Home » News » It’s A Small TFAS World: Four Alumni Find Themselves In Same Graduate School In Bologna, Italy

It’s A Small TFAS World: Four Alumni Find Themselves In Same Graduate School In Bologna, Italy


For a young professional looking to get into a top graduate program, a summer or semester with TFAS may be just the ticket. TFAS alumni are all over the world attending top graduate school programs for a multitude of masters and postgraduate degrees.

One recent college graduate and first year grad student Kyle Potaniec (ICPES 13) is a prime example of TFAS alumni hitting the books in the big leagues of graduate school. After he completed his TFAS summer, graduated college and worked for a year at his first “real” job, Potaniec was ready to move on to something new. He reached out to his resources and connections at TFAS to find out what graduate program would be best for him.

Vice President of International and Alumni Programs,Michelle (Jeffress) Le (IPJ 95, AIPES 96), was quick to give advice on the search. She provided him with information on her graduate school experience atJohns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. On her first day as a student in SAIS, Le also met many TFAS alumni – all who share a unique part in this ongoing tradition of TFAS alumni attending SAIS.

“Michelle was very important in getting me committed to SAIS,” Potaniec said. “She put the idea of SAIS in me originally. She said it was very much like TFAS in different ways, and she was right!”

After a long decision process, narrowing down applications and receiving his anticipated acceptance letter, Potaniec was off to Bologna, Italy to begin the first leg of his SAIS Europe journey. In August he moved on to campus housing in Bologna and started his postgraduate studies in Europe.

Through everyday conversations and getting to know his classmates, Potaniec noticed some students had similar backgrounds. Among the 200 students at SAIS Bologna, two others attended TFAS in 2013 with him and one other attended a TFAS program in Greece in 2011. That’s right; there currently are four TFAS alumni attending Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy: Kyle Potaniec (ICPES 13), Mercy Anguah (IEIA 13), Denisa Pacholska (ICPES 13) and Leonidas Marcantonatos (IIPES 11).

Following the academic system at SAIS, each student has their own concentration in addition to studying international economics.

Potaniec’s additional focus at SAIS is in European and Eurasian studies, and he hopes to someday work in international diplomacy.

With international economics as a key component at SAIS, Potaniec says his time with TFAS prepared him academically for SAIS. He says his TFAS courses helped him dive deeper into economics and was a stepping stone for his future at SAIS. Potaniec says the similar curriculum taught at TFAS gave him a good understanding of some economics ideas and theories like trade, comparative and absolute advantage, rent seeking and more.

“There are callbacks to my TFAS classes with my classes at SAIS, particularly from my lessons on trade with Professor Boudreaux,” Potaniec said. “His class was really important to me in terms of developing what I thought about trade, and I really took those lessons to heart. His course was an important academic seed that was planted in me.”

Mercy Anguah (IEIA 13) (right) smiles with her new friends before the monument tour on her first day at TFAS.
Mercy Anguah (IEIA 13) (right) smiles with her new friends before the monument tour on her first day at TFAS.

Mercy Anguah (IEIA 13) is studying international relations in addition to international economics at SAIS. Her concentration is in international development. Upon completion of SAIS, Anguah hopes to work in African development, specifically on rural development and financial inclusion. As an IEIA alumni, she agrees with Potaniec that her TFAS classes provided her with the basics she needed to start her course work at SAIS.

“I took American Foreign Policy and International Trade Theory with the IEIA program at TFAS, and these are also both core classes here at SAIS,” Anguah said. “They have provided a good foundation for me to build on as we go deeper into these topics.”

So how did four TFAS alumni end up living in the same city, studying international economics in the same graduate program, at the same time? Anguah was originally just as surprised as we were, but after a few months at SAIS she sees how the programs align perfectly.

“I’m still amazed by how we are all here, but when I think about it, many TFAS programs are geared toward people interested in international studies and economics or other similar fields,” Anguah said. “The TFAS experience served as a good preparatory course for people interested in international studies.”

While the academics of TFAS and SAIS align well with each other, we know these experiences aren’t just about the academics. Potaniec and Anguah say their TFAS summers also prepared them for their own personal and professional development.

Potaniec says the ‘cohort’ feel of TFAS is similar to what he’s experiencing at SAIS. He says while at TFAS, he found a group of people who all had similar interests as him, were very ambitious, motivated and intelligent.

“Coming to SAIS felt very much like coming to TFAS again,” Potaniec said. “It was a familiar setting of being surrounded by my peers. When I talk about TFAS I say that I ‘found my people’ – my ‘TFAS crew.’ I knew I wanted something like that again, and I found it at SAIS.”

The community is an important aspect for Anguah too. She says she enjoys being able to go out to embrace new cultures, and return to the ‘college town’ feel of Bologna with her friends and classmates that makes her feel at home.

“The fact that I get to live and study in this beautiful town is a wonderful experience,” Anguah said. “I love to travel and learn new cultures, but Bologna isn’t as tourist packed as the major Italian cities, so it’s nice to go visit some really touristy cities and come back to a more relaxed and home-like atmosphere.”

In addition to preparing them for SAIS, both Potaniec and Anguah say their TFAS experience prepared them for their long term career goals as well.

“TFAS first introduced me to Washington D.C.,” Anguah said. “I fell in love with that city, and I would love to return and work there in the future. Through my TFAS experience, I met and learned from many people. I think those lessons and contacts I made will stay with me into the future.”

Potaniec also shares Anguah’s love for D.C. and attributes his Washington experience as something that helped him get a taste for politics and polished his own professional skill set.

“Just being in D.C. and gaining that experience gave me more confidence with networking and helped me see the real ‘belly of the beast’ of Washington,” Potaniec said. “Interning in D.C. was a career booster and it pushed me forward down the path of politics.”

As an undergraduate student, TFAS can be a stepping stone for continuing education, no matter your field. In addition to SAIS, there are TFAS alumni excelling in top graduate programs all over the globe. Are you a TFAS alumnus currently enrolled in a graduate studies program? Send us your updates at alumni@TFAS.org.


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