Wednesday, January 28, 2015

At the end of the year....I was indeed transformed

As the admissions cycle moves forward, we thought we would share a post from an alumna. Amal Ali, from the UK, was at SAIS Europe in 2011 and received her Master of Arts at our campus in DC in 2013. 

Below she tells us about her experience while at SAIS .

When I was a prospective SAIS student, I remember reading numerous blog posts authored by former students that all started with that fateful sweltering August day.  My story won’t veer from this beginning.

Amal Ali
I arrived in Bologna August 21st 2011. The city was in a deep slumber as most of its inhabitants had left the sticky August month for the cooler air of the coast. I was 22, passionate about international affairs, and rather keen to get my teeth stuck into economics.

I suppose I hadn't prepared myself for all that I was to experience in those months. SAIS Bologna –like for others—was a year of new for me. I had never studied international relations or economics, it was the first time that I had properly left the UK, and God knows that I hadn't looked at algebra since high school.

During that year, I felt that I was learning something new each day: be it personal, academic or both. At the end of the year, I felt like—whilst holding to the same moral values that had shaped me—I was indeed transformed. I take those 10 months as a lesson in life: nothing significant ever occurs when you’re comfortable or complacent, but it is fearlessly (or fearfully) plunging yourself into new and challenging environments that you truly flourish.

Whilst this might seem like a romantic tale about growth, be assured that there were some troughs in my peaks. My shameful midterm results in Microeconomics can attest to that. But I did pass the course, and I believe that if I can get through it—everyone can do it too. Resilience and perseverance were certainly key in that endeavor.

In fact, I believe that it was the skills and experiences that I picked up in those two years—multitasking, embracing some elements of failure, working under pressure, coming up with solutions, thinking out of the box, and taking each challenge head-on—that allowed me to land my first job at a reputable international corporate communications consultancy in London. And thereafter  my current role at the World Bank.

Another great perk I’ve found is that the SAIS world never quiet leaves you: personally or professionally. My closest friends are SAISers (in fact I had them round for supper last night, and we couldn’t stop laughing about our Bologna stories). A SAISer hired me for my current role, and every once in a while I bump into a SAISer or two at the airport, or at my Monday morning meetings.

I suppose I didn’t know what I would find when I arrived in Bologna that August afternoon, but boy I am glad to have been gifted with those two years.

Amal Ali

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