depth tour of Berlin as well as a visit to Sachsenhausen, a Nazi concentration camp. To me, this was the most important lesson: Only by grasping how Berlin was shaped by its history, can one really understand how this legacy still influences political discussions today. Of course, there was also room for less formal activities in the shape of the occasional snowball fight (due to unusually heavy snowfall in mid-March) or discovering Berlin’s unusual and interesting night life with SAIS alums. Without any doubt, the Berlin trip was an intensive four days and more exhausting than your usual Spring Break, but it was definitely worthwhile.  

Finding Family Roots: Near Turin, Italy
Grant Marcinko, USA, MAIA 
Near Turin

For Spring Break, I spent the first several days taking a road trip to the villages in Italy of my great-great grandparents left behind to take part in the American experience. Though I had a family memoir, I was not sure what to expect much less what I would find. With the last-minute addition of fellow SAISer Christaan, we set out to meet the townspeople, visit churches and cemeteries, and peruse municipal records. As it had been over 100 years since my family had left, I was unfortunately unable to learn much additional information but I was encouraged to reach out to the records office in Trentino.  Regardless, the opportunity to Face Time my grandmother to describe the towns and the peoples that her grandparents came from was worth the trip. We also managed to have some adventures beyond the sentimental nature of the trip. Returning from the snow capped mountains, we made a quick stop to do some hiking by a stream. As any good Dutch person would do, Christaan persuaded me to take the plunge into the icy waters.

Kevin and his family near Naples

A Family Affair near Naples Kevin Rejent, USA, MAGR

My family and I rented a van and drove to the Amalfi Coast for spring break.  It was me, my wife, our four kids, and my in-laws driving what should have been seven hours; but ended up being closer to nine due to some similarly named roads near Naples.  The trip was a lot of fun, with visits to Positano and Pompei as well as stops in some smaller towns on the coast.  However, if you plan on visiting the Amalfi Coast, I would recommend: a) not driving a giant van on the Amalfi Highway, and b) making sure your car will fit between buildings BEFORE you get stuck.  We had to back out once or twice.  Overall, it was a great addition to the memories we are making this year, with so much history, culture, and of course, amazing food, so accessible from Bologna.

New Perspectives in Israel
Gael Fostier de Moraes, France/Brazil,  MAIA
Gael in Jerusalem

I went to Israel during my spring break in a last-minute decision. A friend of mine told me that the flights were cheap and I had always wanted to see what Israel looked like. I think it's one of those countries that receives a lot of attention from the media and not always in a positive way. I therefore thought I should check it out to properly inform my ideas first hand. Jerusalem, which is central in the history of Europe and Middle East, and a central place for many religions, was also another reason why I wanted to visit Israel. I was very surprised to find how well organized the country is and how well everything functions. I found Israel quite a safe country and the warmth of the Israelis was quite welcome.
The other impressive thing is to see how people from the three different central religions from Jerusalem coexist in such a small space in an antique city. To also note.. the beaches at Tel Aviv are also amazing!

A Bolognese ‘Staycation’
Ayoboni Akindolie, Nigeria, MA in African Studies

Nigerian food in Bologna
I decided not to make any significant travel plans for spring break. I figured that there would be enough to see in Bologna, or somewhere nearby like Florence, if I decided to travel last minute. I started with a birthday party on Friday night/Saturday morning, and that was enough excitement to last for the rest of the break! It was the best time! It was good to catch up on internship applications, and plan and just process the ways my life had changed over the past year. If you’ve had a hectic period with few breaks leading up to resuming at SAIS, a ‘staycation’ is highly recommended. I also finally made a trip to the African store in Bologna. Here’s a picture of a Nigerian dish I made with ingredients from the store for my birthday celebration with fellow Saisers.

Solo Adventure in Music and Art in Paris and London
LeAnna Roaf, USA, MA Latin American Studies

Through my travels, I have become a collector of music and earrings. A strange combination that I found allows me to bring a memory home that I can share with other people. This Spring Break I decided to travel alone to Paris and London. My experience in Paris was one of music. I've become a fan of classics like "Sous Le Ciel de Paris" by Juliette Greco and other hot tracks like "Pan" by Mina Tindle. In London, I discovered store after store of second-hand clothes from every decade probably since the 1920's. It was fabulous! Traveling alone was liberating and exciting and the perfect way to take a break from my studies and enjoy this magical year in Europe.

Monday, April 16, 2018

American Foreign Policy Study Trip: Exploring Modern Warfare in the Ukraine

SAIS Europe has many extracurricular activities that I have been eager to take advantage of. One of these opportunities was the American Foreign Policy study trip to Ukraine. It is a country that has particularly interested me, as a nation that is torn between western integration and separatists fueled by Russian support. 

While a trip to Ukraine was not already organized, I knew past SAISers had done it. I proposed the idea to my fellow AFP classmates and Professor Harper, the AFP advisor. From the start, my classmates and my professor were supportive of the idea for a study strip during spring recess.

Dinner with the Deputy Chief of Mission 
Thus, the planning began. In October, we started having dinners to discuss logistics and the research topics we wanted to focus on during our trip. We decided to investigate different implications of the current war and write individual research papers informed by our meetings in the Ukraine. Each of us would focus on specific topics of our interest, ranging from corruption to informational warfare to soft power. 

Then we began organizing meetings with the help of SAIS connections. Throughout the year, other SAISers heard about our plans and joined in. We even hosted a karaoke fundraiser night to help cover the cost of travel.
Kiev, Ukraine

Then spring break arrived, and the trip began. The first half of the week we were in Kiev. There,  we met with the Ukrainian Diplomatic Academy, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Crimea SOS, Members of Parliament, the U.S. Embassy, the Department of Defense, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Delegation, the National Institute of Strategic Studies, the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee, the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons, a former Foreign Minister of Ukraine, and the Presidential Administration.

Dnipro, Ukraine
Following our packed schedule in Kiev, we then headed east to Dnipro, where we met with students of Alfred Nobel University, security monitors with the OSCE, and where we toured the Anti-Terrorist Operation Museum, that covers the war in the Donbass. It was an incredible learning experience that complemented my studies with practical exposure to a modern conflict.

Now, as I write my research paper investigating how soft power can counter Russian sharp power in Ukraine, I realize the value of on-the-ground information. The study trip changed my perspective on foreign policy towards Ukraine and revealed the potential for meaningful reform, especially as the country nears elections. Our exposure to a diverse group of high-level experts was invaluable, and I will remember it for years to come.

I am also extremely thankful to have had the SAIS community to make it all happen. It would not have been possible without my professors’ unwavering support and the enthusiastic student body.

Caitlin O’Grady

Caitlin is a MA student, currently spending her first year of study at the SAIS Europe campus. A US national, she is concentrating in American Foreign Policy.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Johns Hopkins SAIS Wins First Place in International Criminal Court (ICC) Moot Competition

Congratulations to the 2018 SAIS International Criminal Court Moot team. The SAIS team was the first place finisher in the Regional Round for the Americas and Caribbean of the International Criminal Court Moot Competition held at Pace University Law School in White Plains, NY on March 16th – 18th. The team included Emily Ashby B '17, '18, David Hamburger '19, Tyler Lee B '17, '18, Wanda Zhan N'17, '18 and Professor Tiffany Basciano as lead coach. Special recognition was given to David Hamburger, who won best overall orator in the final round, first place best orator for the prosecution in the preliminary round, and third place best memorial for the prosecution. 

The 2018 debate covered issues such as, whether human trafficking is a crime against humanity, whether a corporate subsidiary can be treated as an unindicted co-perpetrator, and finally whether double jeopardy applies. This May the SAIS team will compete in the global moot court round held in The Hague, Netherlands. The global competition is organized by the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University with institutional support from the International Criminal Court itself. It is the world’s largest competition on international criminal law. This would be the international debut for SAIS at the competition. Countries from all over the world from Afghanistan to Zambia will be participating.  The team would like to thank everyone for the support received, especially Professors Nina Gardner, Steven Schneebaum, and Ruth Wedgwood. We wish SAIS good luck in the global round.

For more details, click here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

A SAIS Journey: Studying post-conflict Reconstruction in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Every year, the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development organizes a study trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Thirty students from Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe and the University of Bologna are invited to participate on this four-day trip to Sarajevo to meet with representatives of organizations working on post-conflict reconstruction, human rights issues, and democratic development. This year, received by snowy weather, the beautiful city of Sarajevo welcomed us to a heartbreaking, inspiring, and incredible learning experience. 

SAIS Europe visit to Sarajevo
The trip was an eye-opening experience. As we visited many multilateral organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Bank, the Delegation of the European Union, and the Italian and US Embassies, we had the opportunity to learn more about their work on the ground. We discussed the numerous challenges in the implementation of development projects as well as future challenges and projects.  We learned about labor market policies, corruption, elections, ethnic division, the energy sector, education, and human rights. We also visited the Constitutional Court and learned more about the constitutional development in the country, taking into consideration the ethnic and demographic divisions that still exist in the region. In our meetings, we were exposed to a wide range of perspectives on local issues, which provided us with the opportunity to draw our own conclusions.
Srebrenica Memorial
The trip also exposed us to the local culture. Arriving one day earlier, I had the opportunity to visit Mostar, a beautiful city that was also a major location of the past conflict. While visiting the city, it is still possible to see the bullet holes in the walls of the buildings. We also had the honor to tour Sarajevo with General Jovan Divjak who shared his experience and took us to important locations of the conflict. This included visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel, which was used to transport Bosnian troops and to bring supplies into Sarajevo. In addition to studying the history, we also had time to taste the fantastic local cuisine and to learn more about local traditions.

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Srebrenica. There, we visited two organizations: the Mothers of Srebrenica Association and the Memorial Center. While the women from the Association shared their stories of escaping from the conflict and the challenges they faced upon returning to their homes, it was impossible not to feel their pain in our hearts and to think about the memories they have of a terrible time that took away their husbands, brothers, and children. During our visit to the Memorial Center, many of us cried when learning more about the torture and ethnic cleansing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men in the Srebrenica genocide. It was a heartbreaking but incredible learning experience that inspired us to use our studies at SAIS to protect those in need and to prevent such acts from occurring again. When one of our colleagues asked the mothers of the Association, “what is your message to the world”, they said, “Never treat others different from you; when we are wounded, we all bleed red.”

As I am passionate about development, meeting with the victims, representatives of the organizations, and locals to hear their perspectives about the conflict and current challenges exposed me to a unique perspective of the country’s current situation. This trip was definitely an incredible learning experience that inspired me to continue giving my best to make this world a better place.