Monday, 29 August 2011

Heat, angst and excitement -- a student's first impressions

Who said SAIS students are all the same?

Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie studied Theology as an undergraduate. SAIS's curriculum, heavy on economics and international relations, was not his bread and butter at Cambridge University. But he's taken the plunge at SAIS in hopes of one day working for an international organization promoting human rights. He has the United Nations, an NGO or the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in mind -- the kinds of organizations where SAIS students find work.

Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie and
Ilektra Tsakalidou
 on the first day of pre-term
(Speaking of being out of the box, some of our readers will remember that the SAIS Bologna Director, Kenneth Keller, is a chemical engineer by education. He teaches a course in science, technology and international relations here. The SAIS curriculum has evolved in many ways since it was founded in the aftermath of World War Two.)

SAIS accepts students from many different backgrounds and nationalities. We feel the diversity strengthens the experience.

Jamie describes himself as a keen sportsman -- he played rugby and cricket at Cambridge, and also skied -- and likes drama, both as an actor and a director. You think Jamie will have trouble finding a cricket pitch in Bologna? Think again. The Bologna Cricket Club has been going strong since 1983.

Here are some of Jamie's first impressions:

The last email I picked up before boarding my easyJet flight to Bologna -- whilst grumbling about my measly 20kg baggage allowance -- was from Nelson Graves, asking if I could write a short piece on my “first impressions” of Bologna. I therefore arrived with a heightened self-awareness of my immediate thoughts and hoping that I would instantly be struck by some profound reflections of this wonderful city.

Alas, not.

From the moment I stepped off the plane all I could think about was how hot it was. OK, I am English -- 15 degrees is usually pretty good for a barbecue -- but it is seriously hot in Bologna at the moment. Arriving in jeans wasn’t the brightest of ideas.

It does not take me long, however, to be struck by some slightly less prosaic impressions. Firstly, Bologna is a very friendly city. My taxi driver finds my completely inadequate mastery of even the most basic Italian phrases amusing rather than rude. This is definitely a good sign. In fact, all the Bolognesi I have come across so far seem to be warm, cheerful and very welcoming.

Secondly, there is the city itself. Bologna is extraordinarily beautiful, with stunning red-brick towers and buildings, fabulous piazzas and charming winding backstreets. The Bologna panorama, which some of the best student apartments have terrific view of, is a truly spectacular sight.

Apart from perpetual angst about being behind on my calculus DVDs, I have been nothing but excited and exhilarated about being in Bologna for the coming year. And having met a good number of my fellow SAIS students already, I get the sense that this sentiment is pretty universal.