Thursday, March 27, 2014

Swapping spoons for chopsticks: the advantages of SAIS's global footprint

Sixteen students from SAIS's three campuses traveled to Beijing and Shanghai earlier this month on a study trip highlighting the program's international scope. Brian Fox was one of the SAIS Europe students who joined up with counterparts from DC and Nanjing, and he writes about the experience below.

As a European and Eurasian Studies (EES) concentrator at SAIS, I thought I would become more familiar with TARGET2 systems and eating spaghetti with a spoon than with the Chinese Communist Party and having noodles with chopsticks.

Nonetheless, a grant from the Starr Foundation enabled a group of EESers from both Bologna and DC to learn more about a changing China through a 10-day study trip to Beijing and Shanghai earlier this month. The logic is that, whatever our regional specialization, the transformation of China will have important global implications over our lifetimes.
SAIS delegation with Prof. Yiping Huang of Barclays Capital and Peking University
After four months of preparatory work, the Bologna and DC delegations left behind their quattro stagioni and Chipotle to better understand Chinese development. Accompanied by two students from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC), “One SAIS” was ready to take on the “One World”.

We spent five days in each city, meeting academics, journalists, officials and business people. The sessions were structured to give us a holistic understanding of China’s development. From economics to human rights, from the role of civil society to the environment, we built up our knowledge of how internal and external forces are transforming China and the impact this transformation is having on the world.

Viewing this change through an EES lens was very illuminating. My highlight was a talk given by Prof. Yiping Huang of Peking University on the future of China’s economic development in the context of a new reform program. I was responsible for writing a background report for the group on Prof. Huang and found his arguments very interesting. China’s current “slowdown” is part of its transition from a middle-income to a high-income country, which will render Europe even more exposed to its upturns and downturns and vice versa.
"One SAIS" roommates on the trip (L to R) Jace White (HNC),
Sam Rizzo (DC) and Brian Fox (Bologna)

An important Eurasian theme throughout the program, punctuated by ongoing developments in Crimea, was China’s relationship with Russia. Leading the SAIS contingent, Prof. Bruce Parrot of Russian and Eurasian Studies compared and contrasted Russia and China’s development experiences with Prof. Shaolei Feng of East China Normal University. Distinguishing between “managed” democracy and “managed” capitalism highlighted the separate approaches taken by respective national leaders in dealing with 21st-century challenges.

Personally, this experience was very fulfilling. I had been learning a lot from my Chinese roommate in the first semester (who had completed a year in Nanjing and is now at SAIS DC) and the rest of our impressive Chinese contingent. Rather than being an outsider peering in, I felt more like an insider looking out as I learned about Chinese thinking and culture.

The trip was a nice example of the opportunities offered by SAIS’s global footprint and its interdisciplinary and holistic approach to international relations. The linkages between Chinese development and European and Eurasian politics and economics are fascinating.

I even picked up some chopsticks along the way. Although tagliatelle al ragù may still be easier with a spoon.

Brian Fox

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quiz: Find the SAIS Europe professor

Today we're throwing down the gauntlet with a quiz that could stump even our best versed readers.

The rewards are great: your name in lights on this blog plus a Bologna Center tee shirt -- a collector's item from the pre-SAIS Europe era.
A SAIS Europe faculty member appears in this photograph as an aspiring undergraduate. Who is the professor?

Need help? The professor is listed among SAIS full-time faculty here.

Send your answers either as a comment below this post or via email to

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"It was the best thing I've done at SAIS."

SAIS mixes theory and practice in many ways. Below Kristen Andree discusses a trip she took last week with 15 other SAIS Europe students to extend their learning experience beyond the classroom walls.

"Spring break" for many connotes sun, sand and swimsuits, not discussions of security and settlements.

West Bank barrier from the Aida Refugee Camp
But the realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominated last week's break for 16 SAIS Europe students who traveled with Prof. Raffaella Del Sarto to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Prof. Winrich Kühne accompanied our group, who were chosen by lottery from Prof. Del Sarto's class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because the demand to participate was so strong. The Pears Foundation, individual donors and SAIS Europe contributed to the funding of the study trip.

The trip was planned in conjunction with the Centre for New Diplomacy, a non-partisan NGO that presents both sides of the conflict. The Center encourages critical thinking and believes that even if you do not completely agree with one side or one group’s opinion, the conflict touches humans on all sides, and we should bear witness to all of the stories.

In seven days we visited many parts of Israel and the West Bank, from Jerusalem to Ramallah, Bethlehem to Hebron, as well as Tel Aviv, Ariel and Sderot, stopping for falafel lunches on the way. There were meetings with the Israeli government spokesperson and the Fatah spokesperson, especially relevant during the current Kerry peace talks.
Remains of rockets fired into Sderot, Israel

We chatted with members of the Israel Defense Forces; toured the separation barrier with its architect, Danny Tirza, and visited a Palestinian refugee camp, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and NGOs including the Tent of Nations, the Abraham Fund and B’Tselem. With Profs. Del Sarto and Kühne we managed to take in some of the night life of Tel Aviv.

At the end of each day, we gathered to discuss this complex and nuanced conflict and to reflect on what we had seen and heard that day.

"This was truly a special trip," one student commented. "The administration and our guide were fantastic, always challenging our perspectives and encouraging us to view each point of contention from all angles. I learned much more than I ever expected."

Said another participant: "It was the best thing I've done at SAIS."

Kristen Andree

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Some more questions we are hearing: aid, deferral, work in Bologna

Yesterday we tackled some of the questions we hear most frequently from candidates admitted to SAIS Europe. Today we take up some more. Remember, there is a wealth of information on the web page for incoming students.

Q: Will you be distributing more financial aid for 2014-15?
A: One of the most difficult aspects of assembling a new class is our inability to fully meet the financial needs of all of the students we would like to welcome. At the moment we have distributed all of the money available to us for scholarships. Later, when we know which admitted candidates will be attending SAIS Europe, if sufficient money is returned to us we may be able to make additional grants, but it is not something to count on. And the situation might not become clear until after the deadline for replying to our admissions offer.

Q: I am a non-U.S. citizen admitted to SAIS Europe and have been offered aid for 2014-15. Will I receive the same amount in 2015-16?
A: There is a pool of aid for non-U.S. students in their second year, and some admitted candidates have been offered two-year packages. However, there is no guarantee the same level of aid will be offered to each non-U.S. recipient in the second year.

The aid pool for non-U.S. students starting in Bologna is greater in the first year than the second, in part because some special fellowships are available only to non-U.S. students attending SAIS Europe. All non-U.S. students in satisfactory academic standing are eligible to apply for aid for the second year. Awards are based mainly on performance during the first semester at the Bologna Center. Need and in some cases fellowship eligibility can also be taken into consideration. Students who perform especially well in Bologna -- whether or not they have received aid in their first year -- can present a strong case for aid in the second year. Competition for aid is lively, and we urge students to explore alternative sources for the second year as soon as possible to avoid missing deadlines which can fall one year in advance.

(SAIS fellowships for U.S. citizens whose applications were managed by DC Admissions generally cover two years. If you are a U.S. citizen and have questions, please contact the Financial Aid Office in DC at

For more information on financial aid, click here. For potential alternative sources of funds outside SAIS's control, click here; please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive and there are funds that we do not know about.

One of the alternative sources of funds for the second year for non-U.S. citizens could be the Fulbright Commission. There is no blanket authorization for the national commissions to accept applications from students who attend SAIS Europe and who are looking for funding for a second year in Washington. Each country applies its own policies. However, a number of commissions in Europe have agreed to accept applications from students for their second year in Washington, and we would encourage those who are interested to try. Please keep us informed of your progress, and if you think that an intervention from us with your local Fulbright Commission might help establish your eligibility, please provide us the name, email and/or telephone number of your contact person, and we will try to help . Also, keep in mind that this applies to funding for a second year in Washington. Fulbright does not offer scholarships to students studying in Bologna.

Q: I received no aid to attend SAIS Europe in 2014-15. Can I receive some to attend SAIS DC in 2015-16?
A: Please see the answer to the preceding question. If you perform extremely well in Bologna, you're only doing yourself a favor. Give it a try.

Q: Can I defer enrollment?
A: Yes. Candidates who wish to defer should write to us, explaining why. You need a good reason to defer. Different people have different reasons for deferring; we will consider each case on its merits. In some cases, it is to work a job that directly enhances your subsequent experience at SAIS. A candidate who defers needs to pay a deferral feel to hold down the spot for the following academic year. If you want to defer, let us know as soon as possible.

We do not recommend that a candidate defer primarily for financial reasons. If you are having difficulty making ends meet but would like to start SAIS in 2015-16, it is better to reapply. You can spend the next year strengthening your profile and in doing so, your chances of receiving financial aid.

Q: Can I work part-time in Bologna?
A: Italian regulations say full-time students with a visa can work up to 20 hours a week, or 1040 hours a year. There are some jobs at SAIS Europe such as research and teaching assistantships, library employment and the reception. Both the Bologna Institute for Policy Research and the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development employ interns. There can be opportunities off campus, especially if you speak some Italian.

Q: When and how do I apply for a job at the Bologna Center?
A: It's best to wait for jobs to be posted. Some departments send out vacancy announcements over the summer while others wait until pre-term or the beginning of the academic year. In many cases job openings will be sent to incoming students via email. Research and teaching assistantships are managed by professors themselves, and the processes and timing depend on the individuals. If you are interested in a teaching or research assistantship, have a look at the biographies of professors and consider whether there is someone you would like to work with. Keep in mind that there can be a good deal of competition for these posts.

Q: What if my question is not answered here?
A: There are plenty of other resources:
  • Web page for incoming students
  • SAIS Europe Guidebook for Incoming Students
  • Online information sessions set for March 27 and April 8; if you are interested, send an email to
  • SAIS Europe Open House on Friday, April 4
Q: How do I pronounce "Bologna"?
A: The "g" is soft. If you say "Bo-lon-ya", with the accent on "lon", you're off to a good start.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Here are questions we are hearing from admitted candidates

Candidates admitted to SAIS Europe have a good many questions as they weigh their options. Below are some frequently asked queries. We will tackle another set of questions tomorrow.

Q: Now that I've been accepted, what are the next steps?
A: First, give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back. You deserve it.

Then read very carefully the material for incoming students on this web page. Be sure to have a good look at the SAIS Europe Guidebook for Incoming Students.

Once you have made the matriculation payment nailing down your spot in the class, you can turn your attention to three matters of importance. First, do you have to take economics this summer to meet the requirements for starting your course work at SAIS? Second, will you need a visa? And third, what about health insurance?

Q: What are the introductory economics requirements?
A: All students must have passed introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics to start course work at SAIS. If you have not taken economics before, you need to take and pass a university-level course that will give you the adequate preparation to start classes at SAIS.
Read that guidebook.

Your letter of admission will have indicated whether or not you have satisfied this requirement. If you have not, SAIS offers an online Principles of Economics course that is tailored for SAIS students. The next two courses are offered from April 30 to July 24, and from May 21 to August 14.

If you would prefer to take an introductory economics course offered outside of SAIS, be sure it is a university-level course provided by an accredited institution. Before enrolling, non-U.S. students need to send the course syllabus for approval to

Q: Can I satisfy the introduction to economics requirement in pre-term?
A: No. The micro and macro courses offered during pre-term are at the intermediate level. Before being able to take either of them, one needs to have taken and passed a Principles of Economics course.

Q: Will I need a visa?
A: It depends. If you are a citizen of the European Union, you will not need a visa. If you are a non-U.S. national from outside the EU, once you have matriculated, we will send you a letter in Italian that allows you to apply for a student visa ("Visto Tipo D" -- in English, Type D visa). You can apply at an Italian embassy or consulate in your home country. From there on, it's pretty straightforward. If you get on this early, you should not lose any sleep. But if you hit a snag, be sure to contact us.

Incoming students from the United States should be in touch with Erin Skelly ( in the SAIS DC Admissions Office about their visas. U.S. students should make use of the Italian visa service offered in Washington.

Q: What about health insurance?
A: All students are required to have a health insurance policy that is valid in Italy. All non-EU students will be automatically registered and billed for a U.S.-based insurance policy. Those who already have equivalent coverage will be required to follow the online waiver procedures. Details are available here.

Students who purchase the health insurance policy available through SAIS should be aware that they will have to pay any expenses they incur in Italy and then request reimbursement from the insurance company.

If you are a non-EU citizen, you will need to obtain a permesso di soggiorno soon after you arrive in Italy. To get a permesso di soggiorno you need a valid visa. Information on applying for a permesso di soggiorno will be available at the Registrar’s Office upon your arrival in Bologna. The fee for the permesso di soggiorno is approximately €137 (as of March 2014).

The requirements for the health insurance when you apply for your visa may be different from the requirements when you apply for the permesso di soggiorno in Bologna. For the purpose of the permesso di soggiorno, the local police need evidence in Italian or English that you are covered for the full duration of the academic year.

EU and European Economic Area citizens do not need a permesso di soggiorno. However, before leaving for Bologna, they should make sure they are registered with the local health authorities in their home country and obtain the appropriate card or form to access health services while in Italy.

If any of this is not clear, please write to, and we'll get back to you.

Tomorrow: Finances, deferrals, working in Bologna.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let us help you take the best decision

Congratulations to candidates who have been admitted to SAIS for 2014-15.

For many admitted candidates, the next few weeks will be a time of reflection, research and introspection. We understand that graduate school is an important commitment, and we stand ready to do what we can to help admitted candidates as they take decisions.

The Admissions Offices in both Bologna and DC welcome questions. The SAIS Europe team has planned two online information sessions:
  • March 27 at 4 pm Italy time (1500 GMT)
  • April 8 at 10 am Italy time (0800 GMT)
Current SAIS Europe students will participate in these sessions, which will give admitted candidates a chance to ask any questions they might have about the Bologna Center and the SAIS experience.

If you have been admitted to SAIS Europe and would like to participate in either or both of the sessions, please send an email to, and we'll send you the dialin details.

On Friday, April 4, SAIS Europe will be hosting its annual Open House for admitted candidates. This is a very good chance to meet faculty, students and staff, and to get to know the city of Bologna. We understand that most admitted candidates live too far away to attend, but if you are within striking distance, please give it a thought. Current students offer to accommodate visiting candidates, most of whom arrive the day or evening before and often stay in Italy for the weekend.

(SAIS DC will be organizing its own online information sessions in late March and early April, and its Open House is set for April 9.)

We look forward to tackling your questions and helping you take the best next step in your careers. You can always reach us at, by phone at +39 051 29 17 811 or via Skype at admissions.jhubc.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Showcasing SAIS's depth and breadth

China in Africa. Womenomics. Intra-Asian trade. Brazil's central role on the world's stage.

SAIS professors, students and graduates tackle critical issues facing the world's emerging markets and showcase the graduate school's depth and breadth in a new magazine.

SAISPHERE's focus in the latest edition, emerging markets, follows last year's theme of cities. The expertise inculcated at SAIS is on display in both.

Contributors in the current edition include John Lipsky, a visiting international economics professor and former IMF first deputy managing director; Kathy Matsui (DC'90), a senior manager with Goldman Sachs in Japan, and Dominique Thormann (BC'77), Renault's chief financial officer.

Two dozen recent books by faculty are highlighted, on topics ranging from Machiavelli to Al Qa'ida. Not to be undone, alumni boast another two dozen tomes, including "Memoirs of the Bādshāh ī Mosque" by recent SAIS Europe graduate Talha Jalal (BC'12).

In his introduction, SAIS Dean Vali Nasr says the magazine "charts an innovative way of thinking about the phenomenon of emerging markets -- looking beyond their promise of growth to assess how they are encountering the challenges of rapid change and forging unprecedented patterns of global economic, political and trade interactions."

With its multidisciplinary curriculum and language instruction, SAIS offers a unique prism to its students and intellectual leadership to the world.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Careers: Making the most of spring break

If you were a current SAIS Europe student, you would be on the cusp of a one-week holiday before the final stretch of the academic year. 

You would also have received a weekly email from the Career Services Office full of tips, reminders and information on summer grants.

From a student's first days at SAIS, Career Services keeps students squarely focused on what they can do to build a career. It's an important part of the "professional" side of the SAIS experience.

Take the latest weekly email. "Making the Most of Spring Break" notes that the holiday is a time to relax and unwind but also a chance to make strides in one's job or internship search. The note exhorts students to "review your search strategy, polish your resume and LinkedIn profile, hone your interview skills and refresh your salary negotiation abilities."

The email lists information sessions for students on SAIS's three campuses to discuss the 2014 Summer Internship Fund -- a pool of money providing grants to first-year students pursuing unpaid internships in the public, non-profit or multilateral sector.

Need help on drafting a CV, cover letter or networking email? You can drop in to see a Peer Writing Mentor.

You might like to consider the Behavioral Interviewing Workshop or clubs focusing on STATA skills or speed interviewing.

You will want to consider the Professional Development Skills courses being offered this spring. In Bologna alone the choices include financial accounting, IT for management, quantitative methods and spreadsheet modeling.

You'll also want to mark on your calendar the deadlines for submitting your CV to organizations around the world looking for interns or to foundations offering fellowships.

Enjoying one's holiday while paving the way to a career: multi-skilling SAIS style.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quiz: Who is this man?

Let's see how quickly our readers can solve this riddle:

He came to Bologna as a schoolboy and grew up to become one of the world's richest men and a sage of the digital age. Who is he?

The first person who sends in the right answer gets a SAIS Europe tee shirt and a choice of one of five books recently published by Bologna Center faculty.

Please send your answers via this blog's comment section or by email to

(The answer is in the comment below: Eric Schmidt of Google.)

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Life after SAIS: What careers do graduates choose?

What do SAIS students do after they graduate?

SAIS is a multi-disciplinary program that prepares students for a variety of careers. The combination of economics, regional and functional studies, and languages appeals to many employers around the world.

For a glimpse of the jobs that SAIS graduates took up after graduating last year, you can have a look at this report. Reports from years past can be found here.

"The class of 2013 went on to find employment in over 155 organizations worldwide, once again making SAIS an important source of global talent," Ron Lambert, head of Career Services in Washington, says in the latest report.

In addition to its academic curriculum and global footprint, SAIS offers professional skills courses in accounting, finance, corporate valuation, financial modeling, public speaking, business writing, leadership, consulting skills, negotiations, effective briefings, Excel and STATA.

Here are some of the highlights from the latest report:
  • Of the graduates who completed the survey, 93% had found employment, obtained fellowships or internships, or had gone on for further study within six months of graduation.
  • The private sector continued to attract the greatest numbers of graduates -- 44% of the class of 2013. It was followed by the public sector (19%), the multilateral sector (17%) and non-profit (15%).
  • Consulting, banking and finance accounted for more than 60% of the jobs in the private sector.
  • The World Bank continued to attract the greatest numbers who joined the multilateral sector, followed by the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations.
  • Three-quarters of the class participated in summer internships between their first and second years at SAIS.
The report includes some average salary figures by sector, with the caveat that compensation varies considerably by region and also does not always reflect additional salary benefits, signing bonuses or end-of-year bonuses.

"Our graduates go on to leadership positions and combine talent and experience to make a difference wherever they live and work," Lambert said.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"What better place to earn a master's degree?"

Chris Hume is one of several Bologna Center students pursuing a double degree with another program. Before arriving recently in Italy, Chris had completed a year of study at the SAIS DC campus and three semesters at Duke University's MBA program. Below he offers his thoughts on his Bologna experience so far.

Since arriving in January at the start of the spring semester, I have sought to embrace the culture that defines both the Bologna Center and the surrounding country.

Classmates hail from 41 different countries and a multitude of backgrounds, a recipe for a rich learning experience. The interest in topics both global and local transcends the diverse student body and complements our enviable position at the crossroads of Italy.

Medieval towers dot the skyline. Porticoed sidewalks wind along cobblestone streets. Food, music, art and history abound. The professors are engaging, and the research resources do not disappoint.

What better place to earn a master’s degree in international relations?

My graduate school adventure began in the fall of 2011 at the SAIS DC campus after several years in the U.S. Army. The military experience influenced my decision to study international relations, and the SAIS program has been a great fit. The exposure to top policymakers and international organizations as well as the opportunity to study in Europe are without equal.

My first year provided an excellent introduction to the policy world, and I enjoyed the classes and events that the DC campus could offer. That year I met many second-year students who had spent their first year in Bologna, and I became intrigued with the SAIS Europe experience.

It would be an indirect path, however, because after my first year at SAIS I studied for three semesters at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. I pursued the MBA to gain a better understanding of the private sector and complement my MA with a course load focusing exclusively on finance and accounting classes while at Fuqua. Two other MBA dual-degree students, friends from my first year in DC, are also here for their last semester, and it has been a lot of fun catching up with them.

I will graduate concurrently from both SAIS and Duke this May and move to New York to take a job in the financial services sector. I cannot think of a better place to finish up my studies, and the administration and student body have been extremely friendly and accommodating.

My only complaint is how fast this semester is moving along; midterms have already begun!