Campus Life | SAIS Europe

Experience Europe
Forum for Thought and Debate
Scholarly Community
Student-led Engagement

SAIS Europe is located in the historic city center and shares its neighborhood with the oldest university in Europe. It is consistently ranked in the top 10 European cities for quality of life.

The faculty research seminar series brings distinguished guests to Bologna from across Europe twice a week to engage with students in an informal setting.

SAIS Europe is characterized by its international faculty and close-knit community of approximately 200 students, representing over 40 countries.

Students get involved on campus by serving on student government, joining clubs and organizing study trips. Many also volunteer with local non-profit organizations.

Student Activities
Student Government
Wellbeing and Support
Living in Bologna
Pre-Term and Orientation


The SAIS Europe campus is located in Bologna, Italy, a medium-sized city characterized by both tradition and innovation. It is the perfect place to experience genuine, authentic Italian living in a city that is also known for being open and welcoming to newcomers. Bologna’s central location and highly developed transit network make it a strategic gateway to access the rest of Europe and to neighboring regions such as North Africa and the Middle East.

Student Activities

The small scale and collegial atmosphere at SAIS Europe produce a close community of students, faculty and staff. When not in class or studying, students may be found having lunch in the on-campus café with their professors, planning their next weekend getaway to a European capital, or gearing up for a soccer tournament with their Italian counterparts from the University of Bologna.
Options for on-campus extracurricular activities abound. Students may choose to serve on the student government, join the editorial board of the SAIS Europe Journal of Global Affairs, or participate in one of the many student-led groups such as the Gastro-Diplomacy Club, the Defense and Security Club, the Pride Club or the Consulting Club. There are countless opportunities for SAIS Europe students to interact with local students, including sports teams, musical ensembles, language exchanges and volunteer projects.
Long-standing SAIS Europe traditions such as the annual Thanksgiving dinner and trip to Vienna for the Austrian Ball introduce an international student body to each other’s cultures and create special memories for each class.

Student Government

Early in the academic year, students are invited to run for election to the five-member Student Government Association (SGA) at SAIS Europe. The SGA serves as the liaison between the student body and administration. The SGA contributes to programming at SAIS Europe, helping to organize the Open House for prospective students and to choose selected guest speakers for the faculty research seminar series. SGA officers also manage a grant program to support clubs, class trips, study treks, and internships. Students from all degree programs are eligible to run for office at SAIS Europe. At the end of the year, a SAIS Europe representative is elected to serve on the SGA in Washington, DC the following academic year.  

Wellbeing and Support

The Director of Student Affairs at SAIS Europe is available to guide students to resources available for wellbeing and support at SAIS Europe and in Bologna.
SAIS Europe works with an on-call physician to assist students with non-emergency medical issues, and psychologists from the University of Bologna’s Psychological Support Service to provide counseling services.
Bologna-based associations Il Cassero and MIT (Transexual Identity Movement) provide a network and services to the LGBTIA community and welcome SAIS Europe students to their events.
Faculty and administrators at SAIS Europe all have an open door policy and are readily available to assist students as needed. Students receive academic guidance from their assigned faculty advisor on campus as well as from their academic program administrators on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Living in Bologna

Bologna's three nicknames, "Bologna La Dotta, Bologna La Rossa and Bologna La Grassa" provide a good starting point for getting to know the city. Home to the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna's esteemed professors and 80,000 students energize an urban environment steeped in arts and culture, hence the nickname Bologna La Dotta or Bologna the Learned. The rosy Bolognese clay used for the city's characteristic roof tiles and colorful palaces is the apparent rational behind Bologna La Rossa or Bologna the Red, but residents know that this term also alludes to the city's political leanings. Beneath its bohemian veneer, however, is a pulsing industry of small and medium-sized businesses supporting a high standard of living. Bologna is consistently ranked in the top 10 European cities for quality of life. It is however, Bologna's reputation for excellent food, not its material wealth, that earned its reputation as Bologna La Grassa or Bologna the Fat. Widely considered Italy's gastronomical capital, the city hosts more than 500 pizzerie, osterie, trattorie and ristoranti.
Although most SAIS Europe students spend less than one year in Bologna, they become lifelong ambassadors of the city and maintain a deep connection to their adopted home, returning as alumni to celebrate class reunions.


SAIS Europe students usually choose to live together in apartments within the medieval city walls, commuting by foot or by bike around town. SAIS Europe works with a housing consultant, making house hunting in a new country often easier than finding an apartment at home. Beginning during Pre-Term and continuing through the start of classes in September, students are invited to participate in housing tours, visiting apartments throughout the city. Options are available for different budgets and different needs, including single or family accommodations. Rent and utilities are paid directly to the housing consultant, who also oversees maintenance on the apartments. 


At the crossroads of the national railway system, high speed trains get you from Bologna to Florence in 30 minutes, to Milan in an hour and to Rome in just two hours.  The Adriatic coast can be reached by car or train in about an hour. The G. Marconi International Airport (BLQ) is the third largest in Italy, offering numerous low-cost flights to European destinations daily.
Outgoing classes organize a bike sale for incoming students. The city also offers bike and car sharing programs.

City life

Whatever your idea of fun - culture, cuisine, science, art, sports, the outdoors - Bologna’s diverse array of leisure activities offers something for everyone. The city has more than 50 museums ranging from modern art to music to archaeology. The city’s opera house offers special-priced tickets for “under-30s” and several cinemas show films in their original languages.  Thanks to a zoning law that prohibited construction on the south side of the city, the hills of Bologna provide ample space for trekking and spending time surrounded by greenery. There are also 20 city parks to explore. 
Bologna’s tourism office, Welcome Bologna, is located in the city’s main square, Piazza Maggiore. Their website includes an extensive event calendar, fun facts about the city and thematic itineraries for discovering Bologna on your own. SAIS Europe students also have the great privilege of enrolling in a non-credit course on Italian art history and culture during the fall semester, taught by one of Italy’s most prominent art historians. The course includes field trips to Florence, Ravenna and an insider’s tour of Bologna’s own treasures including the first anatomical theater. 

Pre-Term and Orientation

More than 80 percent of incoming students arrive in Bologna a month before the academic year begins to get a head start on economics and languages and take pre-term courses in Microeconomics and Quantitative Reasoning, Intensive English, Intensive Italian, and Survival Italian. Math review sessions are also offered.
Students entering their graduate studies after a number of years in employment have found Pre-Term to be a great way to re-acclimate to the academic world. Those who have not previously studied in the United States have appreciated the opportunity to adjust to a new system before beginning with a full semester of course work. Pre-Term is also an occasion to begin working with the Office of Career Services which offers early sessions of its Professional Development Course prior to the start of classes.
New student orientation is held in mid-September, immediately prior to the start of the academic year. This two-day program includes an introduction to academic and student life at SAIS Europe. Students meet the administrative staff, attend faculty debates on current events and are introduced to the various academic concentrations offered at Johns Hopkins SAIS.  Students also meet with an academic advisor who will provide guidance related to course selection and academic specializations. SAIS Europe faculty advisors encourage students to take the courses that interest them the most, striving for a balanced mix of required courses and electives as well as lecture-based classes and small seminars. With classmates from 40 countries, conversations around the seminar table are guaranteed to be stimulating.