Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MAGR Curriculum Provides Students Ideal Setting to Test Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches Towards Understanding Risk and Uncertainty

This summer, Angelina Magal, a student in the Masters of Arts in Global Risk program, is completing her summer intership at Philips, in The Netherlands, following her academic year at SAIS Europe.  In their second summer term in SAIS’s MAGR program, students complete  a capstone project. Below are Angelina’s reflections on the experience.


Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As part of the Master of Arts in Global Risk program at SAIS, we are required to complete a capstone project with a company.  I was offered the opportunity to complete this project at Philips, where I am interning with the Risk Management, Markets and Business Development support (RMMBDs) team.  RMM&BDs supports and advises Country and Markets on the proactive identification, prioritization and mitigation of risks (strategic, operational, financial, compliance) related to new business-models, solutions, strategic partnerships and entry strategies in high-risk countries. The internship is four months long and based in the Philips headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Angelina Magal, MAGR 2017
During the academic year at SAIS, we covered qualitative and quantitative approaches towards understanding risk and uncertainty.  My summer internship is an ideal setting to apply these skills in a business context.  One of the most interesting takeaways from this experience is that the MAGR degree ultimately provides you with a holistic, multifaceted understanding of risk. I constantly combine a variety of skills, methodologies, and theories that are sourced from different classes at SAIS.  For example, when analyzing country risks,  I draw upon knowledge from economics and international relations courses for the overall context.  However, in order to tailor my assessment towards Philips in particular, I also simultaneously utilize the ability to incorporate “point of view” in risk assessment, and depend on a thorough understanding of corporate finance. 
The environment in RMMBDs is engaging and supportive, and everyone brings a self-motivated, collaborative and positive attitude to the office.  This atmosphere is pervasive throughout Philips, and I am looking forward to the remainder of the practicum!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Internship in Bogota Puts Theory into Practice

Following his first year at SAIS Europe, as part of a recurring summer series of articles chronicling our students’ internships, Latin American Studies Concentrator Eli BirgĂ© is spending his summer in Bogota. Below are his first reflections on the experience.

Bogota, Colombia
My summer internship in Bogota has been an elegant capstone to two semesters of study in Bologna, Italy. The experience has led me from Latin Europe to Latin America, from the Apennines to the Andes and from development theory into practice.

The Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) is Latin America's home-grown development bank. The infrastructure team where I work is dedicated to improving Colombia's global competitiveness and domestic inclusivity through improved industrial integration and mobility.
Eli Birgé, 1yr MA student

Now is a particularly exciting time for Colombian infrastructure. Despite being endowed with immense natural resource wealth (second only to Brazil on the continent), Colombia's industrial hubs and ports are disjointed from each other by three Andean cordilleras, jungles, rivers and lousy roads. CAF's concerted effort to break this socio-economic bottleneck could unlock the country's impressive growth potential. 

My role on the infrastructure team has given me the chance to burnish the skills I acquired at SAIS, particularly in project finance, excel modelling and Spanish. Most projects are ad hoc, and my supervisor gives me the latitude to tailor them to my professional objectives. 

SAIS reunion in Bogota, Colombia
Although the workdays are long (about eleven hours) Bogota offers plenty of diversions. On weekends I take my bicycle onto the non-motorized ciclovias, discover a new fruit at the outdoor markets or crash quincinieras at the salsa clubs.  I even recently was able to attend a SAIS reunion here in Bogota. In all, my summer internship following my year at SAIS Europe in Bologna, has been off to a great start!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Saisers Share their Summer Intern Journals

Every summer, Saisers in our Master of Arts program undertake internships around the world. Their unique experiences give them the opportunity to apply their academic preparation to the field of interest. Given the diversity of internships globally, SAIS Europe Admissions wanted to share some of our students’ journals directly with our incoming Fall 2017 Class. Below is the first diary entry from rising second MA student, Gaston Melo Felgueres, a Mexican national who is a conflict management concentrator.

Following my first year of study at SAIS Bologna, I was accepted this summer to intern for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), located in Paris, France. Although I already had work experience in multilateral institutions, I really enjoyed learning about the mission of the department I am in, the Development Centre.
Ministerial Meeting on Latin America Forum at the OECD
As stated on its website, the mission of the OECD is “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” by providing “a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.” The Development Centre is one of the only departments of the OECD that works with emerging market countries. It is composed of regional teams, such as the Latin America and Caribbean, West Africa and Sahel Club and various others. It aims to provide sound policy recommendations to these emerging economies in order to better approach “OECD standards”.

OECD Forum
I was assigned to the Director’s Office, while rotating with the Latin Americana and Africa teams. In my first week, I have already had quite a fulfilling experience. I was able to attend a forum with the Presidents of Peru and Guatemala, as well as meetings with Ministers from Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Guatemala.

Throughout this summer, I will be given more responsibly than I have had in any of my previous jobs. I am currently analysing the regional integration between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance, while working on SMEs integrations into global value chains for the Latin American Economic Outlook 2018, a publication which analyses issues related to Latin America’s economic and social development and destined to share experiences and good practices with the region’s public officials.)

Gaston Melo Felgueres (left) at
OECD Networking function

People at the OECD are incredibly diverse, and they encourage friendship among co-workers, organizing happy hours or athletic activities. I have been incredibly pleased with what I’ve learned and I am VERY glad that I took International Trade Class this past spring at SAIS Europe before coming here!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Things To Keep In Mind As You Prepare To Move To Bologna

Summer is at our doorstep and before they’ll know it, incoming students at SAIS Europe will be in Bologna. 

Before arriving in Bologna, there are some things you should do and that remain on your mind.

If you do not have a European Union passport, you will need to apply for a visa to study in Italy. You should have received at least an electronic copy of the letter to request the visa. If you have not, please contact us at

Getting a visa can take some time and we recommend that you book an appointment as soon as possible. We in Admissions are happy to help you in case you come across issues, but you want take all the necessary steps to make your visa application as smooth as possible.

Some students have been required to take a course in introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics during the summer. This is because at SAIS you’ll be taking intermediate-level economics courses-- it’s important everyone knows how to walk before they can run.

If you’ve been required to take an introductory economics course, you’ve probably enrolled in the SAIS Online Principles of Economics course. Those who did not should have found by now an alternate solution. If you’ve not enrolled in a course yet, you should do so as soon as possible. Remember that for students in the Master of Arts (MA) and the Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA), passing a course in introductory economics with at least a B- or equivalent is a pre-requisite for enrollment and, if you do not fulfill this requirement, you will jeopardize your admission to SAIS.

If you have any questions, do get in touch with us at 

The registration for pre-term course opened earlier this week and it will remain open until June 26, 2017. Information on the courses is available here.

In most cases, pre-term is optional. If you’re wondering whether or not you should register for a course in pre-term, consider doing so. Those taking courses in economics can begin to tick off some of the economics requirements while those taking Italian language courses will be able to learn the language of the country that will be their home for the rest of the year.

For those who’ve not been in school for a while, pre-term is a great opportunity to ease back into studying; while for those who’ve never studied in English or at an American university, it’s a great way to learn about the system and understand how things work.

Last but not least, pre-term is an opportunity to get to know classmates as well as the city of Bologna and its surroundings.

Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, April 28, 2017

Study trip to Malaysia: in-depth discussions with finance leaders to enhance our understanding of Islamic Finance

Students at SAIS spent spring break in various ways. Some traveled, some returned home to their families, and others took a trip to Kuala Lumpur. Below, Mathew Kostman, a first year MA student in the European and Eurasian Studies program at SAIS Europe, tells us about his trip to the Malaysian capital along with other SAIS students.

The trip embodies SAIS's multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary nature bringing to Asia students in the Middle East and the European and Eurasian Studies programs.

If someone told me earlier this year that I would spend my spring break learning about Islamic Finance from industry leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I would have not believed them because Southeast Asia and Islamic Finance were never areas of consideration of academic study for me. As a U.S. student spending his first extended period of time in Europe, my focus was set on Eastern Europe. However, when the European and Eurasian Studies (EES) program announced a department-wide lottery to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur, I took my chance, and, thanks to the EES, the Middle East Studies (MES) department, and Starr Foundation, I had the incredible opportunity to spend a week in a country I never thought I’d be in, studying a topic I didn't know anything about.

This trip was possible thanks to a fellowship grant by the Starr Foundation centered on giving the opportunity to students outside of Asian Studies disciplines to have meaningful contact with the region, offering students the opportunity in both the European and Eurasian as well as the Middle East Studies programs at SAIS to travel to the region.

Meeting at the Islamic Financial Services Board

To prepare for the trip, my eleven travel companions, from the Bologna and Washington campuses, and I, researched the basics of Islamic Finance and put together a collective syllabus to familiarize with the topic before our meetings in Kuala Lumpur. After a guest lecture by Professor Camille Pecastaing, Senior Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program, and numerous virtual conferences with the student group at the DC campus, we gained a good understanding of Islamic Finance, its history, the current trends, how its principles are implemented currently and the plans for the future.  It was great to have the opportunity to learn about the inner-workings and future plans of Islamic Finance directly from the source.

Thanks to the coordination of Ms. Kathryn Knowles, Associate Director of European and Eurasian Studies, and the help of one of our hosts Mr. Daud Vicary from the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance, we met remarkable individuals at different institutions who were true experts and practitioners of Islamic Finance in Malaysia. Our discussions with people from the Malaysian Securities Commission, Malaysian National Bank, and the Islamic Financial Services Board were particularly enlightening. We found ourselves having in-depth policy and technical discussions with high-ranking leaders in Malaysian finance, enhancing our understanding of a topic many of us had only heard about a few months ago.

Our meeting with Members of Parliament gave us a better understanding of the current political situation in the Country and some of the issues they are dealing with. Malaysia has an incredibly multi-ethnic population with large Chinese and Indian communities that add a fascinating element to the Country’s history, culture, and politics. We got to see this up close when we attended a discussion conducted by a group of Malaysian college students about race, ethnicity, and the conflicts they raise. Befriending these students and hearing their stories and experiences was incredible and gave us a window into their lives and cultures.

My classmates tasting their first durian fruit
In our down time we got a taste of the culinary diversity Malaysia enjoys. We searched the city for the best local and authentic foods, discovering wonderful Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Korean food. Some of us tried the durian fruit, a staple of Malaysia.

This trip also allowed us to get to know our fellow classmates across the Atlantic Ocean. Studying, exploring, and attending meetings with the students in the EES and MES programs was a great way to get to know them, and I am looking forward to my time on the SAIS DC campus.

It was the best way to spend my spring break. I traveled to a new country on a continent I had never been to before, I learned about a fascinating topic I didn't know anything about, and I got to experience the culture (and cuisine) of Malaysia while getting to know my fellow SAIS classmates.

Matthew Kostman
SAIS Europe 2017

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