Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dual degrees: Extending your horizons

SAIS has dual-degree agreements that can extend students' academic horizons and prepare them for a host of careers. The agreements allow a student to obtain twin graduate degrees from SAIS and other leading universities in a shorter period of time than would normally be required. Marc Pickering is pursuing dual degrees with the INSEAD business school and SAIS. He arrived in Bologna at mid-term after a year at INSEAD and writes about his transition below.

When I flew in to Bologna in mid-January, a snowstorm was raging and the city was covered in snow. Most students were finishing up their last exams and heading out to exotic destinations for winter break. I gave myself a couple of weeks to discover the city, learn some Italian at a local language school and prepare for waiver exams in economics. From the get-go, the SAIS Bologna community -- students, faculty, administration -- brought me in to the fold.

Marc Pickering
My experience at the Bologna Center has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been almost two months since I arrived in Bologna, and overall it has been an uplifting experience. I was nervous about starting midway in the academic year and a quarter of the way through the MA program. Many of my MBA peers were beginning new jobs or jumping back into their career following our intense, year-long MBA class. I had set out on a different course: more school.

As far as I know, from my MBA graduating class of 500 people, I am the only one who decided to pursue another degree.

I decided to do an MA after my studies at INSEAD because of my interest in the relationship between the policy world and the business world, and how government impacts business. Pairing a business degree with a policy degree made a lot of sense, and the idea had been in the back of my mind for some time. In the end, SAIS alumni and current SAIS/INSEAD dual degree students helped me decide that the program was right for me. They highlighted the complementary aspects of the degrees and shared their own motivations for pursuing the dual degrees.

The INSEAD/SAIS MA/MBA is a relatively new partnership. While more and more people are taking advantage of it, it’s not as established as some other programs linking U.S. business schools and international relations programs. I believe I am the first MA/MBA to go from INSEAD to the SAIS Bologna Center, which is quite a privilege. I hope other students take up the mantle.

SAIS Bologna shares many similarities with INSEAD: the academic standard is very high, the professors are outstanding, the student body is extremely diverse -- not to mention good socializing. SAIS is a bit more academic, so I’m finding I have my head down in books a lot more than at INSEAD, where there is a lot more emphasis on group work.

Bologna is a beautiful city. I've been living out of two suitcases for a little over a year, in France and then Singapore -- great places to live. But Bologna is in a league of its own: the people, the culture, the history and the food. It’s an extremely rich and authentic place. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the city, but there you have it. It’s going to be very hard to leave Bologna in May.

I've already had a few fun trips in Europe -- to Brussels (for a SAIS Career Trek), Vienna (for the Austrian Ball, also with SAIS) and to Switzerland for a ski weekend -- as I am acutely aware I have only a few more months to take advantage of the great traveling one can do from Bologna!

I’m now beginning to prepare for my midterms and firming up my plans for a summer internship.

I’d love to help answer questions if any SAIS or INSEAD student wants to talk about the dual-degree program or anything else.

Do you have a question for Marc? You can send it to admissions@jhubc.it or write a comment at the end of this post.