Thursday, January 30, 2014

Planning your future: SAIS Europe students visit London and Brussels

For many SAIS Europe students, last week's semester break was a chance to explore career options in London and Brussels.

Forty students traveled to the capitals to visit 16 companies and organizations, and to meet alumni.
Here is a list of the firms and organizations.

The trips are one way Career Services helps students plan their futures after SAIS, which as a professional school takes its responsibilities seriously.
From London ...
Samantha Witte was one of the 20 students on the London trip. "The trip introduced us to potential employers, gave us insights into new industries and informed our future career decisions," Witte said.

In London the firms included Business Monitor International, which provides financial analysis and consulting services; IHS, which includes political risk in their consulting activities; Kroll, which specializes in business intelligence such as cyber-security, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with a focus on renewable energy.
Power meal

Witte said the students gained "fantastic insights" into large-scale development banking (EBRD) and research institutes (International Institute for Strategic Studies). Five SAIS alumni hosted students at the London companies, and graduates also organized an informal reception the first evening.

"Through our interactions with employees and SAIS alumni during the formal meetings and informal sessions we got a sense of the truly vibrant and diverse working environment that London has to offer," Witte said.

The highlight of the trip for Witte? "Having 20 regional experts summarize the most important global political risks of the last 24 hours in 10 minutes," she said.

"And of course enjoying tea and cookies with a hidden but glorious view of the London Eye riverside."

Zoé Campiglia was on the Brussels trip, which included visits to eight institutions and firms ranging from the European Parliament and the European External Action Service to think tanks Bruegel and the European Policy Center, non-profit organizations such as the International Crisis Group and Burson Marsteller, the global communications and PR giant.
... to Brussels
Campiglia said the formal presentations were just part of the learning experience. "The on-site nature of the trip enabled us to directly and more informally share our questions and concerns with experienced professionals. We now have a better understanding not only of their daily activities but also what it entails to live in the so-called 'Brussels bubble,'" she said.

Four SAIS alumni welcomed students at the visits, and one alumna hosted a reception with students and members of the Belgian Alumni Chapter on the final evening of the trip.

Campiglia said amid the whirlwind of meetings, there was time to visit the "charming" European capital. Her tip? "Try the Belgian chocolates."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Here's what amazed SAIS Europe students during the break

We asked SAIS Europe students to sum up in one sentence what their favorite moments were during last week's semester break. Here is what they sent us.

Milanese aperitivo, Swedish meatballs in snow-covered Stockholm and tapas-hopping in southern Spain.

Listening to the heart-wrenching stories of the women in Srebrenica changed my perspective on the ability of people to overcome tragedy.

I stayed with an Italian family in Ferrara and was spoiled by their hugs, smiles, Italian-humor jokes and amazing home-cooked meals.

What was most amazing about my break was visiting and reconnecting with old friends from around the world, made possible only by being in Italy.

We got engaged.

Embracing and connecting with new friends in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

I was at a happy hour in London with an English friend and while I was away from the table someone approached her in need of an Italian speaker, at which point my friend told the gentleman that she knew just the guy, which was of course not entirely true since I have just completed Novice High and speak like a First Grade bambino, but the man, who works for an English football club, approached me with a phone in hand and with the number already dialing asked me to speak with an Italian agent to secure a mandate for a transfer involving an Italian player, and with no time to prepare or to explain my subpar Italian skills, I fumbled over my words since I know nothing about English football and do not know many of the words in Italian, although the Italian agent understood "mandata" and "trasferta", and the agent was having none of it, yet the guy who works for the football club was so stunned by my delivery and confidence that he paid for our drinks, gave me his contact information and insisted we stay in contact in case he needs future help in Italy.

Enjoying Antoine's authentic Belgian chips over a good beer was the high point of my semester break.

Breathing in the sweet Sicilian sunset.

When the sun came out to illuminate the Eiffel Tower and the Jardins du Trocadéro during an otherwise gloomy day amidst a gloomy week.

Meeting with the wives, mothers and family members of Srebrenica genocide victims.

Walked for an hour in desolate farmland to reach the "best beer in the world," got lost and almost walked to France.

Sitting with 30 other SAIS and Unibo students on the floor of a living room in Potočari, Bosnia, listening to a courageous group of returnee mothers of Srebrenica.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Study trip to Sarajevo: Sharing sweets, laughter and tears

SAIS Europe students joined counterparts from the University of Bologna last week on a trip to Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina to study post-conflict reconstruction, human rights and efforts to develop democracy in the Balkan nation. Below, Bologna Center student Rima Abou-Ziab recounts the trip that took place during the semester break at SAIS Europe and which bridged academic theory and the realities of reconciliation.

“You are speaking to a war criminal.”

Former Gen. Jovan Divjak
Photo by Rima Abou-Ziab
With those words  former General Jovan Divjak, who led the Bosnian army during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995 and now leads an NGO, shared his personal and professional experiences at the outset of our trip.

Divergent public perceptions of General Divjak, seen alternately as a war criminal, traitor, hero and humanitarian, illustrate the complexities of the Bosnian conflict and the multiple narratives still at play today, more than 20 years after the city came under siege.

Organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD), the study trip was led by SAIS Europe Prof. Justin Frosini, who heads the CCSDD, and Bologna Center student Jasmina Hodzic.

During our stay we met 10 local, regional and international organizations working in Sarajevo as well as representatives of domestic and international organizations, from the Bosnian Courts to the United Nations and European Union.

Leaders from the U.N. Refugee Agency and U.N. Development Program spoke about reconstruction and reconciliation efforts and the social and political challenges in Sarajevo. At the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Constitutional Court we learned about the constitutional and legal framework of the state.

Photos by Caitlyn McCrone
With officials at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Bank and the EU, as well as with U.S. Ambassador Fletcher Burton we discussed development initiatives and the economic and political opportunities in Bosnia. The EU highlighted Bosnia's "European perspective” and its path towards integration into the EU despite "political stalemate” on the ground.

The trip concluded with a visit to the city of Srebrenica, site of the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims. Dr. Branka Antic Stauber with the Association Snaga Zene (Women's Strength) spoke to us about her organization's role in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. We shared homemade sweets, laughter and tears as women from the association recounted their experiences during and after the genocide and their work to rebuild their communities.

“Meeting the women in Srebrenica was the most emotional but memorable part of the trip," SAIS Europe student Madeleine Holland said. "It was an invaluable reminder of the faces and stories that lie behind the statistics we read about in textbooks”.

With the sounds of Islamic prayers and Church bells piercing the air, Sarajevo works for justice and reconciliation.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Put your best foot forward

Here are some tips for SAIS candidates who are preparing for interviews with members of the Bologna Center Admissions Committee.

Some candidates are interviewed and some are not. More on that below. But first, the tips.
  • The interview is your chance to put your best foot forward. Approach it with a positive outlook.
  • You'll want to summarize why SAIS is right for you and why you are right for SAIS. At some stage you will want to get that across. The challenge is two-fold: (1) find the words to say that, and (2) find the time in the interview to express it.
  • You're interviewing for SAIS. You will not be expected to know everything about the program, but you should do your homework. The interview is not the time to ask questions if the answers can be found on SAIS's website.
  • The best interviews are conversations and not simply Q&As. Hold your own.
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, don't guess. Be honest.
  • The answer to a question is like the temperature of porridge that Goldilocks prefers: neither too long nor too short, but just right.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to your interview and arrive 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start. The surest way to get off on the wrong foot is to rush to get there and, worse yet, to arrive late.
  • Don't worry, be happy.
Who is interviewed? Non-U.S. citizens who want to start their SAIS studies in Bologna and some candidates who are willing to start in either Bologna or DC.

Candidates with only U.S. citizenship are handled by SAIS DC; these applicants would not ordinarily be interviewed at this stage.

Who does the interviewing? The Bologna Admissions Committee is made up of faculty and some senior staff. The considerable time they spend in the process underscores the importance SAIS attaches to giving candidates a fair shake and admitting a top-quality class.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A spring cornucopia of courses

SAIS Europe students return to Bologna from mid-term break next week with a smörgåsbord of courses to choose from for the second semester.

Each student typically takes four courses per semester. Imagine the difficulty, then, of choosing from among the 40 on offer in Bologna.

Any concentration can be pursued in Bologna, although a student wishing to concentrate in Asia Studies requires special authorization.

Interested in International Development? How about "Multiculturalism and the Human Rights of Women" or "Economic Migrants, Refugees and Human Security"?

The Middle East? There is a course focusing on Turkey and another called "The Israel-Palestine Conflict: History, Politics, Narratives".

Prof. Erik Jones will be offering "European Financial Markets", while Prof. Francesc Vendrell will teach "Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution".

Søren Jessen-Petersen, a popular adjunct professor, returns to teach a course that satisfies requirements in two concentrations: International Law and International Development.

Given Jessen-Petersen's professional background, it's little wonder his course covers a lot of ground. He has served as Special U.N. Representative for Kosovo, the European Union's Special Representative in Skopje, Macedonia and Assistant U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees among other top posts.

Another adjunct professor, Jonathan Brooks, is a senior economist at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), where he has led reviews of agricultural policies in Brazil and Chile.

More than half of the courses this spring are taught only in Bologna. The 40 courses do not include the eight languages offered in Bologna: Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

Buon appetito.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Investing in your future

Is a SAIS education worth the price?

Here's the view of a recent Bologna Center graduate:

"SAIS, or any American grad school program for that matter, isn’t cheap," said the young woman, whose initial excitement upon admission to Johns Hopkins SAIS was tempered by the cost of her two-year masters.

After admission she applied for scholarships with different foundations and organizations, and eventually won a grant covering a share of first-year tuition.

"Coming from a northern European country where good education is offered at a very reasonable cost, I spent a long time debating whether the money would be worth it," she said.

"Weighing the education and opportunities SAIS would offer me, I finally decided that it would be."

She noted that an array of financing options are available to students, including a low-cost loan offered to many European students at SAIS Europe through an Italian bank. Many U.S. students are eligible for government-subsidized loans.

Less than six months from her graduation from SAIS, this Energy, Resources and Environment concentrator said she feels "a healthy amount of pressure" to take her job search seriously, adding:

"Two years after being admitted to SAIS, I still believe it has totally been worth the investment."

This woman's feelings are common among SAIS students: the thrill of admission followed by the realization of the seriousness of the commitment and then the conviction that it is worth it.

If you have applied to SAIS or are contemplating doing so, consider the program an investment in your future. The notion of private investment in education is foreign to citizens of many countries. Johns Hopkins, like many leading universities in the United States, is funded primarily through student tuition.

In exchange, a SAIS student receives a top-notch education; a chance to study with some of the smartest students in the world as well as leading academicians and practitioners, and an exciting range of international career opportunities.
"Two years after being admitted to SAIS, I still believe it has totally been worth the investment."
The SAIS price tag can seem daunting to some: tuition at SAIS Europe this year is 31,533 euros. Keep in mind that SAIS offers financial aid to many students. Many will combine SAIS grants with scholarships from outside bodies, loans, savings or part-time work. (For information on SAIS financial aid, click here. For a partial list of potential sources of outside funds, click here.)

There is no one strategy for making ends meet. What SAIS students do share in common is an appetite to learn both in the classroom and from one another, and the belief that a commitment to one's own education can be the best investment in one's future. Our alumni around the world agree.

We will come back to the matter of finances in coming weeks. In the meantime, here are some past posts:

Financial Aid: The Student Mosaic
The Cost of Graduate School: Investing in your future
Spending Wisely
Financial Aid

Applications for financial aid for candidates applying to start in 2014-15 are due by February 15. Forms are available in the online application.

Nelson Graves

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some Q&A as SAIS candidates catch their breath

Some nuts and bolts as we begin reviewing applications and candidates prepare for the next stage of the admissions process.

Q: How do I know if SAIS has received all of my documents?
A: We are reviewing files to see if they are complete. If something is missing, we will inform the candidate.

Once a candidate has submitted an application, the applicant can no longer upload documents to the online file. However, if the candidate indicated on the application that a referee would be submitting a letter of recommendation by uploading it to the candidate's dossier, the referee can still do so.

Otherwise, candidates should submit any missing documents to the Admissions Office via email or post.

If you have questions, you can contact the relevant Admissions Office:


Q: How do I know if I am going to be interviewed?
A: All non-U.S. citizens applying to start in Bologna and some non-U.S. citizens who are open to starting at either campus will be interviewed. Amina Abdiuahab of the Bologna Admissions Office will be in touch with all those who will be interviewed to set up a venue, date and time.

We conduct face-to-face interviews in a number of cities in Europe as well as in New York and Washington, DC. As our candidates come from the four corners of the globe, most interviews are conducted over the phone or via Skype. There is no inherent advantage in doing an interview face-to-face, and we do not expect candidates to travel long distances for interviews, which are conducted by members of the Bologna Admissions Committee.

Q: What if I need financial aid?
A: SAIS provides financial aid in the form of grants to a sizable number of students. The deadline for requests for financial aid from SAIS is February 15. The financial aid application form can be found in the candidate's online application.

For more information on financial aid and tuition, click here.

We will be publishing a post next week on financing one's education at SAIS. It's obviously an important matter and deserves discussion and transparency.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is your country on this map?

Candidates from 94 countries are in the running for admission to Johns Hopkins SAIS for 2014-15.

As the map below indicates, the candidates come from all of the inhabited continents, a reflection of SAIS's global footprint. The variety of nationalities guarantees the exceptional diversity that has long characterized the program and which remains one of its distinguishing features.

In coming weeks the Admissions Committees in DC and Bologna will evaluate the candidacies. Non-U.S. citizens who applied to start their studies in Bologna and some who checked the "open-ended" box will be interviewed by members of the Bologna Admissions Committee.

The plan is to communicate admissions and financial aid decisions to candidates in the first half of March. Admitted candidates will then have several weeks to make up their minds. Open Houses for admitted candidates will be held in Bologna on April 4 and in Washington on April 9.

If you have questions about your application, you can reach us at:

- SAIS Europe:

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Photo contest: And the winner is ...

Readers have voted, and we have a winner.

Johannes Gartner's photograph of an athlete playing with a soccer ball on the heights of Montmartre above Paris was the clear favorite in our contest.

Gartner, a current student at SAIS Europe, won more than a quarter of the votes for his picture, among 20 in the competition.

"I took the image when I was stopping over in Paris for a few days to meet friends on a train journey from Vienna to London," Gartner said.

"We were sitting on the stairs in front of Sacré Cœur, and I spotted the footballer, who I had already seen balancing his football around at the same place at other times before. I was quick to grab my father's Canon EOS 300D. That man turns football into art."

It turns out that the footballer, Iya Traore, is a cultural sensation in France. Traore's football idol? Ronaldinho.

For his victory, Johannes wins a Bologna Center tee shirt plus a book of his choice from among five written by SAIS Europe professors.

Amar Causevic, a SAIS Europe student in 2011-12, took second place with his photo from Gorazde, Bosnia & Herzegovina, while Nathan Shepura, like Johannes a current student, came in third with his picture from the Saharan Desert in Morocco.

Thank you to all of the photographers who submitted work and to those who voted in the contest.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Contest: Guess that song

Market power and music may seem like strange bedfellows, but not in Prof. Carbonara's economics class.

Emanuela Carbonara taught intermediate microeconomics in the fall semester at SAIS Europe. Never one to rely on rote, Prof. Carbonara turned to music to help explain a fundamental concept.

In the "market power song contest", students were challenged to use the lyrics of pop songs to explain the ability of a firm to profitably raise the market price of a good or service over marginal cost.

As Prof. Carbonara put it in her directions to the class, find a song that captures someone who can "fix the price of a good, exclude others from a market, create market niches."

Students identified a bevy of songs whose lyrics touched on aspects of market power, which monopolies and oligopolies can leverage to raise prices without losing customers.

Morgan Graham won the contest by selecting an R&B song that was released in 2003 and offering this explanation of its connection to market power:

Prof. Carbonara
"Basically, she's offering a superior product. All customers seem to prefer it as it 'brings all the boys' and it's clearly 'better than yours.' However, she recognizes she's offering a superior product, so she decides 'to charge' a high price to exploit her customer's willingness to pay. Thus she is exercising her market power. Now there is no Market Regulation in this case; however, there could be. The government should enact a price ceiling to ensure customers are not being exploited."

Can you guess which song Morgan chose?

Send in your answer via a comment to this post or with an email to

The first reader with the right answer will receive a Bologna Center tee shirt -- and Prof. Carbonara's autograph.

Nelson Graves

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Admissions: 10 ... 9 ... 8 ...

The countdown to SAIS's next incoming class has begun.

With yesterday's passing of the deadline for applications for 2014-15, SAIS now moves into high gear to evaluate the candidates and shape a new class.

If you submitted an application and something is missing from your dossier, Admissions will be in touch with you.

If you have non-U.S. citizenship and asked to start your studies in Bologna, we will be contacting you in coming weeks to set up an interview with a member of the SAIS Europe Admissions Committee. Some non-U.S. citizens who said they would be open to starting in either Bologna or Washington will also be interviewed.

Some candidates may have been unable to meet the January 7 deadline because something was missing from their dossier, perhaps a tardy letter of recommendation, a wayward university transcript or a late standardized test score. If you are one of those candidates and would still want to be considered for admission, please write to the appropriate Admissions Office to explain your situation.

The interview is a chance for candidates to put their best foot forward and convince the Admissions Committee that Johns Hopkins SAIS is the right place for them and they are right for SAIS. For blog posts on the interview, click here and here. We will be publishing more posts on the interview in coming weeks.

Candidates who want financial aid should file an aid request form and supporting documents by February 15. The form can be found inside each candidate's online application.

The goal is for candidates to receive admissions and financial aid decisions by mid-March. Admitted candidates will then have several weeks to make up their minds, with Open Houses set for Bologna on April 4 and Washington on April 9.

Nelson Graves

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vote now for your favorite photo

Have you voted in our photo contest?

We recently posted 20 photographs by current SAIS Europe students and recent alumni. Now's the time to vote for your favorite.

You can view the photos here:

Gallery I
Gallery II

To vote for your favorite, click on the poll here. It takes only a few seconds.

Voting will remain open through Friday, January 10.

Next week we'll announce the victor, who will win a Bologna Center tee shirt and a book of their choice from among five written by SAIS Europe professors.

The books are:
  • Weary Policeman: American Power in an Age of Austerity, by Dana Allin and Erik Jones (2012)
  • Allies Yet Rivals: International Politics in 18th Century Europe, by Marco Cesa (2010)
  • European Integration: A Concise History, by Mark Gilbert (2012)
  • The Cold War, by John Harper (2011)
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Asia-Pacific Integration: A Quantitative Assessment, by Peter Petri, Michael G. Plummer and Fan Zhai (2012)