Stories from Our Community

SAIS: A Place for Both Academic & Personal Discovery

Pip Baitinger

Home Country: U.S.
Degree: Master of Arts in International Relations

Before joining the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), what were you doing?

Before attending SAIS, I spent four years in the U.S. Air Force working on computer networks and cybersecurity. I learned so much about the world and myself during this time. 

After leaving the active duty military, I attended Pennsylvania State University and received my bachelor’s degree in economics while working part-time in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. At Penn State, I felt more comfortable with myself thanks to all of the new experiences and people I met during this time. I saw SAIS and studying in Bologna as a way to continue pursuing this learning.

What led you to Johns Hopkins SAIS?

I saw SAIS as an incredible opportunity to broaden both my professional and academic interests as well as my own personal journey of growth and self-exploration. I had never lived abroad before and SAIS Europe was the perfect place to spend a year challenging my perspective of the world and myself. Here, I became more accepting of myself and identity.

What has been your favorite experience at SAIS and why?

One of my favorite SAIS experiences has been attending the Vienna ball in Austria. It was so much fun having an excuse to dress up and celebrate with other SAIS-ers. We rented an Airbnb in the center of Vienna and explored the Belvedere museum before the ball. I got to live out my Bridgerton fantasy.

The city, the friends, the events, the museums, the music and dancing, and, of course, my classes and the faculty — my time at SAIS Europe was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Where do you see yourself 5-10 years after graduation?

In 5 to 10 years I want my work to be positively impacting the world around me. Our generation has an opportunity to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems and identify innovative solutions to those issues. I want to be at the forefront of solving those problems, whether that is through finding solutions to climate change or advocating for global LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality.

What is one piece of advice you would give to students in the process of choosing graduate schools?

Select a school that is both academically challenging and conducive to their personal growth. Don’t limit yourself. This is an impressive institution and the caliber of your peers might be intimidating, but you belong here. You deserve to take up space.

What were some things you learned during your time at SAIS that transformed your perspective or way of thinking?

I have learned so much about myself and my identity while at SAIS. The community that SAIS has offered me made coming to terms with who I am something fun and exciting.  This process might have been more difficult elsewhere. My classmates and professors at SAIS have inspired me to live the most authentic version of my life.

Lastly, seeing how successful my peers and professors are with their work inspires me. This is one of the most valuable things I have learned during my time at SAIS. The people you surround yourself with and the environment you are in influence you so much. I have learned so much in the classroom, in casual conversation at Giulio’s Café, in Bologna, and now in D.C.