School Review: The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)


Earlier, we discussed here about Washington, DC as one of the ultimate destination for students of international relations. In this post we will start to discuss one of the four schools in Washington, DC. The first of four is  The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

SAIS was established in 1943 co-founded by Paul H. Nitze and Christian Herter initially to prepare future leaders for the post-war world. Later, SAIS became a division of The Johns Hopkins University in 1950. Located in Washington, DC, SAIS is a policy oriented school of international relations emphasis also in international economics, as the founder of the school argues is unseparated part of the study of international relations. This is the main reason why every SAIS students and graduates have to pass the required economic courses such as Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, International Trade Theory, and International Monetary Theory. Although the requirement for incoming class is slightly altered, the focus in economics is maintained. Similar to other IR schools, SAIS offers many concentrations for its students such as: International Policy Areas (International Development, Strategic Studies, American Foreign Policy, Global Theory and History, Conflict Management, Energy Resources and Environment, and International Law and Organizations), Area Studies (African Studies, Asian Studies, Canadian Studies, China Studies, European and Eurasian Studies, Japan Studies, Korea Studies, Latin American Studies, Middle East Studies, South Asia Studies and Southeast Asia Studies), in addition to the International Economics requirement. These programs are available for students in different levels of study: Master of Arts (MA) program, Master of International Public Policy (MIPP) program, PhD program, Dual Degree (Wharton Business School) program, among others. Details of programs offered at SAIS can be found here.

Progressively, SAIS has established its presence in three continents following the opening of SAIS Europe (used to be called Bologna Center) in Bologna, Italy in 1955 and in 1986 for the school’s Hopkins Nanjing Center in China. This fact leads to the saying at SAIS:” We not only teach about the world, we are in the world”.

Considering the aforementioned, are these merely sugarcoating in favor of school’s promotion? Well, not really. There are several added values SAIS students can obtain during their study. First of all, SAIS is actively inviting indispensable and inspiring figures to talk to the students and the wider SAIS community. These speakers, among others, are Eric Schmidt—CEO of Google, Jack Lew—U.S. Secretary of Treasury, Madeleine Albright—former U.S. Secretary of State, Gideon Rose—editor at Foreign Affairs magazine, and many more. For me personally and as Southeast Asia Studies concentrator, one of the most memorable speeches was given by President Thein Sein of Myanmar during the first Myanmar’s head of state visit to Washington in 60 years. In that speech, President Thein Sein talked about the current challenge of democratic reform in his country. Consequently, SAIS and the wider Johns Hopkins University are among the firsts foreign educational institution welcome in Myanmar to assist the reform process by improving the country’s human capital. This instance make me realize that SAIS does not only teach, but actually do something in the real world. By inviting these external speakers, SAIS ensures that its students also exposed to perspectives beyond SAIS.

Secondly, SAIS supports professional development of its students through in-country and overseas internship programs. If we conduct a quick survey of SAIS students, we can easily find that during academic year students are interning at governmental institutions (U.S. Treasury, U.S. State Department, embassies, and many more), private corporations, financial institutions, think tanks (e.g. CSIS, Brookings, Wilson Center) and others. This combination of students backgrounds enrich classrooms discussions and debate in terms of real case examples. Those students who intern at U.S. Treasury, for instance, can provide case study analysis in lecture’s discussions and can debate the lecture whenever there are questionable linkages between theoretical approach of monetary policy and the actuality of the policy making in U.S. Treasury. For those who are not interning at the U.S. Treasury, these additional information are added values to the professor’s lectures. There are also in-campus jobs available for students who seek to finance their study trough part time job as staff as well as teaching assistants for specific course.

In case of overseas internship programs, mostly during summer break, SAIS generally provides merit-based grants to help finance students’ internship-related expenses. In my experience, it is my department—Southeast Asia Studies—that provided travel grant for my internship in Bangkok, Thailand, as well as Thai language intensive program in the same country. Other opportunity for overseas trip is through staff-ride program which is embedded into a course. For instance, one of my friends who take US-Japan Relations course this semester are facilitated for overseas trip to Japan for field research in their thematic paper. The course provides travel and accommodation expenses of the trip.

Finally, despite of around-the-clock reading materials and assignments, SAIS also provides the opportunity for students to hone their leadership skills. This is done by providing biannual stipend for student-led groups which ranging from academic discussion, career, and culture-based clubs. In my case, my internship at The Embassy of Indonesia facilitated the formation of Indonesia Corner @SAIS which is greatly supported by the Education and Culture Attaché of the Embassy. Through this initiative, SAIS Southeast Asia program has hosted former Indonesia Ambassador, H.E. Dino Patti Djalal, Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Professor William Liddle (leading Indonesianist), Professor Donald Weatherbee (expert on Indonesia foreign policy) in their talks to SAIS students.

Consequently, these factors jointly render SAIS as the 2nd top international relations master program according to Foreign Policy magazine survey.

So, are you ready to become the next Indonesian at SAIS?


Photo credit: Instagram @herupyuda


  1. great article,
    tetapi apakah boleh saya tahu mas heru untuk dpt kuliah di SAIS membutuhkan brapa surat rekomendasi dari dosen ?


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