At the bottom of this post you will find two videos from yesterday's graduation ceremony at SAIS in Washington, DC.
The first video captures the entire event. You may not have 2 hours and 21 minutes of spare time or the inclination to watch people you do not know receive diplomas. If you'd like to hear and see Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme, deliver her speech, it starts at the 0:43 mark (that is, 43 minutes into the video) and lasts a relatively brief 23 minutes. The student speaker, Analisa Ribeiro Bala from South Africa, speaks near the end, at 2:04 (2 hours 4 minutes).
The second, more compact video captures some graduates offering their thanks after the ceremony.
Tomorrow, the SAIS Bologna Class of 2011 celebrates its graduation. Most of the students will be going to Washington for the second and final year of their master's. Next Tuesday we will offer a slide show of still photos plus some brief video comments from students.
Now, this week's quiz.
A recent post on this blog contained a video with a voice-over in the sound track. Whose voice is it on the video?
Tired of hearing us say that SAIS is an experience both inside and outside the classroom? Bear with us and consider this example of student activity.
Nicolò Lanciotti, Andrew Orihuela and Michael Volpe recently participated in a global competition sponsored by Airbus. Part of the airline's efforts to develop a greener future for aviation, the "Fly Your Ideas" challenge drew entries from 2,600 students from 75 countries.
Participants chasing the €30,000 first prize were encouraged to propose an idea related to one stage of the aircraft's life: design, supply chain, manufacturing, aircraft operations or aircraft disposal.
You'll have to watch the short video below to learn the details of the SAIS Bologna students' project. To whet your curiosity: think algae, biofuel, cosmetics, fishmeal and Omega-3.
Orihuela, Volpe and Lanciotti
Mentored by SAIS Bologna Director Ken Keller and assisted by engineer Luca Perletta, the three MA candidates focused on creating a cost-effective and marketable idea. They made it to the second round, where the number of participating teams was whittled down to 80 from more than 300.
"I was able to integrate the project to some of the courses I am taking. It was a great way to use the efforts put into the project in class," said Volpe, a U.S. citizen.
The fledgling engineers said one of the biggest challenges was finding time outside of class. They had to consider the project from the standpoint of an investor and then market their idea. "I highly recommend this experience, although it was time-consuming," said Orihuela, also from the United States.
Lanciotti, from Italy, edited the video. Volpe contributed the drawings. We'll let you guess who did the voice-over.
The academic year is drawing to a close at SAIS, both in Bologna and Washington, DC.
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, will speak on Thursday at the graduation ceremony at SAIS DC. Her speech will be on "Transformational Leadership in a Flat World."
If you are interested in watching the ceremony and following Sheeran's speech, you can do so by going to www.sais-jhu.edu. The ceremony will be broadcast live starting at 3 pm Washington time (GMT-5) on Thursday.
Graduation -- also called "Commencement" in the United States -- at SAIS Bologna will be this Saturday, May 28. While we will not offer a Webcast of the event, we do plan to post a selection of photographs next week, to honor those moving on and to give incoming students and prospective applicants a sense of the occasion.
I wanted to get an idea of what this year's SAIS Bologna students will be doing this summer before most of them tackle a second and final year of study in Washington.
I was curious for my own sake. I also know that the breadth of their experiences says a great deal about SAIS and the doors that it can open.
It may not always be clear what a program of studies in international relations can lead to. SAIS considers itself a professional graduate school. If you want to know why, consider what a random selection of 26 students -- about 13% of the Bologna Center student body -- will be doing this summer.
Destinations: Washington, Mississippi, Beirut, Seoul, Brazil, South Africa, Brussels, Bangalore, Mexico City, New York, Nepal, Tanzania, Boston, Uganda, Rome.
Jobs at: the International Trade Administration, the Stimson Center, the World Bank, the largest biomass facility in the United States, the State Department, the U.N. Development Programme, a lobbying firm pressing for fair access to home ownership opportunities for low-income families, Bain & Company, the World Food Programme, the European Parliament, the International Finance Corporation, an NGO promoting women, the Grameen Foundation, the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Studying Arabic in Beirut, Hindi in Brussels, Chinese in San Francisco.
Trekking to the highest lake in Nepal. Doing research in the National Archives outside Washington. Travelling and "chilling" in India and Florida. Waiting tables in Boston.
Imagine if I had spoken to the other 165 students at SAIS Bologna.
The countries include 5 newcomers to the Bologna Center, which in its 56 years has graduated students from 110 countries. The new countries are the Bahamas, Madagascar, Mongolia, Qatar and Zimbabwe. Congratulations to the trailblazers from those nations.
We plan to start cutting back on the frequency of our blog posts starting next week. Initially we will be posting three days a week -- Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. As the summer deepens, we will cut back further as our readers leave their computers and hand-held devices behind for a few weeks. We'll pick up again in the autumn when a new batch of potential applicants start looking into graduate programs. We'll be counting on the incoming class to help us convey what SAIS Bologna is all about.
Soon we will be circulating a brief survey asking for feedback on this blog, which will be 6 months old in mid-June. If you would like to participate in the survey, please send an email to us.
Next week we will provide a short video capturing some of this year's students talking about what they will be doing this summer. We'll also have a post on a student project that was presented to an international renewable energy competition. During the following week, we plan to run a slideshow of photographs from the Bologna Center graduation, set for May 28.
Now, on to the quiz question.
But first, we've decided to wait until Monday mornings to reveal the answer to the Friday weekly quizzes. That gives all time zones a chance to participate. Now there is no excuse for not participating.
In what region, other than North America, did the greatest number of SAIS students from the most recent graduating class go to work after finishing their studies?
SAIS is first and foremost an academic experience. And career choices are never far from students' minds.
Those of you coming to pre-term in Bologna will have a chance to get on track academically, find an apartment and start bonding with classmates. You will also get a dose of career guidance.
All first-year students are required to attend a professional development mini-course that sets the foundation for any search for internships or jobs. Those coming to pre-term are encouraged to take the course before Fall classes start; others take it early in the first semester.
The course has 5 modules that last a total of about 8 hours. It covers a lot of ground: career research; self-assessment; writing résumés, CVs and cover letters; networking, and interviewing.
The professional development course is run by Career Services and is required of students in both Bologna and Washington.
Career Services provides students with career management skills. The office conducts skills workshops; organizes career discussion panels; plans trips, and provides information on professions, internships and jobs. Some readers may remember earlier posts on internships and jobs, career trips and the types of careers that our graduates choose.
Career Services maintains an online database called SAISWorks that helps put students who are looking for internships or jobs in touch with prospective employers. It lists jobs and internships, allows students to upload CVs and other documents, provides employer profiles and maintains an event calendar. For many students, it is the go-to job site.
Here are some of the internships that SAIS Bologna students, leveraging SAISWorks, have landed for this coming summer:
Kaiser Associates, South Africa
Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brussels
International Trade Centre, Geneva
Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome
Stimson Center, Washington, DC
AJ Kearney (USA), Washington, DC
US China Energy Cooperation Program (ECP), Beijing
Control Risks, Bombay/New Delhi
Fundacion ETHOS, Mexico City
Millennium Challenge Corporation, Mongolia
JP Morgan, London
Next week we hope to offer a video capturing some students telling us what they will be doing this summer. The variety of experiences is as diverse as the student body.
Two important points are worth our emphasizing as you prepare to start you studies at SAIS Bologna in the autumn.
1. Every student has to have passed both basic microeconomics and basic macroeconomics BEFORE they can start any course work at SAIS. Many students have already met this requirement. But some have not.
SAIS offers an online course over the summer which allows students to satisfy this requirement if they have not already. However, registration for this course, which starts on May 25, is now closed, so it is no longer an option if you have not already registered.
If you need to take either basic micro or basic macro this summer, you should look for a similar university-level course elsewhere. There are such courses offered online and at universities around the world. If this is the tack you need to take, please be sure to clear the curriculum with Amina Abdiuahab before committing to the course.
Remember: if you have not satisfied this economics requirement by the time classes begin, you will not be able to commence your studies. This is no joke: in the past students have been sent back home at the outset of the academic year for failing to meet this requirement.
The same holds true for pre-term: if you want to take part in pre-term, either in Washington or Bologna, you have to meet the micro/macro requirement beforehand.
One thing that continues to flummox some students: the micro and macro courses that are offered during pre-term are at the intermediary level. In order to take them, a student has to have already satisfied the basic micro and macro requirement.
2. Every student has to show proof of an undergraduate degree before starting any course work.
As hard as it is to believe, this is another requirement that has tripped up some incoming students.
The way to show such proof is to obtain from your undergraduate institution either an official final transcript that confirms you received your degree, or bring your original diploma from that institution.
Please keep in mind that we do not accept copies of a transcript or of a diploma for this requirement. Please obtain the original.
We hope this nuts-and-bolts blog post will prevent awkward scenes come the autumn. Forewarned is forearmed. (Now who said that?...)
Below is a post that we published on May 12 before it was wiped from our blog by a mysterious gremlin. We are repeating it today as we know many incoming students have questions about visas and health issues.
Today is the deadline for admitted candidates to accept. We already have a very good idea of next year's class, and it looks to be very bright and very diverse. Later this week we hope to post a map indicating where incoming students come from.
It feels like yesterday that we started receiving applications, and now the process is all but over. The admissions cycle has been fun for us. It has been great to meet you in person or via email. We now look forward to having you as part of the Bologna Center's Class of 2012.
Q: I have matriculated as a non-U.S. citizen, but I have not yet received my visa request letter. What should I do? ("Matriculation" means to accept an admissions offer.) A: If you have matriculated and you are a non-U.S. citizen, you will receive a visa request letter. Please allow us a couple of days after you have submitted the matriculation form.
Q: I have been told I need the original copy of both my letter of admission and the visa request letter. A: Many Italian embassies and consulates accept the PDF documents we have been sending you via email. However, if that's not the case, please get in touch and provide the mailing address at which you would like to receive the letters. You will receive the letters shortly after your request.
Q: The embassy I applied to has told me that I must provide proof of accommodation. A: Some Italian embassies or consulates require you to have accommodation before coming to Bologna. If you have been asked to indicate where you will be living whilst in Bologna, please contact us. We will make sure the authorities understand we won't let you live under a bridge.
Q: My embassy asked me to provide a dichiarazione di valore. A: As a U.S. institution we do not require you to provide a dichiarazione di valore. If Italian authorities have requested it, let us know and we will inform them that we do not need such a document.
Q: I am not a European Union citizen. Do I need health insurance? A: Yes. All non-EU nationals are required to come to Italy with health insurance. Although you might feel as fit as a fiddle, you will still need health coverage in case you need assistance.
Q: I am not a European Union citizen and I have health insurance. Do I still need to purchase Italian insurance? A: You are not required to buy the Italian emergency health insurance. However, we strongly recommend you do. This type of insurance is helpful in case of emergencies. While we are sure you will have a good health plan, in case of an emergency you will be required to pay expenses out of your own pocket before being reimbursed by your insurance company. The Italian insurance covers those kinds of emergency.
Q: So, what is the difference between my health insurance and the Italian one? And why would I need both? A: Italian health insurance will cover you in case of an emergency and will save you having to spend money if you are hospitalized. Your own insurance should cover all other situations. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Q: How much is Italian health insurance? A: It costs €98 for the academic year. The emergency health insurance is inexpensive but keep in mind that it only covers emergencies. Therefore, it will not help if you need to go to the dentist or the optician, even if it's an emergency.
Q: I am a European Union citizen. Do I need health insurance? A: No. However, you will need an international health card which will give you the same rights to assistance as Italians.
A reminder to those candidates who were admitted that the deadline for accepting the offer is Monday, May 16. To accept (or in the academic parlance, "matriculate"), please consult your acceptance letter. The class of 2011-12 is shaping up nicely -- more on that when the dust has settled.
We're going to be cutting back on the pace of our blog posts after May 16. We haven't yet decided how regularly we will post -- this is a work in progress, as most of you know. One thing we intend to do is to poll our readers for feedback to help guide us in coming months.
On to the quiz.
Why was the SAIS Bologna Alumni Weekend unable to take place as scheduled in 2010?
The prize: a SAIS Bologna tee shirt. (If you want to win, we'll need your shirt size -- via a comment or email.)
You've heard us say it before: learning at SAIS takes place in and outside the classroom.
In a typical year, students organize trips to points around the globe to deepen their understanding of cultures and international relations. The trips are generally organized in conjunction with academic concentrations or with Career Services. Often, the students take the lead.
This year, some SAIS Bologna students traveled to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. There were also trips to Morocco and Spain. Some students traveled to London and Brussels under the aegis of Career Services. We have already written a post about a study trip, organized with the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development, to Sarajevo -- the 10th such trip SAIS Bologna students have taken with CCSDD to the Bosnian capital.
If you have a few minutes, take a look at this video that captures some moments of a recent trip by Latin American Studies Program students from SAIS Washington to Costa Rica. If you are as weak in Spanish as I am, you can skip lightly over some of the interviews in the middle of the video to view the rest.
Today we introduce you to Sidney Jackson, who heads the Admissions Office at SAIS DC.
Mr. Jackson's office handles all applications from U.S. citizens, as well as those from citizens of other countries who want to study during their first year in Washington. So he knows most SAIS students before they ever start their studies, whether in Washington or Bologna. (The SAIS Bologna Admissions office handles applications from non-U.S. citizens who want to attend the Bologna Center. Each year about one half of SAIS Bologna students come from outside the United States.)
We took advantage of a visit by Mr. Jackson to Bologna to chat with him about the 2011-12 SAIS DC class. He also discusses his impressions of SAIS Bologna and the city of Bologna.
Note his advice to U.S. students coming to Bologna: Be prepared to be challenged.
We are receiving a lot of very pertinent, and in some cases very detailed, questions about SAIS Bologna. This is entirely normal as candidates who have accepted their offer of admission turn their sights to their academic year in this city.
Before I tackle any of the questions, let me point readers to two very useful guides. (And before I do that, let me repeat what some of you have heard me say before: There is no such thing as a stupid question. Only stupid answers.)
- Guidebook for Incoming Students: This booklet, which has been updated for 2011-12, addresses a host of questions, from health insurance to toiletries to housing. It has answers for many of the questions we are hearing.
- Guide to living in Bologna: Although this document has not yet been updated for the next academic year, much of its information is timeless. It touches on English-speaking doctors, places of worship, transport (or transportation, as Americans say), food shopping and metric conversions.
Here are some of the topics that are concerning incoming students the most:
Pre-term: Here is the updated pre-term program for SAIS Bologna. More information can be found here. It is true that most Bologna Center students come to pre-term. It is a good way to build a solid academic foundation before classes begin on October 3. Students who attend have first pick of available apartments, can take advantage of the usually sunny weather in September and start to develop bonds with classmates. But you are not required to come. And students who do not come still have special learning experiences in Bologna.
The choice of pre-term subjects depends entirely on the student. Some want to focus on English or Italian. Others tackle microeconomics or macroeconomics, both of which are taught at the intermediate level in pre-term. This year, two of the core courses -- "Theory of International Relations" and "Comparative National Systems" -- are also being taught.
A word of caution: it is not a good idea to try to bite off more than one can chew in mid-term. These mini-courses pack a full semester's work into four weeks. Survival Italian can be mixed with any of the economics or core courses. But other combinations could prove too time-consuming and are probably to be avoided. If in doubt, drop a note to email@example.com.
Core requirements: All SAIS students must past written exams in two of four core courses. The exception is European Studies concentrators: they take three European Studies comprehensive exams.
You can see the syllabi of the core courses and past exams here. Remember, you do not have to take the core course to try your hand at the examination. A student can prepare for a core examination by studying on their own, or by auditing or enrolling for credit in a core course.
One important thing: we do not recommend that students concentrate on taking core or required economics courses in Bologna so they can take higher level courses in Washington. That would prevent you from benefiting fully from SAIS Bologna, which offers a large number of unique courses taught by outstanding faculty. Take advantage of that.
Housing: We had a post about this last month. Our consultant -- you may have seen him in last week's quiz -- has a pocketful of keys and will be available from August 18. Contact him when you get to Bologna, and he can help you find an apartment and even roommates. If you want to look on your own, you are free to do that as well.
Banking: I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of bank options here. Suffice it to say that years ago almost all European banks were nationalized and it could be very cumbersome opening an account. Those days are over. A piece of advice: you will not necessarily want to close down your current bank account before coming to Bologna. It might be useful having that account and even the credit or debit card that you currently have, if you have one.
Other issues drawing attention are visas and health issues. We'll tackle those later this week.
Our readers have heard so much from us lately -- via this blog, Facebook, Twitter, you name it -- that I suspect they just want to get on with the quiz.
But just one thing before that: if there is something truly pressing that you need to know, please send in a comment on this blog if you think it's an issue of general interest, or send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will not let your query languish.
So then, on directly to the quiz.
Who is this man and what does he do?
Hint: Most incoming students will get to know him very quickly after arriving in Bologna.
Today a group of admitted candidates had a close-up look at SAIS Bologna. We've captured a few of the moments of Open House on video, to share with those who may have wanted to come but could not make it.
Those who were able to participate came from 14 different countries, a reflection of their commitment and interest. They met faculty, students and staff. The hope is that they were able to get to know the Center better and to get answers to their questions.
My apologies for the quality of the video. It was by necessity done in haste so that I could spend time with the candidates. As I told them during one of the sessions, this is my first year in this job and so this is the first incoming class for me -- a very good feeling for someone whose job it is to help young people realize their dreams.
Towards the end of the video, you will hear Elan Bar, who is president of this year's Student Government Association, and Chidiogo Akunyili discuss their experiences as SAIS Bologna students and their expectations of their second year in Washington, which will start in a matter of months now. How time passes quickly.
Before I tackle some of the questions we are hearing the most from admitted candidates, a word on connecting.
There are many ways to learn about SAIS. The days of the bulky course catalog are just about over -- although if you ask politely, we might be able to find you one. Most everything has gone digital.
SAIS Bologna and SAIS DC have their own websites. Both SAIS and SAIS Admissions have Facebook pages. The main page is called The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, and the Admissions page is Johns Hopkins SAIS Admissions.
Current SAIS Bologna students have created a Facebook group for admitted candidates. If you would like to join, go here and make a request. It's a great forum for discussing the issues you consider most important.
This will give you the rundown on pre-term in Bologna. Did you know that one can participate in pre-term in Washington and then come to Bologna for pre-term here? For information on the Washington pre-term, which runs from July 25 to August 23, click here.
When should I arrive in Bologna?
If you are participating in pre-term, you have to be here in time for pre-term classes, which start on August 29. Salvatore starts helping students find apartments on August 18. My advice would be to get here between August 18 and 25 so that you can find an apartment and start settling in. It will allow you to focus fully on your studies once pre-term begins. It may be a mini-term, but they pack a lot of teaching and study in to those 4 weeks.
If I'm not participating in pre-term, when should I arrive?
Fall semester classes start on October 3. Would I recommend rolling into Bologna on the evening of October 2? Let's put it this way: it's no secret that Salvatore's stable of apartments will dwindle as students settle in during late August and September. September is a wonderful month to be in Europe -- it's generally sunny and dry. The earlier you come, the more likely it is you will have settled down by the time classes start, ensuring a smooth start to your studies. You catch my drift.
What about housing? How hard is it to find an apartment?
Of all of the challenges you will face as a SAIS student -- and there are a few -- housing in Bologna is for most students one of the easiest. If you take advantage of Salvatore's services, he all but tucks you in once you've arrived here. Get in touch with Salvatore after you arrive, and the rest is normally smooth as silk.
Do I have to take the concentration that I marked as my first choice on my application?
No. You are free to choose your concentration after you start your studies. The one exception is International Development. To do that concentration, you have to be admitted as part of the admissions process.
But if you chose another concentration, you are not bound by that selection. Keep in mind that you will have to satisfy the academic requirements of a concentration (either functional or geographic), plus the requirements for international economics. And don't forget the language proficiency requirement. So you can't wait until the last semester to make a choice.
How difficult is it to get a visa?
Most students get their visas after submitting to a non-lethal dose of bureaucracy. There are exceptions because different countries have different hurdles. The key here is to get on it early. Non-U.S. applicants will receive a letter from the SAIS Bologna Admissions after they matriculate; the letter asks authorities from the student's country to issue a 12-month visa starting August 2011. Students who thereafter have difficult obtaining a 12-month visa should contact our office. For more information, click here.
U.S. candidates coordinate through Erin Cameron in the SAIS DC Admissions Office. For more information, click here.
Tomorrow is Open House in Bologna. We hope to post some video of the event tomorrow evening for those who cannot come. We did a post on the DC Open House last month.
Mary Lee McIntyre was in the Bologna Center's first graduating class in 1956. Melanie Standish followed her 50 years later.
Mary Lee and Melanie spoke to us during SAIS Bologna's Alumni Weekend last week. Much has happened to the Center and the world in the half century between their classes, but their reflections about the Center are remarkably similar.
Mary Lee was one of two women in the Center's first class. After SAIS she worked at the Congressional Quarterly and then the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington. Later she lived in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Lebanon.
Melanie is currently working in northern Iraq for the American University of Iraq.
Listen to these two women talk about what the Bologna Center has meant to them.
Last weekend we enjoyed an annual celebration at SAIS Bologna -- Alumni Weekend.
Alumni play a special role at SAIS. Like alumni of many institutions, they help support SAIS financially. But they are also a critical resource for recruiting of new students and in helping current students forge career paths. Applicants become students who become alumni -- it is a virtuous circle, the lifeblood of the institution.
Below is a video of some of the weekend, which attracted alumni from all over the world. SAIS Bologna Director Kenneth Keller gives an update on the Center and discusses what sets it apart. Student Government representatives Elan Bar and Ezra Kidane outline a student initiative.
Then there are reminisces from John Harper, who received his M.A. and Ph.D from SAIS and has taught students at the Bologna Center for 30 years (including this correspondent), and Pierre Hassner, who also taught generations of SAIS students while heading research at CERI-Sciences-Po in Paris.
Finally, Prof. Harper and Dana Allin, who also received his Ph.D at SAIS and is now Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, discuss what the Bologna Center has meant for them and whether it remains relevant 56 years after its founding.
Tomorrow: Two alumnae, from classes 50 years apart, discuss their experiences at SAIS Bologna.