Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Questions we heard at the Open Day

On December 7, SAIS Europe welcomed dozens of prospective students.

Visitors traveled from different parts of the world and spent a full day with SAIS students, faculty and staff and learnt about academics, career services, student services, student life and admissions and financial aid procedures.

We know many of our prospective students were not able to attend. Below are some of the questions and answers that came up throughout the day.

Director Plummer and SAIS Europe's resident faculty presented the academic difference of SAIS. SAIS offers a unique and multi-disciplinary curriculum, which allows students to study international affairs from a variety of angles.

Q: Does the curriculum change year to year?
A: Each year, the curriculum is revised and, based on feedback, some courses offered may change.

Q: What are the concentration requirements?
A: Students in the MA program pursue two concentrations, in international economics and in a second concentration of their choice. The international economics concentration requires students to take Intermediate Microeconomics, Intermediate Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory and International Monetary Theory.

The requirements of the second concentration depend on the concentration selected. Some programs have several requirements, while others have fewer and leave more room for electives.

Q: SAIS offers a new Master in Global Risk, is there demand for these kind of skills in the job market?
A: The field of Risk is growing and there is an increase in demand for specialists who are able to understand and analyze global risk in its many forms.

Q: I have already taken exams in intermediate economics. Will I have to take these courses while at SAIS?
A: No. Students who have already completed courses in economics can apply to take the waiver exams. These exams are offered a few times a year and they give students the opportunity to show they know all the required contents.

Q: You have spoken about student advisers. Are they professors or professional advisers?
A: They are academic advisers, who are mostly your professors.

Q: Is coursework assessment the same for all courses?
A: There are many forms of coursework and types of assessment, such as the participation grade, essays, other written assignments, exams, problem sets, etc. Also, in case you are unfamiliar with the American educational system, each semester has two examination sessions: the mid-term exams and the final exams.

Q: Are language credits transferable? 
A: No, students do not get credit for languages.

Q: I am an MAIA applicant from a partner school. How is the. program structured? 
A: For those coming from partner schools, the MAIA program consists of 6 subjects. Students take 4 courses during their first semester and 2 courses together with a 20,000-word research thesis during the second semester. They have to take four Economics classes (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory and International Monetary Theory) and choose two additional classes. They also have to pass a language proficiency examination.

Q: Is there a way for students to combine their policy area concentration with a specific regional interest?
A: We have introduced the possibility of pursuing a minor this year. This means that the students can choose to use their remaining elective classes (those not used to fulfill their concentration requirement) to pursue a minor in one of the regional concentrations, or vice versa.

Q: Can you combine the European and Eurasian Studies with Middle East Studies?  
A: Yes, students can utilize the new minors system to study both.

The members of the Student Government Association (SGA) talked about their paths to SAIS and took time to answer questions on their experiences as SAIS students.

Q: How do you balance your active involvement in the SGA with academic life?
A: There will be many times when you will find yourself stressed at SAIS. Thus, organizational skills are key if you want to be successful. We take an active part in the SGA because we find it meaningful and very rewarding. It can be challenging to manage to do everything, but it is possible and we do help each other a lot.

Q:Are there opportunities to interact with students at the University of Bologna? 
A: There are many opportunities to meet students from the University of Bologna and, as SGA, we're working on strengthening the connection with the University of Bologna.

Q: What are your plans after SAIS? 
A: It is a hard question. Some of us know, but many are still in the process of discovering our next steps. One of the greatest things about SAIS is that we have a lot of choices.

Meera Shankar, director’s of Career Services, says that "SAIS students’ careers are not linear" and we are discovering this is true. Many options are available to us and it is very likely that we may want to change sectors and career paths during our lifetime.

Studying at SAIS enables us to acquire a set of transferable and flexible skills that prepare us for different types of careers. The curriculum of SAIS MA degree reflects this diversity and flexibility.

Meera Shankar, director of Career Services, talked about the role of her Office and the services available to students.

Q: You seem to have a very strong alumni network. How common is it for the alumni to come to talk to students?
A: Students use the alumni network very actively. For example, our careers trips always include an event with SAIS alumni in one of the destinations we go to, be it London, Geneva or Brussels.

We also host a big event at the end of each year, an Alumni Weekend, which draws nearly 300 alumni from around the world and we encourage the students to meet the alumni during the weekend.

It is great to see how excited the alumni are about coming back to Bologna and how willingly they engage with our present students.

Q: The brochure says that 29% of the students go to Consulting Services. Does this mean that most students pursue careers in Management Consulting? 
A: No, the umbrella term “Consulting Services” encompasses diverse consulting spheres, such as development consulting, energy consulting or political risk consulting.

Q: Do you have classes that develop employment related skills? 
A: Yes, we call them professional skills courses and we offer many diverse opportunities for developing a variety of skills. For example, we hire students to teach Excel classes. At the moment, we have beginner and intermediate Excel tutorials to be followed by advanced courses next semester. Also, we cooperate with Economics professors to offer Stata and Advanced Econometrics courses.

Moreover, we offer an opportunity to take professional skills online courses. For example, we have Harvard Business School online courses in Spreadsheet Modeling, Advanced Financial Accounting and Introductory Finance. You can take up to three courses per semester and they do appear on your transcript.

Q: Are there alumni events outside Bologna?
A: Yes, there are many active SAIS alumni groups outside Bologna, such as Amici di Bologna in Washington, SAIS Brussels Alumni and Bolognesi a Londra. These groups are very active and they are always happy to meet our students. We often put our travelling students in touch with our alumni.

During the last panel, the Admissions, Financial Aid and Development Offices addressed questions on the application procedures.

Q: What are the admissions deadlines?
A: The application deadline is on January 7, 2016.  The financial support application deadline is on February 15, 2016.

By the deadline, we need to receive your application and the supporting documents. If you think there will be delays with your application, please send us a note to sais.eu.admissionsjhu.edu

Q: I have two passports. Which one should I indicate in the application form?
A: You should indicate both.

Q: Are there jobs available on campus? Can they help us to meet our financial needs?
A: There are many jobs available on campus. Students work 10-12 hours per week and are employed by the administration and the faculty for various roles, such as library assistants, research assistants, teaching assistants, front desk receptionists, etc. A few students have also managed to find work off-campus as English language teachers. These jobs can help you to cover some of your living expenses, but you should not count on them to cover all your maintenance costs.

Q: Can you provide the admissions proof if we need this information for funding?
A: Yes, we can provide letters that certify your admission.

Q: Are there any specific criteria for financial aid and scholarships?
A: We have two general criteria: merit and demonstrated financial need. The key thing is a very strong application because we rank the students based on merit, which is the primary criterion for receiving financial aid. We then look at the applicants’ financial needs, especially when two candidates are of equal merit.

There are also specific fellowships with unique criteria, such as the ones specifying the nationalities or concentrations eligible.

Q: As part of the financial aid application process, we are required to provide parents’ income. Do we have to translate the form to English?
A: We won't need an official translation. However, any amount in the forms should be indicated in Euro currency.

Q: Do you help students with housing?
A: Yes, we have a housing consultant who helps students find accommodation. At the beginning of each year, he organizes housing tours, during which the students visit and choose their apartments.

Amina Abdiuahab

Friday, December 4, 2015

Meet the Student Government Association

As SAIS  prospective students prepare to arrive in Bologna for our Open Day, this Monday, December 7, we asked the members of the Student Government Association (SGA) to share some of their experiences and elaborate why they chose SAIS Europe. The SGA is elected by the student body each year. The members play a crucial role at SAIS as they act as the link between the student body and the administration. Below are their stories.

MIGUEL - President
I am this year’s SGA President and was born in a city known for its world famous Oporto Wine – Porto, Portugal. Before joining SAIS I was working as economic adviser to the Portuguese Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Lisbon.

The SGA has two main goals: to enrich the academic experience of the students by supporting their initiatives and to build a community among the student body. In 2015, the Association has organized a club fair with 26 participating clubs followed by karaoke night, a Halloween Party in a new location, and more recently, a Thanksgiving dinner with more than 200 participants.

Moving forward, the SGA has various goals including creating a football tournament, organizing cultural events around Bologna, designing new SAIS merchandise, and working closely with the administration to provide students with academic and career services.

The SGA members
The possibility of studying one year in Europe and another in DC was a decisive factor when choosing SAIS as my next home. Moreover, my passion for economics and international affairs made the Master of Arts (MA) program at SAIS the perfect fit for my long-term career goals.

In the SGA, I am responsible for coordinating all the areas of the association, and I am directly involved in the organization of social events and the management of internal relations.

After approximately three months with the SGA, the experience of serving the SAIS students has surpassed my initial expectations. More than a group of students, this year’s class is already a big family. The sense of community grows day by day, and the SGA works hard to promote events that strengthen friendship between students.

MAX - Treasurer
I am from Germany and I am in charge of student clubs as well as the distribution of SGA funds. In my role, I allocate funds to the Student Clubs to help them organize events that will benefit the SAIS community. This includes  inviting external experts and guest speakers for lectures, panel discussions and even sporting events.

Like many of my classmates I was attracted by the opportunity to study across the two sides of the Atlantic. I wanted a program that would provide a great variety of perspectives on international issues and that would prepare students for a future workplace with an intersection of politics, society and business.

What's more, I was interested in the opportunity to attend the numerous seminars with policy-makers and influential people in politics, multilateral organizations and government.

Since arriving in Bologna, I have realized that the student body is extremely talented and diverse. Sitting in a classroom with the influential decision makers of tomorrow is enriching, challenging and valuable at the same time.

ELISA - Cultural and Social Events 
I was born in Italy, but grew up in different parts of the world, from Alabama, U.S.A. to Beirut, Lebanon.

I’m in charge of Cultural and Social events and External Relations. This mainly involves planning and coordinating events throughout the academic year, and managing the student body relations outside of SAIS. I feel my role impacts the SAIS community very positively and helps to further build that strong sense of belonging that makes SAIS special --for example, we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in late November that brought students, staff and faculty together-- and, at the same time, facilitates the integration in the bolognese life.

I am an M.A.I.A. student at SAIS Europe, and was previously enrolled at the University of Bologna. My interest to apply to SAIS dates back to when I decided to study International Relations and found out about this remarkable double degree opportunity.

Due to my international background and life-experiences, I directly felt that SAIS Europe was the perfect environment in which to complete my studies.

HIMMAT - Academic Affairs
I was born and raised in India, but moved around the country a lot since my father was an officer in the Indian Army. I studied telecommunications engineering, followed by an MBA. I worked for six years before coming to SAIS.

As a management consultant for five years, I had the opportunity to work with clients across five countries in South Asia and Africa.  I have always had a deep interest in politics and governance, which prompted my decision to leave what I was doing and start charting a new course for myself.

Studying at SAIS has provided me with the relevant academic foundation and the ideal platform to build a career in a field that is completely new for me. I was concerned that lack of an international relations or economics background would  pose a challenge for me. However,  soon after arriving to SAIS, I realized that the diversity of our student body is one of our greatest strengths. We all learn from each other as much as we do from our classes.

As a member of the SGA, I am responsible for academic affairs, fundraising (through selling SAIS apparel) and  external communications. As part of our initiatives, we recently launched our first SAIS apparel collection and will  be delivering orders to the students within the next two weeks.

The initiative was a success and we received a far greater response than expected. I hope to see some of you at our Open Day and get a chance to talk in person. Look out for a ridiculously tall man in a cast with crutches that look like toothpicks!

RICCARDO - Career Services
I am from Italy and like most of my classmates I have lived in different countries. After graduation, I worked as a Policy Advisor to the Chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. Moreover, I served in November 2013 as an EU Short Term Observer to the Presidential elections in Tajikistan, and as an OSCE Short Term Observer to the Presidential election in Belarus in October 2015.

I am the liaison between the student body and our Career Services team, working with fellow SGA member Himmat on academic affairs. As a number of students showed interest in my experience as an EU election observer, I am in the process of setting up a training module for aspiring election observers at SAIS. Through my role in the SGA, I aim to achieve synergies between the student body and the Career Services team during our time as students at SAIS Europe.

SAIS Europe SGA 2016