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SAIS Challenges Your Assumptions About the World

Profile image of Santisouk Austin Saycocie
Santisouk Austin Saycocie
Master of Arts in International Relations
Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellows

Before joining SAIS, what were you doing?

After spending three years in Japan working as an assistant language teacher for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, I worked as a clerk for the 20th Circuit Court in Michigan. These experiences taught me to find commonalities within different perspectives in order to bring people together, something that is incredibly important to me as an aspiring diplomat.

What led you to Johns Hopkins SAIS?

I knew I wanted to study international relations but wasn’t sure about which program or institution until I talked with a current student. During our conversation, I learned a lot about SAIS and the high caliber of professors, many of whom are practitioners eager to share their experience. The more I researched and spoke with SAIS students, the more persuaded I was to choose SAIS. With its reputation for being so academically rigorous, I questioned whether I’d be able to handle the course load. In the end, my mentors pushed me to challenge myself and choose SAIS. I’m really glad they did.

Santisouk walking in front of the nitze building

What has been your favorite experience at SAIS and why?

So far, I’ve really loved the classroom discussions. Most are very interesting and I love being a part of intellectual back-and-forth arguments. In Professor Lorraine Paterson’s History of Modern Southeast Asia course, we discussed Singapore's dramatic rise and the ‘Asian values’ debate. Professor Paterson did a great job priming us beforehand and I enjoyed hearing perspectives from the international students and military foreign affairs officers.

Coming to SAIS will ‘pressure cook’ your assumptions about the world … that’s the beauty of SAIS.

What do you plan on pursuing after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to be working for the State Department as a Public Affairs Officer. As a Thomas R. Pickering Fellow, I am afforded the opportunity for a long-term career with the State Department and I would love to focus my studies at SAIS on the East and Southeast Asia region. Ultimately, I know SAIS will prepare me well to join the U.S. Foreign Service.

If you could tell prospective students one thing about SAIS, what would that be?

Coming to SAIS will ‘pressure cook’ your assumptions about the world. You’ll learn whether your assumptions hold under scrutiny and you won’t always agree with classmates or professors but that’s the beauty of SAIS — it attracts so many diverse individuals and perspectives.
If you are looking to learn more about what it's like to be a current student at Johns Hopkins SAIS, we encourage you to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our Admissions Fellows.

Enjoyed reading Santisouk's experience? Learn more about our Master of Arts in International Relations.

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