This week’s student spotlight features Sneha Thayil, a second-year John Hopkins SAIS (School of Advanced International Studies) MA student (Conflict Management & International economics) 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 offbeat, unconventional and unusual 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.
What do you do currently?
Iam a research manager at Forcier consulting at Somaliland, the only international research firm with full-time, in-country operations and staff in Somalia or Somaliland.