Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Questions we heard at SAIS Europe's Open Day

Last Friday, SAIS Europe welcomed several dozen prospective students at the Open Day.

Open Day is an opportunity for students to ask questions to faculty, staff and students-- and to hear the answers in real time. We know that most of our applicants live far from Bologna. We also know they have questions, just like those who were at SAIS Europe last Friday.

With this in mind, below are some of the questions that were asked and their answers.

The first panels with faculty were called "The Academic Difference". During these sessions, Director Michel Plummer and SAIS Europe's professors were able to explain what it is that set SAIS and SAIS Europe apart.

SAIS is special because it offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum. Students take courses in international relations, economics, history and languages, which allow them to better understand global issues.

Q: SAIS emphasizes the importance of economics. I come from an economics background. What are the benefits of attending a program like SAIS for someone who has already done a lot of economics?
A: Students who have an economics background benefit from a program like SAIS because the way economics is taught at SAIS is policy-focused. Students study the theory while learning how it is applied and how it is used by policy-makers.

Q: Are the courses more theoretical or practical?
A: Most courses at SAIS mix theory with practice. Many of our professors are practitioners as well as academicians and they bring to the classroom their practical experience as well as their theoretical knowledge.

Q: Does SAIS provide only a U.S. perspective on international affairs?
A: SAIS is the only U.S. graduate program in international affairs with full-fledged campuses across three continents. Students at SAIS Europe are exposed to different perspectives on international issues. While they are in Bologna, they look at global issues from a European prism. During their second year in DC, they are able to analyze the same issues from a U.S. angle.

Q: How flexible is the curriculum?
A: Students at SAIS are able to tailor their studies around their interests and careers goals. That said, there are requirements they need to fulfill. An example of the flexibility of our curriculum is a course prof. Jones taught last year to accommodate students who were eager to learn more about European financial markets.

The  SGA is the liaison between the student body and the administration. SGA president Andrew Caruso and his teammates, Irene Forzoni, Joana Allamani, Max Beck as well as honorary member Nikhil Gupta, tackled participants' questions.

Q: How do you split the time between your concentration courses and your electives?
A: It depends on the concentration you are pursuing. Some concentrations, International Development for example, have lots of requirements, which leave little room for elective courses. However, most concentrations allow students to take a number of courses outside of their specialization.

A piece of advice: take the courses you like, while keeping requirements in mind. Most of all, take advantage of the courses that are offered only at SAIS Europe.

Q: How are classes structured? 
A: Most classes emphasize class discussion and, for many, class participation counts. There are mid-term exams half way through each course, which count towards your final grade. Some classes don't have mid-term exams, but will require you to write papers.

Students are expected to read a lot material before class so that the time in the classroom is used to discuss and expand on the readings done beforehand. This allows us to learn from one another and it is an opportunity for us to express our opinions and formulate--and re-formulate--our views.

Q: How much time do language classes take? And would you recommend one takes a language class if they are already proficient in a second language?
A: Language classes are held three times a week. Some languages require a bit more time than others. There are teaching assistants --usually classmates who are native speakers of the language-- who hold sessions to help us with our learning.

Virtually everybody takes a language class. It is included in the tuition and it only makes sense to make the most of what is offered.

What is impressive is that students take four courses and a language course. In addition, we can audit up to two classes. Thus, each students could potentially take seven classes at the same cost. This is quite unique as in a number of other programs, students are charged for each course in addition to the tuition fee.

Q: Are there any student clubs?
A: There are several students clubs and the number keeps growing. There are academic clubs,
professional development clubs and social clubs. Some have been at SAIS for a long time(the Careers in Development club, the Defense and Intelligence club and many more), others are specific to a class. In any event, there is plenty of room to express your interests and to share them with others.

Q: Do you interact with the Bologna community?
A: We interact with the community in Bologna in a number of different ways. There are language tandems organized with the Language Department of SAIS and the University of Bologna. In addition, there is a series of movie nights, which allows us to meet students from outside of SAIS.

We meet people outside the SAIS community through sports as well.

What is more, there will be a trip to Bosnia organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD), where students from SAIS and the University of Bologna will study post-conflict reconstruction.

Ann Gagliadi, career counselor, answered questions on the services available to students at SAIS. She explained that SAIS is a professional development program as well as an academic program and that much focus is given to students' professional development.

Q: How long does it take students to find employment after graduation?
A: Over 90% of SAIS graduates are in employment within six months of graduation. The Career Services Office works very closely with each student to ensure they acquire all the tools necessary to help them succeed in their job search as they prepare to leave SAIS.

It can be challenging for students to focus on job searches while they are very busy with academic work. The role of Office is to make sure students keep the focus on career development.

Q: Is there a career fair?
A: We don't have career fairs. However, throughout the year in Bologna, students are able to go on trips to several European cities where they meet alumni and learn about their professional paths. These trips help students understand what types of careers they want to pursue and how to do so.

Q: Are internships required?
A: They are not required, but they are strongly recommended. Over 75% of students work an internship in the summer between their first and second year.

Q: Do students in Bologna have access to Career Services in DC?
A: Our Offices work very closely together and students on each side of the Atlantic have access to both Offices.

Q: Would you recommend one pursues a concentration according to their interests or according to the demand in the job market?
A: SAIS offers a multi-disciplinary curriculum and our graduates can present themselves as specialists in a number of areas because they take courses across different disciplines. The advice we give to students is to take the concentration and the courses they are interested in.

Amina Abdiuahab

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