Student Life: Life of a Dual-Degree Student

After getting my undergraduate degree in International Studies and Sociology from Johns Hopkins University, I battled with two professional passions: law and international affairs. I had a strong desire to go to law school to use my legal knowledge to support marginalized communities. But also, given my Nigerian background, I wanted to study international affairs to be equipped to work in emerging markets. For so long, my question was, “which program?” However, after attending an information session about Johns Hopkins SAIS and understanding the feasibility of doing both programs, my question became, “why not both programs?”

During my gap year, I started to do research into what programs Johns Hopkins SAIS had to offer. I discovered that Johns Hopkins SAIS had joint law, business, public health, and public policy programs with top universities. Also, if students wanted to attend other schools outside of the SAIS-affiliated ones, they could customize their own dual-degree program through an ad-hoc route. This sounded perfect! I decided I would pursue law school first and then apply to SAIS. So, I attended University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and applied and got accepted to SAIS during my first year of law school. After completing two years of law school, I packed my bags and moved to D.C.

Because I created an ad-hoc Berkeley Law-SAIS dual program, I only had to spend two and a half years at Berkeley (instead of three years) and a year and a half at SAIS (instead of two), totaling four years. Given this accelerated schedule, I was committed to making every moment of my SAIS experience worthwhile. I was eager to engage more with topics related to politics, the economy, and development on a daily basis. Additionally, I was excited to concentrate in African Studies and learn more in-depth about how Africa’s political economy coincided with its legal landscape. Lastly, I was enthusiastic to hear from well-known academic experts and political pundits who frequent SAIS and the D.C. area.

During my three semesters at Johns Hopkins SAIS, I have enjoyed watching the news in the lobby of Nitze building, taking classes by academic experts, engaging in weekly presentations organized by the African Department, and attending events with Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Susan Page. In addition, during my first semesters at SAIS, I had the flexibility to work part-time at Oath (formerly Yahoo) as their Business and Human Rights Fellow for 2017-2018.

Moreover, what I found most enjoyable about my SAIS experience was gaining proficiency in a foreign language. Given my regional concentration in Africa, I had the option to choose between learning French, Portuguese, or Arabic. I devoted my time to French due to my interest in working in West Africa in the future. In my effort to become proficient in French, I took opportunities to spend two weeks in Côte d’Ivoire during the summer and to intern at a law firm in Paris during Hopkins’ six-week long winter break.

            But, wait. Let's be real, pursuing a professional degree can be taxing. It's undergrad all over again, but more challenging and interesting. Pursuing two degrees can be logistically and intellectually crazy: two different writing styles, finding housing over and over again, maintaining two different email addresses, on top of your various personal ones (if you attend different institutions), and only being able to take advantage of a certain number of classes and opportunities. But after a year and a half of attending Johns Hopkins SAIS, I have come to appreciate the great flexibility, unparalleled experiences, comparably low cost, and far-reaching networks that my dual-degree program has offered me.

            In the end, I can now say that I understand how deeply interrelated law and development are. Further, I understand both the limits and power of the law, specifically how a country’s economy is confined or revitalized by the set of laws the country enforces. Moreover, after three and a half years of my dual-degree journey so far, I see that my international affairs and economics background compliments my legal background well and has prepared me for a career in international corporate law. Thank you, Johns Hopkins SAIS, for an amazing three semesters! Back to Berkeley, I go!

About the Student Blogger:                                                                                           
Maria Adebayo (MA/JD, African Studies)
Maria Adebayo is a first-generation Nigerian-American born in Washington, D.C. She is a dual MA/JD student, concentrating in African Studies at SAIS and pursing her law degree at University of California, Berkeley. Maria has a desire to bring stability and development to Africa through her legal career and international studies backgroundAlso, she is a member of SAIS Christian Fellowship. Outside of school, Maria is a fashion blogger (@vidabymaria). 

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