Thursday, 8 September 2011

More first impressions: "So many perspectives to learn from"

Last week Jamie Pleydell-Bouverie, one of our 200 incoming students this year, shared his very first impressions of Bologna.

Jamie arrived in the middle of an August heat wave. Little wonder that the scorching temperatures made an impression on him. He also noted his angst over calculus and the friendliness of his bolognesi hosts.

Today Ana Nadal, another incoming student, shares her early thoughts. Ana is only the third student from the Dominican Republic ever to attend SAIS Bologna. She earned a BA in Economics and International Studies from Manhattanville College in 2010, then worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, before starting SAIS Bologna.

Ana sees herself working in the private sector after finishing SAIS, then working as an economist with a multilateral institution before one day serving as an ambassador for her country -- and in her spare time writing pieces as an op-ed columnist.

Here are Ana's own words:

It would not be fair to write about my first impressions of SAIS Bologna without first talking about our host city. It did not take me a long time to realize that Bologna is magical. After a 24-hour flight from Santo Domingo to Milan, I ended up taking the slow train to Bologna just to talk to the Italian friends I had made on my way. In Italy you don’t need to go out of your way to meet people and have a good laugh, even if the most you can do is communicate in broken Italian.

There are some cities that just “have something” -- and Bologna is one of them. Writing this would be much easier if I could articulate what makes Bologna special. But you see, this is the thing with great cities: you can’t simply explain why everyone falls in love with them. Maybe it is the great food, the friendly people, the beautiful scenery or the wine that is present at every gathering. Whatever it is, I could not be happier being here.

Ana Nadal
Now let me turn to what has impressed me the most: my peers. I feel very lucky being part of such a brilliant class. On my first night, I shared dinner with a restaurant entrepreneur, a former aide on Capitol Hill, an expert on the Balkans, a hedge fund analyst and a former social civilian consultant for Afghanistan. After listening to what my classmates have done, I feel confident saying that we have it all.

Our class is made up of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, who will use their SAIS education to become leaders in their fields. Since I arrived here, stimulating conversation has invariably accompanied the evening wine. There are so many perspectives to learn from. As one of my roommates would say, “It’s a case of mutual admiration.” You cannot help being in awe of my peers’ thrilling experiences.

Diversity is the key. Having a cappuccino can turn into a political economy class just by listening to what people from so many places have to say. This, coupled with their array of interests, enriches the experience. But as diverse as our backgrounds are, there are three common interests: passion for learning, traveling and food. The latter is one good reason to end up in Bologna.

Last year, when I was applying to SAIS, Bologna alumni would spend hours talking to me about how fascinating their experiences had been. I could not quite understand. Two weeks after arriving in this magical city, I’m finally starting to understand why this was the best year of their lives.