Thursday, June 26, 2014

Admissions: Get going early with the standardized tests

If you are considering applying to graduate school, you might consider looking at the documents you need early.

We know that the strongest applications come from students who spend time working on each of the components of a dossier.

The online application form will be live in late August. Completing the form will not take much of your time. Gathering the documents for application will. There are steps you can take now to get ahead.

If English is not your native language, you will be required to take an English competency test. We accept the TOEFL, the IELTS or the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English. Click here for the definition of a native English speaker at SAIS.

Non-U.S. applicants who wish to spend their first year at SAIS Europe are not required to take standardized tests, such as the GRE or the GMAT. However, we strongly recommend they do so to strengthen their dossier.

The scores give us more information on an applicant. They rarely make or break an application, but they help round out an application.

It is important that you prepare well and that you make the most of the online resources available. The more prepared you are, the better you will perform.

Be sure you give yourself enough time in case you need to take the tests more than once.

Alumni from the Class of 2012 have written posts with tips on both English language tests and the GRE and GMAT. Below are the links:

- English competency tests
- Standardized tests

Amina Abdiuahab

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

One World, One SAIS

Leadership, knowledge and understanding.

These are some of the words used to describe SAIS in the video below.

SAIS has campuses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Independent of the campus students attend, they share the same view of SAIS.

For students, SAIS is a place where they develop their leadership skills in the company of global thinkers. It is a place where they find a community of people who are passionate about global issues and international affairs. It is the setting where they can tackle the greatest challenges of our time, cross borders and push boundaries.

Students at SAIS learn from one another, inside and outside the classroom, as each brings a different perspective.

Faculty learn from students. They are inspired by their ideas and experiences and find it a privilege to work with SAIS students.

The video, put together by Jameel Kahn a current MA student, groups in seven minutes what according to our students and faculty sets SAIS apart.

If you are reading this post on email, you can watch the video here.

Amina Abdiuahab

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Getting to know us: SAIS Europe's upcoming information sessions

Are you wondering how you can get more information on SAIS Europe?

Navigating through our website or reading our catalog and brochure help you understand who we are and what makes us special.

If you'd like to get more information on our programs and application procedures, you will benefit from attending our Online Information Sessions. Over the summer months we will hold one per month.

These sessions are a great way to learn more about SAIS and SAIS Europe and to ask any questions you might have.

Here is the schedule:

- July 14 at 4 pm Central European Time (1400 GMT)
- August 29 at 10 am CET (0800 GMT)
- September 17 at 4 pm CET (1400 GMT)

If you would like to participate, please send a message to and we will send you the instructions to log in. To connect, you will need a computer and an internet connection.

We will be able to interact through the audio or the chat function of the software we use.

If you cannot attend the sessions, but you'd like information on SAIS Europe, you can reach us at; via Skype (jhubc.admissions); or by phone at +39 051 29 17 849.

Amina Abdiuahab

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ensuring the best learning experience: meet SAIS Europe's new Student Affairs head

Students at SAIS receive strong support from faculty, staff, classmates and most especially the director of Student Affairs. The new director at SAIS Europe, Jennifer Varney, comes uniquely qualified for the role as an academic and award-winning teacher. Dr. Varney did her undergraduate and master's studies at Cambridge University and received her Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain. Her research interests include 20th century Anglo-American literature and Modernism. Below she discusses her new job and how she will support SAIS students.

Q: What attracted you to this post?
Varney: Before becoming director of Student Affairs at SAIS Europe, I worked as a lecturer in English literature for 15 years. What made that job so fulfilling was being able to work closely with students. In this new role I’ll be able to work even more closely with students, promoting their interests and ensuring that we offer them the very best learning experience possible.
SAIS Europe Director of Student Affairs Jennifer Varney

Q: What do you see as the main responsibilities of the director of Student Affairs?
Varney: The director of Student Affairs has three main responsibilities. The first is to advise students about concentration requirements and courses. It will be my job to facilitate communications between students at SAIS Europe and concentration heads, most of whom are at the SAIS DC campus, and to keep students informed about special opportunities and activities within their concentrations. The second main responsibility is to serve as a counselor to individual students encountering academic or personal difficulties. The third is to act as an adviser to the student government.

Q: The biggest challenge of the post?
Varney: The biggest challenge is also one of the most attractive aspects of this job: its variety. Every day I’ll be dealing with new issues, finding solutions to new problems and  interacting with new people.

Q: If you had to say one thing to an incoming student, what would that be?
Varney: I would say that they should come prepared to work extremely hard, as standards at SAIS Europe are particularly high. That said, because SAIS Europe is such an intimate and informal community, students are likely to form some of the most stimulating and rewarding friendships of their lives. Testament to this are the hundreds of alumni who return to Bologna each year for the SAIS Europe Alumni Weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thank you from a grateful Admissions officer

Today is my last day at SAIS. I don’t like farewells, so excuse me if I just say thanks.

Thank you to the candidates, students and young alumni who have made my job at Bologna Admissions so rewarding these past four years.

Graves with his Italian permesso di soggiorno from 1981
It was called the Bologna Center when I was a student here three decades ago. It was SAIS Bologna when I started this job in 2010 and is SAIS Europe as I depart.

The name and curriculum may have evolved, but the institution continues to enrich the lives of students from around the world as it has for six decades.

My wonderful Admissions colleague Amina and I can point to some worthy accomplishments since 2010: increased applications to SAIS Europe, a growing number of nationalities in the student body and a string of outstanding classes that make Johns Hopkins proud.

We’ve tried to put a human face on the admissions process, not just because it’s good business but because we understand how much candidates invest of themselves and because we enjoy the interaction.

The acts of gratitude on the part of candidates and students compound our pride: a note from a departing student saying Admissions made a happy difference in her choice of graduate school, an email from a candidate who was rejected but who is still determined to reapply.

I remember the note from an Asian applicant saying how moved he was to see his tiny country on the world map of admitted candidates. The note from a South American candidate who was touched to see a photo from SAIS Europe showing flowers in women students’ mail boxes on Valentine’s Day. And the email from a candidate from the Balkans who was turned down three years ago, who had the pluck to say he was proud to have been part of the application process and then the courage to double down.

He will be attending SAIS Europe next year.

I regret not being able to rub elbows with him and others of the SAIS Europe class of 2014-15 – my timing has never been great. But when I arrived here four years ago I inherited an outstanding class of 2010-11 for no effort of my own. It all comes out in the wash.

Readers of this blog will recognize my favorite bromide: It’s not the destination that counts, it’s the getting there.

SAIS students demonstrate that all the time. They draw important lessons from the very process of applying to graduate school; from their time while at SAIS and with their classmates, and from their search for a career. Rarely do they know where they’ll end up after SAIS – they trust in themselves and grow along the way.

These students give me courage as I, too, turn the page and dive into the unknown. I have an idea and energy, but no guarantee of arriving at a set destination.

Perhaps SAIS and its students helped teach me to trust in myself, too.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, June 12, 2014

From a hilltop village in Italy to a Vespa in DC: a SAIS student's tale

SAIS Europe students connect with Italy in many different ways. Aaron Badway studied in Bologna this past year and will be at SAIS DC starting in August. He pushed his roots more deeply into Italy. Read on to find out how.

This entire process started way back in 2011. I was working with an investment bank in Milan but was forced to leave when my visa expired. My great-grandfather had emigrated to the U.S. but never renounced his rights, so I was eligible to apply for dual citizenship.

Aaron Badway with his Italian identity card
Except that I needed to find his birth certificate from 1891. And his marriage certificate from a hilltop town, Arquata del Tronto, in the middle of nowhere in the Le Marche region. And his certificate of naturalization from Ellis Island.

After about a year of collecting documents, I went to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia where the nice lady said, "Oh, tutto a posto, non si preoccupi. We will send all of these to Italy right away."

A year and a half later, no response. I figured while at SAIS Europe in Bologna I would find it easier to just go to Arquata del Tronto myself. This worked only because SAIS Europe had hired the most helpful woman in the world in receptionist Raffaella Besola. She called the comune around 20 times, maneuvered her way around the Italian bureaucracy and charmed them into speeding up the process.

It took me two days to get to Arquata, where maybe ten people live, but I was finally able to pick up the carta d'identità. Before I left, the mayor pulled out this huge book. In it, he showed me the hand-written registration of my great-grandfather's birth, penned by his parents -- my great-great-grandparents -- in 1891. Absolutely crazy!

It was a long process but completely worth it. Being Italian opens up an entire continent of possibilities for me and is the reason I am able to do a summer internship right now in Romania.

The main reason for all of this, though, is really because I want to drive a Vespa in DC next year. The only way that this can be justified in any way is if I am carrying an Italian passport.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Getting a step ahead of the others in the admissions race

Summer is at the northern hemisphere's doorstep. It's a good time to sit back, relax and enjoy warm weather.

If you're thinking of graduate school, it's a good time to ponder your next steps. And if you're thinking about a master's in international relations, it's a very good time to learn more about Johns Hopkins SAIS.

The strongest applications tend to come from candidates who have done their research and thought carefully about the different pieces of the application puzzle. That takes time.

How can you learn more about us?

  • Start by reading our brochure. It highlights SAIS's three campuses -- SAIS is the only U.S. graduate program in international relations with full-fledged campuses in the U.S., Europe and Asia. It provides an overview of our academic programs and describes the array of careers our graduates choose.
  • For detailed information on SAIS Europe, you can read our catalog.
  • Feel free to contact us. We enjoy answering questions about what makes SAIS different and special, and we like interacting with potential applicants. You can reach us at, via Skype (jhubc.admissions) or by the good old fashioned phone (+39 051 29 17 811).
  • You can also visit SAIS Europe. If you'd like to come by, get in touch with us and we'll be glad to set up a program for you.
In coming weeks we will post a calendar of recruitment events for the fall season. In the meantime, keep reading this blog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Europe's imbalances: connecting the dots in a winning thesis

Andreas Glossner examines Europe's economic problems over the past two decades and draws lessons for policymakers in a thesis that recently won him SAIS Europe's highest academic award. In his paper, "Fiscal Policies and Macroeconomic Imbalances Across the Euro Area: A Study of Trends and Discontinuities," Glossner analyzes the link between fiscal and economic coordination in the euro area, and recommends that Europe use incentives instead of sanctions to promote economic convergence. Below Glossner, who won one of the C. Grove Haines awards last year as well, answers some of our questions about his thesis, which he wrote for his master's degree at SAIS Europe.

Q: How did you get the idea for the paper?
Glossner: In following the debate about the right kind of fiscal governance in the euro area, I found that the polarization of views has sometimes obscured its broader context -- that of the history of the monetary union. In my thesis, I took a comprehensive, empirical look at the macroeconomic impact of European fiscal policies across three time periods: prior to the launch of the Euro, during the first years of monetary union and since the onset of the recent crisis. My thesis examined the link between fiscal policies and external imbalances, which partly explains why Europe was hit so deeply in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Andreas Glossner receiving his C. Grove Haines award
from SAIS Europe Director Kenneth Keller

Q: What was the hardest part?
Glossner: Many of the concepts in the thesis were hard to quantify, especially given that “macroeconomic imbalances” is a somewhat vague term. I decided to focus on external imbalances and worked out a set of hypotheses that I then tested empirically. This was a challenging part of the project, even though I had done econometric research in trade economics before and had studied physics prior to coming to SAIS.

A second big challenge was to bring the different strands of the relevant literature together. The debate about fiscal multipliers, the literature on the build-up of intra-euro area imbalances and the broader questions pertaining to the monetary union’s governance are all related to the topic of the thesis.

Q: What were your main findings?
Glossner: First, and in line with the literature, I found that macroeconomic imbalances could ultimately shape European countries’ fiscal constraints during the crisis because of the failure of the euro area to converge economically. Before 1999, economic convergence did not exceed that in the OECD as a whole, and after the launch of the euro, the euro area diverged economically -- evident in the build-up of macroeconomic imbalances. In the thesis, I suggest a simple categorization of countries according to the origins and characteristics of these imbalances, and show that the constraints of national fiscal policies in responding to the recent crisis have been a direct function of this categorization.

Second, the thesis makes it evident that fiscal policies have not contributed to halting or reversing this overall economic divergence. This can partly be attributed to the fact that the heterogeneity of national fiscal policies across the euro area did not fundamentally decrease in the run-up to the euro and persisted after 1999. Thus, the development of structural primary balances shows that in the years prior to the crisis, the fiscal stance of euro area countries varied from restrictive to strongly expansive. In addition, it is shown that specific policy measures in some countries permitted or even facilitated the build-up of imbalances that fueled the overall economic divergence of the euro area prior to 2008.

Based on these findings, I also suggest a set of cautious policy conclusions for future fiscal coordination in the euro area.

Q: What advice would you offer to other students writing papers?
Glossner: Finding the right research question is the hardest part, but in the process, you already set half of the groundwork for the actual paper. Don’t hesitate to tackle the “big questions.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Quiz: Listen, play and win

Summer is in the offing. This year's SAIS Europe students are scattered around the world and next year's have not yet arrived.

The BC Fuzz
What better time for a quiz?

The first person to send us the correct answer will win a Bologna Center tee shirt, and their name will go down in history.

Where did the drummer in the band that performed this song earn his Ph.D?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bits & pieces before packing your bags for Bologna

In a mere two months, incoming SAIS Europe students will be packing their bags to come to Bologna.

Moving is exciting. But first, here are some things for students in SAIS Europe's Class of 2015 to think about.

EMAIL: Soon you will start receiving emails in your Johns Hopkins (JHU) account. If you have not done so already, you should activate your JHU email account and start checking it regularly.

To launch the account, please follow the instructions you received in a email in mid-May. If you have not received the email, please contact us at

ECONOMICS: Students must have taken and passed university-level courses in introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics before they can start taking classes at SAIS.

Any incoming student who has to fulfill this requirement this summer would have been told so in their letter of admission. Some students are taking the Online Principles of Economics (OPE) course with SAIS this summer to satisfy this requirement and prepare themselves for intermediate-level courses.

If you are required to take Principles of Economics this summer, are not taking the SAIS OPE and have not yet found a course at another institution, you should get going immediately. Be sure to get in touch with us if you have any questions. And be sure to run any course offered outside of SAIS by us before signing up.

MATH: Economics and math go hand in hand. To help ensure you have the math skills to handle the intermediate-level economics courses, we offer a tutorial that you can follow online. You can access the tutorials by following the instructions you received in a recent email.

The math tutorials cover pre-calculus and calculus. When you have completed them you will be asked to take a test. The test provides a benchmark; if you do not pass the test, you will be able to take tutorials in Bologna during pre-term and the regular academic year.

PRE-TERM: If you are considering coming to Pre-Term, the registration deadline is June 30. The registration form is available here.

Non-EU citizens will need a visa to live in Italy for the academic year. By now, you should have received your visa request letter. If you have not, please be sure to get in touch with us at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Crossing the divide between health & economics: another winning paper

Lauren Hartel bridges health and economics, as well as scholarship and policymaking, with a prize-winning paper that contributes to the fight against inequitable distribution of health. Lauren was one of four students who received the C. Grove Haines Award for academic excellence at this year's commencement ceremony. Below Lauren discusses the background of her paper, which she wrote for Prof. Stefano Zamagni's course in "Public Sector Economics". A condensed version of her work was published in this year's SAIS Perspectives magazine.

Q: How did you get the idea for the paper?
Hartel: At the time, many of my courses were emphasizing the importance of properly understanding a problem before moving to identifying a corresponding solution. I wanted to apply this to my longtime passion of global health. I felt that although much dialogue has occurred on how to prevent or mitigate health disparities, little exists that evaluates how the existence of these disparities impact the economy in the first place.
Lauren Hartel receiving her award from
 SAIS Europe Director Kenneth Keller and Economics Prof. Filippo Taddei
Q: What was the main point?
Hartel: There needs to be more information about health inequalities to ensure we are tackling them in an efficient manner. This knowledge gap is exacerbated by a divide between academic research and practitioner implementation that shouldn’t (and doesn’t have to) exist. I propose a health inequity index in an attempt to cross this divide and measure the distribution of health burdens across a population in a way that is useful to both scholars and practitioners.

Q: What was the hardest part of your work on the paper?
Hartel: The cross-disciplinary nature of my subject made it impossible for me to ensure that I truly had found a gap in the literature instead of merely not having yet found the literature. Throughout the writing process I would find additional articles that forced me to revise my assessments and rewrite sections of my paper. At some point you have to make a judgment call regarding when to stop reading and start writing.

Q: What tips would you give to incoming students as they prepare to write papers here?
Hartel: Always choose interesting over easy! Picking something you love makes the work much more enjoyable and increases your chances of eventually working in an area related to that subject. The topics you write about will inevitably be the topics you leave SAIS understanding the most comprehensively.