By XIANG WANG
BOLOGNA — “Don’t trust the data without knowing what’s behind it.” This is what Anna Wilson said about the most important lesson she learned inside the classroom at SAIS.
“It’s not that data is untrustworthy, it’s that data is based on assumptions which are themselves rarely reported. People report on the statistic, but not the limitations of the model,” she said.
Then, what do you trust?
“Trust the guy who came up with it to tell you how far you can take it,” she replied.
The word “trust” brought Anna from the UK to SAIS Bologna — an adventure she has continued after living in Africa, Chile, and Rome each for one year.
“It was a long shot! I was actually living in Rome at the time and I came for an Open Day at SAIS Bologna. I was really impressed,” Wilson said.
Now, two years after graduating from SAIS, Wilson is currently working as a communications analyst at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London.
At the EBRD, Wilson has participated in various development projects where she contributes knowledge gained from SAIS. But the project that excited her most is an information campaign called the Know How Campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the value of external advice for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The two-year initiative involves with working with 20 languages, six alphabets, and 180-plus employees based in 25 countries. Besides performing normal job responsibilities, Wilson also taught herself how to use design programs like Adobe InDesign.
“I had never used [it] before in my life, but as is inevitable when something is your baby,” she said.
Wilson also mentioned that the best part about her job is the diversity, which she deals with the press, events, donors, report writing, companies. Sometimes all in the same day!
“Communications was not something that I deliberately planned, but I have always enjoyed writing persuasively and combining that with talking about interesting work has been very enjoyable,” she said.
Wilson said she felt very lucky to have found something she enjoyed doing in her home country. What I have learned from her is that “you can never plan the future by the past.”
Q&A with Anna Wilson:
TSO: What are some of the things you wish you had done or had done earlier at SAIS?
AW: The best thing about SAIS for me was the opportunity to learn about things in detail that I would never have encountered otherwise – the inner workings of peacekeeping operations, labor law reform, the limits of macroeconomic forecasting. Take the courses that interest you!
TSO: What do you think is the biggest difference studying under the UK and the U.S. educational systems?
AW: The U.S. system is much broader; it lets you pick and choose a bit more and select things that interest you even within different fields, which is something I really enjoyed at the Master’s level. The continuous midterms, tests, etc., not so much!
TSO: What advice would you give to the current students? If you could talk to yourself when you were studying at SAIS, what would you say?
AW: I think it’s the same thing about taking the courses you think you’ll enjoy. Take the functional ones, too (you’ll need those), but if you want to spend 8 weeks learning about the Law of the Sea, do it.
TSO: If you were to name one thing that SAIS has changed in you, what will it be?
AW: SAIS in many ways, for me, took being part of the international political world and made it possible – composed of personalities and decisions that anyone could work hard and be part of. I had always viewed it with a bit too much awe!
TSO: Who was the most fun classmate you had at SAIS? Who was the craziest?
AW: Ha! Not to name names, but we had plenty of characters!
TSO: How did you like Bologna? Is there anything you miss about this city?
AW: I loved Bologna and I definitely miss the food most! Enjoy those slices of pizza for €1.50 while you can!
TSO: You have worked in many places including Rome, Africa, D.C., and London. Which was the most challenging? Which did you like best?
AW: For me it was moving to Chile right after undergrad that was most impactful. For a start, putting a girl from the south of England in the driest desert in the world is a change! And I was 21 years old teaching university students five years older about American literature (which, being British, we didn’t actually study that much ourselves), learning to surf, learning Spanish and learning to actually be in the world of work, all at the same time – it was an amazing experience.
TSO: Where do you want to travel next?
AW: Everywhere! My current top three are Senegal, Vietnam, or Cuba, I think.