Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A "rare beast" lauds her MAIA studies

Daniela Beyer is pursuing one of three master's programs offered at SAIS Bologna. Her account below is the second in a series of three posts on these programs.

I am one of the “rare beasts“, as one of my professors puts it, who is spending two academic years at SAIS Bologna.

The degree I am pursuing is the MAIA – the Master of Arts in International Affairs. The main difference with the MA in International Relations is that I am writing a thesis while the others take core or comprehensive exams. Also, MA candidates who start in Bologna spend a second year in DC.

I am a European Studies concentrator and plan to write my thesis on Europe's identity and public support for the European Union.

Daniela Beyer
Why did I choose to stay in Bologna for both years?

Among the many reasons, one stands out: I enjoy working on a single topic, examining it in detail over a long time span and probing primary sources, in my case public opinion surveys.

One of the wonderful things about graduate school is that you can choose classes and focus on questions that fascinate you personally. What could be better than to choose a research question for a thesis you will work on for at least a year?

Of course I am also sad to have seen many of the friends I made during my first year at SAIS Bologna leave for Washington, and it is certainly not easy to start all over again for the next year.

But I also appreciate the opportunity to have not only one SAIS family but two and to get to know a new group of people with their interesting personalities and backgrounds.

The diverse mix of students makes for a special class atmosphere and interesting discussions.  Already at the beginning of my second year I can see how the students come from different backgrounds and how informative class discussions will be.

Let me offer some advice to those who would like to write a thesis during their masters studies but who may not be sure whether SAIS is the right school because it is famous for its two-perspective experience: Screw up your courage and talk to a SAIS professor whose research fascinates you.

SAIS is a great place to write a thesis, and I am confident I am getting as much out of it as the “normal beasts”. If you study in Bologna for two years your experience will be shaped by both European and American perspectives -- after all, you are in Europe and studying in an American graduate institution.

You could argue the perspective is truly unique because of the many great international lecturers who come  to Bologna every year.

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