September 20-23, 2016: First Days of the Fall Semester

I finally have a roommate! Her name is Julia. She is a conflict management concentrator. She is African-American, though she grew up outside the US, in England, Malaysia and Africa. She went to Georgia State and is a couple years out of school. She’s nice and we have not clashed yet. We are cordial roommates though we don’t really hang out. But that’s better than having a roommate I dislike. I know I’m being kind of antisocial but it’s not totally my fault. I tried to make an effort at first to get closer to Julia but now I think we’ve become complacent and it may never happen.

Orientation isn’t really about meeting people as orientations usually are. Pre-term already had most of the people already and everyone met last month. I feel like the new students are at a real disadvantage coming late now. Salvatore didn’t even have enough apartments for all of them. They were very unprepared to have this many students. Quite a few of the courses are even oversubscribed. Usually in a regular year, only Migration and Security is oversubscribed.

They have a really stupid and unique system for class registration. Basically, there is a period in which everyone picks classes without regard for class caps to gauge interest.  It is the first shopping period.  There are no language classes yet because they’re still placing people into classes. Then they look at the numbers and classes over the limit go to bid. Everyone starts with 1000 points and you get 100 points extra every semester. If there is a cap of 20 and there are 21 people registered, then everyone has to bid points and the top twenty bids get to stay. They make sure you have an understanding of economics in order to enroll. It is ridiculously complicated. Then after the first round of bidding, the people that got kicked out have to register for new classes which can then also potentially go to bid.

But usually, they don’t have to bid at SAIS Europe cause it’s so small. But this year was weird. Even required classes like statistics went to bid. In DC, if a class is just a couple people over, the professor will usually just let them stay. But the professors here weren’t even given that option. I think they usually just don’t have the bidding problem so they don’t know how to do it properly. Only Professor Plummer’s class was allowed to go over, because he is the Director so he made an executive exception. The administration here just tends to really micromanage everything unnecessarily. I luckily didn’t have to bid on any of my classes. Maybe that’s an omen that I’m taking boring classes.

One of the things that we have to do to get access to the career center is to do the PDC, the professional development course. It is 3 sessions. And each is more boring and useless than the last. They are longer than they need to be because Italians tend to be long winded.

I didn’t have any real class in the first week because it was just Thursday and Friday. I have only sections and art history Thursday. And language Friday. Since language classes hadn’t started yet, and sections hadn’t been scheduled yet, I only had art history for zero credits. The first lecture was actually really good. Professor Cavina really knows her stuff and she enjoys talking about art history. Unfortunately, since that first lecture I have yet to go to another lecture because of one conflict or another. I have, however, been on all the field trips.

There were a couple happy hours during orientation they hold in the penthouse. This is grad school now—they have happy hours all the time. It’s good to have social events but they never have enough food at these things. So we still have to go eat dinner or aperitivo afterwards. Like when I ate this enormous calzone:

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Tiffany Basciano, the International Law & Organizations program coordinator came to visit from DC. She gave her pitch and did some advising hours. She’s really nice and we will be in contact a lot since I am the student coordinator for the International Law program at SAIS Europe. I volunteered and no one else wanted to do it. We’re a small program anyways, less than 8 people. She even helped me to connect with an alum. They’re all about helping you make connections, which is a good thing. I guess that’s what a grad program should be doing. I told her I was interested in doing something to do with tech and policy and she had former student working at a tech and human rights NGO. It looks like there’s actually more out there in the non-technical realm of tech that I had known about or expected. There’s lots more to learn.

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