BOLOGNA, NANJING, WASHINGTON—Welcome to campus, prospective (okay, let’s be more blunt, future SAIS) students. We are excited about your interest in SAIS, and in the spirit of Open House, we wanted to share a few insights and experiences about what it means to be a SAISer — across our three campuses in Bologna, Nanjing, and Washington.
Bologna is a city that consistently surprises its visitors. Home to the “oldest university in Europe”, University of Bologna, it hosts thousands of students and tourists every year. The historical city center is one of the best preserved and you can literally feel the weight of history around every corner (we even have a walking tour about the history of World War II). The gorgeous porticos, the buzzing piazzas, evenings with apertivos and Sunday mornings with the lightest bakery goods you will ever have; it is the little things that make this place almost magical. This city has libraries from the Middle Ages and recipes from even before. A year at SAIS Europe gives you the chance to experience this city like home and gives you the opportunity to explore Europe like your backyard. A weekend in Paris or a night out in Berlin are completely feasible, and you will be with friends from every part of the world. Students at SAIS Europe have opportunities to take classes at University of Bologna or do a program at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, learn Italian in class and have a go at it at a restaurant in the evening. SAIS Europe frequently hosts practitioners from international relations; ranging from people who have run NGOs in Africa to international negotiators and ambassadors, even former prime ministers. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Perched in the nation’s capital, the DC campus plants students in the center of world policy-making, the audience of historic speeches, the halls of leading think tanks, and Embassy Row along Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Avenues. Here SAISers hail from all corners of the globe, vary diversely in their experience and age, speak dozens of different languages, and like all SAISers, embody an ideal of purpose. Here you will take classes with faculty who are academics and leading practitioners in their respective fields; you will have walking access (literally across the street) to leading think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institution; you will have the opportunity to integrate foreign language study into your degree; and perhaps most importantly, you will forge lifelong connections with tomorrow’s leaders. Outside the classroom, DC offers an abundance of cultural activities, including outdoor summer movies, city-wide snowball fights, foreign film festivals, a trendy food scene, and plenty of parks.
Life as a SAIS student in Nanjing is full of opportunities. As international students, you will have the chance to practice your Chinese on a daily basis, learn about the world from the perspective of your Chinese classmates and professors, and see your own culture in a whole new light; Chinese students likewise have a chance to live and study with a wide range of foreign students and scholars. Together, students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center participate in dragon boat races, ping pong tournaments, and late-night games of 三国杀. The Center is based in the historic city of Nanjing, which is worth taking the time to explore in depth on your own. SAIS in Nanjing gives you the chance to become part of a nearly thirty-year tradition of students and scholars who are passionate about studying China from the inside out. Since Nanjing alumni tend to remain engaged with the program, you will find yourself with the chance to connect with and learn from the experiences of people who were among the first wave of international students in China in the mid- to late-80s, many of whom are still in the country today. Taking advantage of all the opportunities the Nanjing program makes available can sometimes be a challenge — if you let it, just completing your readings and class assignments can take up all of your time, especially during your first semester when you are still unused to using the academic forms of your second language. However, if you balance your various responsibilities wisely and make sure to make time to interact not only with your fellow students and professors, but also with the local community (on your own or through programs like the Migrant Learning Initiative or groups like Nanjing Volunteers, a platform founded by a group of SAIS students), you will find your time at SAIS Nanjing to be an enriching and rewarding experience on multiple levels.