Over the course of this year, SAIS Europe Admissions has asked students to share their experiences before they came to SAIS. In our first of this series, we profile Chantal Akinyemi -- a first year dual national student (Nigerian/US) studying in the Master of Arts program, with a concentration in International Development.
Before coming to Bologna, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Indonesia. For the past two years, I taught English at a rural high school in the East Java province of Bojonegoro. I had graduated New York University with the plan of eventually going to medical school, but my experience during the Peace Corps made me realize that my goal of improving the lives of populations in the developing world would be more effective if I worked in International Development.
The broadening of my focus from health to include many global factors lent itself to a more complete picture of the situation on the ground and the causes and effects working in developing countries. I came to SAIS looking to better understand these relationships and hopefully learn how to affect change from within local communities.
After finishing my Peace Corps service this past June, I traveled South East Asian for a few weeks, spent another few week back in New York and finally arrived in Bologna at the beginning of August. It had been a lot of moving around along with big life changes, especially that of going from a very loosely structured life in Indonesia to a more structured and time sensitive lifestyle of being a student. For this reason, I was glad to have the month during pre-term to readjust and settle in. Having the pre-term community was especially helpful. It also gave me time to remind myself of normal social behavior (in Indonesia it is very normal to start off conversations by asking about someone’s relationship status and if they have any children yet) and get to know Bologna before it was bustling full of students.
I really enjoyed pre-term. Yes, the microeconomics class was fast paced and intensive but working in groups to complete problem sets and group study sessions created a great learning environment through collaboration. There is such a wide range of experience and knowledge within the SAIS Europe community, so everyone has something to contribute and everyone has something to learn.
I was going through a period of readjustment not only to western society, but also transitioning from playing the role of teacher for the past two years, back to student life. What better of a place to make this transition than in a city nicknamed la dotta, or the learned one. Bologna is a great place to make this transition from whatever project, job, life experience or schooling you were doing before to a new level and standard of academia.
I know the two years ahead of me will be challenging, but I have a feeling the hard work and dedication I plan to put into them will be worth it in the end. After all, it has only been a month and a half and I already feel the difference SAIS has made in my life.