Thursday, September 26, 2013

Applying to SAIS Europe: Standardized tests, bowls of porridge and more

Standardized tests: To take, or not to take.

That was one of the questions tackled during an online information session that Amina, current student Jenny Lu and I tackled today.

We are interested in two categories of standardized tests: English-language competency tests for non-native speakers on the one hand, and the GRE and GMAT on the other.


Non-native English speakers must submit the results of one of three competency exams as part of their application to SAIS. The three exams are the TOEFL, IELTS and the Cambridge Proficiency Exam.

For definitions of a native English speaker, you can review this document.
Nelson, Amina and Jenny during today's online information session
Note that if you are a non-native English speaker but have completed or are completing a full undergraduate program, taught in English, in a country where English is an official language, you do not have to submit the results of a competency test.

However, if your undergraduate institution is in a country where English is not an official language and you are a non-native speaker, you will have to submit the results of such a test.


All U.S. citizens applying to SAIS need to submit the results of either the GRE or GMAT. All non-U.S. citizens who want to start their studies at SAIS DC or who are open to starting in either DC or Bologna need to take either of the two tests.

Non-U.S. citizens who want to start their studies in Bologna do not have to take either the GRE or GMAT. However, we strongly recommend that candidates take one or the other. Why?
  • A relatively strong score can help one's application;
  • The results can address questions about a candidate's English and/or quantitative skills;
  • A relatively weak score can send a warning signal to both the candidate and the Admissions Committee.
Do keep in mind that the results of the GRE or the GMAT will very rarely make or break an application; they are part of a complex dossier that the Admissions Committee reads very carefully.

Here is a slide that we showed at today's session that captures the middle 50% range of scores submitted by this year's SAIS students. These ranges do not include the top 25% or the bottom 25%, and so they reflect the middle tier:

Thus, of the incoming students who took the GRE, 50% scored between 157 and 165 on the Verbal section, and between 153 and 161 on the Quantitative section.

To a certain extent, therefore, these are the average scores.

Last year we published a post on the GRE and GMAT exams that you might like to look at.

Here are some of the questions that came up during today's session:

Q: Should I submit my GRE scores if I had a strong Quantitative score and a weak Verbal score?
A: Our advice would be to take the exam again and submit those scores. If you feel that your Verbal score continues to be weak, you can address this issue in your statement of purpose.

Q: What if I took few quantitative courses in my undergraduate studies? Should I take either the GRE or GMAT?
A: If your application does not give an indication of your ability to handle quantitative work, you would be best to take either the GRE or GMAT. The Admissions Committee wants to make sure that SAIS students can handle the challenging economics courses that are required of all.

Q: Will it help my application if I already have a master's degree from elsewhere?
A: The Admissions Committee is keenly interested in the applicant's academic background. A master's degree, especially if it is relevant to what is taught at SAIS, could strengthen the candidate's hand. However, the Committee is looking for a range of skills, qualifications and experiences, and each candidate brings a different mix.

Q: How long should the letters of recommendation be?
A: Long enough to present as persuasive a case as possible as to why the candidate should study at SAIS and what the candidate would bring that is unique to SAIS. Letters that are too short beg questions; letters that are too long can strain credulity. It's a bit like Goldilocks and the bowls of porridge: not too long, not too short, just right.

Q: Would you accept three letters?
A: We ask for two letters. We would prefer two strong letters of recommendation to three weaker letters.

Q: Can a recommender submit a letter in Spanish?
A: We ask that all letters be submitted in English.

Q: How can I organize a one-on-one chat with SAIS Europe Admissions?
A: You can send an email to, call +39 051 29 17 811 or send a message through Skype via jhubc.admissions.

Q: Will you be offering an information session on the analytical essay?
A: Yes. Below is the schedule of upcoming sessions. If you are interested in participating in any of them, please send an email to, and we will send you the instructions for connecting.

- October 23 at 4 pm CET (1400 GMT) - statement of purpose
- November 26 at 10 am CET (0900 GMT) - letters of recommendation
- December 12 at 4 pm CET (1500 GMT) - analytical essay

We recorded today's information session. If you would like to view it, please send an email to, and we will send you the link.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Academics: Meet Prof. Mahrukh Doctor

Prof. Mahrukh Doctor is an adjunct professor of International Relations and Latin American Studies who, like her faculty colleagues, helps set SAIS Europe apart. In addition to her work at the Bologna Center, she is a senior lecturer at the University of Hull and research associate at Oxford University and University College London. She has been a consultant at the World Bank. She brings academic and policy-making expertise to the Center, along with a global perspective that is a hallmark of the SAIS faculty.

Q: You last taught here in 2011-12. What have you been up to since?
Doctor: I have taught in Bologna every year since 2005. Unfortunately, last year I could not make it to Bologna due to scheduling problems. I went on exciting and interesting research/work-related trips to Australia and Mexico. I am also writing a book on business-state relations in Brazil, with special reference to the lobby for port modernisation.

Prof. Mahrukh Doctor
Q: What are you teaching this fall? Any changes in the course since you last taught it?
Doctor: I am teaching the "Survey of Modern Latin American Politics" course. It is an introduction to contemporary politics in the region. The syllabus covers a specific set of issues and countries, but each year I adjust the content and emphasis of lectures to address themes that might be particularly relevant at the time.

Q: How do you feel about returning to the SAIS Bologna Center? What in your mind distinguishes the program?
Doctor: Although I normally live in the UK and the commute to Bologna is about 8 hours each way, I am always delighted to teach here. The student body is diverse, lively and benefits from the presence of students from all around the world. The students are eager to learn and it is always fun to teach them. The programme is challenging, rigorous and also benefits from the variety of different academic traditions and approaches represented by the faculty, all congregated in a single place: the SAIS Europe/Bologna Center. I also look forward to joining my colleagues at the lunch table in the SAIS "bar".

Q: Can a student spend a year in Bologna and do the Latin America concentration? Wouldn’t it make more sense to do two years in DC?
Doctor: SAIS Europe presents a great opportunity for students with a concentration in Latin American Studies to spend their first year in Italy. The required range of course offerings are available, and they benefit from being taught by both European- and US-based faculty over the two years of their studies. Needless to say, this provides additional nuance to their understanding of the region. Moreover, Bologna-based students do not lose out on study trips or internship opportunities available to their DC classmates. Surely, it is the best of both worlds!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Student life: transitioning from Bologna to DC

Michael Aubry was a student at the Bologna Center last year and has just started his second year at SAIS DC. Here he tells us of his transition from Bologna to the U.S. capital, a shift that about one half of SAIS MA candidates make at the end of their first year of study.

Today marks the end of the third week of classes and the fourth week of my new life in the District of Columbia. We bolognesi were told how different our lives would be after our move across the Atlantic.

I can now vouch for that.

Reason: Washington is bigger. Time and space have been upended and this city reshaped as America’s Rome.

Michael Aubrey (L) with fellow Bologna Center graduates
Akhila Raman, Felix Amrhein & Brian Wenzler at SAIS DC
Urban agglomerations offer unique qualities and opportunities. This city moves fast. Transit tries to keep up – most of the time. The Washington Transit Authority may not be perfect, but it is practical in situations where cross-city transport is necessary. Many have elected to use DC’s quite successful Capital Bikeshare program to facilitate personal transportation. If you live near a bike station, Bikeshare is a helpful option. Tried and true walking, a mainstay of my Bologna life, is feasible but time-consuming.

Due to these considerations, social gatherings are less spontaneous. Advanced planning is a necessity, particularly since we are spread out across the various neighborhoods of Columbia Heights, Logan’s Circle, Shaw, NoMA and Dupont among a dozen others in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Unfortunately, more people means more crime. I never felt unsafe in Bologna, and I don’t feel unsafe here. But being at the wrong place at the wrong time can ruin anyone’s day. Even though the best preparation does not guarantee immunity, vigilance is key. With this in mind, the SAIS shuttle is an awesome service. I am wholeheartedly taking advantage of the free transport from SAIS to (basically) my front door.

Washington offers some fantastic opportunities, including a plethora of internship possibilities. Hundreds of lectures, both organized by and independent of SAIS, are available here. I do miss Italian food greatly, but I am enjoying the culinary variety DC offers.

As we are transitioning to DC, DC is transitioning itself. Areas that were once considered no-man’s lands have been, are being or will be renewed. Washington is a vibrant, young and intrepid city. District folks are extremely motivated and eager to succeed. It is exciting to see DC develop. Integration between the bolognesi and our DC counterparts is a two way street, but it continues abreast, albeit slowly yet organically. Time will tell, but I am optimistic.

Michael Aubrey (BC13/DC14)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bologna:SAIS Europe's host city

We may have changed our name, but Bologna remains our home.

For the 59th time, a new class is discovering Bologna's charms and traditions. The name SAIS Europe captures the breadth of our scholarship and thought leadership. But the medieval capital of the Emilia-Romagna region remains our host city.

Six decades after the Bologna Center was founded, the choice of location might seem unusual to some. But to historian and founder C. Grove Haines, cognizant of Italy's historic role in shaping our world and of Bologna's long tradition of intellectual leadership, it made sense.

A decent guidebook will provide you the basics about Bologna: home to the world's oldest continuously operating university, largest city in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, gastronomic capital, home to a Serie A football team and one of the country's most successful professional basketball squads.

It helps to be in the city to appreciate the homogeneity of its architecture, its bustling streets and markets, the green slopes of the Apennines on the southern outskirts of the city.

From time to time, we've posted videos and photos of Bologna. Below is a fresh video with glimpses of the city center, featuring a song by Gianni Morandi and Lucio Dalla, two well-known singers from Bologna.

Bologna Mayor Virginio Merola will deliver an annual welcome address to our students next week, a reminder of the Bologna Center's strong ties to its host city.

 Nelson Graves

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Student Life: New student space to meet changing needs

Wanted: a name for a new space.

Last week SAIS Europe inaugurated its new "anti-library" -- a spanking new space where students can study in groups, brainstorm while sipping coffee and scribble equations on the walls.

The brainchild of last year's class, the room meets the changing demands of today's graduate students, who often work in groups, with a tablet in one hand and a bite to eat in the other.

Modular furniture and fast computers
It also underscores the sense of community at SAIS.

Students can still find hushed silence in SAIS Europe's library. The new space, shaped during weeks of pounding and painting this summer, replaces the former dimly lit student lounge with a brighter area featuring a 55-inch flat TV in one section and tables and chairs on wheels in the other.

SAIS students no longer have to jostle for space in Giulio's bar when studying in groups. They can merely take a new set of stairs up to the study space -- which so far has no name.

Suggestions for a name are welcome.

Announcing the treasure hunt winners
Last Friday's inauguration featured a treasure hunt organized by the pre-term Italian language teachers. Students who took Italian classes in pre-term were divided into groups, each named after an Italian cheese: the Mozzarelle, Provole, Caciotte, Pecorini, Gorgonzola and Taleggi.

The teams had to explore Bologna and engage with locals in Italian to find the hidden hints. The competition ended in the new space with each group singing a song they composed on the fly -- in Italian, certamente. The winners walked away with traditional Italian food products.

The room was created in response to a request by students for a space of their own where they can meet, discuss and brainstorm.

Write to your heart's content -- on the walls. It's erasable.
Students from the class of 2013 contributed ideas and helped design the space to meet students' needs.

The administration listened and then acted. Alumni from the class of 1981 made the project financially possible. Very special thanks to them for their effort, dedication and commitment to the Bologna Center.

The new study space takes the place of the old computer lab, which no longer suited today's needs. Now students who leave their laptops at home for the day can use eight desktops with high-definition streaming. Those with laptops, tablets or smartphones can tap into SAIS Europe's wireless network.

The summer renovation also produced a new classroom that is adjacent to the new study space, as well as a fresh language lab.

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Open Day: Getting to know SAIS Europe up close and personal

SAIS Europe will open its doors to prospective students on December 6. 

Our annual Open Day is tailored for those who want to learn more about academics at SAIS, career services, student life and finances.

Why should prospective applicants come to Bologna to attend the event? And what can they learn that they may not from afar?

Q&A with the Student Government Association
at last year's Open Day
Alumnus Byron Sacharidis (BC11/DC12) previously described Open Day as a chance to “see SAIS for yourself”. It’s an opportunity to ask questions on anything relating to SAIS: from the details on courses and teaching to why Bologna was made home to SAIS Europe in 1955.

"Open Day helped me understand that the curriculum at SAIS was in line with what I wanted from a graduate program," said Elisa Malerbi, a current student from Italy.

Anna-Maria Achammer of Austria said: "Open Day allowed me to learn things about SAIS I would not have learned reading through the catalog, especially what it means to be part of the SAIS community.”

Careers are crucial: If you’re looking into a professional graduate school like SAIS, it is because you’re thinking about your future career prospects.

Meera Shankar, director of the Career Services office, said that at Open Day she will “provide an overview of what managing one’s professional development means in practice and an introduction to how students can think about applying the academic program at SAIS in a professional setting.”

Graduate school is an investment of time and money. Bart Drakulich, director of Administration and Finance, helps students understand how to make ends meet and how to make SAIS affordable.

“Students will gain a greater understanding of both the economics of an elite U.S. graduate experience as well as the opportunities available to help fund a degree at SAIS," Drakulich said.

"I try to be open and frank about the resources required to make SAIS attendance possible, but often I am surprised at how little potential applicants know about the financing instruments at their disposal. SAIS is an experience accessible to many, especially if they are smart, determined and a little enterprising,” he said.

If you’re interested in attending the Open Day, you can register here.

If you so desire, we’ll do our best to find you accommodation with a current student so you can both gain insight into the SAIS experience and save money. If you'd like to be hosted by a current student, please send an email to

If you cannot make it to Open Day, know that there will be other opportunities to learn more about SAIS. We have an open-door policy, and you're welcome to come visit us.

Each month before the January 7, 2014 deadline for applications we’ll be holding online information sessions. The next one is scheduled for September 26 at 10 am Italian time (0800 GMT). Click here for a calendar of the sessions.

If you would like to participate in any of the sessions, please send an email to indicating which sessions interest you.

Speaking of deadlines: the online application is now open. For instructions and access to the application, click here.

In coming weeks Nelson and I will be travelling to different parts of Europe. We'll post a full schedule soon. In the meantime, we're always available to speak with interested students. You can reach us via email, Skype (jhubc.admissions) or telephone (+39 051 29 17 811).

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Student life: Footprints around the world

Before summer slips away in the northern hemisphere, let's consider what last year's SAIS Europe students have been up to since their end-of-year ceremony in May.

From the rugged Outback in Australia to a deep gorge in Nepal, from a lush jungle in Costa Rica to the clipped grounds outside Buckingham Palace, SAIS Europe students left footprints around the world.

Some were working internships, others simply traveling before tackling a second year at SAIS or starting a career. Linking the diverse experiences is the students' shared desire to discover new corners of the world as global citizens.

Thanks to Holly Naylor (BC13/DC14) for the video.

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

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Applying to SAIS: A virtually paperless trail

Applicants to SAIS can submit almost all of their materials through our online application software.

(Just a few years ago I might have written "virtually" all of their materials, but the digital revolution requires a different adverb.)

The software, which will go online later this month, does away with almost all of the paper and postage that for decades characterized applications to college and graduate school. The application will be available here.

One type of document needs eventually to be sent in hard copy -- the undergraduate transcript. Everything else can be submitted electronically.

Here is what the applicant can submit with the online software:
  • the "application", which provides basic information on the candidate: name, address, date of birth, undergraduate institution, academic background
  • CV
  • statement of purpose
  • analytical essay
Referees can upload their letters of reference directly to the candidate's online application. If they prefer, they can mail a hard copy of the recommendation to the SAIS DC Admissions Office, where it will be uploaded into our system.

Candidates taking standardized tests such as the TOEFL or the GRE should provide SAIS's code when registering for the exams. The test organizers will then send your results directly to SAIS.

The online platform allows candidates to start an application, save it and come back later to continue work. When everything is in order, one can press the submit button. (The deadline for applications is January 7, 2014. There is no particular advantage in submitting your application early, although it is best not to wait until the last minute in case technical gremlins are on the prowl.)

If you are considering applying for 2014-15, there is plenty of work that can be done outside of the platform starting right now:

  • freshen up your CV;
  • schedule standardized tests and start preparing for them;
  • line up the referees who will write your letters of recommendation and brief them on why you are considering SAIS and graduate school;
  • start planning your statement of purpose and analytical essay.

Each of these tasks will take thought and time. There is no need to wait for the application to come on line later this month to get started.

Remember that in coming months we will be holding online information sessions, with each one focusing on a different element of the application. For a schedule and list of topics, click here.

Do you have questions? Don't hesitate to contact us via email (, Skype (jhubc.admissions) or the phone (+39 051 29 17 811).

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Academics: The importance of economics

One of SAIS's distinguishing features is the integration of economics into its curriculum. From its inception, SAIS has held that policymakers and leaders need a solid background in economics to understand global policy challenges. Below Prof. Michael Plummer explains why economics is important for SAIS students -- and graduates.

Q: Why has economics been an integral part of the SAIS curriculum from the start?
Plummer: A strong background in economics is essential to understanding key aspects of international relations and globalization, as well as grasping the many challenging policy issues of the 21st century, from regulation of financial markets to global warming.

Q: What kind of economics do SAIS students take?
Plummer: Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in microeconomics, macroeconomics, international trade theory and international monetary theory, either by taking the associated course at SAIS or, if students have already taken these courses as undergraduates, by passing a waiver exam. While students have to take at least four economics courses at SAIS,  most choose to take more, given the importance of the subject and the rich variety of courses. Not to mention, of course, the quality of the professors!

Prof. Michael Plummer
Q: How much economics do applicants need to have? Incoming students?
Plummer: Prospective students must pass university-level principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics courses with a B- or better before they can start their course work at SAIS. A candidate who has not yet passed one or both of these can apply to SAIS and can be accepted, although the candidate needs to pass introductory micro and introductory macro with a B- or better before starting SAIS. We offer an online course in the summer for those admitted candidates who need to take micro or macro, or both, before starting SAIS.

Q: We understand that economics at SAIS is “relevant” to the non-economics course work. Can you give an example?
Plummer: Nowadays, most policy issues have economic and non-economy dimensions to them, which suggests the need for interdisciplinary studies, a key strength of SAIS. For example, the current negotiations for a region-wide trade agreement between the United States and 11 partners in the Asia-Pacific is clearly an economics topic, but it has extremely important implications for diplomatic relations in the region, defense strategies, international law and even the study of health policy, labor and the environment.

Q: Do you have to be very strong at mathematics to take economics at SAIS? What if you’re not good at quantitative courses? What would you recommend?
Plummer: Of course it helps to be strong in mathematics for the study of economics, but while economics courses at SAIS do employ some differential calculus, it is mostly algebra-intensive. For students who feel a bit weaker in math -- or rusty, if they haven’t used that side of their brain for a while -- we have pre-calculus and calculus reviews on-line for students, and additional math resources are provided to students during “pre-term”.

Q: What kinds of careers require an understanding of the kind of economics that is taught at SAIS?
Plummer: The study of economics at SAIS develops tools that students can use in just about any job they end up at, be it economics- or non-economics-focused. I frequently have former students who have been out in the workforce for a while tell me how important the economics they learned at SAIS was. Even -- perhaps especially! -- those who were challenged at first by the formal analysis used in our basic economics courses.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Photo Gallery: And the winners are ...

We have the winners.

Last month we ran a gallery of photographs by students enrolled at SAIS Europe this year.

We asked a jury of faculty, staff and SAIS Europe graduates to vote for their favorite pictures. Two of the 26 photographs were front-runners.

First prize goes to Jagabanta Ningthoujam for a photograph he took while on an expedition to the Garhwal Himalayas this past June.

"It was a 25-day expedition to a peak called Mount Trisul, which is 7,128 meters high," Jagabanta said. "This picture is of an unknown peak, probably around 6,000 meters high. I took it from our intermediate camp (Camp 2), which was at a height of around 5,000 meters."

Jagabanta used a Canon 5D Mark III for the photograph.

"It is a long exposure shot during night time using the moonlight to light the mountain up. In terms of difficulty, the whole expedition was a grueling lesson in mountaineering, but the photograph itself was alright. It was very cold, though!"

Second prize goes to Kristen Andree for a photograph taken on the island of Maui while on a family vacation in Hawaii this past July.

"We were staying in Waliea and were out to dinner at the restaurant Humuhumunukunukuapuaa that was floating on a man-made lagoon," Kristen said. "The sun was setting over the water and on the beach. This statue of a Hawaiian man fishing was perfectly silhouetted in the lighting, and I snapped the shot."

Kristen took the photo with a Sony Alpha 550 camera, 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens, ISO 400, f/25, and 1/200 shutter speed.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Academics: Languages as a key to a global mindset

All SAIS students develop proficiency in at least one foreign language, choosing from among the 17 offered by the program. Like economics, languages have been part of SAIS's curriculum from the start. Below, Sara Gelmetti, director of SAIS Europe's language program, discusses the importance of languages at SAIS.

Q: Why are languages important at SAIS?
Gelmetti: Languages are an integral part of SAIS's curriculum. Top-notch preparation for a career in international relations requires the use of at least one foreign language for professional purposes. Mastering a foreign language implies learning about and adjusting to a new culture, which in turn fosters the development of a global mindset.

Q: What languages are taught?
Gelmetti: At SAIS Europe we offer beginner through advanced level courses in Arabic, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. English is offered at the very advanced levels only, for those students who wish or need to perfect their academic language skills.

Q: How are they taught? And how do SAIS's language courses differ from such courses outside of SAIS?
Sara Gelmetti
Gelmetti: Learning languages at SAIS is a unique experience. Our courses not only fulfill the foreign language graduation requirement but also meet students’ professional needs. Our goal is to prepare students to be linguistically and professionally functional in their careers.

Our courses merge language skills with SAIS’s interdisciplinary curriculum through the integration of academic content from the non-language courses. A wide range of up-to-date materials on economics, energy, international relations, history and politics ensure that students develop the vocabulary they will find essential in their future careers. Students engage in debates, presentations and simulations in the target language.

Our language faculty is comprised of experienced and highly-trained professionals. We offer small classes (no more than 10 students per class) to make sure each student receives individualized attention.

Q: What help/guidance do students receive in choosing a language?
Gelmetti: All language faculty members are available for advising during the two weeks before the Fall semester registration deadline. Since SAIS regional concentrations require specific languages to meet their graduation requirements, students should read their program requirements and consult with their academic advisors.

Q: Which languages are the most challenging?
Gelmetti: It varies from individual to individual and depends largely on one's language background. At SAIS Europe we offer additional class time for languages like Arabic and Russian, which confront students with writing systems that are likely to be new to them and vocabulary that might be substantially different from that of their native language.

Q: How much language study do students need before applying?
Gelmetti: None! Aside from the English requirement for non-native English speakers, students can start a second language from scratch, at the very beginner level, and still reach the minimum proficiency level in four consecutive semesters of language instruction. Thus we urge students with no previous knowledge of a particular language to enroll in the “novice” level courses from their very first semester.

For students with a particularly strong language background, we are glad to guide them along an accelerated path and help them master yet another language.

(For more information on the language program, click here.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer school in the Balkans: "Expertise kept pouring in"

Below incoming SAIS Europe student Jasmina Hodzic from Bosnia & Herzegovina writes about a summer program she participated in along with Prof. Justin Frosini and Sylvia Staneva, who attended SAIS Europe last year and is at SAIS DC this year.

I was so eager to start my SAIS experience that in the spring before the start of the school year I decided to apply for a summer school organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD).

The CCSDD is a think tank jointly founded by SAIS Europe and the University of Bologna's law school. It conducts research and training in comparative constitutional law with particular focus on countries in democratic transition.

The Center embodies SAIS Europe's close ties to the University of Bologna and its host city, its commitment to policy research and the opportunities SAIS offers its students to broaden their horizons outside of the classroom.

I received good news a couple weeks after submitting my application when the CCSDD, in a note almost as enthusiastic as my motivation letter, admitted me to their week-long conference on the constitutional implications of European Union expansion in countries of East and Southeast Europe.

On July 14 I found myself in Igalo, a beautiful Montenegrin town in the picturesque bay of Boka Kotorska, squeezed between a tall, rocky mountain and the Adriatic Sea.

I was one of 25 participants in the conference from all over Europe – and I don’t mean only the EU. There were students and scholars of constitutional law and political science from all over the former Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

Together we engaged in a week of intense discussion about democratic transitions in the context of EU enlargement and the effect such tumultuous changes have had on the legal setup of the countries in question.

Jasmina Hodzic, Prof. Frosini and Syliva Staneva (SAIS Europe 2012-13)
Examples abounded in the very neighborhood: from Croatia which just recently joined the EU, to other countries of former Yugoslavia who are yet to get there, to participants' countries from outside the region.

Expertise kept pouring in.

Such a diversity of ideas and experiences made this a very impressive and unique exchange.

Perhaps most impressive were the organizers, professors from the CCSDD and the University of Belgrade. We joined them in their celebration of the 10th anniversary of the summer school, co-directed by Prof. Frosini, CCSDD director and adjunct professor at SAIS, and Prof. Stevan Lilić of the University of Belgrade.

The combination of high spirits, warm July weather and small town Montenegro gave this academic conference a friendly and familiar feel. It is in such a mood that my time at SAIS has begun.

Jasmina Hodzic (SAIS Europe 2013-14)