Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A helping hand ... and giving back to SAIS Bologna

SAIS Bologna students face a host of challenges during their time here, but help is never far away.

There is the academic challenge: SAIS is a rigorous program for even the best prepared. Many students are experiencing for the first time a U.S.-style education, with its premium on class participation and thorough class preparation.

Students need to make fresh friends, familiarize themselves with a new city and, except for those who have lived in Italy before, cope in a new country with its charming but occasionally demanding idiosyncrasies.

Enter Margel Highet, the director of Student Affairs. Below she outlines her role helping ensure students have the most rewarding experience possible while in Bologna. 

Q:  What is your role at SAIS Bologna?
Highet: I work with the students in all aspects of their life here, from academic counseling to helping to deal with any personal issues that might arise during their stay. I also work closely with the Student Government. Together we work to make our students' time in Bologna productive, memorable and really enjoyable.

Q:  What are the key issues for incoming SAIS Bologna students?
Highet: The key issues we are dealing with now are questions about housing, insurance, where to buy a fan and, of course, lots of questions about the program and how to build one's course schedule to get the most out of your time here while preparing for your second year in Washington.

Q:  You worked at SAIS DC before coming here. What are the main differences between the two campuses?
Highet: The main difference between the campuses is the close-knit community of the Bologna Center. In Bologna, the student body is smaller, there is one main classroom building for students to get to know and there are very few jobs outside of the School. All of this means the students tend to focus their social life and and their time in and around the Bologna Center. It is much easier to get to know the other students in this type of environment. I should add that the travel opportunities in Italy might help the general sense of camaraderie as well.

In Washington there are three classroom buildings, many more students, and many of the students have internships off campus so there is not as much opportunity to build a general community feeling. Students typically find their programs to be their central focal point and get to know each other well through classes and other extracurricular activities. The bolognesi returning to Washington, of course, expand their circle to include all of their classmates.

Q: If you had one piece of advice to give to an incoming student, what would it be?
Highet: Take a deep breath and relax. It will all work out, and you will look back on this year as one of the best in your life!

If you are reading this via email, you can see the video here.

Nelson Graves

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