Thursday, February 27, 2014

Student life: Building the SAIS Family

Nora Brito was a student at SAIS Europe last year and is studying in Washington this year. She serves on the Student Government Association (SGA) in DC as the Bologna representative. Below she discusses the transition from Bologna to the U.S. capital and her work on the SGA.

Studying one year in Bologna and one in Washington has offered me rich and rewarding experiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

In both Bologna and Washington, I've benefited from the challenging academic curriculum, lecture series and career support services. In Bologna I enjoyed the excellent cuisine and Europe's beauty, while in DC I have taken advantage of the conventions and balls hosted by embassies in DC while getting to know the entire SAIS Class of 2014 in a city where U.S. foreign policy is shaped.
The SAIS DC Student Government Association.
Nora Brito is on the far right, next to Vice President Ally Carragher, who also studied in Bologna last year.
In Washington, I am part of a team that works to ensure students who started in Bologna are integrated into the SAIS DC community.

As the SAIS Europe representative on the SGA and president of the International Students Committee, I’ve been focusing on facilitating the transition between Bologna and DC. As a first step, the SGAs in both DC and Bologna are trying to work from a common agenda. As Johns Hopkins becomes a more unified entity, so do our SGAs. Through Skype sessions, we know what each SGA is doing and how to join forces to create a smother transition.

Last year, the DC SGA launched the SAIS Family. Second-year students volunteered to be "parents" and adopted first-year students in DC and second-year bolognesi who had moved to Washington. The families started communicating in the summer, providing a forum for questions about DC and SAIS.

The SGA hosts the Italian Dinner for second-year students. This is the first event where the bolognesi get to meet the rest of their graduating class. Students share pictures and videos of what they did during the summer and exchange stories with the DC crowd.

This semester we plan to change the structure of student-run clubs by mandating a leadership slot for students from Bologna and first-year students. To improve communication, the Peer Counseling program involving both first- and second-year students will be ready to answer any questions from the current bolognesi, for example how to adapt to a new country and culture.

We are doing our best to serve our fellow classmates in DC, Bologna and Nanjing. Being part of the SGA has not only given me the opportunity to work with other students who want to contribute to improving our school but also allowed me to engage with an administration that constantly looks for SGA involvement in the decision-making process.

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