Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Student Spotlight: Sneha Thayil

This week's student spotlight features Sneha Thayil, a second-year SAIS MA student who spent her first semester in Bologna. Thayil is a MA student interviewer and member of the South Asian Student Association. Enjoy!

You are concentrating in Conflict Management. What drew you to this particular area of study?

In undergrad I majored in political science, focusing on violence, terrorism, and political evil. My internships involved working with youth from post conflict zones towards youth-involved community development. Studying conflict management was the logical progression of my academic and professional interests.
You spent your first year at the SAIS Europe campus in Bologna, Italy. What were some of the highlights of your year at SAIS Europe?
There were so many! It was such an amazing year. A few I immediately think of are going horseback riding up Mt Vesuvius, attending the Nobel Peace Prize conference in Rome, and celebrating Holi at Giardini Margherita. My favourite memories are more mundane, of me learning how to make Italian dishes from my roommates, weaving through the streets of Bologna at night on our bicycles trying to catch the green wave of traffic lights, endless hitchhiking adventures with blablacar, and realizing how quickly one could pick up a new language.
Can you tell us a little about your summer internship with Meta-Culture? How did you apply what you've learned at SAIS thus far to your work with Meta-Culture?
I discovered the field of development consulting, so I was looking for a chance to learn a little more about consulting as a profession after my first year at SAIS. Meta-Culture is a conflict mediation consulting company based in Bangalore, and I was fortunate to spend the summer interning with them. I was able to gain experience in business development, training, and the research required for consulting. I was able to hone my research and analysis skills from writing policy memos, while some techniques I learnt from the excel skills courses also came in handy.
What are some of the extracurriculars you are pursuing at SAIS, and how are those complementing your educational experience?
An activity I’ve been most consistently involved with has been the South Asian Students Association, which I participated in both years. I’ve been able to sporadically attend events with the Cities and Development group, as well as the Dance Association. These groups have been an important part of satisfying my need for a diverse and varied social and academic life, as I’m able to keep up with interests that are not directly related to my field of study.
You're a student interviewer, so you meet with a lot of prospective students. What is some advice you would give to someone considering applying to a program like SAIS?
Above all I would suggest having a defined plan for what exactly you intend to gain from SAIS. Although plans certainly changed, as mine did as soon as I discovered the field of development consulting, I firmly believe that in order to maximize your potential at SAIS, you must have a clear idea of what you are working towards afterwards. When deciding to apply to SAIS, I would recommend analyzing what skills or gaps in knowledge the program would fill for you, and purposefully working to fill those gaps.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Student Spotlight: Dennis Hong

For our second Student Spotlight, we interviewed Dennis, a BA/MA student who spent his first year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.

Dennis at the 2015 HNC Career Day in Shanghai, China.
You are a SAIS BA/MA student. Can you tell our readers about the BA/MA program, and why you pursued it? 
The 5-Year BA/MA program between Johns Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences (Homewood) and School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) allows selected groups of undergraduate students to pursue both Bachelor's and Master's degree in International Relations in consecutive 5 years. About 8 to 10 students are chosen each year with an option to spend his or her senior year at the SAIS Europe or SAIS Nanjing campuses, followed by the final year at SAIS Washington DC. Applied to the program during the spring semester of my sophomore year at Johns Hopkins, the BA/MA program with SAIS was a perfect opportunity for me to accelerate my studies in international relations and set myself into a fast and competitive track to personal and professional developments.
Most BA/MA students spend their SAIS years at the SAIS Europe and/or DC campuses, but you opted to spend your first year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC). Why did you choose to attend the HNC? What are some of the benefits of incorporating the HNC into your education?
While the SAIS Europe and DC campuses were certainly appealing, I have purposefully chosen to spend my first year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) to deepen my understanding and appreciation on China. I think one must understand China to appreciate international relations of today's world. As a student of China Studies, I have always wanted to take my Chinese language skills to a professional and near-native level and make meaningful connections in China. Along with its strong graduate-level curriculum in Mandarin Chinese with course offerings on nearly all aspects of China, HNC has also taught me how to better understand the country and interact with Chinese from different backgrounds. More importantly, some of the benefits of incorporating the HNC into my SAIS education, after studying with Chinese professors in Chinese, was a natural development of my abilities to understand multifaceted global issues from Chinese perspectives. Establishing friendships and connections with Chinese students and professionals across China was another take-away from my time at SAIS Nanjing campus.
You're the HNC representative on the SAIS Student Government Association. What is the role of the SGA in the SAIS community overall, and what is your specific role in the SGA entail?
The role of the Student Government Association at SAIS is to serve as a main liaison between student body and administration. We also aim to help SAIS grow in a positive direction in all aspects, reflecting student inputs and ideas. About 10 students serve on the Student Government Association, representing different campuses and programs, and as the Nanjing campus representative in the organization, I work to represent voices of my classmates from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. I also work with other student representatives to plan events and activities across school, ultimately with the vision of creating a stronger and more unified SAIS student body across all three campuses.
What are some other activities you're involved in at SAIS? How do they enhance your student experience?
Besides my role in the Student Government Association, some of the other activities I am involved in include China Club, Korea Club, and working for the Admissions Office as an M.A. student interviewer. I find that my classmates are very active and passionate about what they do, and different club organizations and events here at SAIS not only add so much to my academic education, but also help me to foster a strong bond with my classmates whom I believe will go into the world to make a lasting contribution to our society.
What do you see yourself doing after graduation? How about 5-10 years from now?
Upon my completion of the BA/MA program, I plan to serve in the South Korean military for about 3 years to fulfill my duty toward my country. I hope to utilize my English and Chinese skills to help contribute to strengthen the US-Korea alliance and China-Korea strategic partnership, in the midst of uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula. Within 5 to 10 years from now, I see myself working in either China or the United States to strengthen South Korea's relations with these countries as a prospective diplomat. As a student who have benefited from studying in both China and the United States, I would like to use my valuable education I have received from Johns Hopkins University to give back to the future of my country. I dream of becoming a South Korean diplomat versatile on both Chinese and American affairs, with the vision of ultimately helping Korea to play more active role on the world stage as a respected and exemplary member of the global community.
Thanks for reading!